Monday, February 25, 2008

New York Philharmonic in Pyongyang

Ok, so this may seem unrelated to the blog, but I can't think of a more palpable example of the importance of music in the world.

The New York Philharmonic, one of the 5 major orchestras in the United States, has been on a concert tour in Asia over the past few weeks. The culminating and by far most notable performance occurred yesterday in Pyongyang, North Korea. Allowing a Western orchestra--let alone the hundreds of journalists and paying patrons in attendance--to come to a country normally guarded from public view, so famous for the iron fist of its dictator, so infamous for its record on human rights and status in the world nuclear club...well, the run-on sentence speaks to how big a deal it is.

The concert was broadcast on State radio in North Korea. For probably the first time, North Koreans heard "The Star-Spangled Banner," alongside Dvorak, Gershwin, Wagner and others. The Americans were also privy to a presentation of traditional Korean music and dance.

I just think that this is one of the most important roles that music can play in the world: that of wordless diplomacy. It's not the first-time that musicians have worn this hat:

"Whatever the political results, the visit will take its place with other landmark orchestra journeys, like the Philadelphia Orchestra’s concert in China in 1973 during Ping-Pong diplomacy and the Boston Symphony’s triumphant appearance in the Soviet Union in 1956. The New York Philharmonic also visited the Soviet Union in 1959." -- New York Times, 2/26/08

To read up on the concert, click here: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/26/arts/music/26symphony.html?pagewanted=1&hp

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