BBC Reith Lectures 2006 – In the Beginning was Sound

In the Beginning was Sound (well it is called the Big Bang)

St John said, “In the beginning was the word”, while Goethe claimed that, “In the beginning was the deed”.

But Daniel Barenboim contends that In the beginning was sound. This year the BBC Radio – Reith Lectures were given by Daniel Barenboim

Shall we do a quick check of the man’s cred?

He gave his first concert at the age of seven, and by eleven he’d been declared a phenomenon by the legendary conductor Wilhelm Fürtwangler. His life has been and continues to be saturated with music. A virtuoso at the piano, he later became one of the most respected conductors of his generation, currently he’s Music Director of both the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Berlin State Opera.

In the lectures he’ll be drawing on his experience to demonstrate that music, as he puts it, “is a way to make sense of the world – our politics, our history, our future, and our very essence”.

There have been many definitions of music which to my mind have only described a subjective reaction to it. The only really precise one to me is the one by Ferruccio Busoni, the great Italian pianist and composer, who said that music is sonorous air. It says everything and it says nothing. Of course, appropriate moment to quote Neitszche, who said that life without music would be a mistake.

And now we come to the first question – why? Why is music so important? Why is music something more than something very agreeable or exciting to listen to? Something that, through its sheer power, and eloquence, gives us formidable weapons to forget our existence and the chores of daily life. My contention is that this is of course possible, and is practised by millions of people who like to come home after a long day at the office, put their feet up, if possible have the luxury of somebody giving them a drink while they do that, and put on the record and forget all the problems of the day. But my contention is that music has another weapon that it delivers to us, if we want to take it, and that is one through which we can learn a lot about ourselves, about our society, about the human being, about politics, about society, about anything that you choose to do.

So Ithink it’s safe to say he might have a clue about what he is talking about.

I discovered the Reith Lectures last year and found them to be fascinating, last year was about tech and this year about music. Going well isn’t it. They are in MP3’s that you can listen to or transcripts that you can read.

Check them out.

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