Translating Love Songs

Decoding love songs is basically my job. Most music – whether pop, classical, broadway, jazz, country, folk, even rap – is about love. As a musician, I merely translate: I mirror the muse, mime the miracle, mimic the mirage... merely, and merrily.

I love language and languages almost as much as music. Through a maniacal fascination for their rhythms and intonations, I speak five of them fairly fluently, and have a solid smattering of another half dozen. Most of all I love languages for the same reason I love music – they introduce me at every turn to a new me. They reveal portals to other possibilities. Like the zenful adage: "My true personality is the universe."

My love of languages is what led me to opera, and to my wife.  You see, I would have never met her if I hadn't already learned Italian and Korean when our paths were crossed by mutual friends in Rome. We dated in both languages, often flying back-and-forth between the two mid-sentence – we must have been a curious site on buses and trains. It was only years later that she began to use English. (Now, incidentally, we mix all three...)

(Even Rachel spoke mainly Korean her first couple years, calling me "abba.")

As Young Mee and I prepare for Friday night's soirée, it occurs to me that every song on the program – in French, Italian, German, Czech and Russian – is about love – love longed for, love lost, love in springtime, love in winter, the love of lovers and the love of mothers.

Translating love is quite an occupation. As we rehearse, she and I look for ways to express the mother of all emotions more honestly, more dramatically, more truly, more simply. And I suppose each song we spin together lets us explore what love means to us, separately, and together.

Music is love; love is music. Or is it the other way around?