New York Philharmonic to play Pyongyeng, North Korea, February 26th.

January 23rd, 2008

This will mark the first U.S. cultural visit by an American Arts organization since President Bush’s assertion that North Korea was part of the “Axis of Evil”. My question is this: Is North Korea really embracing the idea of enhancing the Korean’s life with beautiful music from one of the finest American orchestra’s, or is it a distraction from what is really going on with their relationship with Syria and their nuclear reactors? If indeed it is the former, then we must applaud them even if it is such a small step.

I can’t imagine that the concert is for the hardworking North Korean’s or the citizens suffering from starvation or held in labor camps. It is most likely for the high-ranking government officials and elitists of the country. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the concert lit a fire under a few of the concert-goers to push for future concerts for everyone.

Other orchestras have traveled to communist countries in the past: Philadelphia to China, Boston to the Soviet Union, Milwaukee to Cuba, etc… However, North Korea is still living in a vacuum and very little of the outside world finds it’s way into the country. Also, those countries had vibrant music scenes of their own. In North Korea, there is no music scene outside of the government. Most classical composers are commissioned to write music (folk-style) for the government.

Even though the concert will be highly controlled and staged, the music will be beautiful and will give some North Koreans contact with ambassadors for democracy. Maybe the concert-goers will start to ask more questions of their government or of each other. Let’s also hope this isn’t a charade or distraction for the real political agenda.

I wonder what the program will be?

In the meantime, enjoy this clip of Sara Chang and the NY Philharmonic performing Mendelssohn’s violin concerto movement #1.

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