MIDWAY:The power of music

Many musicians don’t like to speak about music, and as music is beyond words this often

seems perfectly natural. Yet there are some who feel

the urge to analyse and explain. Daniel Barenboim is a musician who grafts intellectual curiosity onto a brightly burning talent which has brought him acclaim in every phase of his career. His friend Edward Said wrote that Barenboim never seems to practise, but “does what he does as a matter of course”.

In “Everything is Connected” he emphasises that thought and study must go hand in hand with intuition. He’s impatient with musicians “who fall prey to the superstitious belief that too thorough an analysis of a piece of music will destroy the intuitive quality and the freedom of their performance, mistaking knowledge for rigidity and forgetting that rational understanding is not only possible but absolutely necessary in order for the imagination to have free rein”.

Some of the chapters are insubstantial or repetitive, but even so they’re studded with unmissable insights, such as his remark that choosing the right tempo is the last decision a musician should take, not the first.

“The most talented musician in the world will not be able to analyse at first sight,” he writes. “The first intuitive reaction was the beginning of a process, which has now become primarily rational and my main concern is to understand the anatomy of the piece. I need to observe the relationships between all the different elements of the music. Having the structure in mind, though, is only part of the necessary path to a real understanding of the music. The next step is the result of knowing the material in the most detailed way, which allows me to unfold the piece as if the music is being composed as I play it.”

“Music could be a model for society,” he writes. “It teaches us the importance of the interconnection between transparency, power and force.” This is no small revelation in a part of the world where opposing factions refuse to recognise one another’s right to exist. To those who accuse him of being politically naive, Barenboim says, “I am not a political person... humanity has always concerned me. In that sense I feel able and, as an artist, qualified to analyse the situation”.