Saturday, January 7, 2012

2012.01.08 Music is a Human Right, Also a Divine Right

Last night we listened to a Los Angeles Philharmonic (La Phil) concert conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, the latest sensation on the classical music scene and a young charming spirit from Venezuela—famous for saying with a shrug and a chuckle, "If it can be done in Venezuela it can be done anywhere."

Dudamel believes and passionately embodies his creed: Music is a human right.

In the beginning Godde said, Let there be light—and music. Birds made up the first orchestras.

Dudamel, inspired by his mentor José Antonio Abreu, educates children of all ages to play classical music in orchestras and in classrooms. Even tiny nursery school children are banging out rhythms in sync with each other. They are an orchestra! Their glee is unrivaled.

The program is called El Sistema. It’s a system, a saturation. Music is central to human development not an elective easily eliminated from school budgets. El Sistema is now being implemented at the New England Conservatory in Boston.

“Put a musical instrument in a child’s hand and s/he will never pick up a gun,” said Dudamel with a grin of surety.

A 12 year old African American boy said, “When I play music I enter heaven.”

This effort is an important way to take the elitist label off classical music and I think realize that all music is classical. The results of this effort are, frankly, happier children. Everyone plans and no one is left out or singled out. Unlike sports, there’s no “bench” in orchestral music. There is no grade either. Fail-safe joy.

It is also a way to instrumentalize the biblical idea that everything on earth is sacred and beloved the same. Music knows no gender, race, religion, etc.

One parent also labeled this program “safe” because it keeps children off the streets.

Dudamel said “We have to have the notes but each time we play it is different, sounds different. We have to interpret re-interpret and re-interpret to keep it alive.”

This creativity is also what keeps the biblical word of scripture alive for every generation, group, and individual. Everyone interprets it, makes it chime in their own souls, and creates, yes, music.