Sunday, January 11, 2009

The People United Will Never Be Defeated!

Our new Bishop got up today to discuss the goals for our congregration (the Mormon church is very goal oriented), and he said that he wanted to establish Zion in our ward, quoting a most recent general authority talk in last October's conference for inspiration. This is a "most excellent" idea. The word Zion has many different connotations depending on your perspective, but for us it means three things:

1) The people who reside in Zion are of one heart and one mind.
2) Each person individually is holy, pure in heart.
3) And in Zion because of 1) and 2), poverty is completely eliminated, no poor live in their midst (and not because they kicked all the poor people out, either).

So, effectively, our Bishop has set a goal to establish a little utopian community within our segment of Tempe, Arizona. This is an exciting goal for me because it will be really exciting to be part of trying to do this.

And it got me thinking about a podcast I've heard recently on Dianne Rehm interviewing the author of a recent book called Music Quickens Time. The author Daniel Barenboim is a famous pianist and composer who has assembled the West-Eastern Divine Orchestra with members spanning the middle east, Israel and Arabs who come together to make music.

What follows are some scattered quotes from the interview, finished up by a performance of a piece whose title I borrowed for this blog post.

Zion and music


This quote by Barenboim, in particular, kept ringing in my ears long after I heard it almost perfectly describes Zion:

"The way that people should play in an orchestra, when you sit in the orchestra, you have to give everything of yourself, everything you know, everything you feel, whatever comes to you, you have to give the maximum, otherwise you're not contributing to the collective effort, but at the same time, simultaneously, you have to listen to what others are playing, and what you say is in permanent relation to what they are saying. What you play in relation to what they are playing. If you are too loud, they won't be heard, if you are too soft, you won't support them. What better lesson for life do you want? Can you imagine if our politicians have to really contribute everything that they think and feel and at the same time listen to others."

The nature of sound


He also had some very, blow me over, exceptional concept of the unique nature of sound and music:

"The beginning of a concert is more privileged then the beginning of a book. One can say that sound itself is more priviledged than words. A book is filled with words I use every day, day after day to explain, describe, demand, argue, beg, enthuse, tell the truth, and to lie. Our thoughts take shape in words. Therefore, the words on a page must compete with the thoughts in our mind. Music has a much larger world of association at its disposal precisely because of its ambivalent nature. It is both inside and outside the world."

"Music is not separated from the world. It can make us forget and understand the world at the same time."

"There is nothing I can think and feel that I can't think and feel with sound."

"Sound is extraordinary because it doesn't live in this world. Whoever makes a sound, he is literally bringing this sound into the world. And yet when it comes to this world, it suddenly acquires a human dimension, it acquires a dimension that makes humans move. I know know of no other phenomenon that is a purely physical phenomenon that takes another dimension.

"Sound does not remain, sound has a tendency to drop into silence. Therefore, sound has with silence is the equivalent of life and death. I think the fact that sound is drawn to silence, therefore sound has a tendency to die, that means that every note that you play or sing has a tendency to die puts you in direct contact with the feeling of death more than anything I can think of because its not in your imagination only because its physically in front of you whether you are playing or listening."

On education


"Music is universal. Every baby that is born is born with a certain amount of talent or receptiveness to music, and therefore, I'm very saddened by the lack of music education in so many societies, and the poor quality of music education in societies where there is some. You cannot grow up in a home where no music is played, where you don't hear music as a baby, go to kindergarten where there's no music, go to primary school and to high school where there is no music, then go to university become a lawyer or doctor, go back to your city, get married and have children, get famous become a very important lawyer or doctor, and the age of 32 or 33 go for the first time in your life to a concert, and expect to get something out of it. You will only get the feeling of going to a place where lots of people go to, you will not get anything out of the music."

By the way, he has a pretty skewed sense of how long it can take someone to get "famous", he gave his first formal concert at age 7.

"Music education is our civic duty, government, civic society, to give children from a very early age, an understanding and education in music. It has proved that children that come into contact with music, and play something, even a simple song, have a much better balance psychic life, because music forces you, it comes quite naturally. You have to use all your faculties in that moment, your feelings and your thinking. You cannot separate this."

Finally, an explanation of the title of this post


When I met my wife, she was working furiously toward her Master's degree music recital at ASU. It was through her, that I was introduced, really and truly, to classical music. It was through her that I was exposed to the piece composed by Rzewski entitled "The People United Will Never be Defeated." The piece starts out in a most straight forward and very inspiring way. And then there are literally 36 variations to it, that are all fantastic, some harder to listen to than others.

What follows is a youtube performance of it, enjoy.

6 comments:

Sara said...

I read it, I read it, I read it! And I love Barenboims perspective on music. Makes me want to spend all day today just listening to music and teaching my kids everything I know about it.

Rachel said...

My ward's RS had a lesson on that very talk and holy cow was the part about taking care of the poor CoNTROVERSIAL. Slightly heated, in fact. Poor teacher didn't know what she was getting in to. Some people were like, "Giving to the poor is enabling them" and some people were like "Quit judging and just be nice!" That section on taking care of the poor by Elder Crisopherson was REALLY REALLY strong though. I loved it and pondered on it quite a bit after. Especially the idea of trying to be content with necessities and giving the rest to the poor. Unity is a really cool topic.

JRV said...

Somehow I missed reading that talk, Im going to have to go back and read it.
Beautiful piano piece, I played it a few times.
I just made a goal that we are definitely going to have to find a place in our small house for a piano. Everytime we visit my mom Im on hers constantly. You just made me realize how much my kids are missing.

Favorite:

"The way that people should play in an orchestra, when you sit in the orchestra, you have to give everything of yourself, everything you know, everything you feel, whatever comes to you, you have to give the maximum, otherwise you're not contributing to the collective effort, but at the same time, simultaneously, you have to listen to what others are playing, and what you say is in permanent relation to what they are saying. What you play in relation to what they are playing. If you are too loud, they won't be heard, if you are too soft, you won't support them."

Thanks for that, It gave me something new to wrap my brain around today.

tempe turley said...

Yes, JRV, that quote blew me away when I heard it. I have definitely have had times in my life when I've "sung" too strongly and not listened, or pulled back to much and not contributed. Its a tough thing to find that perfect situation where you feel you're resonating with a team and doing really cool things.

Sara said...

Scott, you do know that JRV is Jenny Vergara, right?

Sara said...

Also, I just realized you forgot to mention or perhaps didn't know that this piece, "The People United" is based on a Chilean song. From Wikepedia..."Rzewski composed the variations in September and October 1975, as a tribute to the struggle of the Chilean people against a newly imposed repressive regime."