Saturday, September 20, 2008

Daniel Barenboim's new book and my grandmother

I received the following article ( in the mail from my grandmother today. In her accompanying letter she wrote:

"If music is so influential in our lives and society, then in the classroom it should be as important as English or Math. Do you know of any organized effort in the musical world whose goal is to pursue this idea? I believe with Plato that music is anchored in moral and political reality or 'that music-making are forces for social and political good' and most importantly that "everything is connected". Of course, there is no one as ignorant as I am about music!!!"

She then asked me if people were making more music and art, would we have less of a war-like society?

Two interesting things here:
1. Does anyone have a response to these questions?
2. The fact that ‘non-musician’ feel compelled to qualify their statements about music with a sentence like the above. (Much like the critics Levine complains of!) Do you encounter this in conversations with others? Does it make you wonder how we define ‘musician’ and what the prevailing beliefs are about this definition?

Check out the article in its entirety, but here’s the first paragraph to peak your interest!

"For Plato the art of music was so firmly anchored in moral and political reality that any alteration to the musical system would necessarily require a corresponding political shift. Two and a half millennia later, when classical music is generally seen as a high-class lifestyle accessory, Plato’s conception seems outlandish, even absurd. To be sure, most people involved in classical music today consider their art to be of profound cultural importance, but there are very few who are able to articulate this convincingly."

1 comment:

VER said...

I like your grandmother's thoughts and comments on the influence of music in society- something I've been pondering a lot myself of late.

I work with the Boston Children's Chorus, an excellent organization whose mission is to promote social change through music. During one of the rehearsals, the conductor asked the students- a group of 14 boys ages 12-18- about their thoughts on the value of music. It was quite encouraging to listen to their responses as they discussed the ways that music helps them connect with others, explore their own emotions, and stay motivated in school. The conductor reaffirmed these beliefs and the power of music to bring people together across cultural boundaries, mentioning that if musicians ran the world, it would be a different place.

Perhaps he's right to a degree- I certainly think music-making can foster important values such as self-discipline and teamwork. The very act of listening allows one to experience the world in a different way and opens up a new way of listening. Music certainly can have social, political, and moral ramifications.

But I think some advocates are guilty of over-moralizing music. So many of the greatest musical minds had personal lives that were a complete mess! Look at Berlioz, Schumann, Beethoven... the list goes on and on. So I don't think it's fair to say that music alone always acts as a positive moral force.