Today the New York Philharmonic performed in the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea, which is, of course, neither a republic nor democratic. It does have lots of people though – poor ones and oppressed.
The concert featured the music of Gershwin and Dvorak as well as the Korean folk song “Arirang.” I’m not sure what the expectations of today’s concert were but I do think that any exposure to the Western world and its better angels will, however slowly, challenge the PDRK leadership’s demonization of all things, well, not like them. Some in our government are more skeptical. Secretary of State Condi Rice said of the performance: “I don’t think we should get carried away with what listening to Dvorak is going to do in North Korea.”
Now, I like Condi and respect her opinion but come on! It’s Antonin friggin’ Dvorak! And his New World Symphony no less! It rocks like nothing else in the orchestral repitoire.
Music can be very insidious. And I think the choice of Dvorak’s New World Symphony was a good one. Dvorak, perhaps more than any other composer, had a natural gift in composing memorable, lyrical melodies. The New World Symphony is full of them. I find myself humming them for days after hearing a recording. Who knows what sparks this concert might ignite in the hearts and minds of those who heard it?