Once I read “Music exists and will emerge as a symbol of what might come to pass in a future age when the rage of war gives way to reason” and how true this statement has proven to be. Today my task is to bask in the glory of your wisdom and seek your indulgence in recognition of an important bridge between music as an intangible aspect of cultural heritage and what this meeting is aiming to achieve: practical approach to dialogue among civilizations.
It is a well-known fact that music is one of the oldest forms of human communication. It is a human universal, who could be found in all cultures at all times. It is, in many ways, in the age of globalization, the most global aspect of the “global village”. Therefore, music is often regarded as universal, a common language understood by all, regardless of culture, religion or socio-political context.Music has many facets and many uses, but it is generally acknowledged that its primary appeal is to the emotions. As hymn, national anthem, love song, or political protest song, music may provoke feelings of religiosity, patriotism, romance or revolt. Despite this ubiquity communication researchers were rather late in devoting systematic attention to the phenomenon. There were many cultural, institutional and financial reasons for this neglect but the result was that, despite the occasional study carried out in the 1950’s and 1960’s, it was not until the 1970’s that the study of popular music began to gain any real coherence or legitimacy as a research endeavor of uniting peoples.
Going back to its long history in the life of mankind, we observe periods where music has been used as a tool for repression, but, at the other end of the spectrum, it was also found a source of inspiration. Freedom of expressions has formed the source of inspiration for those who appreciated its universality. One good example of this is Beethoven’s masterpiece, the Ninth Symphony. It was written to Schiller’s poem Ode to Joy as a hymn to freedom and human solidarity. The horror of the Second WW triggered greater human awareness of individual rights for peace and harmony through music. Benjamin Britten evoked the atrocities of the two wars in his 1961 War Requiem. This piece was originally composed as a symbol of reconciliation between German, British and Russian. The text of the Requiem included 9 poems written by Wilfred Owen, a soldier who died in battle during the First WW. The Requiem was performed at the con -secretion of the new Coventry Cathedral in 1962 with the ruins of the original cathedral a poignant reminder of the damage of war. Other notable example of music as a universal language is the Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, who wrote his Canto General, as an ode to the struggle of his people for freedom and recognition of their civil and political rights, This poem was a profound inspiration for Greek composer Milis Theodorakis, himself victim of repression at the hands of the authorities in Greece to compose his oratorio of the same name. Music for charity could be noted by the efforts of Luciano Pavarotti who regularly performs at benefit concerts where the proceeds could be used by charitable organizations such as “War Child” helping victims of the war in Bosnia. Miguel Angel Estrella, the Argentinian pianist is another example of those who have tried to make music more accessible to under-privileged and was named Peace Ambassador for the UN in 1989.
The idea of using music as a means of conflict resolution gained momentum through the efforts of the late Edward Said and Maestro Barenboim who together established the East-West Divan Orchestra. They brought together young Middle Eastern musicians, including Israeli, Palestinians and Syrians, with aim of using music as a means of encouraging understanding and cooperation in the Middle East. French initiative in 2002 for a concert among Israelis and Arabs and the American initiative “Healing the Divide” in 2003, are among a few examples underlining the possibility of coexistence between individuals from different countries and communities long in opposition.
After having been confined for a long time to the confidentiality of scientific studies or to the regional practices of folk groups, “Traditional music” came very much back into fashion from the 1970’s onwards and was pushed to the fore of the artistic scene. Alongside particularly lively amateur playing, it developed a professional industry that brought together artists and groups, show and label producers. The diversity of the terms used to qualify “traditional popular music” reveals a complex history and a variety of ideologies: folklore, ethnic music, traditional, popular, folk-music, world-music, are all terms that bear the mark of the times in which they were born. Music’s deep connection to social identities has been distinctively intensified by globalization. This intensification is due to the ways cultural separation and social exchange is mutually accelerated by transnational flows of technology, media, and popular culture. The result is that musical identities and styles are more visibly transient, more audibly in stages of constant fusion than ever before.
That’s why the Treaty on European Union (Article 128 on culture) considers music as a contributing factor “to the blossoming of the cultures of the Member States with respect for their national and regional diversity, while bringing the common cultural heritage to the fore” and to the creation of an “increasingly closer union between the peoples of Europe”.
Today we can no longer stick firmly to our own roots and show disinterest or hostility to other cultures or other musical genres. Curiosity is becoming the main quality necessary for traditional music players and is joined along the way by that of supporters of other aesthetics.
A universal artistic language, its aesthetics, spreading beyond the single framework which witnessed its birth, render dialogue possible with different musical traditions from elsewhere in the world, thus linking each to other histories, other lands. Endowed with a flexibility, which has enabled it to span the centuries, in a state of permanent rebirth, it induces a form of cultural action, which can serve as an example, being founded on the fruitful reconciliation of values perceived to be contradictory.
To ensure that this form of dialogue is promoted further, it is our hope that this meeting could advocate further recognition of this irreplaceable heritage for dialogue among civilizations and to propose directions for regional and inter-regional networking and co-operation in relation to education, supporting live events and dissemination of information about traditional music.
Our belief is that music and musical performance are a major component of intangible heritage of the world community. To that end, we have decided to, more explicitly, recognize its potential as an important bridge between peoples and value its contribution to furthering a dialogue among civilizations, cultures ad communities. Today, we can no longer myopically look to our own roots and show disinterest or hostility to other cultures or other musical genres
Finally, let’s hope that music from the memory is not reduced to the status of objects destined to fill museums. Because as Jean Clair in his Reflection on the fine arts mentioned “Should the museum win, it is thus that the desert encroaches still further”.