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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Playing #English. By John von Daler

          Danish friends who have read my book, "#Pieces: A Life in Eight Movements and a Prelude" have often remarked that my English is extravagant. They have to spend time looking up words. I never thought of that possibility when I was working on the book. Writing English after such a long time continually thrilled me; reconnecting with my former language reminded me of meeting an old friend on a transatlantic cruise ship and retiring with a bottle of cognac and two glasses to the library to converse for the duration.

         Imagine regaining your mother tongue! Only once before, and only in music, I have tried something slightly like this:
         I recorded the solo part for a ballet about Karen #Blixen. The composer, a good friend, asked me to put my violin aside and to play a viola - something I had never tried before. After giving the project a good deal of thought, I bought a viola and played on it for a few days. Then I accepted his offer and went to his studio to record the music.
         Let there be no doubt; I love my violin. (Now I sound like a man who just has betrayed his wife!) But getting a hold of that viola gave my playing new life. The power! The depth! The breadth of the tone! Like exchanging a pistol for a shotgun! (The ballet was "Tanne", Nyt Dansk DanseTeater, choreography by Warren Spears. #Fuzzy composed the seventy minutes of music.)
         English reminds me of that viola in its powerful range of possibilities - to take the metaphor one step further, maybe English is the Cathedral organ of languages. #Danish, while loveable, is a great little accordion, even though the Danes make do very well indeed.
         While writing Pieces, I broke a lot of rules (but I had an editor who stood up to me and who also knew when to stand down). No killing my darlings here, just pampering them; no showing instead of telling. (If you want showing, go to a movie: Pieces is telling.) The language is decisive. Pieces is just me playing on that wonderful, wild, splashy, cleansing, clear, clever language, English. Have a listen.

 My book, Pieces: A Life in Eight Movements and a Prelude (WiDo Publishing) is now available. Order through, the publisher or your local bookstore. Click to buy Pieces at the top of the blog. Please feel free to write a short review of the book in your own language at or GoodReads. Thanks for your support!

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