The Jacana Library
Lectures

 

 

 

 

The Reith Lectures, 2006

By Daniel Barenboim

 Lecture One

In the beginning was sound 

SUE LAWLEY:
Thirteen-year-old Daniel Barenboim playing Chopin in London in 1956. He'd given his first concert in Buenos Aires at the age of seven, and at the age of eleven he'd been declared a phenomenon by the legendary conductor Wilhelm Fürtwangler. His life has been and continues to be saturated with music. A virtuoso at the piano, he later became a supreme master of the podium. Currently he's Music Director of both the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Berlin State Opera. In these lectures he'll be drawing on a lifetime of musical experience to demonstrate that music, as he puts it, is a way to make sense of the world - our politics, our history, our future, and our very essence. Daniel Barenboim doesn't shy from controversy. He's shown himself willing to take courageous public stands. Six years ago he founded, against the odds, an orchestra made up of equal numbers of Arab and Israeli young members, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, not least to demonstrate that it's possible through music for people from warring factions to find peaceful co-existence.

Today he'll deliver the first in his series of lectures which, over the course over the next five weeks, will take us from here in London to Chicago, Berlin, Ramallah, and Jerusalem. Ladies and gentlemen, please will you welcome the BBC's Reith Lecturer 2006 - Daniel Barenboim.

(APPLAUSE)

DANIEL BARENBOIM:
Thank you very much. Ladies and gentlemen, I'm perfectly aware of the great honour to be asked to deliver the Reith Lectures. It is with some slight trepidation that I do that, because I firmly believe that it is really impossible to speak really deeply about music. All we can do then is speak about our own reaction to the music. So maybe the honour is dubious, or maybe the BBC thought it would be very short.

(LAUGHTER)

In any case, the impossible has always attracted me more than the difficult. The impossible, if there is some sense behind it, has not only a feeling of adventure, but a feeling of activity which I do admit I enjoy very much. I will therefore attempt the impossible and maybe try and draw some connection between the inexpressible content of music and, maybe, the inexpressible content of life.

In Chicago I will try to discover why it is that we are neglecting our ears so much, and why we have become such a visual society, and why it is that the eye seems to have so much more power than the ear.

In Berlin I will try, always with connection to music obviously, to explain why I think that it is so difficult in today's world to grow up when we don't really give our children real education, but at best information, and that this is why words have lost their meaning and words that are full of content have become pejorative. This leads us very often to create or develop a society in which we don't dare make judgement and make a point of view - have a point of view - contradiction in terms when I've just said that the ear is more important than the eye, and here am I speaking about a point of view. But the mental point of view is no different from the point of view of the film director.

In Ramallah I will speak about the ability of music to integrate, and how it is that a musician is by the sheer nature of his profession in many ways, an integrating figure. If a musician is unable to integrate rhythm, melody, harmony, volume, speed, he cannot make music.

And to end in Jerusalem, I will try to explain what to me is a very major difference between power and strength - something which I learned very precisely from music, that if you attack a chord with more power than you are going to sustain it, it has no strength.

So there we are at the first, if you want, connection between the inexpressible content of music and in many ways the inexpressible content of life. There have been many definitions of music which to my mind have only described a subjective reaction to it. The only really precise one to me is the one by Ferruccio Busoni, the great Italian pianist and composer, who said that music is sonorous air. It says everything and it says nothing. Of course, appropriate moment to quote Neitszche, who said that life without music would be a mistake.

(LAUGHTER)

And now we come to the first question - why? Why is music so important? Why is music something more than something very agreeable or exciting to listen to? Something that, through its sheer power, and eloquence, gives us formidable weapons to forget our existence and the chores of daily life. My contention is that this is of course possible, and is practised by millions of people who like to come home after a long day at the office, put their feet up, if possible have the luxury of somebody giving them a drink while they do that, and put on the record and forget all the problems of the day. But my contention is that music has another weapon that it delivers to us, if we want to take it, and that is one through which we can learn a lot about ourselves, about our society, about the human being, about politics, about society, about anything that you choose to do. I can only speak from that point of view in a very personal way, because I learn more about living from music than about how to make a living out of music.

And so I propose to you, before we embark on this journey, that we look at the moment at this physical phenomenon, that is the only way through which music expresses itself, and that is sound. Now, when people speak about sound, they speak very often in terms of colours. This is a bright sound, this is a dark sound. This is very subjective - what is dark for one is light for the other and vice versa. But there are some elements of sound which are not subjective, and I think that if you allow me to I would like to spend a few minutes on that.

If sound is a physical phenomenon, which it obviously is, then one should be able to observe it as such in a very discerning and in a very rational way. The first thing we notice about sound of course is that it doesn't live in this world. Whatever concert took place in this hall earlier today or yesterday, the sounds have evaporated, they are ephemeral. So although sound is a very physical phenomenon, it has some inexplicable metaphysical hidden power. The physical aspect that we notice first is that sound does not exist by itself, but has a permanent constant and unavoidable relation with silence. And therefore the music does not start from the first note and goes onto the second note, etc., etc., but the first note already determines the music itself, because it comes out of the silence that precedes it. Added to that, some instruments, percussion instruments primarily - and the piano is one of them - have a real life duration. In other words...

(PLAYS ONE NOTE FOLLOWED BY SHORT SILENCE)

and it's over. Other instruments, like the violin, or the oboe, or a brass instrument, non-percussive instruments, one can, and one does, manage to sustain them longer than the real life duration of the sound as compared to a percussion instrument. And therefore the beginning, the first sound, is already in relation to the silence that precedes it.

You must forget for a moment, please, that there are such things as technologically developed devices which permit to maintain this sound artificially so, and this is no ungratefulness to the radio, to the recordings, to the CDs and all other means that we have to preserve the unpreservable, but the fact remains that when you, even in the old days when you had a gramophone recording and you put the needle on the record, the sound was suddenly there.

(IMITATES SOUND)

And then there was a sound. Now we go directly into the sound, but it gives us no idea whatsoever about how this is produced. And this is why many young conductors today think they can learn a score from listening to records. Fantastic lifting of the arms, bring them down, and the perfect C major chord with blazing trumpets and inaudible strings is heard.

(LAUGHTER)

But let's look at the different possibilities therefore, of the first note. If we achieve a total silence, and we start a piece of music that becomes rather than is there - it's not about being, but about becoming. It's obviously a different case from starting something loud and blazingly. The prelude to Tristan and Isolde is an obvious case.

(PLAYS 2 NOTES)

In other words the music is not from the A to the F, but from the silence to the A first of all, and this is of course the main difficulty. There are many ways - it doesn't have to be slow music. There's also Beethoven's sonata opus 109

(PLAYS FEW NOTES)

but suddenly the pianist has to create the feeling that the music has already been here, it's already going, and now much as you step on a train that is already in motion, you join it, and you cannot start

(PLAYS FEW NOTES)

with an accent on the first note, because by definition the first note will be an accent because it interrupt the silence.

The next observation about sound is if it has a relation with silence, what kind of relation is it? Does it dominate silence, and silence stop the sound when it wants? Can the sound go over the silences? Is that all a realistic possibility? And I think if we observe that clearly we notice that sound reacts to silence much like the law of gravity tells us, that if you lift an object from the ground you have to use a certain amount of energy to keep it at the height to which you have brought it up to. You have to provide additional energy, otherwise the object will fall back to the law of gravitation on the ground. But this is exactly what sound does with silence. I play again the same note, I play it, I give a certain amount of energy, and if I do nothing more to it, it will die.

(PLAYS ONE NOTE PLUS BRIEF SILENCE)

This is the length of the duration of the life of this C sharp produced by my finger on this piano. Now, there may be other fingers that can do it longer or shorter and other pianos that will do that, but basically this is it. And there we are at the first clear expression of content in music, the contact with silence, with gravitation. What did I say just now? The note dies. And this is the beginning of the tragic element in music, for me. You understand that all of what I'm telling you now is what I have learned to feel, and hope to have learned through all these years of, of making music. I'm in no way pretending to give you a fundamentalist theory that provides all the answers, even for those things where there are no questions about.

(LAUGHTER)

But for me this relation between sound and silence is imperative to understand, because it does produce the first tragic element of expression in music.

I pondered for a very long time on this subject, and I will not bore you with all the details, but it is obvious that if a sound has a beginning, we have already seen it also has a duration, and it has an end, whether it does, or whether the next note comes. And then you get one more other means of expression, of content if you want, of music, and that is that the notes in music cannot be allowed to develop their natural egos, so that they hide the preceding one, but the expression in music comes from the linkage, what we call in Italian legato - bound. When we play five notes that are bound, each note fights against the power of silence that wants to make it die, and is therefore in relation to the preceding note and to the note that comes after that. So when you play five notes,

(PLAYS 5 NOTES)

if each note had a big ego it would want to be louder than the note before. And therefore I learned from this very simple fact, that no matter how great an individual you are, music teaches you that the creativity only work in groups, and the expression of the group is very often larger than the sum of the parts. And you can draw whatever conclusions you want from this, but I think that this is a not unimportant factor.

And maybe in a strange way I've found some answers to all this, not in music but in philosophy, especially from reading regularly and for many years the ethics of Spinoza. Spinoza was a religious scholar, a political architect, a philosopher, who aspired to geometric demonstration of the universe and the human being in it, and he was a biological thinker who advanced the science of emotion. And there lies of course one of the great difficulties of making music, the science of emotion. How do you play with passion and with discipline? Having realised all of this, I saw that there was a need for knowledge, and these much abused words 'He is so musical' was absolutely senseless because talent is certainly not enough. If music is sound with thought, then talent is a very poor weapon to have at one's disposal.
All this has brought me to the conclusion that I am very unhappy, and for a long time, about the place of music in society. This is the part that I will try to explore further in the next lectures. Music can and from my individual point of view should become something that is used not only to escape from the world but rather to understand it. Thank you very much.

 

 

 

Lecture 2

The Neglected Sense
at Symphony Center, Chicago

SUE LAWLEY:

Hello and welcome to Chicago for the second in Daniel Barenboim's series of Reith lectures. For the past seventeen years he's been Music Director of this city's great orchestra, the Chicago Symphony, a job which he said, when inheriting it from Georg Solti, was "a dream I had never dared to dream".

In fact his link with this city goes back much further, to the 1950s, when he first appeared here as a sixteen-year-old pianist. Chicago has always been faithful to Daniel Barenboim so it's fitting that he should deliver one of his five Reith lectures here in its Symphony Center.

History however does not mean that he only has praise for this place and his players. Chicago is one of the most strikingly visual cities in the world, it was home to the great architects Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe. If architecture, as Goethe said, is frozen music, then Chicago is a natural place for a lecture which addresses the nature and power of musical sound. But even here, in this city that has worked hard to look right, much happens, argues Daniel Barenboim, that prevents it from sounding right.

Well some of Chicago's current leading architects are with us in the audience today, as are jazz, blues and classical musicians, film makers, writers, students, and philosophers. They'll be exploring the subject matter of the lecture later through their questions. Its title is The Neglected Sense. Its author, Daniel Barenboim.

(APPLAUSE)

DANIEL BARENBOIM:

Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen. If St John said 'In the beginning there was the word', and Goethe says 'In the beginning there was the deed', I would like to examine this is a little bit, saying, 'In the beginning there was sound'. And for that of course it is important to dwell on the very simple fact that sound is perceived by the ear. The ear is probably the most intelligent organ the body has. It is not for nothing that Aristotle said that the eyes are the organs of temptation, and the ears are the organs of instruction, because the ear does not only take sound or noise in, but sending it directly to the brain - and we will talk about that in a, in a few minutes - it sets into motion the whole creative process of thought that the human being is capable of. The first quality that comes to my mind as to the intelligence of the ear is that the ear helps us tremendously to remember and to recollect, and the ear is therefore the basis for all the aspects that have to do with music-making, both for the performer and for the listener. In London the other day I played the beginning of the Prelude to 'Tristan and Isolde' to demonstrate how the sound starts out of nothing and then grows. I'm sure most of you are familiar with that. I will try and play it again now, with a different view in mind. If you remember, of course you have to imagine the sound of cellos starting this out of nothing, but this is how the piece starts.

(PLAYS OPENING FEW BARS OF PRELUDE)

What is the first thing that comes to my mind in the context of what we are viewing today is that it is a repetition, the accumulation that makes the tension grow. Besides the fact of course that after hearing something which even to the not initiated ear is a dissonant,

(PLAYS ONE CHORD)

it's repeats.

(PLAYS FEW NOTES)

That means … that's what I meant earlier, the ear remembers, the ear recollects, and that shows you one of the most important elements of expression in music, one of repetition and accumulation. And this goes into many many areas, and composers have achieved great mastery of all the repeating, sometimes short parts of a theme, or of a motif, and creating different kind of accumulation. In any case, the ear has this incredible memory. But the ear, let us not forget, starts operating on the forty-fifth day of the pregnancy of a woman. That means the foetus that is in the womb of a pregnant lady begins to use his ear on the forty-fifth day of the pregnancy, which means it has seven and a half months advance over the eye.

(LAUGHTER)

And therefore the question is, what do we in our society, in our civilisation, do to continue this process and this wonderful fact that we have seven and a half months' advance. In any case, whilst on the subject of Wagner, let us not forget that Wagner understood the phenomenon of sound and the phenomenology of sound so well that he created a theatre, festspielhaus in Bayreuth, which as you know where the pit is covered. Now at first sight most people think Wagner wrote so large for the orchestra, if you cover the pit then the singers will be heard.

(LAUGHTER)

But I think this is very basic, and evident. The mystery of Bayreuth is especially evidenced when the opera starts softly. You don't know when the sound is going to start, nor where does it come from. And therefore the ear is doubly alert, and the eye has to wait until the curtain goes up, whereas the ear has already prepared you for the whole drama. This of course is linked to Wagner's whole idea about opera. After all overtures to operas before Wagner very often were just brilliant pieces that were meant to make the public sit and be ready. The 'Marriage of Figaro' overture has actually nothing to do with the piece, and I wonder if one could not play the overture to 'Cosi Fan Tutte' instead.

(LAUGHTER)

This is of course no criticism of either, I'm just saying that there is very little connection about … except that they both are there to make people er sit up and listen. Wagner, who was more systematic, more, shall we say, Teutonic in his thinking,

(LAUGHTER)

in the same as he was about everything including his anti-Semitism, he thought that the ear hears the overture, and it not only puts you in the mood but tells part of the story. The audience is inextricably linked to the very essence of the drama. And therefore the ear plays the role of the guide in the museum in the concert I'm talking now. We don't have an oral guide, we have to provide it ourselves. One reason why active listening is absolutely essential.

But there are some things about the ear which we know, which may be not be out of place to remind ourselves here. One is that it depicts physical vibrations and converts them into signals which become sound sensations, or auditory images in the brain, and that the space occupied by the auditory system in the brain is smaller than the space occupied by the visual system, and that the eye detects patterns of light and converts them into signals which become visual images in the brain. All this is common knowledge. But the well known neuro-biologist and neuro-scientist who is sitting right here, Antonio De Marcio, has taught us many things about human emotion, about the human brain, and also about the human ear, and he says that the auditory system is physically much closer inside the brain to the parts of the brain which regulate life, which means that they are the basis for the sense of pain, pleasure, motivation - in other words basic emotions. And he also says that the physical vibrations which result in sound sensations are a variation on touching, they change our own bodies directly and deeply, more so than the patterns of light that lead to vision, because the patterns of light that lead to vision allow us to see objects sometimes very far away provided there is light. But the sound penetrates our body. There is no penetration, if you want, physical penetration, with the eye, but there is with the ear.

Now, when the baby is born, in many cases - in fact in most cases - the ear is totally neglected. Everything is centred on the eye. The fact that we live in a primarily visual society comes much later. Already in infancy the child is more often than not made more and more aware of what he sees and not about what he hears. And it is also, let's face it, a means of survival. When you take a small child to teach him how to cross the street, what do you say? Look to the right, look to the left, see that no cars are coming otherwise you will be run over. Therefore you depend on your eyes for survival.

And the ear is very often neglected, and I find much that is to my ears insensitive or disturbing goes totally unnoticed by society, starting with the coughing in the concert - as my friend and colleague Alfred Brendel has often remarked in great detail - to many many other noises to which we are totally insensitive. The equivalent of that to the eye would be enough reason I think to find it so offensive that people could even be accused of disturbing society. Just think of the most despicable aspect of pornography and how offensive that is. They are many things which are just as disturbing for the ear which are not really taken into consideration. And not only we neglect the ear but we often repress it, and we find more and more in our society, not only in the United States, although the United States I think was very active in starting this process, of creating opportunities to hear music without listening to it - what is commonly known as muzak. I have spent many very happy years here, but I have suffered tremendously. In the hotel where I stay they think that it is very culturally minded to play classical music in the elevator, or in the foyers of concert halls before the concert.

(LAUGHTER)

And I have been on more than one occasion subject to having to hear, because I cannot shut my ears, the Brahms violin concerto in the lift, having to conduct it in the evening.

(LAUGHTER)

And I ask myself, why? This is not going to bring one more person into the concert hall, and it is not only counter-productive but I think if we are allowed an old term to speak of musical ethics, it is absolutely offensive. And the most extraordinary example of offensive usage of music, because it underlines some kind of association which I fail to recognise, was shown to me one day when watching the television in Chicago and seeing a commercial of a company called American Standard. And it showed a plumber running very very fast in great agitation, opening the door to a toilet and showing why this company actually cleans the toilet better than other companies. And you know what music was played to that?

(FEW BARS OF A RECORDING PLAYED)

The Lachrymose from Mozart's Requiem. Now ladies and gentlemen, I'm sorry, I'm probably immodest enough to think I have a sense of humour but I can't laugh at this. And I laugh even less when I read some, a document which I've brought here to read to you in its entirety. It was published, I'm afraid I don't know in what newspaper, but it is the Editor's note. The following is a letter sent in by Christine Statmuller of Basking Ridge, it is in reference to her previous letter which ran in the April issue of The Catholic Spirit. 'Thanks for printing my letter in which I objected to the use of music from Mozart's Requiem by American Standard to advertise their new champion toilet. As you can see from the enclosed letter below, it achieved results, thanks to the letters from other incensed readers.' And the letter is as follows:- 'Thank you for contacting American Standard with your concerns about the background music in the current television commercial for our champion toilet. We appreciate that you have taken the time to communicate with us, and share your feelings on a matter that clearly is very important to you.'

(LAUGHTER)

'When we first selected Mozart's Requiem, we didn't know of its religious significance.'

(LAUGHTER)

'We actually learned about it from a small number of customers like you, who also contacted us. Although there is ample precedent for commercial use of spiritually theme music, we have decided to change to a passage from Wagner's Tannhauser Overture,'

(LAUGHTER)

'which music experts have assured us does not have religious importance.'

(LAUGHTER)

'The new music will begin airing in June.'

(LAUGHTER)

I think that says it all!

(LAUGHTER & APPLAUSE)

Now I really… I don't know whether you believe me or not but it doesn't matter, I didn't read it to get a laugh, I find it absolutely abominable.

And now we have the whole association for descriptive marketing in the United States, which is how use descriptive marketing, how to use music as description and how to market it that way - in other words what they are saying to the public is you don't have to concentrate, you don't have to listen, you don't have to know anything about it, just come and you will find some association, and we will show you so many things that have nothing to do with the music and this way you will go into the music. And I ask you, ladies and gentlemen, is that the answer to the so-called crisis in classical music? Accessibility does not come through populism, accessibility comes through more interest and more knowledge, and not telling people don't worry you'll be all right, just sit there, buy your ticket, sit there, shut your ears, and you will think of something. That is in fact what we are telling them. And this is criminal. And this is something which has bothered me more and more and more over the years. Music in itself has nothing to do with a society that in a way rejects what I would call publicly accepted standards of life, and of intelligence, and of human existence, and takes the easy way out with a kind of political correctness which does only a few things, all of them in my view negative.

First of all it shows you how to hide your real feelings, it shows you how to cope with the fact that you are not allowed to show dislike of anything, and I wonder how long it takes before the not showing of dislike also goes on to the showing of like. And that the society that has accepted so many rules, so many regulations, and so many procedures, which have the great advantage of avoiding situations of conflict. And this of course very positive, very useful, and very necessary; however when taken beyond the human level it brings us to the point where there is of course no more conflict, but there is also no more contact. And this is in a way what I wanted to share with you today, that music teaches us exactly this. Conflict, difference of opinion, is the very essence of music, in the balance, in the dynamic, in the way that the music is written. You see that in a Bach fugue, you see that in Mozart concertos and operas, the subversiveness sometimes of the accompaniment. Music teaches us that it is precisely our capacity to bring all the different elements together in a sense of proportion so that they lead to a sense of a whole, and this is what I feel in my own subjective way one of the main lessons that I have learned from music for life, because having started very young I was put in contact very early on with the question, how does a child of twelve or fourteen without life experience, how can he express the mature thoughts of a Beethoven. And of course he can't. And there's a lot of things that I have learned from my experiences in life since then that I feel I try every day to put into the music, but there is a lot more. A lot more that I have learned from observing music, not as a specialised phenomenon of sound, not only as a specialisation or profession but as something which can teach us many things about ourselves and about life. Thank you very much.

 

 

 

Lecture 3

The Magic of Music

SUE LAWLEY:
Hello and welcome to the third in this year's Reith lectures. Today we're in another of our lecturer's homes, the Berlin State Opera, where Daniel Barenboim has been Music Director since shortly after the Wall came down. The Opera, here on Unter den Linten is older than Mozart. It was created by Frederick the Great, a man as much at home in the concert hall - he was a flautist - as he was on the battlefield. By contrast its present Director is a man of peace. Daniel Barenboim has seen it as his task, here in Berlin, to lead the Staatsoper out of the shackled world of its recent Communist past. He's used his talent here as he has in the Middle East, to make music a great reconciler, and a unifying force. In his first Reith lecture he explained how he believed music was a metaphor for life. In the second, he talked about how in the modern world the ear is either abused or neglected in favour of the eye, the visual. For his third lecture, his subject is what he's termed the magic of music. He'll argue that classical music is decidedly not an exclusive language, understood only by the musical elite, given the right attitude it's accessible to us all. Ladies and gentlemen, will you please welcome this year's Reith lecturer, Daniel Barenboim.

(APPLAUSE)

DANIEL BARENBOIM:
Thank you very much. Thank you very much. In London, I spoke and we discussed in detail mostly the question of the phenomenon, or the phenomenology, of sound, if you want, of the fact that when people very often talk about sound they talk about something to do with colour, whether it's a bright or whether it's a dark sound. And I maintain that this is much too subjective to be of great interest to us, because what is dark for one is bright for somebody else, or even for the same person in different moods, but there are certain elements of sound which are objective, and those we should examine very carefully, and that is of course the weight and therefore the duration of sound. I also mean that for me there is a permanent relation between sound and silence, because sound gets drawn to ..?.. the law of gravity which pulls the objects to the ground. In Chicago I then went on to speak, not only about the fact that we neglect the ear, the foetus in a pregnant mother begins to hear on the forty-fifth day of the pregnancy, and therefore has seven and a half months' advantage over the eye, and when the baby is born, basically what we do is only care about his eye and use every means we can to explain the fact that even his own survival is actually dependent on his eyes. When we teach a child how to cross the street, we say look to the left or look to the right, so that you're not run over by the car. Whereas the ear is neglected in today's world, what with muzak, and all sorts of noises, and hotel lifts, and aeroplanes, and all that, music actually forces us to close our ears. The first musical example I gave in London, then Chicago, and I would like to do today too, was the beginning of the prelude to Tristan and Isolde, ..?.. in London, from the point of view of silence becoming sound. The beginning of the Tristan prelude that starts out of nothing, and unless the nothing is there the first note has a completely different significance. In Chicago, I used this to describe the accumulative effect of music, the accumulation, in other words repetition, so that the ear remembers what it has already heard. And by the way, I'm sure you all know what an important function ear plays for memory, to remember even daily chores, to remember telephone numbers, to remember all sorts of things. The ear is a very very intelligent organ.

Anyway, Wagner was obviously a great composer - we know that...

(LAUGHTER)

Wagner was a highly, highly intelligent human being in so many areas, and wrote what to me remains one of the most interesting books about music, on conducting, where he describes many of the bad habits of the orchestras of his day, which I must say are not that different from the bad habits of the orchestras today, and that is the difficulty to maintain this inextricable relation between sound and silence - how we start a sound, how we hold it, and what happens to the next note. When Wagner starts the prelude of Tristan, first of all what does he do? He starts the music out of nothing, on one note.

(PLAYS ONE NOTE)

So. If we listen carefully, and intelligently, we can imagine a thousand possibilities. We can imagine that as part of that, part of that, part of that, part of whatever chord where the A is in there.

(PLAYED CHORDS DURING LAST SENTENCE)

And then you have the F

(PLAYS TWO NOTES)

so that's ..?..

(PLAYS THREE NOTES)

Obviously not. So what is it? This feeling of ambiguity and expectation is absolutely essential before

(PLAYS ONE CHORD)

the famous chord comes. If the bar before that had been fully written out, harmonically based bar, the dissonance would not have the effect that it has. But it is this creation of a situation of being in no man's land, harmonically, melodically, and also from the point of view of the sound. If we go from the silence...

(PLAYS TWO NOTES)

this is almost a modulation, a feeling of modulation in there.

(PLAYS FIVE NOTES)

Silence. Now comes the repeat for the accumulation,

(PLAYS SEVEN NOTES)

Silence. But the most important conclusion in the end is that Wagner very cleverly does not resolve, and he leaves the chord in mid air. I have tried to imagine how would a lesser composer, who, although being a lesser composer, had the inspiration, for want of a better word, to imagine the Tristan chord. What I want to show you now, and I suppose this will make you laugh, and which is not something that you normally associate with Tristan and Isolde, but how would he come out of this chord and not have the genius of Wagner of leaving it in mid air, creating a half resolution, which is the tonality for the repeat of the mood. It's the next one already in the key, because if you remember, after this,

(PLAYS FOUR NOTES)

if you keep the chord the next one is in the key

(PLAYS SEVERAL NOTES)

What would a composer with less genius and with less understanding of this mystery, of music if you want, of the magical quality that brings all the instruments together, he would think I have created tension, I have to resolve it.

(PLAYS EIGHT NOTES)

(LAUGHTER)

Resolved. Next one:

(PLAYS EIGHT NOTES)

(LAUGHTER)

And therefore I'm only bringing this up because it is this tension of being left in mid air that allows him to create more and more tension as this goes on. And the fact that ambiguity in music, in real life ambiguity may be described as a doubtful quality, somebody who is ambiguous, not knowing exactly what he or she wants, how to react etc. But in the world of sound, in this magical world of sound, ambiguity means that there are many many possibilities, many ways to go. And the longer you hold back on the resolution, the more interesting the whole thing becomes. And, since we are here, maybe it is not out of place to spend a few minutes on the question of sound, on the question of this famous typically dark German sound. And should there be such a thing as a German sound, and does Beethoven or Brahms, or Wagner for that matter, do they need a German sound, whatever that may be, or are other influences in our modern world permissible, positive or negative? First of all I think I can take a second to share with you a personal anecdote, if you want, which is of very little importance except to me, and that is that my family and I moved to Israel when I was ten years old, in 1952, and the Israel Philharmonic then consisted I would say about eighty-five or ninety per cent of Jewish musicians who had emigrated mostly from Central Europe - many of them from Germany, but also from Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia in those days. Most of them had come in the thirties, fleeing Nazism. And that is the orchestra that I heard most of the great pieces of the repertoire for the first time. And when I started travelling more and more, in the late fifties and the sixties, I heard for the first time other kinds of sounds, all kinds of sounds. And finally, having been in and out of Germany for many years, I came here to this house, with the Staatsoper, in the late eighties, and had an absolutely chilling experience hearing the Staatskapelle playing for the first time, because it was exactly the same sound that I had heard as a child in Israel. And there was something in the sound that so completely reminded me of that, and that of course was the moment that I fell in love with that and I decided that I wanted to participate in the continuation of the life of this orchestra. Anyway, this is just on a personal note. The sound, the German, the so-called German sound in many ways is less harsh at the beginning of the note. Probably - and this again is very subjective - probably due also, not only but due also to the fact that the German language has such heavy consonants. And on this particular subject, on the subject of the sound of orchestras and national characteristics, the question is often asked nowadays: but do we want all orchestras to sound the same? Do we want to lose the very particular sound of the French bassoon, if they play on the German instruments which are the accepted norm in the rest of the world, and of many others, or do we want to have national characteristics in every orchestra? And then these national characteristics are adaptable if you want, or useful, only in a certain repertoire, in the repertoire of that country. It's actually narrowing the question, because I think if we have the possibility to acquire the knowledge and the virtuosity of playing in many different styles, I think it is the duty of each great orchestra in the world to have, if you want, a sound of its own which consists of understanding the different styles of sound that it has to adopt and adapt when it plays different kinds of music. In other words, this of course, the question is not, do I have an orchestra which has a wonderful personal sound, immediately, unmistakably recognisable, and I distribute it generously to Mozart, Boulez, Wagner, Verdi and Tchaikovsky and Messiaen, or do I find a way to nurture this very specific sound, understanding the different stylistic necessities and adapting and changing this sound so that it is at the service of the music that is being played. American musicians of course have in that way much easier, because everything for them is imported. I have yet to find a German musician who feels the same degree of closeness to La Mer of Debussy as he does to the fifth symphony of Beethoven. And in the opposite direction as well. For fifteen years I was conductor of the Paris orchestra, and believe me it was very difficult to get the French musicians to feel the kind of, not only enthusiasm but atavistic attachment to the fifth symphony of Beethoven which they did perfectly naturally with La Mer. But the question remains the same - do we all want to sound the same or do we want to develop in each and every one of the great orchestras. Every orchestra cannot do that, but in the great orchestras of the world, develop the capacity to have both an unmistakable personal sound and a sound that is flexible enough to change according to the style that we are playing. All these questions are nothing else but the musical equivalent to the questions that we are asking ourselves in the world today about economic globalisation, about cosmopolitanism. We don't live any more in a world that has accepted standards of judgement, or taste, as was in the case in Greece. For me one of the greatest enemies of humanity, to be politically correct means of course means to be able to hide your dislikes. It's fine, I can live with that, but political correctness means of course also not to have any responsibility for any judgement. And I think this is where we are in today's world very often that we only see the rights that come with democracy but we don't really see the responsibility. And that shows itself in the music making too. The personal investment of each player, be it when he plays alone or in chamber music or in an orchestra, the courage to have a point of view. And then I ask myself, why the courage of having a point of view? It's absolutely elemental. Why play music if you don't have a point of view? Why? In other words, the world that we live in, if you want, makes it ethically more and more difficult to make music, because it is a world which gives us answers, even when there is no question. My point is that music, classical music as we know it, European classical music that we have today, will not survive unless we make a radical effort to change our attitude to it and unless we take it away from a specialised niche that it has become, unrelated to the rest of the world, and make it something that is essential to our lives. Not something ornamental, not only something enjoyable, not only something exciting, but something essential. Some of us are more fanatic about music, more interested than others, but I think we should all have the possibility to learn not only it but to learn from it. It is perfectly acceptable throughout the world that you have to have acquired a lot of life experience in order to then bring it out in your music making, but there's so many things that you can learn from the music towards understanding the world, if you think of music as something essential.

I was very lucky, I grew up in a musical home, I grew up in a, in a, in a small flat in Buenos Aires where both my parents taught piano, so whenever somebody came to the house it was for a piano lesson - it was for me the most natural thing. I learned to think in music. and I still do to this day. And the first thing that I think of, having lived all these years in this terrible conflict that we live in the Middle East, because I grew up there and I feel part of it, and to live daily with so many horrible things that happen, I have been always every day asking myself since I was a very small boy, why is it that so much of the day goes by and nothing happens and then something happens at a certain moment of the day that influences not only everything I think and feel after the event but everything that I have known and felt before. And I'm sorry, but I learned this in a much stronger way from the music.

I have here on musical example which I would like to play for you, of exactly that, of the moment where there comes a fantastic vertical pressure on the horizontal floor of the music, and that that moment you know that the music cannot continue any more the way it was before, such as the world was not the same after the 9th November of 1938, or the 9th November of 1989, or the 11th September of 2001 - events that have changed everything both towards the future and towards the past. And I have this one little excerpt - it is probably, you will, might find it er not comparable to the incredible experiences that any of these events have been. My point is that I learned the fact that there is a vertical pressure on the horizontal floor, that there is something that shows at a certain moment that we have to accept the inevitability of something that has changed our life both to the future and to the end. And it is the moment in a passage in the last movement of the ninth symphony by Beethoven where the text is: 'And the cherub stat for Gott, for Gott, for Gott'.

(FEW BARS OF RECORDING OF 9TH SYMPHONY PLAYED)

And there are of course many other examples of this.

One of the questions that preoccupies many intellectuals today is why is the music of the past of such relevance to us today? And what about the music of today? And it's evident that the music of today could not have been created, and therefore cannot exist, without the music of the past. And there is a necessity to be able to play the music of today with a feeling of familiarity that seems to us perfectly natural when we play the music of the past, as it is necessary for us to have a sense of discovery from the music of the past as if it is being written today. And I will give you two very small and very simple examples of that. There's a wonderful sonata of Beethoven, Opus 81a - Les Adieux - which starts in a very clear settled way, of two chords, slow moving, in a very specific key, of E flat, and on the third chord there is a modulation.

(PLAYS 3 CHORDS)

Seems very simple today after all of the nineteenth century, but this is a...

(PLAYS 3 CHORDS)

The ear really expects this. And therefore if the ear is as intelligent as I, I think it is, that's what the ear expects,

(PLAYS 3 CHORDS DURING REST OF SENTENCE)

and the ear gets a shock when there comes the modulation. That's what I mean by sense of discovery. And the beginning of the first sonata of Pierre Boulez, you know if you really played it as a collection of notes...

(PLAYS FEW NOTES)

But if you had the connection

(PLAYS FEW NOTES)

you find the elements of familiarity. When I play those first two notes in the Boulez sonata I am sure, I am positively sure he did not think of that as part of a harmonic.

(PLAYS FEW NOTES)

He didn't hear that in his, in his ear when he wrote that. But it is my duty, when I play something new, something that is not familiar, to play it with understanding it as if it had been here for many many years and for many many centuries in the same that it is necessary for me to find a sense of discovery in the music of the past. And this is of course - and this brings me to the end of this lecture - this is of course the most important point. Of all the different things that I believe we can learn from music, and each and every one of us obviously learns different things, the most clearly definable is the fact that music teaches us as human beings that everything, without an exception, has a past, a present, and a future. Very simple to say, but we all know how difficult it is to live. When we have a pleasant present, we want it to last, we think it will last forever, but in fact the fluidity of life is for me best expressed in music. Coming out of nothing, the past, the present of the first note, which is nothing but a transition. And what I have learned from music, and have of course not been able to apply to my daily life, is accepting the fluidity of life and the fact that nothing, absolutely nothing, is completely independent and solid, but everything that I think and feel is dependent on this fluidity of life. Thank you very much.

 

 

 

Lecture 4

Meeting in Music

SUE LAWLEY:
Hello and welcome. For the last two in this series of Reith lectures we've come to the Middle East. Daniel Barenboim had intended to deliver this, the fourth lecture, in the Palestinian city of Ramallah, but because of the growing tensions in the West Bank, we've been advised not to go there. So both lectures will be delivered here in Jerusalem, but in different parts of the city. Today we're just outside the walls of the Old City, in an area mainly inhabited by Palestinians, who make up the bulk of our audience. Barenboim is a controversial figure in this part of the world. A Jew, whose family made their home in Israel when he was ten years old, he believes that the destinies of Israelis and Palestinians are, as he puts it, inextricably linked, and he's tried to exemplify this through that which he knows best - music. In 1999 he joined with the late Palestinian intellectual Edward Said to create an orchestra made up of young Israeli and Arab musicians. Called the West Eastern Divan orchestra, it's the living representation of its founders' central belief, that music has the power to bring people together. To explain why, and how, please would you welcome the Reith lecturer 2006, Daniel Barenboim.

(APPLAUSE)

DANIEL BARENBOIM:
Thank you very much. Edward Said said that music is a little bit subversive. That too of course speaks about how we perceive it, and not about the music itself. But he was unquestionably right. In music, different notes and voices meet, link to each other, either in joint expression or in counterpoint, which means exactly that - counter point, or another point. And yet the two fit together. Please allow me to give you some very simple, simplistic I would say, er examples of what I mean. The slow movement of Beethoven's Pathetique sonata - which I am sure many of you have heard many times and some of you probably even played - is a relatively simple melody.

(PLAYS FEW BARS OF SONATA)

Etc. When we examine it a little bit more closely we see that obviously there is a main voice that sinks its way through the whole passage…

(PLAYS FEW NOTES)

And the bass accompanies it, in the best sense of the word - not in a situation where he, the bass is only following, but having its own to say, and goes up when the melody goes down, and opposite…

(PLAYS FEW NOTES)

thereby influencing each other. And there is still the middle voice that gives a sense of continuity, of fluidity.

(PLAYS FEW NOTES)

This is relatively a simple example. I can give you one more perhaps which might be of use for us later, and that is the last prelude of the first book of Bach's Well Tempered Klavier.

(PLAYS FEW NOTES OF PRELUDE)

There the main voice is less obvious, because it could be:

(PLAYS FEW NOTES)

that, or it could be:

(PLAYS FEW NOTES)

with all sorts of possibilities.

But you see in all that, that in music there is a hierarchy, a hierarchy if you want with equality. And that is what of course is much easier than in life. How difficult it is to achieve equality and yet to find a hierarchy. In times of totalitarian or autocratic rule, music, indeed culture in general, is often the only avenue of independent thought. It is the only way people can meet as equals, and exchange ideas. Culture then becomes primarily the voice of the oppressed, and it takes over from politics as a driving force for change. Think of how often, in societies suffering from political oppression, or from a vacuum in leadership, culture took a dynamic lead. We have many extraordinary examples of this phenomenon. Some is that writings in the former Eastern Bloc, South African poetry and drama under apartheid, and of course Palestinian literature amidst so much conflict. We only mention one important Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Dalwish, and many others. Culture brings contact between people, or, shall we say, culture can bring contact between people, it can bring people closer together, and it can encourage understanding. This is why Edward Said and I started the West Eastern Divan project, as a way to bring together musicians from the different Arab countries and from Israel, to work together, to make music together, and ultimately, when we realised how much interest there was, to form an orchestra. When we had the first idea, which was linked to the city of Weimar in Germany, being culture capital of Europe in 1999, we expected to have a small forum of maybe eight or twelve young people who would come and make music together and spend a week or ten days at a workshop with us, so you can imagine the surprise we had when there were over two hundred applicants from the Arab world alone. And this is how this orchestra was formed. Edward and I met by chance in London in 1993, in a hotel lobby. I had gone to London to give a concert, and ironically he was there to give the 1993 Reith Lectures, which explored the changing role of the intellectual in today's world. Now, thirteen years later, I have brought the Reith Lectures here to the Middle East.

We took the name of our project, the West Eastern Divan, from a poem by Goethe, who was one of the first Germans to be genuinely interested in other cultures. He originally discovered Islam when a German soldier who had been fighting in one of the Spanish campaigns brought back a page of the Koran to show to him. His enthusiasm was so great that he started to learn Arabic at the age of sixty. Later he discovered the great Persian poet Hafiz, and that was the inspiration for his set of poems that deal with the idea of the other, the West Eastern Divan, which was first published nearly two hundred years ago, in 1819, at the same time, interestingly enough, that Beethoven was working on his ninth symphony, his celebrated testament to fraternity.

Goethe's poem then became a symbol for the idea behind our experiments in bringing Arab and Israeli musicians together. This orchestra consists of Arab musicians from Palestine, from the territories, and Palestinians from Israel, Syrians, Lebanese, Jordanians, and Egyptians, and of course Israeli musicians. Now, when you play music, whether you play chamber music or you play in an orchestra, you have to do two very important things and do them simultaneously. You have to be able to express yourself, otherwise you are not contributing to the musical experience, but at the same time it is imperative that you listen to the other. You have to understand what the other is doing. And the other may be doing the same as you, if he is sitting next to you if you're a string player, or he may play a different instrument and be in counterpoint to what you are doing. But in all cases it is impossible to play intelligently in an orchestra concentrating only on one of those two things. If you concentrate only on what you do, you might play very well but might play so loud that you cover the others, or so soft that you are not heard. And of course you cannot play only by listening, but the art of playing music is the art of simultaneous playing and listening. In other words, one enhances the other. And this is the main reason we started this workshop. Edward once said, separation between people is not a solution for any of the problems that divide people, and certainly ignorance of the other provides no help whatever. In this workshop we were trying to start a dialogue, to take a single step forward, and to find common ground. And we saw what happened when an Arab musician shared a music stand with an Israeli musician - both trying to play the same note with the same dynamic, with the same stroke of the bow if they were string players, with the same sound, with the same expression. They were trying to do something together about which they were both passionate, because after all you cannot be an indifferent musician. Music demands permanently, at all times, passion and effort. The idea in a sense was as simple as that, because once you have agreed on how to play one note together you can no longer look at each other the same way again. That was our starting point, and from the beginning Edward and I were filled with optimism, despite the darkening sky, as he called it, with what has turned out sadly to be all too accurate foresight.

In the West Eastern Divan the universal metaphysical language of music becomes the link, it is the language of the continuous dialogue that these young people have with each other. Music is the common framework, their abstract language of harmony. As I have said before in these lectures, nothing in music is independent. It requires a perfect balance between head, heart and stomach. And I would argue that when emotion and intellect are in tune, it is easier also for human beings and for nations to look outward as well as inward. And therefore through music we can see an alternative social model, a kind of practical Utopia, from which we might learn about expressing ourselves freely and hearing one another.

This, and many other things, you can really learn from playing music, so long as you don't view music only as a pastime, no matter how enjoyable, or as something to forget the world, but something from which you can actually understand the way the world can, should and sometimes does function. In any case, from the beginning it was our belief, Edward's and mine, that the destinies of our two people, the Palestinian people and the Israeli people, are inextricably linked, and therefore the welfare, the sense of justice and the happiness of one has to eventually, inevitably be that of the other, which is certainly not the case today.

Of course the West Eastern Divan orchestra is not going to bring about peace. What it can do however is to bring understanding. It can awaken the curiosity, and then perhaps the courage, to listen to the narrative of the other, and at the very least accept its legitimacy. This, if you want, is the main idea behind this project. And people very often ask me, but this is a wonderful example of tolerance, and I say no I don't like the word 'tolerance', because to tolerate something or somebody means you tolerate them for negative reasons. You tolerate somebody in spite of the fact that he or she is ugly, you tolerate somebody er in spite of the fact that he or she is stupid. And therefore tolerance is used, and I would say misused in today's world, and in the press very often, is a very misleading word. The French Revolution gave us three much more important and powerful ideas, or concepts - liberty, equality and fraternity. But these ideas of the French Revolution are not only right in themselves, but they are so because they come in the proper order. You cannot have equality without liberty, and you certainly cannot have fraternity without equality. The importance of this I learnt from music, because music evolves in time, and therefore the order inevitably determines the content. And I have never had to ask myself the question, can't we have equality before liberty. And this underlines if you want a central problem of our conflict here in the Middle East. When young musicians from the opposite camp, as it were, come together, they have the liberty. They have the liberty or choice whether to come or not to play music together. They also however have something just as important, and that is automatically they have equality, because music gives everyone the same possibilities regardless of race, sex, religion, or where they came from. In front of a Beethoven symphony we are all equal. And although the fraternity does not have to be there, it is at least a possibility, whereas now in real life it is not.

I know, or rather I feel - no, I feel I suspect and I know - that some of you might think the idea of Palestinians and other Arabs and Israelis playing together is unacceptable. I know that this is unacceptable for many of my friends in Ramallah for instance. And I understand it, because it is seen as a form of normalisation - and by that I mean an acceptance of the status quo. And this is unacceptable to them, because the real problems of actual existence have not been solved. And when we played in Ramallah last August there were people who said, how can we look at Israelis, Palestinians and other Arabs playing together when the Israeli tanks are here, and when we have the situation that we have now. But, as Edward Said said - I quote - 'My friend Daniel Barenboim and I have chosen this course for humanistic rather than political reasons, on the assumption that ignorance is not a strategy for sustainable survival'. When Palestinians and other Arabs meet Israelis in music, the primary quality that is missing in the political life, namely the equality, is already a given. Therefore this may be precisely the starting point for them to show each other that what they have in music, the equality and the ability to converse with each other on equal footings, will lead them to look for ways to find that outside of music. Music in this case is not an expression of what life is, but an expression of what life could be, or what it could become. Music itself should not be used for political or any other purpose. But although you cannot make music through politics, perhaps you can give political thinking an example through music. As the great conductor Sergei Celibidache said, music does not become something, but something may become music. Thank you very much.

 

 

 

Lecture 5

The Power of Music

SUE LAWLEY:

Hello and welcome. Over the past five weeks we've been to London, Chicago, Berlin, and now Jerusalem, in the company of our lecturer Daniel Barenboim. All these places are central to both his music making and his philosophy that music has the power to transform and improve the world. Last week before a mainly Palestinian audience he described music as a great equaliser. An orchestra can't bring peace, he said, but it can bring the understanding, patience and courage for people to listen to one another. Today we're in the Jerusalem International YMCA, but this is no ordinary YMCA. It was designed in fact by the architect of the Empire State Building, and described by Field Marshall Lord Allenby, when he opened it in 1933, as a place where - and I quote - 'jarring sectarians may cease from wrangling and men's minds be drawn to loftier ideals'. A noble note then on which to introduce our last lecture. Please welcome the man who argues that music should be seen as a metaphor for life, capable of demonstrating the great qualities of leadership. Ladies and gentlemen, Daniel Barenboim.

(APPLAUSE)

DANIEL BARENBOIM:

Thank you very much. Today I would like to concentrate on the fact that music has a power beyond mere words. It has the power to move us, and it has the sheer physical power of sound, as we know. Throughout this series of Reith lectures I have been focused on the content of music and its relationship to life. Here, today in this final lecture, I would like to explore the power that music has over us, the power of the association that music evokes - that is to say I would like to distinguish between the substance of music, and our perceptions of it, and ultimately to consider the difference between power and strength in music, and in life.

It is essential to understand that music is conceived of, and eventually delivered, from the point of view of one individual. As a result subjectivity is an integral and necessary part of music. And therefore the permanent relationship between subjectivity and objectivity is an essential aspect of music making, as it is of life. Even the freedom of speed in music, what is called tempo rubato, which is nothing else but Italian for stolen time. Tempo rubato can not be willfully conceived, but must inevitably have at the very least a contact with the objective sense of time, i.e. not stolen. And here again we are confronted with what I like to see as the moral responsibility of the ear. After all, it is the ear that determines audibility and transparency in music. It is the ear that must guide us in tempo rubato to have the moral strength to give back what was inadvertently stolen. In other words, when taking time in parts of a phrase, we must find the right place to give it back. This is not unlike the moral responsibility to give back what has been stolen. I will give you a very simple, or I should almost say simplistic example. In the first movement of the Tchaikovsky piano concerto, which I am sure you have heard many times, there is a very beautiful and interesting second subject.

(PLAYS FEW BARS OF PIANO CONCERTO)

etc. Now, if played totally without any sense of freedom, you get only the sense of regularity.

(PLAYS SAME FEW BARS DIFFERENTLY)

Now quite apart from the question of style of how much freedom there can be, it is I think quite evident that it needs a certain amount of freedom where the melody and the harmony create a specific kind of tension which needs more time for the ear to perceive and understand, and therefore then has to find a way to give it back.

(PLAYS SAME FEW BARS)

And now...

(CONTINUES)

I have to take the time there, but then I have to give it back...

(CONTINUES)

If I wouldn't do that, this is what it would sound like.

(PLAYS SAME FEW BARS AGAIN)

I have nowhere to go. There is a certain logic in the speed that goes in there. Because music only expresses itself through sound, and takes place in a given time. It is by its very nature ephemeral. What is difficult in real life is something that is essential in music, that is to be able to start from scratch each time we play something, because what we did yesterday, and what we did this morning, is gone, and we must start over as if the for the first time but with the knowledge of the last time. It is very difficult for the human being to truly have the courage and the ability to start from scratch, to start from zero, to take experience from the past and yet think it anew. And yet this is essential, in music as well as in life. Music allows us certain emotions or combination of emotions that are practically impossible in life without sound - that is in life without a musical dimension. We know at least since Spinoza that joy and its variant lead to a greater functional perfection, and that sorrow and related effects are unhealthy and should therefore be avoided. But music allows us to feel pain and pleasure simultaneously, both as players, and as listeners.

It is crucial to distinguish between the nature of music on the one hand, and the associations that it evokes on the other. Consider how Beethoven was misused and abused in German politics, by Bismarck, by Hitler, and by the East German Republic. The irony of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony being played in the Nazi era - 'Alle Menschen werden Bruder' - 'All men will be become brothers' - all that is except a few. In other words the concept of fraternity is being defined in advance in the sense that you can keep some people out of it. We are talking here about a critical distinction. We are back at my earlier question about the knife - a question that I raised in one of the earlier lectures. Is the knife an instrument with which we can commit murder, therefore a violent instrument, or is it one with which we can feed the other? The knife in itself is not moral, it is the human being who has the capacity to make it moral or immoral, and it is the human being who has the responsibility of creating the associations. And therefore the problem with playing Beethoven's music in Nazi times, or even with playing Wagner's music here in Israel, is not the music in itself, but the association that it evokes in people. This I am afraid is linked to political correctness, and is tied to ideological thinking. When you play a piece of music you must find the content, and you can only do that from the point of view of one individual. And no matter how wide and objective that individual tries to be, there is inevitably an element of such activity in it. The use and abuse of Wagner's ideas and music was an integral part of the last years of the Third Reich - in fact of the whole Third Reich - and it is not only understandable, but self-evident, that somebody who suffers from this kind of association is not only unwilling but unable to hear this music. And there is no reason in the world to force him or her to do so.

It is not my intention - it never was, and it never will be - to force this music or any music on anybody, and I certainly do not question the horrible associations that holocaust survivors have with specific pieces of Wagner. I can only hope that time will eventually help to liberate these human beings from previous negative associations, ultimately to hear the music for what it truly is. It is not my place to tell those who suffered from terrible associations what to do about Wagner, but I believe it is my place to tell those who can and want to listen to Wagner, that the music itself is not the agent of the suffering. In the meantime however, I do believe that it is equally important not to force negative associations on those who fortunately who do not suffer from them. Therefore, in the democratic society, the decision whether it is permissible to hear Wagner or not must be individual and not imposed by law or even worse, the result of a taboo. True democracy can only exist without taboos.

Obviously it is imperative to differentiate between substance and perception. The problem with association is that one is the victim of the perception, and not of the substance. It is critical that we are not just slaves to the associations created by listening to a piece of music, but that we understand its substance, in the same way that a leader has to understand the substance of what his people are telling him. I went into great detail, and I'm afraid I cannot do it again today, er into the fact that one can only articulate the content of music with sound and not with words, but the fact that one cannot articulate it with words of course does not mean that it doesn't have a content. And although music means many things to many different people, and very often means many different things to the same person at different times - poetical, mathematical, sensual, philosophical - it is only expressed through sound and therefore it can be said without a question of a doubt that it has something to do with the human being, that it has something to do with the human condition. And this is the humanity of music.

I had the great privilege of attending several lectures given here in Jerusalem by Martin Buber(?), many years ago. It was Buber who made me realise the necessity of always looking beyond one's first impression, of digging deeper and finding connections. As he wrote in I and Thou, and I quote, 'There is nothing that I must not see in order to see, and there is no knowledge that I must forget. Rather is everything, picture and movement, specious(?) and instance, law and number included, and inseparably fused.' As human beings we often tend to want to manipulate the element of time. When we are in a pleasurable situation we would like it to go on forever, and when we are in a painful situation we wish we could shorten it, in both cases because we either want change from a painful situation, or we want to keep change from interfering with pleasure. But music shows us the inevitable flaw of life, which depends on change, the fluidity of life. The Zionist idea was a Jewish European idea, but even Zionism cannot go against the very nature of life, which brings constant change with it. Change for me in this case means the development of the idea in the geographical and cultural context that we live amongst our neighbours, that Israel does not remain a foreign body, European inspired, in the Middle East, but becomes an integral part of the Middle East. Therefore it is essential to integrate Arab musical culture into an existing rich but dwindling Western musical life in Israel. For this reason I will donate the entire sum of the prize that I will receive from the Korn-Gerstenmann Foundation at the Jewish Community Centre in Frankfurt on the 7th May, for the studying and research of classical Arab music in Jerusalem, precisely because the Zionist idea was a Jewish European idea but the State of Israel is not in Europe, it is in the Middle East. And therefore if Israel wants to have a permanent place it must become part of the Middle East, and it must be aware of the culture that already existed here, and not pretend, as has been done for a long time now, that it was a desert and an uncultured one at that. For the future of Israel it is necessary for Israelis to open their ears to the Arab culture. this is not an issue of Israel denying its European roots but instead a question of enriching and enhancing its European heritage by placing it side by side with its Middle Eastern heritage. Otherwise the State of Israel will remain forever a foreign body, and as such there is no possible perspective of future for its remaining here, because a foreign body can exist in a society, or in music, or in a human being, only for a limited amount of time.

Transition, let us not forget, is the basis of human existence. In music it is not enough simply to play a statement of a phrase, it is absolutely essential to see how we arrived there, and to prepare it. One plays a statement one way at the beginning of a piece, but when the same statement returns later, in what we call in musical terminology the recapitulation, it is in a completely different psychological state of mind. And therefore the bridge, the transition, determines not only itself but what comes after it. It is important to recognise that the present does not exist without the past, and that the present would be different with another past. At the same time, what we do in the present is inevitably the prelude to what the future will be. And the future is determined not by something that we passively wait for, but it is the inevitable outcome that we prepare for from the present moment.

Therefore in my view the future of the State of Israel must develop and find the golden mean that will lead to harmonious internal and external relations, just as in a piece of music its harmony can be achieved even if it is made up of conflicting elements, albeit of the strongest and most radical nature, as long as each element can develop itself to its fullest. The genuine and original idea of the renewal of Jewish settlement in Palestine has been totally overwhelmed and diverted by forces that believe that power and not what Buber called the command of the spirit, that power rules the social and political destiny of humanity. This celebration of power has led to an insensitivity and misunderstanding of the fact that the command of the spirit can mean in this case nothing else but a true realisation that this is a land for two people, with opposing narratives, but of necessity equal rights. To quote Martin Buber again: 'There can be no peace between Jews and Arabs that is only a cessation of war. There can only be a peace of genuine co-operation.' End of quotation. Therefore peace requires dialogue, a dialogue which consists of sensitive talking and often painful listening.

(BRIEF APPLAUSE)

It is essential in this regard to understand the difference between strength and power. Power itself has only one kind of strength, which is that of control. But even the great power of sound, in Beethoven, Brahms or Wagner, does not have to create the association of power that works exclusively through control, but instead through actual real strength, the accumulative strength that comes from the build-up of tension. Even the most powerful chord has to allow the inner voices to be heard, otherwise it has no tension, only brutal aggressive power. You must hear the opposition, the notes that oppose the main idea. In other words, the concept of transparency is essential in music, because if it is not orally transparent you cannot actually get the totality of the music, you only get one line of it. In Mozart for example, very often in the operas you have perfectly harmonised ensemble, and yet every single voice is saying something completely different, and all this at the same time. But you still have a definite sense of organisation, you have main voices and you have subsidiary voices - music would be totally uninteresting without this. Even at the moment when all the elements are unified, when everything comes together in a single chord, you still hear all the different voices.

Let us consider for a moment the example of playing in an orchestra. When very powerful instruments, the so-called musical heavyweights - trumpet and trombone - play in a chord where the whole orchestra is playing they have to play in such a way that they give a full sense of power, but that they allow the other instruments, who are less powerful, to be heard at the same time. Otherwise they cover them up, and then the sound has no strength, only power. See the difference? Therefore when you play in an orchestra everybody is constantly aware of everybody else.

In my view this is a model for society. Leadership throughout history, and it is probably inherent in the human nature, has been based on the effect it can produce because of the weakness of the people, not because of their strength. How wonderful the world would be if it were ruled by people who understood this lesson from music, and understood the importance of combining transparency, power and strength. But if music is so human, if music is so all inclusive and so positive, we have to ask ourselves how is it possible that monsters such as Adolf Hitler and others had such love for music? How do we explain that? How to explain the fact that Hitler was able to send millions of people to the gas chamber and would be moved to tears listening to music? How? How was Wagner able to write music of such nobility and also write his monstrous anti-Semitic pamphlet? I believe people don't think about music, they just let it wash over them, and operate on them in an almost animal way. Music to me is sound with thought, and as Spinoza believed that rationality was the saving grace of the human being, then we must learn to look at music like this too.

This is why music in the end is so powerful, because it speaks to all parts of the human being, all sides - the animal, the emotional, the intellectual, and the spiritual. How often in life we think that personal, social and political issues are independent, without influencing each other. From music we see that this cannot occur, it is an objective impossibility, because in music there are no independent elements. Logical thought and intuitive emotions are permanently united. Music teaches us that everything is connected.

Throughout these lectures I have been attempting to draw parallels between the inexpressible content of music and the inexpressible content of life. We have talked about the phenomenon of sound, about the distinction between hearing and listening, about the need for having a point of view, both in music and in life, and we have spoken about how music can bring people together, how music itself can be a great connector. As I conclude these lectures here in Jerusalem today, we have come full circle. This too, ladies and gentlemen, I learned from music, because when you perform a piece of music you have to be able to hear the last note before you play the first. Thank you very much.

 

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