But meanwhile, the healing power of music is recognized everywhere – even in North Korea.
The New York Philharmonic arrived in North Korea Monday, becoming the most prominent American cultural institution to visit the isolated, nuclear-armed country.
North Korea made unprecedented accommodations for the orchestra, allowing a delegation of nearly 300 people, including musicians, staff and journalists to fly into Pyongyang on a chartered plane for 48 hours.
The Philharmonic’s concert Tuesday will be broadcast live on North Korea’s state-run TV and radio, unheard of in the impoverished country, where events are carefully choreographed to bolster the personality cult of leader Kim Jong Il.
[Zarin] Mehta told reporters Monday before leaving Beijing that politics was not part of the trip. “We are going to do master classes, we’ll do chamber music, rehearsals … that’s what we’re there for. Politics is not our game, we play music,” he said.
To me, one of the most wonderful things about music – and art in general – is its ability to transcend the differences between us and to bring our commonalities to the surface. All humans feel love, pain, anger and joy, and music exquisitely amplifies those feelings into an emotionally powerful shared experience.
May the Philharmonic and the people of North Korea share the gift of music together, and may it be a small step towards unity and away from the divisive Bush Doctrine.