Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Philharmonic in North Korea

I thought this was pretty cool when I read it last night.

N.Y. Philharmonic gets a warm welcome in North Korea

PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA -- For the musicians of the New York Philharmonic, when the invitation came from North Korea, the answer was not automatic.

They posed many questions:

Is it morally wrong to perform in a country with such an abysmal human rights record?

Would we be in personal danger?Do we need to bring our own toilet paper?

With some queries still unanswered, the orchestra landed Monday in what is essentially terra incognita. Although musicians are often used as cultural ambassadors, seldom has an American orchestra ventured into a country with which the United States has had so few official contacts.

The Philadelphia Orchestra went to China in 1974 only after President Nixon broke the ice. The New York Philharmonic played Moscow in 1988 on the heels of a visit by President Reagan.

"We've had no George Bush, no Condoleezza Rice," said David Finlayson, a trombonist, as the Boeing 747 jumbo jet carrying the orchestra began its landing in Pyongyang. "Lorin Maazel is acting as our ambassador," he added, referring to the Philharmonic's music director.

Indeed, the 77-year-old conductor was treated as an American official at Pyongyang's airport. He walked theatrically down the stairs of the airplane to an accompaniment of clicking camera shutters and was greeted by a line of officials from the North Korean Culture Ministry."We've always been greeted with great affection in closed societies, where we are seen as a lifeline to the outside world," Maazel told reporters at the airport. "I'm a musician, not a diplomat, but I think that music is one area where people can always make contact."The musicians and their entourage of press and supporters -- about 300 people in all -- were escorted to a lavish welcoming banquet at the Grand People's Culture Palace. Round tables were covered with platters of fish jelly, prawn salad and turkey slices in the shape of a floral basket. North Koreans, smiling with hospitality, poured endless glasses of ginseng wine. Women dressed in fluorescent-hued traditional gowns bowed to the arriving guests.

I mean, aside for all the pomp- and circumstances and assuming that some of the ordinary people got to listen to the orchestra, it's a start in breaking down those walls.

... long way to go of course, however remember the old adage: "Music sooths the savage beast"

(P.S. I'm not calling the people of N.K. savage or beast I'm referring to the tension between the 2 sides..)

No comments:

Post a Comment