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My Musical Experiences in Italy!

Joshua Iyer

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Published: April 3, 2015 at 4:56 AM [UTC]

Italy trip 2015!

Well. It's the end of a long but fantastical week in Italy! There were all sorts of highlights, like visiting the Colosseum in Rome or the statue of David, but for this article I'll focus on violin and music related things on my trip. :) The places we visited were Rome, Florence, Lucca, Milan, and Cremona. I think that was it. :)

violin museum
Strads, in a museum in Florence

First, Cremona was yesterday's adventure where we visited the Stradivarius museum and visited a darkish room with a lavish red carpet containing a bunch of surviving older instruments and saw how the different forms of the violin evolved to the perfect modern shape we have and use today. (It was a museum dedicated to the most wonderful single object on the planet!!!) Like I mentioned in my last entry, it was cool playing (and I spent a lot of time writing for) the violin and not much time thinking about the history.

For whatever reason at the museum it made me so happy to swing around the glass to see the sides of the violins, maybe because of how portable they looked and all that. They also talked about the different types of wood used for the violin with a cool screen that could peel apart and zoom in to a virtual violin. Maple for the back, spruce for the top, ebony for the tailpiece and fingerboard, and then the other woods didn't really matter. There was also a big dome made of maple wood that you could go inside - it was so warm and dark and cozy - and listen to Strads being played. In the final area, there were a whole bunch of new violins made for the 2015 Cremona contest that seemed cool (the winners got their instruments put on display in the museum), and a theatre area with a movie playing with cartoons and movies that had to do with the violin. There are also performances of Strads there as well daily.

At their bookshop, I bought a small magnet with a cool violin design and a composition notebook. I was so happy to get a notebook from Italy! :) On the way out, we passed a small workshop with tools and materials of shapes of violins and things for the inside of the instrument (that also were in the museum) used for making it. I went into that store for a small bit and bought their rosin that came in a really cool wooden case. I've been needing new rosin forever now, so it's so cool that I now have rosin from Cremona to take back with me home!

At another tiny violin shop (they're literally all over the city!), I also got to play excerpts from my string piece "Into the Forest" and my concerto "Little Snow-White" (that I wrote) on an expensive Italian violin! It was cool, but as I got in the higher positions, the string didn't really make contact with the fingerboard as well. I also didn't have a shoulder rest and played with a wood bow. It was still a pretty fun experience.

We of course had three concerts playing in churches. The first one had a lot of Italian students in the audience, and after we played (I had the first violin solo in "Spring", and we played "Intermezzo" and "Mamma!", two very Italian pieces) I was photographed and interviewed by a couple Italian girls, which was interesting. The churches were loud with a lot of reverb, so we had to play more like the Baroque style (for our three Baroque pieces at least, Vivaldi and Bach) in them. They were located in small villages, but it was still cool, and for the penultimate one we combined with the Oak Park River Forest orchestra and the last one with a choir that sang really beautifully. Personally, it was so fun bringing and playing my personal violin in Italy! :)

I also got a lot of composing done throughout the trip. We had several three and four hour bus trips to get from one place to the next. Lucca is a very beautiful town with a small garden area and park area that reminded me of a video I watched ages ago about Ravel's nature for his inspiration, seeing some French gardens and all that. The Italians also like their trees and hedges in a very symmetrical way, and I got inspired by looking at it and wrote a bit. Throughout the trip, I wrote several sketches that might be compiled into their own piece, or I might look into writing a brand new opera (scrapping my plans and sketches for one back in September 2014). I also sketched two movements of my new string quartet, and yeah, the rest were just random sketches. I was inspired by seeing the red rooftops at Lucca, and the Italian countryside heading to another town. All in all, I have about fifteen pages in my notebook of penciled music I physically wrote here in Italy, which is so cool and will be great fun to look back on later when I orchestrate on the computer sometime in the future. I hope to share some of this music with you later on!

So yeah! Overall, it was an amazing journey which left me thinking I'm going to live and write my masterpieces in Lucca, then have them performed in Cremona. :) Thanks for reading! I can't wait to play my violin again in America. :) Heading home today!

From Laurie Niles
Posted on April 4, 2015 at 4:02 PM
Sounds like a fantastic trip! Just to clarify, it is maple back, spruce front. :)

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