Sunday, March 24, 2019

The Languages of Salzburg

I recently wrote on Facebook: “Sometimes traveling is simply moving from one home to another. On my way to Salzburg for the 30thtime in as almost many years and the hills are still alive there with the sound of music. As are the halls of the Orff Institut where I’ll be teaching my 9thgroup of teachers from some 11 different countries. Along with Madrid, Barcelona, Bangkok, Singapore and (weirdly) Orange County, the place I’ve returned to time and again to teach. “

Salzburg indeed feels like home and I arrived in sunny weather warmer than the San Francisco I left! So many familiar sights, sounds, memories and people to welcome me and bring that sense of homecoming yet deeper. But it’s a bit odd that I might call a place home where I don’t speak their home language. I have my excuses lined up. Mostly, I’m always teaching in English as the common language of the diverse groups of people at the Orff Institut Special Course, I’m rarely here for more than two weeks at a time and though I can be inspired to study German just to enjoy the music of the language, I must confess that its tones don’t tickle my eardrum as much as Brazilian Portuguese, Italian or Japanese. So I get by with “please, thank you, small beer” and mostly speak English out in the world.

And yet there are many other languages spoken here in Salzburg that I understand perfectly. The bleating of the sheep close to the Institut, the call of the night birds, even if I don’t know their names, the crunch of bicycle tires on the gravel of Hellbruner Allee and whoosh and whirl of the passing wheels. There’s the rush of the fast-moving Salzach River waters, the burble and gurgle of small little streams off the Allee. I’ve been here occasionally for the silence of freshly falling snow and often for the hard beating of the downpouring rain. I’ve heard the murmur of quiet conversation and laughter and guitar strumming of the teenagers hanging out in summer evenings on the bridge across the river, the roar of the crowds in the beer halls, the multi-lingual tones of the tourists wandering through Old Town.

Of course, there are the dulcet tones of glockenspiels and metallophones and xylophones in the Orff Institut, the roar of the drums, the sound of dancing feet and clapping and patting and always, singing. There are the church bells in the distance and the echoes of Mozart’s music everywhere in this town of his birth. And even the occasional outburst from Julie Andrews. 

So apologies to Salzburg for not speaking German, but just these words to let it know I hear and understand many of its languages. And they’re beautiful. 

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