Friday, February 22, 2008

Can Music Succeed Where Words and Diplomacy Fail?

I read about Lady Yoko Nagae Ceschina in this morning’s Wall Street Journal and her sponsorship of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra’s appearance in North Korea next week. Her premise is that music can succeed where words and diplomacy fail. This raises two thoughts; music is indeed powerful and what would it be like if struggling rock & roll artists had a patron like Mrs. Ceschina?

I did a recent post on the benefits of music making and while there were many benefits; brain exercise, stress reduction, and lower blood pressure, diplomacy was not one of them. However, I think she’s right about the diplomacy part. I’ve been reading “This Is Your Brain On Music” by Daniel J. Levitin where he argues that music may be more fundamental to the human species than language. If music is that central to our species it seems only natural that it could bridge political and cultural divides.

One interesting anecdote is her $1.5 million purchase of a 1727 Stradivarius at auction for renowned Russian violinist Maxim Vengerov. If Mrs. Ceschina were in the rock world maybe some deserving young metal master may have ended up with Eric Clapton’s “Blackie” or Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Lenny” instead of Guitar Center….. Nope, somehow it doesn’t translate.

Nonetheless, North Korea has been relaxing its controls on western music. This may provide an opening for some rock & roll diplomacy. One hurdle; lyrics need to be approved by the government. Oops. Classical music may have to be the diplomats for awhile longer.


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