The Musical Cathedrals | My Family Travels

In 2007, my mom and I took a trip to Paris, France as part of a performance tour with the string performance group I was in. The group was known as the Vivaldi Strings and I played violin in this group. Throughout our time in Paris, we played several concerts and visited the numerous exotic highlights that Paris was known for. During this trip, I experienced countless situations and learned a lesson that changed my perspective of music to this day. 

One of the first things we did when we went to France was meet our tour guide. I do not remember her name, but we were driven to our hotel which was right next to the Gare de Lyon Train Station. We had a tour guide for the entire ten days we were there, and she spoke pretty good English. We tried to learn a little French from her, but many of us were not successful. Little did we know that this lack of French would play a major role in how unaware we were of things on this trip. We would go out to different restaurants for dinner, and to our amazement, practically none of the workers spoke any English. We would be speaking in broken English while they would be asking us questions in French. Communication was close to none. One night, at a French-Italian cuisine, there was a man smoking in the extremely small and cramped restaurant we were eating at. Being health conscious, we decided to ask him to stop, but we had no idea how to say it French. We started pretending to smoke and he looked at us as if we were making fun of him. We were very aware of how the French dislike Americans, and we did not wish to degrade our reputation any longer. Eventually, he just stopped without us having to ask him to do so. 

The Vivaldi Strings played several concerts, the most famous place being the Luxembourg Gardens, where we performed on our second day there. We were applauded with thunderous clapping and played a few encores. The Luxembourg Gardens were beautiful in themselves, but one of the most amazing things we realized on that day was the appreciation for music given by a European audience. In America, we rarely ever experienced the amount of appreciation, specifically for classical music, as we experienced in France. The audience came up to us after the concerts to shake our hands and even asked our director if we were playing anywhere else. They posted some videos of us on youtube and many of the same people that attended this particular concert actually attended the other concerts we played throughout our ten days at various Cathedrals including La Madeleine. I was personally amazed and inspired to share this music with these people and they showed us just how much they cared for it. Although America is not in particularly good terms with France, music is one entity that tends to bring all sorts of people together as they forget their differences and passionately embrace the gift for the ears. Music may eventually unite us all in times of quarrel and argument.

Throughout the ten days, we visited the highlights of Paris. The first place we visited was the Notre Dame Cathedral and that was when I realized another thing. Music and architecture, although seeming completely different, are actually very similar. I do not expect many people to come to this realization, but I encourage anyone to pay attention to this philosophy the next time they see a beautiful monument. The architect is like a composer, drawing inspiration from past experiences, nature, and other sources. They draw up the main structure of the work for others to perform and build on. Just as many different instruments are present throughout a symphony such as that of Beethoven to bring out the different movements and sections of a work, many small and artistically placed features on a building bring out different sections or qualities of the building that the architect wishes to be exposed. In music, there are various articulations and styles that make the piece much more rich and interesting just like the flying buttresses, pillars, spires, and engravings on a cathedral make it beautiful, breathtaking, and characteristic. No orchestra or individual ever plays a musical composition exactly the same just as no building, even designed by the same architect, is ever the same. Every piece of music and architecture has its own meaning and uniqueness that expresses the artistic value. Pieces range in size from symphonies to preludes much the same way as a skyscraper or cathedral are bigger than a simple house. Architects are artists just like musical composers are. I took this idea with me to the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triumph, Champs-Elysees, Versailles, Louvre, Chateau Chambord, and the Opera House. I would constantly think about what the building represented, what the story behind it might have been, and why the architect decided to make it the way he or she did.

I ended up comparing the Notre Dame Cathedral to Beethoven's 5th Symphony, the Arc de Triumph to Aaron Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man, and the Louvre to Grieg's Lyric Pieces for Piano. This even inspired me to find a link between paintings and music. Overall, this particular idea has changed the way I view art to this day. Even in my home city of Chicago, every time I see a beautiful building, I always think of music. I encourage anyone to try and think about this concept next time they see a piece of architecture. Hopefully, it will inspire creativity and imagination into the future and give some insight into what is not commonly thought of. 

What does the following image make you think of? Try to relate it to music. What can it represent?

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