Music! Its Role and Importance in Our Lives

Chapter 7: Making Musical Decisions

From the Top

Name: Keitaro Harada
Age: 18
Instrument: Saxophone
Hometown: Tokyo, Japan

Keitaro Harada on performing Aria on the From the Top radio show:

Q: What are your thoughts and feelings about this piece?

A: When an artist performs a piece of music, I would not say always, but in most cases in their mind there is an imaginary character and a small story that goes with the music. This story could have a significant reference to what was happening to the composer during that time period when the piece was composed or, it could have absolutely no reference to history and be the artist's own creative story. When I perform Aria by Eugene Bozza, I have an imaginary man in my head that acts a role with the music. This man is in love…in love with this beautiful woman who he cannot really talk to. Perhaps a common unmarried man madly in love with a princess. I know it's a little bit cheesy, but the cheesier the story, the more I could make my music romantic and passionate, and the more I really play from the heart for this lonely man who is completely blinded with the presence of the princess. If you reference it with the recording provided, the man starts walking alone in the dark, lonely and pondering his love life. When the music picks up with the tempo, the man begins thinking about the princess, or he just saw her from far away, and his heart starts to beat faster. He tries to reach his arms out in the air, as if to hug the princess, but of course the reality is that he knows he will never get the chance to meet her. He wants to express his feelings to her about how much he is in love with her, but because of society, it is close to impossible that she would know of his existence. In my story the piece ends with him, again struck by reality, walking towards an endless road, sad…and lonely. Again I would like to emphasize that this is my version of how I feel that I want to communicate this piece with the audience. It was the impression that I had when I played the music my very first time. I have had friends who could relate to the same music but have a very happy story with totally different scenario and character(s).

Although I have a solid outline of how my story goes for the piece, depending on how I feel on that day at that very moment I play the first note, I will be in a different mood; therefore, it makes it impossible to play the music the same way twice…that's why music never gets boring to me, and it becomes the universal language where I can communicate with the audience.

Q: What is unique or special about this piece of music?

A: Eugene Bozza's Aria is one of the most popular pieces of literature in the classical saxophone repertoire. Bozza composed this piece for alto saxophone and piano in 1936. This work was written for a famous French saxophonist Marcel Mule. This composition has many similarities to J. S. Bach's third-movement aria for the organ Pastorale, BWV 590.

One aspect that makes this piece unique is the planning of the piece. Obviously this is a slow piece, and one must give much attention to deciding where to take a breath, where the phrase leads to, and how to play the piece without fainting on the stage or without letting the audience know that, "Oh, oh-I'm running out of breath and I still need to play 10 more measures…" Technically, this is not a demanding piece, but the interpretation (how to make it sound pretty) is the hard part.

Q: What was it like preparing for and performing on From the Top?

A: Since I was very familiar with From the Top on the radio, it was such an honor to be chosen to perform on the show. Preparation was such an exciting process. I had millions of things to say, and many sample questions for the interview that my friends came up with. Having my performance broadcast nationwide…what a crazy thought. I thought I was going to be nervous for the performance, but the environment that the staff of From the Top created was such a comforting one-I must have forgotten to get nervous. Also I was lucky to tape the performance at Interlochen Arts Academy where I knew most of the people in the audience. Performing on the stage where I have my daily morning ensemble rehearsal definitely took away my nerves.

What struck me most about the show came after the show was aired nationwide. On the show, I ate cheesecake. Who randomly eats a whole cheesecake on a classical music program…who? That incident seemed to have made an impression on many people, and when I meet new people who coincidentally listened to the (original/rebroadcast) show, they say, "Oh-you're the Japanese cheesecake saxophonist." It's happened to me a lot, and I think it is hilarious. I only wish that they remembered my name also, but I suppose that is asking too much-ha ha ha!

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