Boy, is this gonna make the Edward Said haters out there hoppin’ mad!
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon named Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim, alongside a Jordanian princess, a Brazilian writer and a Japanese-American violinist, as UN peace envoys.
The new Messengers of Peace Barenboim, equestrian expert Princess Haya, author Paulo Coelho, and violinist Midori Goto – will be honored at a ceremony on Friday, the International Day of Peace.
They will join four other messengers of peace, Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust scholar Elie Wiesel, actor Michael Douglas, primate expert Jane Goodall, and cellist Yo-Yo Ma…
Barenboim, a world renowned conductor and pianist who was born in Argentina and is an Israeli citizen, co-founded an orchestra that brings young musicians from Israel and Arab countries together. He recently initiated a music education project in the Palestinian territories.
Barenboim was a dear friend and colleague of Edward Said and the two of them came up with the idea for the West-Eastern Divan together. Barenboim has carried it on in memory of his friend. I have written several posts about the Orchestra in my blog and admire its work and Barenboim’s dedication to the project in the face of great controversy and enmity from some who unfortunately deeply mistrust his motives.
Here is what Barenboim has written about the Divan:
The orchestra is a humanitarian idea. It became the most important thing in Edward Said’s life, as it still is in mine, and through it his ideals will always live on.
Our project may not change the world, but it is a step forward. It is an ongoing dialogue, where the universal, metaphysical language of music links with the continuous dialogue that we have with young people, and that young people have with each other.
We don’t see ourselves as a political project, but rather as a forum where young people from Israel and all the Arab countries can express themselves freely and openly whilst at the same time hearing the narrative of the other. It is not necessarily a question of accepting the narrative of the other, let alone agreeing with it, but rather the indispensable need to accept its legitimacy. We believe in only two absolutely necessary political ideas:
– There is no military solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
– The destinies of the Israeli and Palestinian people are inextricably linked and the land that some call Greater Israel and others Palestine is a land for two people.
Music makes the West-Eastern Divan possible because it does not contain limited associations as words do. Music teaches us that there is nothing that does not include its parallel or opposite as the case may be; therefore no element is entirely independent because it is by definition in a relationship of inter-dependence. It is my belief that although music cannot solve any problems, since it is as Busoni said “sonorous air”, it can teach us to think in a way that is a school for life. In music we know and accept the hierarchy of a main subject, we accept the permanent presence of an opposite, and sometimes even of subversive accompanying rhythms.
This year, our project is very much in opposition to the cruelty and savagery that denies so many innocent civilians the possibility to continue living, fulfilling their ideas and dreams. It also shows me that so many lessons of the past have either been forgotten or never understood. Time not only helps define content, but influences it directly. How long will it take for people in the region to accept this and remember that the past is but a transition to the present and the present a transition to the future? Therefore, a violent and cruel present will inevitably lead to an even more cruel and violent future.
Every member of this orchestra, regardless of their origin, shows a remarkable amount of courage, understanding and vision by coming here. I would like to think of them as pioneers in a new way of thinking for the Middle East. We will try as we travel throughout the month of August to give interested readers and listeners something close to an online diary. I hope our audience will find it interesting, sometimes even amusing, but in any case stimulating.
Among the ideas that he has also championed is that Israeli audiences deserve the right to hear the music of Wagner. This has won him enemies who feel that sensitivities related to the Holocaust should trump any musical considerations regarding this issue.