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Sachiko Kuroiwa Column

les toits de Paris et le violon

Sachiko Kuroiwa
Violinist / Teacher

Lives and works in Paris. After working as the first violinist of the Milan Symphony Orchestra, she moved to France.She has been active as an orchestra and chamber musician in France and abroad. In recent years, she has been passionate about teaching young musicians in Paris.

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DAYS/  Sachiko Kuroiwa Column

les toits de Paris et le violon

Vienna and Paris: Kokoschka's paintings connect the two time zones.


This week, French schools started their big All Saints' Day vacation.
Although I was quite exhausted from my first teaching job at a music school, I decided to take advantage of this opportunity to visit the Kokoschka exhibition that has been held in Paris since this fall.
Corona and other worries had kept me away from visiting exhibitions for a few years, but I finally had the time to do so again.
Since the day I found a poster of the Kokoshka exhibition in the metro, I had made up my mind that I would definitely go to the exhibition.


Kokoschka is a revolutionary who made the art scene in Vienna at the turn of the century so colorful.
He is also famous for his dramatic love story with Alma Mahler, the wife of the composer Gustav Mahler, but when I was living in Vienna, I was somewhat uncomfortable with Kokoschka's paintings.


The colors and touch of Kokoschka's paintings made viewers feel uneasy.
His paintings, which gave me a painful sensation as if I were diving into a bitter brain, did not appeal to me as much as Klimt's world of decadent smiling women in dazzling gold leaf, whose beauty seemed out of this world.


On the other hand, I was blinded by the stories of the many talented artists who were attracted to Alma, including Kokoschka
Klimt, Gropius, the founder of the Bauhaus, and her dominant husband Mahler.
Their stories are told in various books, all of which tell us how fascinating and talented Alma Mahler was, and how surprisingly modern she was in the conservative world of her time.
In one of the many episodes, Alma is told that as a teenager she had already been reading Nietzsche and Wagner for inspiration, which makes a lot of sense to me, as I have been an ardent supporter of Alma since I read about her as a student, and even more so today. I think it is an episode that can stimulate my imagination about this character even more.

Returning to Kokoschka, Alma, herself a composer and faithful to her own desires, has perhaps more deeply imprinted her mark on this painter than on any of her lovers.
Their mistress relationship was officially very brief, but for Kokoschka, whose soul had been stolen by Alma, the loss of this love was spectacularly painful.
The painter, who could not forget her even after their breakup, volunteered to fight at the front and survived despite being seriously wounded twice, and after a period of recuperation had a life-size doll made in Alma's likeness.
He took the doll everywhere with him, and a few years later, at a party, he cut off the doll's head and doused it with red wine (you can see a photo of the doll at the time in this exhibition).

This famous episode, besides the passionate correspondence between Kokoschka and Alma, is perhaps the best representation of their relationship, which shared a passionate time that changed the axis of the earth.


It had been 20 years since I had recalled such a story, and yet, after so long a time, these works, found again in a museum near the Eiffel Tower, immediately transported me back to the beautiful city where I had spent four years of my school days.
Deciphering the cipher of Alma scattered throughout the works, savoring the familiar episodes, and filling in the occasional frayed memory, I was truly enchanted by the seamless stylistic beauty of the city, the Ringstrasse by night, the opera house where my former teacher worked, and all of the fin-de-siècle culture in which I became enamored. I almost kissed all the works in front of me as I felt myself surrounded by all of Vienna's fin-de-siècle culture.

As I left the last room of the exhibition, I saw a large, enlarged photograph on the wall.
It was a picture of Kokoschka in his prime, working energetically, and he was facing a large canvas.
The photograph, in which you could almost hear the creaking of the wooden step supporting his weight, captured Kokoschka in the midst of his 94-year life, in which he overcame difficulties such as a serious heartbreak followed by memories of the tragic war, exile, and the desecration of his work by the Nazis, always resisting unjust power, and yet, at a completely different level from these events, he was stretched out and absorbed in his work. In the midst of his 94 years of life, he always resisted unjust authorities.

It was a picture of him living freely in the present, detached from the harsh past and future, and that was the only way to be free from the relentless flow of time.
The moment I realized this, my heart filled with the feeling that I had been touched by a terribly sacred fact.

Then, in the picture, Kokoschka began to speak softly to me, almost in tears, as if he had once cared for his fellow Jews.
As I strained to hear, his voice sounded as if he was telling me that as long as I could forget everything and focus on just one thing, really just one thing, I would not be afraid of life or even death.



DAYS/  Sachiko Kuroiwa Column

les toits de Paris et le violon

49 ( Quarante- neuf )


I never imagined that the day would (really) come when I would celebrate my 50th birthday in France.

At least until a year ago.

It seemed as irrelevant to me as all the unreal entities and words, like a cloud floating somewhere far away, or like a death that would come one day.

And yet it was already two days away.

Then I thought to myself.

Oh well.

This is what it will be like when I die, I thought.

It will be just in front of me when I realize it.


It was quite a shock when I turned 40, but this time the feeling is even more intense.

My youth came much later than others.

And now it is time for me to fly away from the 10 years that I spent in my youth with a little bit of regret, to a new 10 years.

And considering that those 10 years passed so fast that it felt like only 6 years at most, how fast will the next 10 years go by?

Even though we are living in the age of 100 years, I don't see anyone I know who has lived to be 100 years old.

But I have already reached the halfway point.


The moments when I feel the most fear for myself are not when I think about superficial things like aging, but rather when I begin to think about how much I have accomplished for others in my life so far.

I still feel somewhat irresponsible about myself as I did when I was 20 years old, and since I have no children, I have lived for half a century as a child on the inside (i.e., I am always the main character).

I am good at finding small happiness in my daily life wherever I am, but when I think about it, I have no such grand dreams, and my thirties and forties have passed while I was preoccupied with winning an even smaller position in the closed and small competitive world of the French music world, so to speak. I honestly feel that my thirties and forties passed me by while I was preoccupied with winning an even smaller position in a small competitive world.

So I never really thought about what I should do with my life.

During those endless lockdown days, for the first time in my life, I really thought about what I could do for others.

But no matter how much I thought about my mission, how I used my talents, and so on, it was all somewhat fluffy.

It was evidence of how shortsighted I had been up to that point in my life.


When my father fell ill shortly after returning to Japan this summer, I finally felt myself forced to make the transition from a long childhood to adulthood.

I found myself no longer on the side of my parents' protection, but on the side of theirs.

When I returned to Paris in September with mixed feelings, God suddenly offered me 27 French children.

This was because I was assigned to teach a solfege class (a class to teach children the basics of music in general) as well as a violin class at the conservatoire (music school) where I was to teach from September.

It was a hard day's work, but I fell in love with them at first sight.

The skinny, fluffy, blonde-haired ones.

The tanned, energetic ones.

The quiet, intelligent ones. They are just like the children in the movies and cartoons.

As I interacted with them, I was reminded of the 14-year-old Tokyo children I met during my university teaching internship.


Although they come from different countries, they are all as fresh and lively as freshly squeezed fruit juice, and sometimes as sharp as a rose's prick.

They are a mass of pure energy.

I enjoyed meeting these children so much that I remembered the days when I would not even sleep in and eagerly go to my alma mater every day.

On the last day of my internship, I played Brahms' Violin Sonata for them.

Even the most talkative of the children listened attentively to my performance.

Afterwards, one of the boys from the so-called problem group, who was waiting for me at the school gate, asked me where he could get help.


[Will you come back to school again?]


I was going to study abroad in Vienna that year, and although I knew it was impossible, I felt a small twinge of regret at having said yes.


I was very worried about the different language and whether they would understand my French properly, but rather their energy has been a magical experience that has shaken something that I had forgotten within me.

If my encounter with these children was not a coincidence but inevitable, I never cease to be amazed at what a wonderful way God has led me to a new learning experience.

I don't know at this point how much longer I will be able to continue this work, but I am going to trust in the miracle of being 50 years old and resign myself to fate.

I would like to be able to think that this experience has encouraged me to grow in a way that will be invaluable to me in 10 years' time.



DAYS/  Sachiko Kuroiwa Column

les toits de Paris et le violon

My Father's House



t the beginning of June, I received two unexpected pieces of news.

The first was an appointment as a violin teacher at a conservatoire in a quiet town near Paris.

The second was that I had finally found a barrier-free apartment for my father, who lives alone in Tokyo, and we had decided to move in early July.

Gazing out the window at the fiery fresh greenery, I was relieved to feel a new cycle finally begin to make some noise somewhere.

Two weeks later, I returned to Tokyo to help my father move, just before the onset of the heat wave.

A year and a half had already passed since my last visit.

My father had always had a hard time throwing things away, and he had already accumulated a lot of stuff.

How should I proceed with the move while confronting these things?

When I started thinking about it, I forgot that I had come all the way back to Tokyo, and my mood became more and more blue.


However, my worries were over in three days.


On the morning of the third day after returning to Japan, my father was rushed to the hospital with heart failure.

Miraculously, I was able to notice his condition early in the morning and was able to save his life, but he would not be discharged from the hospital for a long time.

Suddenly I was left alone in the old house and had to make it through the two weeks until we moved in with my brother, who came to help us (although at least it was easier to declutter since my father did not interfere with every aspect of the cleanup).


My brother came almost every day, driving an hour each way in a small truck for garbage disposal.

It was somewhat strange to see my brother every day.

Come to think of it, I had never done anything with my brother like this before.

As I sorted through the house, I realized that about 50% of the things we accumulate over the course of a lifetime are photos and letters.

I recalled that in the days when there was no such thing as the cloud, taking photos and carefully storing them in albums was a sacred act to preserve the moments of family events and celebrations that would never be repeated in life.

I felt myself being sucked into the distortion of the vast amount of time that separated the present from the time in the album.


Then I found a quantity of letters that was almost as large as those photographs.

The ones from my now-deceased grandmother and grandfather were so real that I could still feel their warm voices and warmth when I read them now, and I still remembered some phrases from the mountain of letters that my childhood best friend gave me in elementary school.

They felt like a part of me, and despite the fact that they were quite a lot to put in cardboard boxes, I couldn't bring myself to throw them away and they were eventually packed away.

Old memories were sealed up in boxes again once they were dug up like that, but once they were colorfully resurrected in my mind, the fragments of old memories went to sleep with me for a while after that and woke up with me.


It seems that this world is governed by a delicate balance.

Those who have survived are no longer able to walk, and just when we think we have found some small happiness, a small tragedy comes knocking at our door.

In the end, life is plus, minus, and equal to zero. Maybe that's what it means.


I am sure that is the case. I'll write down where everything is on a sticker and put it up so that I won't be in trouble the day my father comes home safely from the hospital.


Today, too, I continue to prepare the house by myself, thinking of my father's and mother's healthy appearance.


And a few weeks later, I was once again alone in my new barrier-free house.

Not living alone, much less as a newlywed.

A home for my father, and for my mother, who might one day come home. Their new home.

I was living alone until the day I returned to Paris, and I was diligently preparing the house for when my father would be discharged from the hospital.

I hung curtains, installed light bulbs, and arranged books in the bookshelves as they had been before.

Little by little, the alien space disappears and the house becomes more and more like someone's home.

Still, I cannot shake the feeling that this house still belongs to no one.


The table that my brother and I chose together is light and compact, unlike the solid oak table we had in the house before, and its height can be adjusted with a single lever so that we can eat while sitting on the sofa.

I chose this table because I thought it would be perfect for my father's future life alone, but when I put it in my room, I found it somewhat tasteless.

It was too focused on "convenience" and lacked depth in both color and material, and was sadly devoid of emotion.

I brought my coffee to the table with these thoughts in mind.

As I looked around the room, thinking how well I had done, the words of my mother, who had moved into a special care facility four years earlier due to the aftereffects of a cerebral hemorrhage, suddenly came to mind.


I can't wait to walk back home.



DAYS/  Sachiko Kuroiwa Column

les toits de Paris et le violon

Surreal reality, dense virtual space.



Spring 2022 has come sooner than expected.

More than a month has already passed since the vaccine pass was withdrawn in Paris, and except in certain places, the city is already as lively as it was three years ago during the Easter vacations.

People laughing and murmuring on the terraces of cafes as if nothing had happened, evening lines forming in front of popular bakeries, lovers embracing on metro platforms.


These scenes are [very similar] to the Paris we know so well, like scenes from a scene in a Klapisch film.

But something is different. They have all lost a kind of [mass] and seem somehow transparent.

Is it Paris that has changed? Or is it me? 

Maybe it is both.

Maybe I have come to a parallel world today.

But on the other hand, there exists within me a reality that is more rich in flavor than this chaotic and unpredictable world that is now called [reality].

It is the reality of the world of the senses, such as sound, my feelings, and texture.


I am a musician, so my job is to interact with sound.

I am a musician, so my job is to interact with sound, which means I look inside myself to the point of boredom, always looking for answers in images.

Sound] cannot be seen with the naked eye, but it is a presence that can be felt with a sense of presence.

More specifically, the performer can even visualize the exact location of the sound.

It is like a [virtual space] that exists only within me, and rather than playing the violin in this space, I am sitting comfortably in the driver's seat and operating the steering wheel while watching the images (sounds) that are constantly crossing the windshield.


I must not come back to myself.


This is a lesson that every professional performer knows on stage.

If you become so nervous that you come back to yourself, the next note may disappear from your memory.

This is because [thinking] begins with [realizing].

This is precisely because "feeling" and "thinking" are two different things.

And once one thinks, the virtual space is cut off and the image of the sound is also cut off.

Therefore, the performer must remain in the virtual space (world of images) until the end of the piece, so to speak, but to achieve this in an ideal state requires considerable conscious training.


I was watching a YouTube video explaining the double-slit experiment in quantum mechanics, and even though I do not have even a millimeter of scientific brain, I noticed something.

It was that the process of the experiment, in which something that was previously a "wave" is transformed into a "particle" and materialized as soon as a person starts "observing" it, is reminiscent of the mechanism of musical performances, in which the essence of the performance is drastically changed by "observing" it as well. This is what I meant.


The famous "Law of Attraction" has already been scientifically proven in the field of quantum mechanics, but the most important aspect of this "attraction" is also the power of imagining.

Imagining is definitely the first step to materialize something.


If it is in the field of art, a vision in one's mind can become an actual architecture, a sculpture, or a sound.

Conversely, where there is no image, nothing happens or is created. Therefore, it is not surprising to artists that "imagining with a sense of presence," as the Law of Attraction always says, is closely related to the realization of dreams in life.


Incidentally, there is one way to make it easier to imagine great things.

One way to make it easier to imagine great things, by the way, is to feel good.

It is the same with music. It is very difficult to visualize your ideal performance if you are in a gloomy mood.

When I am in a positive, almost joyful mood, the power of a great image increases.


How strange it would be if my life today is the result of what I imagined in the past!

When I lived in Tokyo and Milan, I was never tired of living in the image of Paris through movies and music.

Paris was nothing but a condensed world of everything I wanted to be, everything I wanted, and everything I longed to be.

As a result of thinking about Paris so much, I am now living in the middle of the city every day.

In that sense, I can say that I have successfully attracted Paris.


What will I be living in three years from now?

The clue to that question is what exactly I am imagining [vividly] at this very moment.

The pipe that leads to the future is being formed at this very moment, without a break.