Barenboim-Said Akademie celebrates topping out ceremony Barenboim-Said Akademie celebrates topping out ceremony Barenboim-Said Akademie celebrates topping out ceremony Barenboim-Said Akademie celebrates topping out ceremony
In May 2015 at Queen Elizabeth Hall, Daniel Barenboim delivered the 2015 Edward Said London Lecture, discussing the role of music in society. Below is the full text of his lecture. You can watch video of the talk as well as the Q&A that followed here.
Dear public, dear guests,
I am thrilled to be here today to deliver the 2015 Edward W Said London Lecture. Today’s lecture takes place here at one of London’s most important musical venues, so it is fitting it should be about music which was one of Edward Said’s greatest passions in life.
Making music an essential part of social life has always been a key goal of mine. I deeply believe in the greater importance of music and in its ability to influence and shape who we are as human beings. Edward Said shared this belief and it was in this common spirit that, after years of friendship, we embarked on the adventure and incredible success story that is the West Eastern Divan Orchestra. As many of you know, we founded the orchestra together in 1999 and I have been proud to see it grow into one of the finest orchestras I have ever had the joy to conduct.
From the outset, our approach in our workshops and seminars has been a comprehensive one in that we focus on understanding what it means to listen to each other – both as musicians and as human beings. Learning to listen in that way sensitises us both for ourselves and the world around us. The imperative word here, however, is learning as basic education in music is the essential prerequisite to be able to understand music more comprehensively and let it play an important role in our lives.
Sadly, music instruction in schools everywhere has decreased sharply over recent decades – to the extent that an alarming percentage of children and teenagers get little or no music education. Music is often only an optional subject at secondary schools, there are not enough qualified teachers and music is often seen as the subject that can be cut from the curriculum if there is a shortage of teachers, since music is not one of the core subjects as maths, literature, science and foreign languages are. Yet a basic knowledge of music always used to be considered part of a well-rounded education, just like a basic knowledge of literature or maths. And the worst thing about the decline in recent years is that it affects European countries which have been known for their proud musical tradition, as reflected in the long list of important composers and musicians who form the basis of European music.
That is why I am calling for music once more to be taught in schools on a par with literature, mathematics or biology.
Not only so that listeners can have better auditory experiences later in life thanks to their schooling and also so we are guaranteed educated audiences in the long term – although those are extremely desirable additional benefits. The big reason for raising the status of music in schools, in my opinion, is that music has to be considered one of the elemental components of human education, since it can be instrumental in significantly improving people’s quality of life.
The scientist Antonio Damasio has conducted studies that show that the human brain processes music in a very special way. He writes: “Auditory stimuli enter the brain at the stem, a location that gives them direct access to the areas of the brain that regulate vital functions, in particular those that enable us to have feelings and react emotionally. This anatomical peculiarity has created a special link between music and the most important life-regulating mechanisms – at an individual as well as social level.” The implication is that systematic exposure to music positively affects the development of the brain and is therefore extremely important for the neural maturation process, which is associated with sociability, general perceptiveness and intelligence.
This finding leads us to conclude that our brain, our IQ and our faculty for sensibility will all be improved if we have contact with music from an early age.
Music allows people to have different sensations simultaneously. That would be inconceivable without music. In and through music, grief and joy, for example, or loneliness and sociability can co-exist. Music can mean different things for different people and even different things for the same person at different times. This kind of contrapuntal experience is important for human existence – but would not be possible to the same extent if we did not have music. More than that: music can enrich our lives as it fosters the development of the finest human qualities in a collective situation.
Music, unlike sport, is not subject to the usual laws of competition; music has to function as a communal experience. The experiences I’ve had working with orchestras, in particular the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, confirm this assumption. The young musicians have an advanced knowledge of music, which means they are prepared to listen as a group and make music as a group, even in a very delicate and tricky social context.
In the process they have succeeded in overcoming supposed barriers. Music has taught them not only the possibility but the necessity to listen to other voices. Voices that are contrapuntal or commenting. This, in a certain way, is more important than the fundamental democratic right to vote. In music, every voice has a responsibility towards the other, in speed, dynamic and intensity. The difference between just producing beautiful sound and making music is that the latter means striving to create an organic whole of all the different elements, of one-ness. There should always be a connection between the different elements in music-making, not allowing any separation from the context.
Music is often seen as a way to escape the human condition: hearing music is meant to enable people to take time out from reality. But this is hearing without listening. While there is nothing inherently wrong with that approach, in my opinion, music should be giving us lessons for life as well as helping us to escape when necessary.
I myself have had the experience, as a youngster, of playing mature music like Beethoven’s later piano sonatas without having first come up against the slings and arrows of life. So my playing was not a product of my life experience. It’s the other way round: my musical experiences have shown me how to live my life. In the 21st century it is our job to get exactly this point across to people, to show them that they can use what music has taught them to help themselves to live their lives.
Music has a spiritual component that can be expressed only through a purely physical medium: sound. It is that combination of the spiritual and the physical that gives music its power of expression. That is why music should be taught first and foremost as a practical skill, for instance by means of group singing lessons and relaxed familiarisation with instruments, starting at a very early age. Our experience of practice in the Berlin music kindergarten, for example, shows that 80% of children who study music in a playful manner early on continue with it when they leave kindergarten.
This trend also creates the potential of developing new audiences for classical music, an important aspect in the ongoing debate about subsidies for music. Specifically, letting new audiences develop would create a fairer ratio between subsidies and the public whereas both government institutions and private donors are currently often criticised for subsidising an activity for a small elite. That has to change. Providing a solid foundation in music education to a greater part of the population will lead to a larger percentage of the population remaining interested in music later in their life. This makes the excuse that subsidies are elitist and too expensive invalid.
There are many instances of music instruction. They range from musical grammar schools such as the Bach Gymnasium in former East Germany and the classical schools of music to extra-curricular music activities, youth choruses and orchestras. What I would love to see in the future is a choir and an orchestra in every school. We have a long way to go in that direction, but we have to lay the foundation now for a system in which music forms part of the basic education of every child and teenager rather than being just an exotic subject for a few children. On the other hand, the fact that in music schools there is little to no instruction in other spiritual disciplines adds to music being perceived as an ivory tower. Music cannot be considered an abstract subject but requires as rich a supplementary education as possible because the associations necessary to value music need to be drawn from history, politics, or literature. It is the art of thinking in and with music. Maybe we could envisage, both for music and non-music schools, a new form of digital education initiative which would facilitate access and give every family and child the possibility of participating by giving them the feeling that they personally are included and not merely part of a multitude. This would significantly improve the quality of life for individuals and social groups across the world.
The BBC Proms, a highlight of the summer music season, today announced that the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, led by its co-founder Daniel Barenboim, will return to London’s Royal Albert Hall on 18 August, 2015.
The orchestra will present a program that includes Arnold Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony, op. 9, Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony, and Beethoven’s Triple Concerto, with violinist Guy Braunstein, cellist Kian Soltani, and pianist Daniel Barenboim.
The Divan’s London concert will be the finale of their 2015 summer tour, which begins with a return to Buenos Aires, where the orchestra will be in residence and will give a variety of concerts from 24 July to 8 August, 2015. From Argentina, the West-Eastern Divan then travel to Europe, where they appear at the Salzburg Festival (12, 13 & 14 August), Waldbühne Berlin (15 August), Lucerne Festival (16 & 17 August), and finally to the BBC Proms on 18 August.
In 1999, Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said founded the West-Eastern Divan as a workshop for Israeli, Palestinian and other Arab musicians. Meeting in Weimar, Germany – a place where the humanistic ideals of the Enlightenment are overshadowed by the Holocaust – they materialized a hope to replace ignorance with education, knowledge and understanding; to humanize the other; to imagine a better future. Within the workshop, individuals who had only interacted with each other through the prism of war found themselves living and working together as equals.
As they listened to each other during rehearsals and discussions, they traversed deep political and ideological divides. Though this experiment in coexistence was intended as a one-time event, it quickly evolved into a legendary orchestra.
In less than two weeks, the musicians of West-Eastern Divan Orchestra come together in Berlin for a performance at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden’s Festtage. The April 4 performance, led by co-founder Daniel Barenboim, sees the orchestra performing an all-French program that includes Claude Debussy’s Prelude à l’après-midi d’un faune and a selection of works by Maurice Ravel, which comprise his Rapsodie espagnole, Alborada del gracioso, Pavane pour une infante défunte, and Boléro.
The concert also pays homage to the legendary composer and conductor Pierre Boulez, whose Dérive II features on the program and who also celebrates his 90th birthday later this March.
For their 2015 summer workshop and concerts, the musicians of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra will return to Buenos Aires’s Teatro Colón for performances with co-founder Daniel Barenboim and legendary pianist Martha Argerich, and embark on a tour to the leading music festivals of Europe.
Following last summer’s sold-out, inaugural Festival de Música y Reflexión at the Teatro Colón, the West-Eastern Divan will return to the legendary Argentinian theatre for a series of concerts (24 July – 8 August, 2015) that spotlights the music of Pierre Boulez, Richard Wagner, and Béla Bartók, Piotr Tchaikovsky, and Arnold Schönberg.
A highlight of the orchestra’s Buenos Aires performances will include concerts at the city’s Islamic Center (1 August), Libertad Temple (5 August), and Metropolitan Cathedral (6 August). The performances will be free of charge.
The Teatro Colón residency will also include a special chamber concert comprising Arab and Iranian music, as well as a Reflection Symposium that sees orchestra co-founder Daniel Barenboim in conversation with former Spanish prime minister Felipe González.
Additional performances will be announced in the coming weeks.
The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra’s performance with legendary pianists Martha Argerich & Daniel Barenboim is now available on video from iTunes.
Last year’s sold out Festival de Música y Reflexión at the Teatro Colón included a special encore: Schumann’s Andante and Variations for two pianos, two cellos and horn, Op. 46.
The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra will tour Spain and France in January 2015. Discover programs & learn more and purchasing tickets here.
The January performances begin on January 16, 2015 at the Gran Teatro de Córdoba, where the Divan, led by co-founder Daniel Barenboim, present a program comprising Claude Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, Pierre Boulez’s Dérive II, and selected works by Maurice Ravel: Rapsodie espagnole, Alborada del gracioso, Pavane pour une infante défunte, and Boléro. The orchestra takes this program to Madrid’s Auditorio Nacional de Música the following day on January 17. In Sevilla at the Teatro de la Maestranza on January 18, the Divan performs an all-Mozart program, which includes the Austrian composer’s overture to Le nozze di Figaro, Concerto for Oboe and Orchestra KV 314, and the Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in B-flat Major, KV 595. To round out their tour, the Divan appears at the newly opened Philharmonie de Paris on January 19, when they reprise their program of works by Debussy, Boulez, and Ravel.
Founded by Edward Said and Daniel Barenboim in 1999 as an experiment in coexistence, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra brings together musicians from Israel, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt – joined by a number of musicians from Iran, Turkey and Spain – to perform music and promote mutual understanding, non-violence and reconciliation. Originally created at the invitation of the Kunstfest Weimar and now based in Seville, Spain, the orchestra derives its name from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s collection of poems titled West-Eastern Divan, a central work in the evolution of the concept of world culture.
Corso Verlag has published Funkelnde Hoffnung – Das West-Eastern Divan Orchestra und die Kraft der Musik (Shining Hope: The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra and the Power of Music), a new collection of photographs by Divan violinist Georges Yammine. For 15 years, Yammine has photographed members of the West-Eastern Divan, and the fruits of his labor are now assembled in a new book that comprises 95 of his images. “I wanted to bring out each musician in a different compositional structure,” says Yammine, who is a violinist both with the Divan and the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestras. “Music is made up of harmony and dynamics, and I wanted to show that in the pictures.”
On photographing Divan co-founder Daniel Barenboim, Georges remarks: “I am very glad that I was able to show here that this legendary musician is also a very humorous person… part of a family with us at the Divan. In contrast to the image that is on the cover of my book, I also just tried to show the great musician. I think that I was able to achieve that.”
With a rapturous reception that prompted the orchestra to perform five encores, this past summer’s BBC Proms performance was an extraordinary concert, with The Guardian writing that “the exuberant warmth of this special evening” made it seem “as though the Last Night of the Proms had come early.” On Sunday, October 26, watch and listen to this concert live on ARTE, on the air and streaming online, at 18h59 CET.
On Monday, October 20, Richard Falk–Albert G. Professor of International Law and Practice Emeritus at Princeton University–will deliver the annual Edward W. Said Memorial Lecture at the Heyman Center for the Humanities at Columbia University. The event, which takes place at Columbia University’s Italian Academy for Advanced Studies, is free and open to the public. The lecture will be webcast live beginning at 6:15pm ET / 3:15pm PT.
Paul Smaczny’s 2005 Emmy Award-winning documentary Knowledge Is the Beginning will be screened at Columbia University on October 21 as part of the Senza Frontiere (“Without Borders”) Film Festival, Italy. Following the screening, the workshop and its continuing relevance to contemporary life will be discussed by special guests Mariam Said (VP of the Barenboim-Said Foundation), Fiamma Arditi (founder and Chair of the Senza Frontiere Film Festival) and several musicians from the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. The event takes place at Columbia University’s Italian Academy for Advanced Studies.
Four musicians of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra spoke with WQXR radio at the Lucerne Festival this summer. Their interviews are available here to discover.
Layale Chaker, Lebanon/Palestine, violin
“In this orchestra, we come to a place that is by default a place of debate, and of dialogue, and of coexistence–which is very rare and actually doesn’t exist anywhere else…. Here we’re not in a situation where there is an oppressed and an oppressor. It’s different. We are by default all equal, which makes it possible–and beautiful–to see human relationships and friendships grow day after day.”
Boris Kertsman, Israel, trumpet
“Having grown up in Israel, of course, it’s a democratic country. But we have our media there, of course. The first time I was talking to an Arab musician, it was totally different [from narratives in the media]. We were fighting, struggling. We had conversations. Little by little, I started seeing other sides, other aspects, and a fuller picture of the thing.”
Mina Zikri, Egypt, violin
“The Divan Orchestra, for people that participate in it, is more than musical project. It’s also a human project. It sends a clear message, not necessarily giving any solutions, but it offers a model of thinking at least…. Sometimes you are accused of normalization and looking over obvious problems. But we always stress that we are not a peace project; we’re not trying to solve anything when we can’t. But we are listening to the narrative of the other and at least understanding it—which is what happens in the orchestra, when you play the primary line and the clarinet has to listen to you, while he or she still plays, and you the do the opposite. So there is a space for everyone to express themselves. While the others are not necessarily silent, they are still expressing–-in support of the other or listening to the other.”
Miriam Manasherov, Israel, viola
“The music sets a bridge. Through the music you open yourself to things you would not have been open to otherwise.”
With more than 15,000 spectators having flocked to their annual tour finale at Berlin’s forest stage last month, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra will return to the Waldbühne on August 15, 2015 for a spectacular concert led by co-founder Daniel Barenboim. The 2015 summer tour will culminate at the beloved outdoor concert venue with a program comprising Beethoven’s Concerto for Violin, Cello, and Piano and Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony.
Tickets to the concert are now available.
“Here we are, over five years later, and the situation in the Middle East is somehow – unimaginably – worse.
And yet the members of the West-Eastern Divan meet on, play on and through their courage in the face of increasing hostility at home – not a single government represented by the orchestra’s members gives them its blessing – they are the living, breathing proof of a model in which Arabs and Israelis do come together.
It isn’t perfect: there is plenty of disagreement within its ranks; but nor is it the product of some kind of utopian idealistic vision. Since the orchestra’s almost accidental inception fifteen years ago, hundreds of Arabs and Israelis have participated, and their daily discussions and debates about the conflict and the situation in the Middle East are as fundamental to their programme as the music rehearsals and concerts.”
Mr. Barenboim and his tireless charges offered five other encores in sparkling accounts: four numbers from Bizet’s “Carmen” and a tango they had just picked up in Argentina. A brilliant concert on the surface.
And underneath, something more. “This is the only place in the world where an Israeli or an Arab does something important,” Mr. Barenboim said, referring to the solos within the orchestra, “and the others support him. It is another way of thinking for the majority in the region.”
Jim Oestreich of The New York Times profiles and reviews the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra and its co-founder Daniel Barenboim.
No fine words were necessary, no heartfelt plea for peace. As another ceasefire failed and Gaza once again descended into violence last week, young Israelis and Arabs joined together at the Albert Hall in a musical expression of solidarity more eloquent than 100 rousing speeches.
Join the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra and Daniel Barenboim for this summer’s Waldbühne Berlin concert, the finale to their 2014 tour. The open-air concert sees Barenboim conducting and soloing with the Divan in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 27 in B-flat Major, KV 595. The Divan also perform Ravel’s Rhapsodie espagnole, Alborada del gracioso, Pavane pour une infante défunte, and Boléro. Purchase tickets here.
Thinking together: Mena Mark Hanna and Roni Mann led a conversation with members of the West-Eastern Divan, Mariam C. Said, and Daniel Barenboim to discuss Hegel’s Master-Slave dialectic, the idea of exile in the work of Edward Said, and what this all means for performing musicians. Here below is a reflection by Hanna and Mann.
“When Am I Truly Myself?” – this universal and existential question opened our series of encounters with the members of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, dedicated to philosophy and critical reflection.
To start thinking together about deep issues of self and identity, we discussed Hegel’s dialectic of the Master and Slave, which suggested the following answer to our opening theme: I am truly myself when I am in the right kind of relationship with others, a relationship of mutual recognition. We spoke about form as well as content, philosophical terminology as well as the significance “for us.” How do we relate to others in our own personal and political existence? Do we overcome simple “othering” and power dynamics?
We then turned to Edward Said’s Reflections on Exile. Said’s answer to the opening question is more ambivalent: I seek to be more truly myself by looking for the right relationship with “home.” Exiles are nationless and belong in a condition of multiple identities: a counterpoint of perspectives with one’s past home and one’s current condition. This search for belonging is shared by many members of the Divan Orchestra and Said’s ideas became the basis of a conversation that extended long beyond the classroom. We considered the link between the condition of exile and artistic creation, and discussed the idea of “losing oneself” in a perspective outside of oneself, as a way to a life richer in texture and meaning.
As the discussion drew closer to the experience of performing musicians, Daniel Barenboim offered his insight on the special relevance of the dialectical practice to the relationship with a musical score. “I allow myself to have a first encounter with the score in which my reaction is shock and fear”, he said, describing the score as standing outside oneself like a menacing presence. Later one loses oneself in the score, listening to what it has to say, investigating its innermost connections and meanings. Only then can one bring it back to one’s own world of associations. The music then becomes fully one’s own. And then, he said, “it sounds like I am improvising.”
– Mena Mark Hanna & Roni Mann, 19 August, 2014
“This orchestra is like a laboratory, an experiment in two peoples living together in proximity. They are here to do things: make music and learn about the other. This can happen because the orchestra provides something that does not exist on the ground, and that is equality.”
Layale Chaker, a violinist in the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, shares a reflection on a discussion about Edward Said and the concept of exile. Her note is reproduced below:
One evening in Lucerne, we gathered to watch a documentary film about Edward Said, where the late Palestinian intellectual chronicled aspects of his personal life, as well as some of his intellectual reflections. Although he discussed his thoughts on exile, he opposed them, once again, to any form of identity proclamation, and to glorifying exile into a romantic struggle, a longing for the ancestral land, for the orange blossoms, or the olive trees. It is precisely, to me, what makes his work so paradoxical and so difficult to understand. What is exile, if it is not an insurmountable pain, a ground crack between the human being and his native land?
After the film, Ronni Mann began the discussion with a question: “Which of you here feels exiled? ” Not more than three or four timid hands arose. This opened the floor for a discussion which soon took a path that started to answer my questions.
Exile concerns those who, uprooted, have always felt stateless, but it can also concern the uprooting chosen by musicians, who can only fulfill their engagement through voluntary detachment, and through taking a journey.
For musicians, exile can therefore take a metaphorical turn, as it becomes one of the conditions for creativity and artistic production, which carry within them an essential critical and dissident force. Our position as outsiders would then become an instrument of resistance, a gesture of emancipation and transgression, and a liberating alternative. Our instability, whether initially forced upon us or chosen, can become a vocation, and a medium of new possibilities, as it allows the emergence of forgotten truths and the birth of alternatives.
There is something greatly soothing when discussing and thinking about these subjects together. Reflecting upon our vocation as musicians in the context of the Divan, as well as in the wider context of artists in the world, can only guide us further into our chosen engagements and our goals. Becoming thinking musicians in order to better carry our aims… That is one thought that could resume this summer’s tour.”
– Layale Chaker, violin
“On the 17th of August something extraordinary happened in Lucerne: members of the West-Eastern Divan sat in a room and talked about….Hegelian self-consciousness. Another subject matter was Edward Saïd’s concept of orientalism, but that may not be quite as extraordinary. What had happened?
Roni Mann and Mena Mark Hanna, two thinkers from Israel and Egypt who will work for the newly created Barenboim-Saïd Academy, had come to visit us.Roni began with Hegel: self-consciousness only exists when it is recognised by others. The famous master-slave dialectic served as an explanation and as a basis to understand this idea. Then Mena continued with Saïd, at first linking his ideas to the power-relationship of the master and the slave. Saïd uses the conceptual pair of nationalism and exile. His assumption is that in exile one has at least two identities, as opposed to just one “national” identity, and that is comparable to the slave who is forced to perceive the world through his own eyes and also through the eyes of his master. The discussion then led to the concept of orientalism which denotes the collection of ideas of the “orient” that serve to prove their inherent inferiority. This concept is necessary for the coloniser to legitimise his actions.
Why is this extraordinary? Because everyone expects us to talk about Gaza, the occupation, rockets, injustice, security, etc., which we did before. But nobody would expect Hegel. Absolutely nobody. And nobody expects that from any orchestra, anywhere. Long may it continue!”
– Michael Barenboim, violin
Following a triumphant eleven-day, sold-out Teatro Colón Festival in Buenos Aires–where over 22,000 listeners flocked to the iconic opera house at Plaza Lavalle to hear the orchestra, Daniel Barenboim, and guest Martha Argerich perform–the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra heads to Europe to perform at the continent’s major music festivals.
Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrero today honored the late Edward Said and Mariam C. Said with the title Doctor Honoris Causa for their work within the framework of the West-Eastern Divan, alongside Daniel Barenboim, who received his honorary doctorate from UNTREF in 2005. The ceremony, which took place at the Sede Centro Cultural Borges, featured remarks by Dr. Horacio González, director of Argentina’s Biblioteca Nacional, and Dr. Hamurabi Noufouri, Director of the Master in Cultural Diversity UNTREF.
15 years ago, Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said founded the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra as an experiment in coexistence.
Each year, the orchestra brings together musicians from Israel, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt – joined by a number of musicians from Iran, Turkey and Spain – to perform music and promote reflection and mutual understanding. They meet each summer for a workshop, where rehearsals are complemented by lectures and discussion and followed by an international concert tour. This year, the orchestra is in residence at Buenos Aires’s Teatro Colón, from where they will embark on a tour of the major music festivals of Europe. The orchestra was founded at the invitation of the Kunstfest Weimar, and it derives its name from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s collection of poems entitled “West-Eastern Divan,” a central work in the evolution of the concept of world culture.