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Nicholas Cords: Soba And Silence

Violist Nicholas Cords likes his Japanese soba noodles on the quiet side.
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Violist Nicholas Cords likes his Japanese soba noodles on the quiet side.

Greetings from Beijing, where Brooklyn Rider is on tour in the Far East. This year, Thanksgiving will be spent in Japan, which, for the record, is totally fine with me from a food perspective.

I love Japanese cuisine. And I also admire the spatial concept of ma or empty space (very loosely defined) that is so much embodied in various Japanese art forms. It is even explored in food presentation. I can think of no composer that uses the concept of empty space more than the American composer John Cage. His virtually soundless composition 4'33" explores how musical silence brings heightened awareness to environmental sonorities. It's also a perfect compliment to soba noodles, my favorite Japanese food. Soba and silence...

And now, a brief Mozart moment. For me, there's nothing quite like a good scone. But scones will always remind me of Mozart — his String Quartet in B-flat, K. 458 (aka "The Hunt") to be exact. The combination is not so much based on complimentary tastes and sounds, but instead an unforgettable fleeting moment. In my student days at Juilliard, I played a gig for a morning event at ABC Studios. From my vantage point behind my viola, I witnessed an elderly lady calmly enter the room, walk up to the breakfast table and shovel several dozen pastries into a plastic-lined tote bag. After the deed was done, she nonchalantly stood next to us, enjoying Mozart's "Hunt" quartet while buttering a scone.

Nicholas Cords is the violist of the string quartet Brooklyn Rider.

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Nicholas Cords