Music and Peace


Marking the International Day of Peace, September 21, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon named Daniel Barenboim as a Messenger of Peace to help raise global awareness of the world body’s work and ideals.

Others named as Messengers of Peace were the Brazilian author Paulo Coelho, the Japanese-American violinist Midori Goto and Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein of Jordan, First Lady of Dubai, who is the first Arab woman to compete in equestrian events at the continental, world and Olympic levels. They join existing Messengers of Peace primatologist Jane Goodall, actor Michael Douglas, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Eli Wiesel, and cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

On his appointment, Barenboim said, “Music teaches us to express ourselves to the fullest whilst simultaneously listening to the other.”

Daniel Barenboim has long used music to create peace. He was born in Argentina and raised in Israel and lived in Europe and America. In 1999, he and Palestinian-born writer and Columbia University professor Edward Said founded the West-Eastern Divan Workshop in the German city of Weimar. It involved talented young musicians between the ages of 14 and 25 from Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Tunisia and Israel. The idea was that they would come together to make music on neutral ground with the guidance of some of the world’s best musicians. Mr. Barenboim chose two concertmasters for the orchestra, an Israeli and a Lebanese. There were some tense moments among the young players at first, but the young musicians worked and played in increasing harmony. It has since found a permanent home in Seville, Spain, where it has been based since 2002.

Edward Said passed away in 2003 but his partnership with Daniel Barenboim lives on through the West-Eastern Divan Workshop and Orchestra and through the Barenboim-Said Foundation, which promotes music and cooperation through projects targeted at young Arabs and Israelis.