Letter to Father Teodorico Pedrini

Epistolarium (21)

Aurelio Porfiri

Dear Father,

I want to address you this letter to show you my admiration for your gift as composer. You were in Macau during the 18th century to prepare for your mission in greater China, and I was imagining you sharing some of your expertise also in this city.  Listening to your beautiful Sonatas and Concertos make me proud that another Italian was able to contribute with the beauty of our music and tradition.

But what also struck my attention was another element: you have tried to reproduce with western instruments the melodies and contours of Chinese traditional music. I have to tell you that the result of what you did was certainly fascinating and make me think a lot about the way it  is possible to blend cultural traditions that are so deeply different. I tried also something along those lines and I always think that if there is something good in other cultures it can be integrated in our own culture, if done with mastery and understanding of art’s exigencies. That is not easy and will be not good if not done with care and attention, knowing how to translate the “new language” into the one you already know.

You were trying to deal with “inculturation,” even if this word at your time was unheard of. Nevertheless, Lazarists (like you), Jesuits, Dominicans, Franciscans and countless other people have tried to answer the question of inculturation in different and often contrasting ways. Still today, I have to tell you, inculturation is not fully understood, being for some people (also Church leaders) destroying the past for a present that is not very well understood.

You have tried your way and it is commendable that so talented a musician has tried to share his talents in that mysterious China. Isn’t music a pilgrimage in a mysterious and enchanted land?

Aurelius scripsit

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