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THE West-Eastern Divan Orchestra
Music and Humanism
A Founding Vision
The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra
The origins of the West-Eastern Divan lie in conversations that took place between its founders, Edward Said and Daniel Barenboim, in Weimar, Germany, in 1999.
A symphony, a quartet, or an opera is not going to turn the world upside down, but music can change each and every one of us. Music is a physical expression of the human soul. Music is more powerful than words. And even the saddest of compositions has a spark of hope within it. Because of that, music ties humanity together.
In 1999, Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said founded the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in the form of a workshop for young Israeli, Palestinian and other Arab musicians. They met in that year's European Cultural Capital, Weimar, Germany – a place where the humanistic ideals of the Enlightenment are fraught with shadows of the Holocaust. There – they realized their dream of a better future; of humanizing others; and of replacing ignorance with education, knowledge and understanding.
During the workshop, individuals who had only ever interacted with each other through the prism of war found themselves living and working together as colleagues. As they listened to each other during rehearsals and discussions, they traversed deep political and ideological divides.
What began as an experiment immediately resulted in the desire for it to be repeated. Three years after its establishment, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra was provided a home in Seville by the regional Spanish government of Andalusia. It quickly grew from a youth orchestra into an outstanding musical ensemble. Over the years, it has compiled a rich repertoire and has performed in the world’s most renowned concert halls.
In 2010 Daniel Barenboim’s vision of an academy that would continue the humanistic spirit of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra as an innovative institution of higher education began to take shape.
In 1999, Edward Said and I formed the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, composed of musicians from Israel, Palestine, and other Arab countries – a region where the open ear has too often been replaced by the unsheathed sword, to the detriment of all. Now, 14 years later, we have hopefully achieved an orchestra that is worthy of your attention. And one which shows that people who listen to each other, both musically and in all other ways, can achieve greater things.
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The West-Eastern Divan on tour
Mariam Said, Daniel Barenboim and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, Berlin 2011