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common ground

  • Building Bridges

    Mike Lawson | March 13, 2008

    It seems that musicians have a unique knack for building diplomatic bridges where politicians often fall short. Perhaps it is the collaborative spirit of music making, the universality of music, or a particular characteristic of people who become musicians that cultivates this distinctive ability. In any case, the New York Philharmonic's recent trip to the communist dictatorship of North Korea graphically showed how musicians could find common ground for collaboration and diplomacy.

    One of the compelling aspects of the historic concert in North Korea, according to an Associated Press report on Feb. 27, was the pure synergy that developed among four Philharmonic musicians and four North Korean players who performed Mendelssohn's Octet for Strings, virtually without mistakes and without prior rehearsal. The fact that people from vastly disparate nations, backgrounds, cultures, and education could sit down and perform a difficult piece of music without any prior rehearsal was a wonderful representation of how people, specifically musicians, can play a role in creating a better world.

    The Philharmonic also made an especially touching gesture when they performed folk themes from the Korean tune, "Arirang." Many of us would quickly recognize this tune as it is represented in the concert band arrangement "Variations on a Korean Folk Song" by John Barnes Chance. This piece stirred the emotions of the performers and the audience and resulted in a standing ovation.

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