Arabs and Israelis in Perfect Harmony; Musical Pioneers: Daniel Barenboim Conducts the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra

Daily Mail (London), August 15, 2008 | Go to article overview

Arabs and Israelis in Perfect Harmony; Musical Pioneers: Daniel Barenboim Conducts the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra


Byline: Peter Lewis

by Peter Lewis

EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED by Daniel Barenboim (Weidenfeld Nicolson, ?16.99)

ANYONE who attended or watched last night's Prom given by Daniel Barenboim and the West-Eastern Divan orchestra must have reflected that this is the only example of Arab- Israeli unity we ever see.

And what an example! Barenboim and the Palestinian philosopher Edward Said founded the annual music workshop which produced the orchestra in 2000, and ever since it has gone from strength to strength. It is acclaimed nowadays as much for its musical excellence as its success as a social and artistic experiment.

In case anyone hasn't heard, every year young Israeli and Palestinian musicians, together with others from Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, work together and go on tour as an orchestra.

They have played in Germany their name, West-Eastern Divan, comes from a collection of Goethe's poems. They have played Wagner in Germany, having first voted on whether to play the great anti-Semitic composer.

In 2004, they gave a historic concert on Palestinian soil in Ramallah, although Israelis were officially forbidden from entering Palestinian territory.

Barenboim's challenging book does not simply tell the inspiring story of the orchestra. It is also a profound analysis of music, our common language which does not recognise race or religion despite having as many dialects as there are cultures.

It is very difficult to discuss music in meaningful words, since its magic is worked without them.

Barenboim finds ways to convey the psychological impact of music on both players and listeners. He points out that an orchestra cannot play well unless its members are listening as much to each other as to the parts they are playing.

He examines the elements of music, its balance between intellect and emotion, the simultaneous dialogues it conducts between different voices, and the necessity for there to be a counterpoint to any theme.

HE APPLIES these principles to the way we need to deal with each other in argument in order to lead to harmony.

In reaching all aspects of a human being animal, emotional, intellectual, spiritual music teaches us that everything is connected.

It does not bring people together just to forget their differences, it helps them understand their differences. …

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