Daniel Barenboim and Edward Said upon receiving the “Principe de Asturias” Prize

It is true that there is something impossible to communicate, something beyond words, in music, and perhaps this is what makes young Israelis and Arabs unite to transform sound into a musical experience.

Oviedo, Spain. October 2002

Your Majesty
Your Highness,
Honourable Members of the Authorities,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would first like to express my deep feelings and most sincere gratitude for having the Prince of Asturias Award for Concord conferred not on a handful of men, but on an idea, on hundreds of young people in the Near East who have put their bravest efforts into making a music of harmony, of dialogue, a music which, in short, is a perfect expression of what Edward Said and myself are so proud of representing this evening. Sharing this award with him is a great honour for me, given the admiration I have had for him for many years.

Our project may not change the world, but it is a step forward, and these are the steps we are all obliged to take out of responsibility and within each of our possibilities. We have felt the heartbeats of many who have accompanied us over the years, and we feel enormous satisfaction that today the Prince of Asturias Foundation, the members of its patronage and the people of the Principality join our initiative and have contributed the spirit of this noble project, dedicated to humanity and humanism since 1980.

Edward Said and myself see our project as an ongoing dialogue. This award highlights a manifestation of concord in the guise of dialogue and harmony. In the West Eastern Divan the universal, metaphysical language of music links with the continuous dialogue that we have with young people, and that young people have with each other.

Averroes and Maimonides, in their philosophical complicity, proposed that there should be a balance between reason and metaphysics; they refused to be called masters and they listened and entered into dialogue with their disciples, just as we do with these young people, who think they are picking up some modest piece of knowledge or technique from us, but who are often providing us with great lessons.

Edward Said and myself maintain a continuous dialogue, imitating the characters in the platonic dialogue, the rhapsodist and the philosopher who debate about rational knowledge and inspiration. As in Plato’s work dialogue is an end – to reflect and draw conclusions – and also a way of understanding existence and friendship.

Spain is also a land of dialogue. The period of the Reconquest began in Asturias, which is a human adventure of coming together and of falling apart. After the deafening silence of this mythical and unknown “other”, a period of exchange occurred of which there are fine examples in literature, music and art.

The life of Edward Said and my own life represent the drama our peoples have lived through over the last century. Our friendship and our work also represent hope, because this is the land we have chosen to live in, like two nomads.

The West Eastern Divan has also travelled, and has found a home in Spain, in Andalucía, whose people and whose regional government we would also like to thank for their invaluable help.

Corcord is expressed in music as harmony. An orchestra requires musicians to listen to each other; none should attempt to play louder than the next, they must respect and know each other. It is a song in praise of respect, of the effort to understand one another, something that is crucial to resolve a conflict that has no military solution. The political solution may still be far off at the present time, which strengthens my belief that a person?s essential obligation is to reflect, to act within his own means. I believe an independent movement uniting both people could be born in this way, and it would help by contributing to vanquishing the hate that stands between them nowadays.

Music cannot be defined in words, because if we tried to do so, we would limit its scope. Music provides a universal, timeless language. It is sonorous air, as Ferruccio Busconi said, and its strength lies in the blending of a physical element-sound-and a human content, which has not changed in the course of history and its civilizations.

There is a reflection on Seneca made by the great Spanish philosopher María Zambrano, which we might recall today:

The real measure of being cannot be found in dogma, but rather in a particular man who perceives the harmony of the world in his own inner harmony. It is a question of hearing-we are told-a musical virtue of the wise man. It is a permanent stance which perceives, and it is like an ongoing chord. In short, it is an art. Morality has been explained in Aesthetics, and like any aesthetics, there is something impossible to communicate in it.

It is true that there is something impossible to communicate, something beyond words, in music, and perhaps this is what makes young Israelis and Arabs unite to transform sound into a musical experience.

Your Majesty,
Your Highness,
Honourable members of the Authorities,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

We live in a world of permanent contrasts, between harmony and dissonance, between injustice and rational behaviour, between the denial of the right to expression and dialogue, between the darkness of violence and the splendour of humanism. We find arguments to remind us that the history of man provides permanent example of the negative side of these equations every day.

Many centuries ago, in the Kingdom of Asturias, the Holy Man of Liébana, made on of the most splendid contributions to Western culture. He evoked a celestial Jerusalem in his work within the framework of a vision of the Apocalypse. However, a different paradise was being forged not so far from here, with the contributions of Muslims, Christians and Jews.

The fact that two friends, two brothers, have managed to launch our small project, the fact that you are here today paying tribute to this effort, leads us to ponder the more positive side of human nature, and brings us hope that perhaps between us all, between you and us, we might provide the Palestinian and Jewish peoples with something without which man cannot live: hope in a better life, which should unquestionably manifest itself in a Jerusalem on earth where men can coexist, keeping their identities, creating a bridge between west and east.

I hope this award opens up room for hope and for the peace that lies at the heart of hope.

Thank you