I’ve been trying to figure out just what exactly bugs me so much about this:
Music can change the state of the world, stop conflict and bloodshed, and bring peace to war-torn regions. If that sounds far-fetched then you haven’t met Russia’s famed maestro Valery Gergiev.
“The power of music can be (a) very quiet power because your heart feels happy. Beautiful music makes you maybe a better person. Maybe a better person will think twice before supporting a military solution, before seeing yet another conflict,” Gergiev said before conducting the World Orchestra for Peace, which performed Tuesday for the first time in an Arab country, the United Arab Emirates. “Instead of living in this troubled world we will find a way to share the sea, to share the sunlight.”
The 75 musicians performing represented at least 62 international orchestras and 30 countries. To have representatives of many nations seated together on stage sends what Gergiev hopes is a transformative message.
“You start to feel that people find it easy to build relationships immediately, of course through music,” Gergiev, who is also the artistic and general director of the Mariinsky Theatre, said. “We don’t have to tell each other ‘Look we need peace.’ We bring it. Just the very fact of our arrival is already a fanfare for peace.”
I have met Gergiev, as it happens. And I still don’t believe this.Maybe it’s just remembering the uses to which music was put in Germany six decades or so ago.
Hitler spent years in Vienna (home of both the first and second Viennese School, lest we forget) listening to some of the great music ever written (and conducted, at least on a few occasions, by one of the greatest Jewish conductors ever to have converted to Catholicism). It left him with a desire to exterminate millions of people. If music is such a force for peace and tolerance, why were over a third of the members of the Vienna Phil members of the Nazi Party?
Great art is many things. One the evidence, though, it does not appear to be morally transformative. Believing that an orchestra of top-flight players travellng to a resource-rich monarchy to play 90 minutes of music to advertise said monarchy as a place of tolerance, respect and enlightenment is about “peace” is simply to legitimate the use of music as propaganda.