Daily Bow: Can Classical Music Save the World?


We’ve looked at how classical music is a powerful force for change beyond the concert hall, but we’re not the only ones exploring that same idea. The Atlantic recently ran a great piece looking at the impact classical music can have on society more broadly.

History is replete with examples of classical music acting not as a passive reflection of the times, but as a force for social change. Dmitri Shostakovich, arguably the greatest composer of the 20th century, so frightened and infuriated the Soviet regime with his works that according to biographer Elizabeth Wilson, “he waited for his arrest at night out on the landing by the lift, so that at least his family wouldn’t be disturbed.”

If classical music has declined in cultural influence, nobody has told the concert hall. The tradition of Beethoven and Verdi and Shostakovich is set to continue at the Kennedy Center on May 22nd, when the Choral Arts Society of Washington and the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra present the world premiere ofSeven Songs for Planet Earth by Finnish composer Olli Kortekangas.

Now, it seems, more than ever, it is impossible to consider the natural world without thought to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, or the ongoing nuclear catastrophe and tragic loss of life in Japan. Seven Songs for Planet Earth is a reflection on nature and its fragility, and is a call to action.

“Any work of art,” says Mr. Kortekangas, “whether it’s realistic, abstract, or even conceptual, is an act in itself, more than doing nothing, and can serve as an example, can stir the listeners’ imagination, evoke emotions.”

What do you think?

What is the role that classical music should have in transforming and empowering communities?

What else is classical music ideally suited to do?

Send us your thoughts via the comments section below

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2 Responses to Daily Bow: Can Classical Music Save the World?

  1. Cellimom May 24, 2011 at 10:36 am #

    I hope classic music can have such role and my kid want to be help with music, too. I think what music can do for world depends the view of world what we want. There might be so many different views but one of the common wish might be the world without war. However, there are many complicate beckground reasons for war. How music can help such conflicts?
    NY Phil has performed at North Korea a few years ago. I want it can provide any chance to perform together for South Koea and North Korea Orchestra together. Maybe we can start from small step from our surrounding.

  2. Colin Cronin May 25, 2011 at 3:03 pm #

    This is phenomenal! I felt the same way when they had the concert in North Korea a few years ago. There is a lot of power in music to bring people together, as shown in the Palestinian Territories as well.

    One of my visions for the future is for myself, others, and String Visions to play a role in helping non-profits involved in such pursuits. Often these organizations have very strong and admirable goals. What they usually lack is resources, be it money or people. Not every single person has to come up with an original/creative idea to make a difference because the visionaries always need more help!

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