Tag Archives: distributed ethnography

Soundscape 03: Friends, improvisation for viola and piano

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Friends a poem composed by Naomi Rafael 

What did you do this year, my friend?

I gathered my family for my father’s 90th birthday anniversary

I comforted my daughter when she lost her baby

I celebrated my children’s academic successes

I celebrated my own academic achievement

I found my long lost cousin

I gained courage

I rejoice with you, my friend, with music

What did you do this year, my friend?

I travelled to three continents

I climbed mountains, and gazed at vast and spectacular skies

I wrote a thesis about women in Mongolia

I gave and I received gifts

I joined a community of scholars

My community of scholars became my family

I rejoice with you, my friend, with music

They met through music

They connected through music

They discovered shared values through music

Truth, desire for closeness to G-d through study, accepting guidance from a Higher Source, striving for authenticity, family, community

Shall we play music?

Naomi Rafael and I first met many years ago at Dr Robert Miller‘s Sunday afternoon musical improvisation gatherings in Ivanhoe (Melbourne). Robert’s own scholarly work is located at the nexus between ‘western’ philosophical notions of existentialism and Buddhist philosophy. He is also an outstanding musician, somewhat of a balladeer some would say. Although not professional performers, we were, all of us, capable players who wanted to continue playing with other musicians on a regular basis. These sessions were held every second Sunday afternoon starting at 5pm for years and years at Robert’s invitation to his own home.

There was something special, an atmosphere, about this venue. There was a certain freedom to play, to explore new combinations of sound, voice and rhythm. Moreover, there was an understanding, not of competition, but of mutual affection and above all respect. The only thing we brought to these laughter filled gatherings were our own voices and musical instruments. Beyond that, we would all arrive, one car pulling up after another, pretty much right on time, so filled were we with enthusiasm for the unknown music making evening ahead. Sometimes there were many people, up to a dozen, sometimes even more. Some were classically trained whilst others were not.  Books now groaning with chord charts and words to songs had been compiled and collated by Robert and Peter over many years. In a clockwise direction we would go around, each person selecting their preferred song that we would all do together when it was their turn. Although some things were predictable, never did I hear the same musical scaffolding be expressed musically exactly the same way twice! Nor did we play traditional hosts or hostesses. Instead we rang out for pizza and beer.

Naomi Rafael is no slouch. A professional database developer, for many years she has been the Technical Systems Manager for BioGrid leading the development of a technology platform now widely used for the ethical integration of data by, health services, research organisations and governments for improved public health. In 2011 her team won the Health Informatics Society of Australia (HISA) Don Walker Award for major innovation and efficiency in viewing cancer patient data across organisations over the internet. Moreover, she plays viola in the well-regarded South Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and rarely watches TV.

Before coming to Australia, and her career in health informatics, Naomi studied classical violin under the instruction of Dr. Martin-Beatus Meier at Washington State University in Pullman (Washington). That was before she had babies and  raised a family. These days, there seem to be more and more grandchildren on the way.

Between Naomi’s professional responsibilities here in Australia and the US, and my constant coming and going to Mongolia, Beijing and the rest, we continue to make the time to get together to play music and just share. We share what we each bring to the table, in terms of food, concerns and temperament on the day. We share the love of making music in many of its forms and our penchant for finding solutions using informatics as a tool. There is also another shared interest, the study of philosophy. For Naomi, it is Judaism and Hebrew. For me it is the Russian language and the formal study of Buddhist philosophical reasoning in its Mahayana-Vajrayana and Gelugpa form. We have no problem with this. To the contrary, we make space for each other, musically and philosophically, whilst still saying what we each want to say about this.

I do not know where my dear friend travels in own her imaginings when we improvise making music together. To know or discuss such things as musicians is not the point. As for me? Well, the answer is quite simple. My improvisational journeys whilst I am in Melbourne are inevitably tied to imaginings of the expansive beauty of Mongolia’s places and the people close to me there. Using my own hands, fingers and body as the platform, and now the beginnings of even some Mongolian musical motifs, in my imaginings I journey across Sukhbaatar Aimag to where Arildii Lhamsuren, Jantsan Gundegmaa and her beloved husband Nyagai Dugarjav were born. I relive again the exhilaration and banter between family friends and fellow travellers, as we fly like the wind southwards, in a long convoy of four wheel drive vehicles making our way from the nation’s capital Ulaanbaator to Delgertsogt Mountain and DC (Delgeruun Choira).

end of transcript.

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© 2013-2024. CP in Mongolia. This post is licensed under the  Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Documents linked from this page may be subject to other restrictions.  Posted: 27 January 2014. Last updated: 29 October 2017.