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Promoting Understanding One Note at a Time

By Julene McCoy in Arts & Entertainment on Dec 5, 2006 5:12PM

2006_12_barenboim.jpgChicagoist doesn’t know if it’s the holiday season that has us thinking about universal human truths, or all the conflict that is happening around the world. Sometimes we get overwhelmed with how much it takes to change the world. Then a couple of people get together and prove that it doesn't have to be that hard.

Back in the '90s, two musicians came together to forge an unlikely friendship, one from each side of an ongoing, bitter conflict, Daniel Barenboim, an Argentine-born Israeli, and Edward Said, a US-based Palestinian author. Both believed that music could bring disparate groups together and create harmony, stating that “The West-Eastern Divan is not a project for peace. It is a fight against ignorance.” The two brought together musicians aged 14-25 from Middle Eastern countries to show that all can work together towards a common goal, despite differing world views.

This statement from Barenboim on the concept of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra says it better than we ever could:

Music makes the West-Eastern Divan possible because it does not contain limited associations as words do. Music teaches us that there is nothing that does not include its parallel or opposite as the case may be; therefore no element is entirely independent because it is by definition in a relationship of inter-dependence. It is my belief that although music cannot solve any problems, since it is as Busoni said “sonorous air”, it can teach us to think in a way that is a school for life. In music we know and accept the hierarchy of a main subject, we accept the permanent presence of an opposite, and sometimes even of subversive accompanying rhythms.

2006_12_ramallahconcert.jpgThe West-Eastern Divan orchestra has not performed in Chicago since 2001 and will be returning for an appearance at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance on Sunday, December 17. They are slated to perform Beethoven’s Leonore Overture N.3 OP 72a, Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat, K.297b (Sinfonia Concertante for Oboe, Clarinet, Horn, Bassoon & Orchestra), and Brahms’ Symphony No. 1.

While this is not a “holiday” concert, we believe it embodies the spirit of the season — the setting aside of our differences to come together and have fellowship. We think that the ideas behind the West-Eastern Divan can help us all come together, one note at a time, and realize that while we all differ, these differences are also where our beauty lies. Snag some tickets, see some amazing music, and afterwards grab a cup of coffee to have an open discussion regarding the issues in your life, or the world as a whole. Sometimes all it takes to change the world is the ability to listen to one another.

Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph, Sun., Dec. 17, 2:00 p.m., $78 - $98. Tickets available by calling 312-334-7777 or at the Harris Theater's website.