Let music restore joy in our lives

November 01, 2001|By Edward Polochick

IT'S MORE THAN a month since the events that marked one of the darkest days in the history of our country, yet the awful, shocking, almost surreal visions of the Pentagon and World Trade Center attacks continue to haunt me. One normally would expect that the passage of time would help lessen the intensity of the impact of Sept. 11.

Perhaps it is too soon to make a judgment, but I believe the devastation and horror witnessed and, in certain cases, experienced by many of us will not lessen over time. Indeed, as more debris is removed and more heart-wrenching discoveries are made, the feelings of anger, sadness, depression and, for some people, helplessness and hopelessness worsen.

As a musician, I have always been fortunate to find many outlets in music. As the language of the soul, music speaks to each of us individually. The same music may evoke different emotions and responses in each of us. Music allows us to enter a unique and private room in our soul where we can find or experience that which would otherwise evade or delude us in our external lives.

It is in this inner sanctum where we may find the joy, the solace and sometimes the melancholy or the pain that we do not allow, or are unable to allow, ourselves to experience outside this realm. And often, in visiting this place, we are able to find answers to and ways of dealing with problems and troubles in the outside world.

I have a strong conviction that music is one of the most powerful tools we have for lessening the hurt of what has befallen us.

I realize that I am exceedingly blessed that, as a conductor, I am never without music in my life. I have so many opportunities to perform with Concert Artists of Baltimore, the Peabody Conservatory, Baltimore Symphony and Lincoln Symphony. I am also keenly aware of the great privilege of offering people the possibility of healing and comfort through the performance of music.

Although it was not programmed with Sept. 11 in mind, I feel fortunate to be performing Beethoven's Ninth Symphony on Dec. 2. The Ninth Symphony was written by a musical genius who held tyranny and oppression in contempt and who believed in his setting of Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller's text that all humankind should be united as one brotherhood, one universal soul.

Music, with or without text, exerts a powerful influence on our emotions, as has been evident over the past several weeks during tributes and memorials to the victims of Sept. 11. It has mattered not whether it is classical, pop or patriotic music; it has all served as a pathway toward healing and, hopefully, back toward some kind of normalcy.

One fear I do have is that during these times of turmoil, economic uncertainty and shifting priorities, there is the danger of cutbacks in funding for the arts. Obviously, we must not allow this to happen. At no time in recent memory have we needed the arts more.

In the fourth movement of Beethoven's Ninth, Schiller's "Ode to Joy" begins, "O friends, not these sounds! Let us strike up something more pleasant, full of gladness!" And it ends, "Let me embrace you, O millions! This kiss is for the whole world!" When these words are accompanied by Beethoven's monumental score, nothing could express our hope more powerfully. May music help us once again experience joy.

Edward Polochick is the artistic director of Concert Artists of Baltimore.

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