The story behind the sound

by Kris Harrell

THIBODAUX, LA – During the Nicholls State University String Program’s performance at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, Louisiana, the music flowing from the stage can be interpreted as a language not reliant on words, but rather on feelings to tell stories. 

Directed by James Alexander, an American violinist and faculty member at Nicholls State University, four international performers studying at the university performed movements two and four of Antonín Dvořák’s String Quartet No. 12 “American” in F Major, Op. 96.

Performers include undergraduate students Carlos Cid Dominguez from the Dominican Republic and Luhan Lucena Ferreira de Souza from Brazil. It also includes conservatory participants Dario Santos Oliveiro and Lucas Casagrande from Brazil. 

The second movement of Dvořák’s work allowed listeners to reflect; a score that resembles a conversation that is interpreted through the performance of Dominguez and Souza, the two violinists. This melancholy movement tells a story that differs from listener to listener. 

“I like to think [the music is] like a cowboy,” Casagrande said. “Like the beginning of the night, and the end of the day, and he’s singing because he’s lonely. He’s alone and singing in a calm voice.” 

“I imagined myself surrounded by tribes and stuff like that, just admiring stuff, looking at the people around,” Dominguez said. 

However, the fourth movement is a playful and adventurous piece, filled with moments where the performers striking the notes are meant to resemble a human heart beating. 

“In the fourth movement, it’s full of life,” Casagrande said. “The party, the fireworks, and the dancing. 

“With a lot of joy, a lot of laughter, this is what I think is on.” 

The fourth movement of Dvořák’s piece can be seen as a representation of music as a medium: full of life. 

To this quartet, music represents the human experience. All your emotions and experiences are laid out on a musical staff. 

“The human life — tragedies, love, the anger, the anguish, the sadness, misery, depression — every single aspect of the human life is represented in art,” Casagrande said.  

“You’ll see an entire biography. You’re going to see love, passion, and heartbreak. You’re going to see sadness, depression, anger, and anguish. You’re going to see everything.”

This human experience is expressed on the page, and through the musicians performing. The quartet says it is up to the performer to live a life full of experience so that they can portray those emotions effectively. 

“For example, if you’ve never had a broken heart from a girl, you will never feel the thing that [is in the piece],” Olivero said. 

“We need to live to have this experience to have the idea to interpret the music.” 

“So as musicians, as artists, I think there’s a time that we need to stop [thinking of] ourselves as music students and start to see ourselves as artists,” Souza said.

This piece was written during the writer’s trip to SEJC in Thibodaux, Louisiana.

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