Wed., June 1, 2011: Friendly Warnings

Harriet Emerson (center) clearly cares about young people and music. Here she chats with award-winning musicians from the Jan Deyl school, Prague

Friendly Warnings, about Music, Technology, and Your Ears

“The technology young people are embracing today enforces an isolation that is destructive to society,” declares Harriett Emerson.

“It keeps them from interacting with others. Young people today don’t know how to carry on a conversation.”

Mrs Emerson, a violinist in the 1960s, studied in Prague with Emanuel Ondříček and is the founder of the Emerson-Ondříček Master Class fund for Czech students of music. Opus Osm met her at a concert at the American Embassy recently, where she introduced us to her insights on music.

A Texas native, Mrs Emerson speaks in a rich, mezzo-soprano voice, a mixture recalling broad Texas plains, smoothed by soft New York ‘r’s, with perhaps a little Milanese thrown in, all reflecting the places she gave her heart as a young violin student. Hers is a precise and carefully-chosen vocabulary. “The cacophany of sounds being touted [today] as music in an abomination,” she says. She refuses to let her ears “be assaulted” by electronic devices of any kind, she says.

Not even the internet?

“NO,” she says firmly. She explains, “I understand the vibrations of sound on the nervous system. Much of what we hear today violates that sensitivity.” Doctors have told her that because of popular music, these days people already have lost 25 percent of their hearing by the age of 25.

“And you can’t get that back,” she warns.

What can be done?

The former musician expresses strong opinions, and a warning

“It must begin in the family,” she emphasizes that word, “at one year of age. If you are cursed to be born into a family with no relationship to classical music, then – you are helpless,” she declares.

On the contrary, it was by Mrs Emerson’s choice that she cut her relationship to classical music — at least as a violinist — later becoming a professional travel agent and today, the boss of her own ranch with real estate and mineral interests.

“Oh, I have a master’s degree and I could have taught music,” she explains. “But in 1965 I gave my last concert, in New York. And then I put the violin away and – closed the case.”

Was that hard?

“No,” she says softly. “It wasn’t hard.” And then just a bit defiantly:

“Not if you don’t mind a broken heart.” – oo

– Mary Matz

Photo Credits: Miroslav Setnička

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