Music, War, Human Nature…

In response to my mention of the Army’s PsyOps division having used music as a weapon, Mr.Rifftides sent this message:

I remember that a few years ago there was quite a ruckus about the high school principal who punished his misbehaving inner-city students by making them listen to Frank Sinatra recordings. It may have been Chicago. If I turn up details, I’ll let you know.

I hope he does turn up the details; thats a story I’d like to hear.

In yesterday’s The New York Times there was an article (Harmony Across a Divide) by Alan Riding.

IT was an immensely appealing experiment, both in its idealism and in its simplicity: Let young Israeli and Arab musicians play together in an orchestra to show that communication and cooperation were possible between peoples who had long fought each other.

Conceived by Argentine-born Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim and the Palestinian-American scholar Edward Said, the project began in 1999 as an annual event, and despite even the more recent outbreaks of violence, the orchestra is still performing.

Still, with the orchestra touring 13 cities in Spain, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and Turkey, Mr. Barenboim believes that this latest crisis merely underlines the venture’s importance.

“From the beginning it took a lot of courage to participate in this project, but all the more so this year, while this war is going on, and the friends and relatives of some are being hurt by the friends and relatives of others.” Mr. Barenboim said in an interview the day after starting the tour with the first classical concert ever in Seville’s historic bullring. “In that sense this is a very small reply to the terrible horrors of war.”

I have begun to collect similar stories of music used in service of diplomacy and/or as a humanizing force. Colonel Gabriel once told me a story of taking a German town by force in 1944 as an infantryman, and returning years later as Commander of the US Air Force Band, capturing that same town with music. In 1944 he left with their flag, and later they gave him their key. Another story is that of the joint concert performed by our National Symphony and the Iraq National Symphony, described by The Lehrer Newshour as “an attempt at literal harmony out of the confusion and sometimes violent aftermath of the Iraq war.”

If anyone knows of any such stories, please share them with me.