I was looking for a good title for today’s post and I came across this one which I felt closely matched what I wanted to scribble about. Well, it would have been a perfect match if it were an “Austrian uncle,” but then maybe the expression would no longer mean “one who admonishes sternly and bluntly” (from The M.-W. Dictionary), so I guess I will have to go stick to a Dutch.
The “Austrian uncle” I am referring to is a conductor H. von K., one of the greatest of the 20th century. I never got to listen live to an orchestra conducted by him, but growing up, I used to pick out his recordings out from my father’s CD-rack all the time and sit in front of the speakers for hours. I believe he is the one who got my father into classical music, and he certainly made a great impression on me of grand ensembles.
And it was not just us who were immensely influenced by him in my homeland. For one, this world-renowned countryman conductor with whom I seem to have a strange tie began his career as an apprentice of this “Austrian uncle.” And for another, this concert hall in my town that I love going to took in numerous stern and blunt advices from him on concept and design as a place especially for classical music recitals, and acoustics and features to make it a “jewel box of sound [his own words].”
One such feature is the concert pipe organ – by far my most favourite part of this hall. It is one of the largest in the world, custom built and crafted by one of the best organ makers R.O. (also Austrian). It is gorgeous both aesthetically and acoustically, and I believe it is the defining structure of this hall that separates it from all others in my homeland.
But it almost never existed, as no pipe organ was in the original design of the hall. Had it not been for a stern and blunt admonishment from the “Austrian uncle” saying that “a concert hall without a pipe organ is like a house without furniture,” I would probably never have come to love this hall so much! It must have cost a lot of money and time, and I am sure there were many objections to building it, but I am so very glad I get to listen to it being played today… I enjoy the shivers down my spine that I get every time I bathe in its profound layers of sounds.
Maybe it is not always easy to take in advices, especially when they are given sternly and bluntly.
Maybe they are no music to the ears, and amplify the rebellious inertia within.
Maybe it is sometimes very difficult to resist wanting to mute them.
But maybe we need to remember that advices, especially stern and blunt ones, only come from those who really care about us.
Maybe if you listen carefully, you will realize that they are different from complaints and condemnation – they are constructive criticisms.
Maybe you do not necessarily have to take them, but maybe they are worthwhile contemplating over.
The concert hall is being closed down for half a year for renovation, so I visited it one last time today to listen to the pipe organ being played. Maybe its sounds washed away some goos and gucks that was making my heart hard and unbending… I think I can now listen to advices not as dissonances but as potentially harmonic and even melodic notes.
Photos of the pipe organ is strictly prohibited, but we are allowed to take pictures of this musical box with pipes made of the same materials as the organ – it is usually hidden above the main entrance, but revealed and played (by two little men on the sides turning the wheels… so adorable!) when informing the opening of the doors before concert starts. I wonder if this was also advised by the “Austrian uncle”??