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Make Music not Walls

November 11, 2008 at 12:48 PM

For the last two summers I have had the good fortune to be invited to teach at the summer school for the outreach programm of the Edward Said Conservatory in Birzeit, Palestine. The outreach programm was started under the auspices of the European Commission and in collabaration with the Edward Said Conservatory, Accademia Musicale di Firenze and Ucodep to bring music to the children in isolated and cut off villages and refugee camps. A short documentary was made of the first year ,the summer of 2007.The possibilities of music bringing peace are being explored from beginners to the highest level I just keep my fingers crossed that it will succeed.

There are lots of problems teaching these children on a regular basis and lessons can be few and far between if the teacher isn't allowed through the checkpoints. Getting children together for concerts and courses has similar problems. Last summer they had a national competition and had to use the Web cam to allow all candidates and parents to participate.Candidates from the Gaza strip had to perform via computer and were screened for all to see. There is however an enourmous enthusiasm and I hope that the project gets all the funding it requires in order to continue.

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted via on November 12, 2008 at 1:41 AM

Very nice initiative!!! Go on!  I'm sur some of these kids will carry on with music and for the others it will have been such a good experience!



From Jim W. Miller
Posted via on November 12, 2008 at 1:57 AM


 I liked it.  It's very interesting and a well put together little film.  Youtube is teaching us what can be put into ten minutes I think.

It's interesting that they're using classical instruments, and classical teachers, but wouldn't be able to use classical music.  In the 21st century, I'm afraid classical music is about division and prejudice, not about peace and cultures getting together on equal footing, or even necessarily music.  I think adults who stay with it, or adults who become attracted to it, do so for that reason, the culturally superior things it allows them to identify with, the way a nascar fan strives to identify with the culturally superior fast car.  Even at the highest levels when some classical performer portrays themself as a fan of other music, they still consider one superior to the other.   Andre Rieu, LCR; where MCR obviously gets its name,  Middle Eastern music of your video, some novelty, anything electronic, their place in the universe is to be an inferior culture to be looked down on.  This is not a comment on the music, which is too abstract a thing to carry such a message clearly, but rather on the culture that goes with it, in the 21st century, in the U.S.A. at least.  By and large.  And as pretty as it might be, or however powerfully it might speak to someone, it no longer has a connection to a living culture, it isn't the music of a people - those people have abandoned it in favor of whatever equally interesting music they now prefer.  It has only the culture that it creates, which I described. This is why you can use classical instruments, but wouldn't be able to use classical music.  I wouldn't want to see that music end, but I'm not sure why.  Probably because I studied it so intensely for a decade or so.

So, I think adult classical fans, the hard core ones, could learn as much from this video as the little kids in it who were the beneficiaries of the social program, and it was extremely effective for the kids, I would think.  It won't create peace anytime soon, but it's a peaceful force in a dark place, and it will go a long way toward fostering personal inner peace and the knowledge on the part of the kids that they are equally in the world too , which will stay will them throughout their lives.  If that hits home, then it will be just as significant a thing for you too.  I'm sure it is, actually.

What is that instrument at around 1:00?  I want more.  I love the downward gliss. at the end.  Is that you briefly around 9:40?  Very nice.

From Jim W. Miller
Posted via on November 12, 2008 at 2:17 AM

Dammit, I went over time and missed bidding on a kickstarter for my motorcycle.  That'll learn me to keep my mouth shut.  Still a slave to the almighty battery and the externally suppiled electron...  Damn thing went for $10 too.


From Pauline Lerner
Posted via on November 12, 2008 at 5:08 AM

Janet, thanks so much for writing that blog and posting that video.  The video was extremely moving.  We read about nations at war, check points, the presence of arrmed militia everywhere, and the isolation of residents of small towns, but watching this video  puts a personal face on it and brings it all home.  Music is one of the things that can bring people together because it is the language of the soul.  You are very, very fortunate to go there and participate in this project.  Please tell us more about it later.

From janet griffiths
Posted via on November 12, 2008 at 6:38 AM

Hi Jim,the violin is an intrinsic part of the Arab culture and is used often in ensembles.This was actually a much discussed problem as they play the violin in a different way to the classical violin. So were we there to teach a classical approach?As these children were all complete beginners it didn't matter much that first year however on my return this summer it was obvious that we had some problems.First of all there was posture and stance which to a classically trained musician was completely wrong.The fact that they were unable to read music led to problems as we teachers were given orchestral parts with notes and were asked to teach them to play the parts in a week.There is no lutier in Palestine and most of the violins needed attention and often missing strings and most bows needed rehairing.However these are all problems that can be resolved and the project is just beginning.It was very stimulating to work with Arabian collegueas and to look at what could work and what definately wouldn't.

From Mendy Smith
Posted via on November 12, 2008 at 8:56 AM

This video reminded me of some of the time I spent in Borneo.  I had the privelege of introducing the viola (yes, viola, not violin) to a few village children.  I played a little music for them and then let them in turn play my viola (the 15" old man).  While I'm not a teacher, it was a joy seeing them get excited doing something that they normally would never otherwise have the opportunity to experience.  In the process, I also learned some of the local songs and put them to string and bow.  It was such fun!

Thanks for reminding me about what music is really about.


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