Posted by: rlustig1952 | December 5, 2011

Zusammen oder aleine?

I recently started listening to Pimsler language CD’s in an effort to brush up on my very rusty high school German. Although my parents were from Vienna, to the best of my recollection they never tried to teach their children to speak their native tongue, which I attribute to a combination of a) the immigrants’ desire for their first-generation children to assimilate quickly into their new culture, b) their ambivalent relationship to the language of the country that betrayed them, and c) maintaining the ability to converse without their children understanding them. In any event, I have been alternating between practicing German in the car and trying to memorize music (more on that in another post).

But lately I’ve been wondering about the hidden meanings behind these seemingly innocuous conversations I am now privy to. Some of the backstories are really quite shocking. For example, in one episode, this German guy (I think is name is Gunther) goes to the hotel of an American acquaintance named Jean. Gunther knocks on the door, and without bothering to see who it is, Jean invites Gunther in. Clearly they do not know each other, because Gunther has to introduce himself. After some small talk, Gunther goes in for the kill and asks if Jean’s husband is with her! Without hesitation (although oddly she repeats herself several times), Jean replies that her husband and three children (2 boys and a girl) are not in Germany but are in America! What is going on here? Why is Jean letting this stranger into her life? Is Gunther’s interest in Jean platonic, or is there some sinister motivation behind his questions? Is Jean willing to abandon her family for a meaningless fling? And how can she say about her adult children that “sie sind schon groß”? But I don’t know how the story ends. I think they go out to get something to eat.

And then there are the deep philosophical meanings that I never realized existed in these converations. There is one fellow who always needs something. He’d like something to drink, or eat, or he cannot go out with his friends because he has a pathological need to go buy something. Clearly this man has deep psychological problems, and he is crying out for help. Why else bare his desperate cravings in front of complete strangers? And yet help is there right in front of him, because his companion states with Buddha-like simplicity that “Ich möchte nichts weil ich nichts habe” – I don’t want anything because I have nothing. I was so struck by the profundity of this observation that I nearly rear-ended the car in front of me.

And today I overheard this man confronting his feelings of hopelessness and abandonment when he was asked if he was alone. “Ja’, he replied, “Ich bin aleine.” What a cry from the heart! How devastating to realize the existential nothingness of living in an indifferent universe! I wanted to reach out to this poor tortured soul and tell him that he wasn’t alone, that he needed to reestablish his contact with the rest of humanity. Perhaps by joining a choir. Yes, no longer aleine, but zusammen!

But I never got the chance because he went out to get something to eat, or drink, or buy something. Although he wasn’t sure if the stores were open late or if he had enough gas to get to Berlin.

Posted by: rlustig1952 | December 4, 2011

Wir fahren nach Berlin

I’m starting this blog to keep a record of the Zamir Chorale’s Berlin tour, which runs from Wednesday, Dec. 14 thorugh Monday, Dec. 19. The choir was invited to participate in a music festival dedicated to the 19th-century German-Jewish composer Louis Lewandowski, who along with Solomon Sulzer and others helped reshape Jewish religious services by composing works for cantor and choir that fit into the musical forms of the day. We are the only choir attending from the U.S., but there will also be choirs from Canada, the UK, France, South Africa, and of course Germany.

I’ve sung with Zamir for about 12 years. I kept a blog of our last international tour to Italy in 2003, so it seemed natural to do the same this time around. As before, the opinions expressed in this blog and are in no way connected with the Chorale.

I’m still feeling my way around setting up the blog, so apologies if things appear a little scatter-brained for a while.

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