: Yehudi Menuhin

Some ephemeral thoughts on tolerance and peace


Some ephemeral thoughts on tolerance and peace


A civilized world should keep a balance between freedom and constraint, should direct raw energies, would establish norms of conduct in help, mutual service, courtesy, quality of thought and action. And above all it would preserve the notion of variety. It is unthinkable that any western society could survive on the application of one creed, one religion, one theory, one social pattern, one ideal alone. Nevertheless money, for example, imposed itself in our “free” democratic and capitalistic societies, constituting almost the exclusive and indispensable ideal, itself menacing the notion of variety which is the cement of a durable society. One forgets too easily that money does not even represent anything but is only the means of exchange of things.

So what has become of our beautiful free society? A substantial proportion of our populations is sick, unfulfilled, frustrated and motivated solely by their immediate requirements. Is universal suffrage not already basically flawed as an instrument of fairness and overall good judgment if it is more inclined to be a register of gripes and prejudice?

However, the pursuit of growth in economic profit has eclipsed concern for neighbours, for ecological balance, and for the less materially rewarded or the less successful. This obsession which demands that everything should yield a monetary return ignores the value of education because that neither buys or sells anything. Nevertheless without education one cannot achieve any richness

In parallel with this growing power of money, the exercise of authority, whether administrative, bureaucratic, educational or military, is often not conducted with the light, discreet, humble touch it deserves. Not only the abuse of privilege but also the abuse of intolerant prejudice remains largely uncorrected. We are not determined enough to reform our tolerances. We find ourselves tolerating much which is, in fact, intolerable and, perversely, vent our justified and impotent intolerance on the weaker members of society, including ourselves. We are often led to do this by leaders, adept at deflecting the dangerous energies of intolerance onto others than themselves.

People should be made aware of these social dangers, trained to spot and distinguish propaganda and falsehood from truth. The leader worthy of his name does not promise solutions, the less so at the expense of anyone; he does not point a finger at an enemy or a “guilty” people to be annihilated. The demagogue is historically seductive—particularly to the mob…

Let us study the intolerable and the limits of tolerance before we allow ourselves to moralise, to criticize and to accuse. The intolerant have a big role to play in the world; they always have had. Let it be constructive, not self-deluding; let it be strong and determined but not murderous.

I salute the divinely rebellious. But even the divinely rebellious must be tempered by caution and wisdom, by philosophy and often illustrated by symbol and parable only. Often it may even have to hide and work in the shadows whilst dictators are celebrated by marching men who restore their balance by drunken revelry and thus remain tolerable for their Masters.

For man is essentially a dreamer, possessed of memory and imagination, above all a creator and, by the same token, a destroyer, best and most efficient as creating human beings and destroying them. His two polar or polarizing ecstasies. In this way he can imagine himself divine, exercising the usurped power which is the right to create and annihilate. He is conceived very much in the image of those many Gods he himself created and patterned himself upon.

Fortunately, man has a few inescapable compulsions between these extreme states of being. These are: survival, food, shelter, family and friends. Of these obligations are born trust, friendship, well-being, security, the arts, leisure and his dreams.

Societies have become ever larger—until now, perforce, they must include the enemy or the incompatible. In these “advanced” societies we are no longer at the source of our necessities. We are ever more distanced from the food grown, the shelter provided, which the dwellers no longer make with their own hands. Instead we have to find that abstract stand-in—money—to buy these necessities. Hence jobs, an image of self-respect with the earning of money but also the evils of imagining that everything can be bought and sold, even love and friendship.

Thus, we live in a somewhat passive condition, apparently unable to correct our own wrongs.

Man is a transient phenomenon possessed of infinity and eternity, an ephemeral apparition, harnessed to the forever and the endless, forever trying to transform a moment into eternity, a feeling into infinity, and an end into the endless. It is no wonder he is forever frustrated unless he can also sublimate his yearning into deeds, accomplishments, crafts, arts, dedication, and the search for a completeness and perfection through philosophy, art, music, poetry, drama and dance. Such are, perhaps, the ways by which each man may tame the folly concealed within himself.

Creativity as an undeniable aspect of life


Creativity as an undeniable aspect of life – 20th May 1993 – San Sebastian, Spain


Creativity is a word that I do not particularly like to use but it stands for a great deal, amongst them originality, inspiration, inventiveness – in other words, something spontaneous, deep and real. We live in a world that takes everything apart; far too much really because you cannot take apart and create at the same time. The Chinese have a saying: “You cannot fill a jug and drink it at the same time”.


Let me try to define Creativity in the way I see it:

– a state of grace, a state of being in which everything converges, in which in time and space are focused into one point;

– a balanced condition which partakes as much of our heritage from the remotest past, from the experience and the impressions of our present life, as it does from a projection of the future;

– a state of heightened awareness, of awareness in suspense and of ultimate revelation, sometimes rapid and sometimes eluding a lifetime of search.


Therefore, creativity is a human situation in life in which the subjective and the universal meet. The very definition of life lies in its flexibility, its adaptation and its ability to meet new circumstances. The overpowering demand on the part of life for the creative capacity and creative achievement not only in recognisable works of art but also in the moment-to-moment, improvised response to the demands we face are also a call to discard the ready-made crutches and to strive for perfect balance which requires inner harmony. Think of the tightrope walker who believes in his own abilities and courageously puts one foot in front of the other. Or consider natural sciences: the greatest discoveries were, in most cases, the result of someone trying to look at matters with new eyes and to marvel at them despite the fact that until now he had accepted them as obvious and as part of daily life, be it a leaf which drops to the ground, a branch swimming on the surface of a lake, be it a day and night, matter and energy.


Let us consider our everyday life. We constantly have to justify ourselves by way of craft, the arts and even simple acts of existence wherein we renew the creative state of grace time and time again.


There is no area within our sensory perception that has not been blessed with this creative state of grace: There are the senses with which we perceive music, architecture, literature, nature and food. Whether it is the beauty of a voice, of a building or of the spoken work or poem, whether it is the dewdrop on a rose petal or the scent of a freshly picked apple: we will always react to that creative state of grace which reveals meaningfulness in terms of living truth. Real truth cannot be either a total invention of our own nor can it be an assertion in which our existence does not figure. Therefore this state of grace is one of motion towards light and enlightenment which, like the growing tree or plant, is neither entirely of our own choosing nor entirely dictated by other forces and is the interplay of myriad factors.


I maintain that this creative state of grace is a perfectly normal state of existence, the birthright of every living creature, and is self-evident in the expression of one’s beloved as it is in the grateful and trusting face of a child. However, pain, anxiety, mistrust and fear, in the same way or in a different way as greed or envy, cause our world to contract. In the absence of this state of grace, of the one and only bounty which is our own privilege, our right to receive from within our own heart, mind and body, our own privilege to give ourselves as it is to give and to receive from other, in its absence, when it falters, lies buried or is sold for material gain, the here and the now eclipse the past and/or the future. Fear and greed, the counterparts of pain and envy, twisted versions of awe and fulfilment, narrow our vision. Fear among slaves, greed among free men, reduce the universe to the I, to me to my salvation at the expense of all which subjugates or limits me, and finally I can think of only my pain or of only me and what is mine.


The reason why the majority of the living have only the most fleeting acquaintance with this state of grace, the reason why they affirm it is the prerogative of the very few exceptional individuals, the reason why, in the common mind, everything unattainable is lumped together (satisfaction, pleasure, happiness, laziness, security, money, power, lack of responsibility and obligation, abandon, spontaneity, recklessness) is only because they have not known either the give and take of love and compassion or the discipline and joy of creative achievement. Let us remember that freedom to speak, to do, to achieve, is a creative state of grace and that the greatest and most precious freedoms are the freedoms to help and to love, the freedoms to protect and to serve.


At its best, freedom is a communal enterprise. It can only be maintained by the simultaneous and synonymous acceptance of responsibility to others. Freedom depends for its survival not on its exploitation to selfish ends, but on the voluntary association of people for benevolent purposes; thousands of amenity societies, the struggles for liberation all over the world and their support everywhere, and the thousands of individual societies in the democratic countries of the world. There are the touchstones of our freedoms. Conversely, the emergence of a truly unique, courageous, universal ma, like Solzhenitsyn or Sakharov in a slave society is the greatest glory humanity can claim. His is the conscious voice of millions of innocents who perished, tortured and martyred, and who never knew the state of grace which is the theme of my talk. But his is also the conscious voice of all humanity who, aware of the unity and inter-dependence of all life as never before, are yearning to hear the new universal code, to know at first hand and with the immediacy of their total awareness this state of grace I am speaking of.


We are surrounded by man-made environment which is often a travesty of creativity. Generally our solutions for social, economic grievances reflect a dearth of inspired thinking, of imagination, of an absence in the population at large of the concept of service to society. Unfortunately, in the application of science, in its technological superstructure, in its industrial output, as it affects our individual and social existence, creativity is largely absent. We cannot recognise the craftsman or the architect or a particular style of our own, rooted in place and time, in the objects we handle or in the buildings we work in or inhabit. Mostly flat, righ-angled, uniform and anonymous all over the world, these are dicated by considerations and abstractions, which reduce the user or the buyer to arbitrary common denominators which completely omit his mental, spiritual, moral and physical reactions, as if he did not react, or strive, or feel. Wars, wilfull destruction and excessive noise provide the world with its contours, however, they have no part in creativity!


In the private pursuits of sculpture, music, tapestry, glass, painting or jewellery, much beautiful work is being done, but so long as it is absent in communal expression, so long do these individual arts and crafts appear merely as escapes.


But, to be facetious, creative thought is not likely to emerge in a pill-swallowing, sweets-addicted, prejudice-inclined, violence-fascinated, money-bewitched, reckless, indulgent, and pleasure-bent civilization, comprising otherwise an admirable, tolerant, mature, fair-mined, responsible population.


Those who are victims of prejudice and inflexible ideas whose lives in the main concern themselves with the burden of material survival, cannot escape their fate. They are condemned to starvation of their soul. And so it follows that destructive elements rise so that they may experience some kind of success, however, negative. And this success takes the place of the positive and truly creative forces.


We are under an obligation towards the young people. Each and every one of us should strive to support and encourage the state of grace, that of creativity, in those younger than ourselves. We all have, one time or another, watched a small child in its efforts to create something new, something different out of the different kinds of toys it had been given. If the newly built tower collapses, there are tears. It is part of human nature to strive towards accomplishment and to delight in success. Only his own impatience and his clumsiness spoil it for him. He gets angry, even furious, destruction is the next step. Not only has the moment arrived when we must interfere; the moment when we could have prevented the destruction has already passed. The responsibility is born mainly by those to whom we entrust our children. To begin with it si the parents and the siblings or some relatives, thereafter it is the teachers.


Theirs is the greatest responsibility by far for they are dealing with a number of children who come from varying backgrounds, and they are expected to pass on knowledge, without being in possession of closer knowledge about the children’s varying circumstances and their individual talents, yet having to build up those human beings entrusted to them, in a fair manner. There can be no doubt that a certain amount of discipline is necessary in order to melt the “two souls which dwell in every breast” into one. Psychological insight, diplomacy and joy in their work are prerequisites. A teacher should not merely rely on his authority or the unquestioning obedience of his pupils but should offer vivacity and flexibility in order to pit his own creativity against that of his scholars. Another vitally important component is a sense of humour. In the life of humans this is a source of strength, which enables us to exist even in circumstances, which could seriously threaten us. Humour grows in each and every one: consider the smile which comes so easy to all of us. Its tender bud can be brought to fruition through education. This would indeed be a service to mankind for humour has the ability to distance us from our own ego, to fight off ills and pains, to counter misfortune with a joke and to give even the unbearable its proper place within the mysterious interconnections of life.


Looking at the present state of education and learning it seems that we do justice to neither the receptiveness nor the unquenchable thirst for knowledge of the children. We should begin much sooner to introduce them to demanding projects in the intellectual and in the artistic sphere as well as in handicraft skills. I am thinking in particular of arithmetic, sciences, music, medicine and astronomy. Medicine leads to a genuine feeling, the ability to lessen pain and to heal wounds. This is something for which no one is ever too young. Astronomy means gazing at the stars in an intelligent manner. These are the true values of life and it is precisely these that matter in the education of human beings.


We belong to an age of growing awareness, increasing knowledge and the important realisation that amid the structure of preconceived ideas, inflexible theories and viewpoints, a great number of deviations will have to be considered in all their significance and subtlety. We have inherited many inflexibilities from the past, now we begin to see the connections. It has become vital to distance ourselves from all the preconceived ideas and to replace them with a living flexibility and a deeper understanding of all life form with its continuously changing fabric in its build and its circumstances. We are busying ourselves adding micro concepts to macro, atomic particles to the nebular hypothesis and energy to matter.


All this becom a firm part of our cultural structure which is lacking in balance between the material and the spiritual, as the wise Albert Schweitzer well recognised. Culture is defined as being the “sum total of living expression”. Culture contains all that which is manmade, which serves a purpose in life, for instance tools. Culture expresses a form of spirituality, as, for instance, symbols do. Since the human being made his very first tool thanks to his own creativity, since man submitted himself to the very first rules of behaviour, we live within a culture. By cultural achievements outliving the moment, the continuation and growth of that which was once discovered is ensured. We are fortunate to be in possession of the first tangible signs of human creativity whilst reading to this day about the former “primitive culture”. We ourselves live within the so-called “advanced civilisation” which is in fact proving to be a doubtful achievement.


‘Culture’ is a many-faceted term, depending on whether it denotes an individual, a group or the whole of society. The English writer, T.S. Eliot, made an intensive study of this subject and came to the conclusion that the culture of an individual depends on the culture of a group and that in turn the culture of a group depends on the culture of the whole of society. The latter aspect is the most important one, and this is the point from which eventually the individual can be reached. One progress from the outside to the inside and not the other way around. In other words, we are first of all looking at Europe and then at the individual countries before concentrating on the individual human being. When we think, for instance, of the most widespread means of communication – the language – we discover that there exists enormous interdependence, that our words frequently have the same origin but differ essentially in their rhythm, in the music of the word. However, the European culture must not turn away from non-European cultures, thus isolating itself. There are no cultural borders and none can, therefore, be closed. History alone creates differences in a natural way, because those countries of a continent which share their history obviously have closer links with each other.

We have, however, turned our backs on the creative powers within culture, and we have shifted our priorities to our own detriment.

As a result the emphasis of our culture is clearly placed on the material rather than on the spiritual. This is an unhealthy shift of our creativity because the equilibrium has been disturbed. Each new discovery resulting from our use of the forces of nature means change and, in some cases, radical changes in the living conditions of the individual, of groups within society and of states. Our knowledge and ability have risen to heights previously only dreamt of. Admittedly, living conditions have been improved in some respects, but on the other hand, our enthusiasm for our achievements has seriously impaired our conception: we put too much emphasis on material success and neglect the spiritual, which is the real breeding-ground for our creativity. We are in the same situation as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, who recognises the danger too late and ‘cannot rid himself of the spirits”. We are heading towards catastrophe with open eyes. We are driven to it – ironically by ourselves  – and the result is that we are constrained. We turn into slaves again, and freedom, our most precious possession, which we have tried to obtain again and again, is in danger of becoming a thing of the past. How can man be so foolish? Why does he not learn from his own history? I do not know when he will do so, but I am in no doubt that he will. I do not dare prophecy if this process of learning will have a positive effect on him, but if we recognise our error, it is not too late to turn back. We must become creative again in the truest sense of the word. We carry this possibility within us and must simply have the courage and the earnest desire to turn back. Turning back is, in effect, a turning-away from many things; it will be difficult.

Not so long ago a journalist asked me if the suppression of creative abilities, i.e. if human beings are deprived of the possibility to give expression to their abilities and talents, releases brutality. As I have shown in an earlier example, the creative powers in man can easily become destructive powers if they cannot find means of expression? The quickest way to change is destruction. Take, for instance, the mammoth trees, which are a thousand or more years old, such as the enormous sequoia in California. They can be destroyed within minutes. Alternatively, think of a development within a culture, which has taken hundreds of years to evolve, to grow and caused great works to be created. A few minutes are sufficient for the broom of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice to raze it to the ground. This has reached terrible proportions. Destruction is achieved ever more quickly whilst it takes as long as ever to create great works. No digital clock in the world can accelerate the process of creation. “Time passes, but wisdom remains”, to quote Herman Hesse. It classifies the human being with the cosmic rhythm.

Will man, with all his vast theoretical knowledge, be able to set the course correctly towards the future? Will he thus ensure the survival of future generations?

The majority of people expect their wishes to be fulfilled at an ever-increasing speed. Thus, we are in danger of continually opting for the simplest solutions, even if, taking the long-term view, the price to be paid is far too high. I merely need to mention the word ‘environment’, which humanity is destroying with a vengeance. Another danger lies in the fact that the people of rich countries are becoming increasingly passive.


There is so little that requires intense study: answers to almost every problem can be read up in an ever-increasing number of reference books. This can only have disadvantageous effect on the maturing stages of the human being, but this process has, after all, been worked out by human beings who can cope with the great challenges of our time. We must, in the truest sense of the word, become creative again.


Let us keep the following words of wisdom ever present in our mind:

Do not follow where the path may lead.

Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

Yehudi Menuhin’s speech at the European Roma Youth Congress


European Roma Youth Congress – Barcelona, 19 October 1998

My first encounter with the Romani or Gypsy soul was in Romania when I was 11 years old. And I heard the first violin, the first violinist in a small tavern in the village that was the summer capital of the royal family. And the truth is that I found myself transported to another world. I had never heard any other music that described the sky, the earth, the birds, the feelings, nature so directly, because up until that moment I had only had a classical musical formation, so I was a prepared musician. But, at that moment I realized the importance of improvisation of direct expression, without having previously learned a text.

Romani people are people who live traditionally according to the heart, with the impulse, with the intuitive knowledge, their knowledge of the life of human beings are direct, they don’t start from a previous text. They have spontaneity, they improvise and they have a lot to teach us. They will present values that are totally different from the recognized, accepted values of our time.

They are not materialists; they are not armed. In fact, they have been God’s sacrificed sheep. They didn’t have any territorial imperative, they didn’t want, they didn’t want to dominate the earth or the people. They are among the last of the oppressed peoples, who are innocent. Innocent in the sense that they are not prone to resort to arms, nor do they seek to oppress their neighbors. They are people who know freedom in its purest state. The freedom not to impose the will, but the freedom that allows everyone to breathe and nature to breathe.

It seems to me that they have a great mission in the world. And that mission is to enable those of us who live too much according to the dictates of the clock, the dictates of credit that we are subjected to the slavery of the credit card, the schedule. They share with us a little bit of their way of thinking, their way of improvising, we need them.

I speak to you not only as representatives of your people, but as part of today’s world youth. They are not isolated, even if they are different, but they cannot hope to achieve their dreams or improve the current sad reality of the sights of most of their people, focusing solely on their own improvement. It has to be an improvement in which you help others, not just the Roma, because unless you can help the whole of humanity, you are never going to help yourself.

As I say, you have a lot to contribute. For example, your identification with nature should make you belong to one of the most effective peoples in the world in defending nature; the sky, which is part of your flag; the earth and the freedom to move, which is the wheel, your wheel. That flag represents much that you could contribute to the rest of the world.

You also know the value of music, because one of the traditions that I have heard about and that excites me the most, is that of your parents who sang positioned on the stomach of their wives, before the arrival to the world of a baby, not yet born. I think it’s a wonderful habit. It is something that is worth teaching many parents, that not only do they never sing for their unborn child, but they also leave the woman to take care of the upbringing of their child alone. We have many such families and you have a very strong family tradition.

I say this, to give you an idea of what you can bring to the world, because you are not going to achieve what you need on your own. Of course, you have to get to know our world as it is, in terms of the great disciplines we have in the sciences, in the arts, in architecture, in medicine, etc.

I have the feeling that you’re like innocent children. Children who are innocent and who have had an extraordinarily cruel experience and, at the same time, notions of body and dance and exuberance has been a very strong and very rich concept. And these still innocent children I hope that you retain, that you maintain your innocence and that you become adults who are the same or, in some cases – of that I am sure – some extraordinarily creative genes, because you carry, in yourself, the creative germ. But it is now limited to creation in its pure state among its own people and sometimes for our delight, when we can join you in your music and your dance.

But that creative element is going to find its expression in a global worldwide form, when you become our greatest musicians, our greatest scientists, our greatest artists, humanists and the leaders of a kind of morality that we still lack / Morality based not on violence, because you are not a violent people. You are full of temperament, but you are not violent, you are not violent in a destructive way, so that when you can gradually give us, teach us, learn and retain those qualities you still have, that will be the Golden Age of the Romani people.

In knowledge. The own knowledge has to go together with the general knowledge and in this way,  they are going to shorten us the maximum of what they are capable. I see the gypsies as the measure of civilization. When they are persecuted, when they are tormented, it indicates that they live in an uncivilized society. When your people can move freely from Istanbul to Dublin, it will indicate that Europe is a civilized society. You are the measure, the barometer of civilization that surrounds you.

That is one of the ways of measuring whether we are really civilized or not. What we need in this violent age is precisely the example of a people that achieves the highest levels in a non-violent way, because the greatest difficulty, the greatest curse of our time is violence.

I randomly opened the pages of Le Figaro three days ago and there were big articles, very extensive articles about school violence. In schools, human violence, in cities, fascist dictators. And this mission of yours, this mission of yours to bring balance and intelligence to the world is one of the missions you still have to achieve. You have to maintain, you have to keep your qualities but, at the same time, you have to learn to agglutinate, to agglutinate yourself so as to become a power. Not an armed power, but a power for good.

I would like to see both the identification and the representation of the gypsy culture, the Romani culture or the Roma cultures in Europe. I would like to. I can imagine that the Roma have a passport that is valid for all of Europe, perhaps with a preferred residential place, depending on the region for which they feel the greatest degree of belonging, be it Hungarian, the Czech Republic, Spain, in the same way that we have European passports valid for all countries, I see no reason why there should not be a passport for a Romani people, which is a passport for all European countries with a specific place of residence, as I say.

But it does not seem to me that the problem, that the European countries have infringed on themselves, that it is now the problem of the many races that are tuning up in Eastern Europe, in Western Europe of Eastern Europe, the problem of the Romani people will not be solved until they are solved in the other problems. The refugees, the immigrants, the homeless and the many who were brought in as cheap labor. We always pay a price for this.

There was a very high price for exploitation. A very high price for not defending the principles of morality, the principles that would protect the Romani and other persecuted peoples from exploitation, torture, imprisonment. We did not do that. And the current condition of the European Union has not yet evolved democratically to represent the cultures of Europe, nor to courageously defend the cultures of Europe against exploitation.

I’d like to go into this in depth. It seems to me that the next stage in the evolution of Democracy beyond the stage of voting Political Parties, is the representation of groups, the representation of cultural groups. That is not yet the situation. It is not only the representation of cultural groups, but to facilitate that all the cultures of Europe can communicate directly among themselves. That is to say, not only the Roma of Romania with their electronic offices, would be in permanent contact with the Roma of France, Spain, England, not only that, but they would be in contact with other cultures such as the Scots, the Basques, the Catalans and the small cultures of Europe that in the present moment continue without representing themselves at any level.

There are several hundred European cultures that lack any kind of representation. And when I think that millions of Roma, I don’t know exactly, but nobody knows exactly but there are many. Let’s say 10 or 12 million. We are going to say these 12 million, when I think that these millions of people do not even have representation in Brussels, but the millions of Roma have no representation in Brussels and I would like to remedy that. And, in fact, we are working on what we call or what we have called an assembly of cultures.

This starts with the selection of a spokesperson. A spokesperson who represents your group in a given mission for a given purpose. Let’s say that some of you from Romania would like to talk about the conditions under which you live; or about the lands that surround us, or whatever, about atmospheric pollution, about the factories that you do not own or control. You have to have that representation. You can’t afford to have an Embassy, and besides, an Embassy is like a very formal, rigid and expensive matter. What you need as all cultures are specific people who are chosen and appointed to represent you, for a specific purpose, let’s say in Brussels.

My foundation would act, let’s say as a sieve, as a filter through which this would pass. We will receive the people you choose and decide who would be the most suitable people. There would be several conditions. You should enjoy the total and complete trust of your group. You should know the subject to be debated. You should be able to speak with enemies, with graciousness and courtesy, in a civilized manner. And, of course, they must not be terrorists.


We need the European Union to declare itself the protector of European cultures, because cultures have to be protected, and we have to contribute to their protection. But these cultures then have to become autonomous. Now we are witnessing an outstanding example of that intelligent opinion in Cataluna. A people with a great tradition, that has chosen to be an independent and autonomous culture, instead of being an independent and sovereign State. An independent and sovereign state only means a repetition of wars, nothing more, because it protects borders, it protects limits.

Unlike the Romani symbol of the wheel, it is entrenched behind walls, behind walls, while you represent freedom. Therefore, we don’t want more countries in Europe, we don’t want more sovereign states. We want autonomous cultures that come from the heart and mix and unite and speak to each other without walls. And this is what will create a European conscience and a voice in Brussels that will represent the cultures of Europe, that will balance the Political Parties and the Sovereign States.


There were acts of generosity to the people who suffered in the former Yugoslavia, but there was no political intervention, there were no decisive steps to put an end to the horrors. At the beginning of its history nothing happens suddenly, but we live in a world where we measure everything and know the time of everything and know the time of everything. We are always caught off guard by catastrophes, because as long as we know that there is going to be a tomorrow, we do not care whether there is a holocaust or a war. And this is wrong.


The European Union must provide the foresight to see, it must have the foresight to see where it is going to see a danger or where it is going to see a disaster. The gypsies can feel it. Any Romani knows whether there will be hostilities within a week, or two weeks, or 24 hours. But people go to school, they get their salary and they don’t know it. All they want is their beer and, perhaps, a horrible television problem.

That is why we need you to teach your duties and responsibilities to the European Community. What will your custody consist of? And to protect you, as you should have protected human beings in the former Yugoslavia, be it Serbian or Muslim or whatever. There is a basic human obligation that has nothing to do with religion, or race, or anything like that.

I hope therefore that I have convinced them of their own importance, of the importance of their own mission. I hope that I have weighed on you what you can contribute and what we can contribute to each other. And I hope you will take me seriously and meet me at four o’clock at the foot of the steps. That three or four young people come and I hope to meet them, the choice will be mine, you have to trust me and I hope to invite him or her to the next Summit. Thank you very much.

Open letter to the European Council


Open Letter to the European Council – London, 17 February 1999

 The Agenda 2000, which defines the political and financial framework for the enlarged Europe, is the fundamental issue facing the governments of the EU Member States.

They will discuss it at the highest level, informally on the 24th and 25th of February, then on 24th and 25th of March in Berlin and finally in June at the European Council Meeting that will conclude the German Presidency.

As a convinced Europeanist myself, I have read carefully what has appeared in the press on the subjects under debate at this crucial time when the future of Europe is being defined. Having found nothing on the cultural dimension, I asked to see the European Commission’s original proposal on Agenda 2000. Nothing. Surprised, I asked for the European Parliament’s report – currently being debated – on the same text. Still nothing. I asked if at least the new Structural Funds regulations included a cultural component. “No”, they answered me.

The role of European cultures in the quality of European society, the contribution of creators, artists and craftsmen to the happiness of all our citizens have not, so far, been the focus of attention of European political decision-makers.

And yet, it is only the practice of the arts, of our senses (such as “hearing”) and the diversity of European cultures that is capable of creating true respect for others and the desire for peace that allows us to achieve our own achievements as well as the collective achievements of all those who share our responsibility towards this suffering land.

Only with a creative formation that does not remove any gift from the child but on the contrary civilizes him, can we together create a society that dominates and absorbs its violence.

It is what can structure the personalities of young citizens in the sense of open-mindedness, respect for others, the desire for peace.

Culture allows everyone to recharge their batteries in the past and participate in the creation of the future. It is the only thing that, by uniting diversity, will offer us a true European consciousness. For it is the emergence of the cultural diversity that gives Europe its full splendour and has appealed the rest of the world for centuries.

By ignoring culture so blatantly, you are building an ivory tower based on nothing.

I was fortunate to be born into a family that taught me three things: that everyone has something unique to contribute to the progress of the planet, that respect and the desire to understand are the very foundation of our relationship with others, that art is a precious medium to capture the future that cannot be reserved for a few.

At a time when the EU political leaders are about to define the playing rules for entering the third millennium, it is essential to enshrine the role of culture in the framework text and in the Agenda 2000 and the final declaration of the European Council in June.

This is a duty that we owe to future generations.

Music knows no borders


Music knows no borders – Yehudi Menuhin 



How can people live in peace and harmony without speaking the same language? We asked this question to Yehudi Menuhin who, with his violin, established a real dialogue between people during his travels around the world. He tells us the secrets of the universal message of music. Interview by Elena Adam.


Born in New York in 1916, his sensitivity comes from a triple heredity, where music, travel and a love of freedom are inscribed. From childhood, Yehudi Menuhin loved to sleep under the stars, “as close as possible to the sky”. For his eightieth birthday, he brought together violinists from all over the world to play music from all over the world.


Music is accessed from the very beginning of life, through this primary relationship where the heart remains linked to emotions, sounds and speech. It begins with the parent-child relationship. Music is the first sound that communicates something. The first link that makes emotions appear. Emotions experienced during childhood, perhaps even before. The foetus perceives her parents’ voice long before it sees the light. It is said that gypsies sing for their children before they are born. That way, right against his mother’s belly. Gently, they play the violin and sing to him. Better than speech, music… All parents should do this.

As soon as the child hears, he participates in the outside world through the sounds that come to him. It is the birth of sound that anchors a new being to the universe around him. This is how his emotional universe is built. The one who will make him a human being capable of recognizing the other. We grow up with the strange, the different from ourselves. We don’t live alone, we need each other. To listen to his voice, his words, his music. To communicate with him. Recognizing the emotion, the pain of someone other than oneself is a fundamental step in the development of the being.

Our cities are composite. Populations are on the move, in fusion. Who invented the absurd notion of race? What is beautiful is the other, with its difference. Knowing the foreigner is an enrichment; the opposite, an impoverishment. Learning differences is what binds people together. And when this love of the other of the beginning of life has been put in place, when we have learned to hear the music of the other, we keep forever the ability to go towards the one who is different from us. It is the communication of this emotional word between people that is missing today. With my foundation, we go down to the most disadvantaged schools, those where violence is the only language. I fight to ensure that music is taught there and that each minority can have its own voice heard. Do not seek to dominate by force, but encourage listening and dialogue. All the dialogues. And music makes all this possible.

We do not listen to it only for its aesthetic value or because it does good. The other’s music helps us to communicate with him. It opens the heart to emotions. It establishes dialogue. Understanding. And even then, music is not enough. You have to dance. The participation of the body, the gesture. Children need to move, touch, touch each other. We have seen extraordinary results. Tensions drop, aggressiveness fades. The day when children from different minorities learn to sing and dance together, the face of the world will change. These are seeds that are sown and carried by the wind.

No one can believe that he is the centre of the world. We are linked to others. As a cell that communicates with others and whose whole constitutes a living tissue. Who is the man who does not feel the pain of others? An immature, unfinished being. A tyrant, unable to feel the pain he inflicts.

Some ethnic groups have remained in communication with the world of animals and nature. A little like St. Francis of Assisi who spoke to birds. Or Béla Bartòk who, at the end of her life, was walking in the North American forests of Connecticut and Vermont. His sensitivity, his openness to the world were such that he had reached a state that made him capable, it is said, of communicating with the animals whose path he crossed. To capture their thoughts.

North American Indians believe that the souls of their ancestors reside in the trees. When I see some trees, I think they are right. Life cannot disappear like this. It remains there, floating, then reappears in another form. The idea that a different life form has found it on Mars fills me with joy. Bacteria, living in the heart of the stone. A stone that would contain life? It proves that life is everywhere. In us, in the world and in everything. For me, the idea of God is that. It is the meaning of life. And music is offered to us with life.


Yehudi Menuhin’s alarm call


Yehudi Menuhin’s alarm call – Our civilization is heading towards collective suicide 

Interview by François Delétraz in Le Figaro Magazine – Staurday, November 14, 1998 

This weekend, the famous violinist is conducting a concert at the Cirque de Bruxelles. Interview with a wise man who saw the century pass.


Le Figaro Magazine – You are very critical of the modern world

Yehudi Menuhin – Our civilization suffers from a lack of vision and disaster anticipation. Everyone tries to enjoy the moment. Without hindsight, without objectivity. Everywhere there is a lack of mediation and creativity. Especially in schools. The arts are absent from our lives. And we surrender to violence.


Is it the product of capitalism?

Not only that. In the Soviet Union, it was a state capitalism. When Moses had already come down from the mountain, he had found his people worshipping the golden calf. Perhaps it is the need to survive that pushes us to be only in the moment. However, the human animal has another dimension. He is aware that he is conscious, he asks himself questions that he cannot answer. It is to this dimension that religions and philosophies are attached. It is this questioning that creates unity and belonging to the universe. But we are so concerned today about events in constant turmoil, about this radical change that I have seen accelerate in my life, that we are no longer worthy of our knowledge, of our duty to respect life… These problems are much more crucial today than ever before. We must integrate them into our thoughts and attitudes if we are to escape a kind of collective suicide. Before, nature was more powerful than man. Even though we were engaged in wars and destruction, the forests came back, we could swim in the sea, the whales survived. But the means of pollution and destruction have become so enormous that even nature is now our enemy.


Why are we moving so quickly towards this collective suicide?

We are all united. The fate of all humanity depends neither on Jesus nor on the Buddha nor on Moses. And if we do not correct these Pavlovian reflexes, we will be powerless to face this time when humanity is still struggling to exploit, to defeat, to exercise tyranny. To collect as much as possible, without worrying about what will follow. And to live at the expense of those who have no recourse or resources. Our teaching in this regard is also not up to the task.


Why is technology becoming increasingly important?

Because it allows us to flourish, to relieve ourselves, to be inspired, to have fun.


And to restrain us?

Yes, good technology, for example, is a technology that makes it possible to travel better without polluting. But the will to improve is insufficient, because there are always people who want to keep what they have. To think that the United States is opposed to some decisions against pollution! That they hesitated to sign this agreement on the resources of the sea! We pretend that not everyone has moved in ten thousand years. The desire for conquest is unchanged: Russia against Chechnya, Israel against the Palestinians, or the cursed Milosevic against other cultures. Instead of letting live, of respecting. We must share with those who do not resemble us, because their differences enrich us. You have to respect what is unique in others.


Are you against nationalism?

Absolutely. Nationalism has been a useful step in development. But there is no longer a truly sovereign nation. Fortunately, there have been great men in Europe, French, Germans, Belgians, Luxembourgers, who have laid the foundations for a union designed to reduce the independence and sovereignty of States. At the same time, this unity is too great to create a united fervour. Like the fervor of tribes defending themselves against other tribes. The State has never been the protector and guardian of minorities. He has always sought to impose unity, to have a population that defends him. Everyone had to show the same reference to the state and its flag. This happened a century ago in Italy and Germany, during the unification, and it is older in France. The State is the result of technological progress. Railroad, steel, cannons. Since today’s world is on a different scale, we need an association of populations and talents to satisfy the requirements of our knowledge, our research and our thinking. To overcome the limited means of our tribe, our city, our state.


Are you European?

Yes, excessive nationalism – just as there is fundamentalism in religion, there is excessive nationalism – hides behind false certainties. This allows the mind and intelligence to be relieved, while it is necessary to develop intellectual structures to find balances between opposites. Fundamentalism excludes opposites. We believe that a fragment of truth is the whole truth. But the opposition is wonderful if you reap the benefits. What would we do if all worlds were the same?


Aren’t you afraid to take a stand against extremism in a country that is dear to you, Israel?

It’s like religion, there are subjects we avoid. Religion is a wonderful thing, if you are a believer. It helps to accept fate. But religions are like men. And some religions have not behaved any better than men. I can’t believe in a priest who blesses a cannon that will kill innocent people.


It’s human nature to want power?

Yes, but we don’t have enough knowledge to change that. We have made enormous progress in social understanding, in the child’s understanding. For example, what I am doing with the Muse project… When singing and dancing coupled with a Marian art are brought to schools where violence exists, this violence stops.


Let us be utopian: what would it take to make the will to power less strong?

Education first. Teach, share knowledge. Teach the nuances of human relationships, do not forget creativity, the arts of the five senses. We were born with these senses. Hearing in particular, which is the first. It is hearing that allows us to orient ourselves, to listen to others, to produce sounds that are pleasant to others. To recognize the danger. We would not have a memory without hearing. Linking emotion and thought in children is essential. Otherwise, we focus on theories that have no value. The baby’s hearing combines thought and emotion because it is memory, not thought. The memory allows comparison.


Does technology bring together emotion and thought?

You should be able to create through inspiration, but computers have a huge vocabulary, they have incredible sounds that we don’t know. On the other hand, they do not have any grammar. Maybe it will come. It is a whole continent still unexplored. They have acquired knowledge, but no innate skills. There are too many possibilities today, we must return to values that bring together differences. We have specialists in each field, and almost one language per field. There is not enough thought to connect the scattered elements and contrasts. Everything is independent. Look at the States: the Ministry of Education has nothing to do with the Ministry of Health or Culture. Yet, as in the family, as in the community, we cannot live without contacts. But our intellectual world is made up of categories, it is bordered by arbitrary and artificial borders. Bridges must be built, but this requires knowledge, a greater vision of man and his destiny.


Do you feel like a wise man?

The music gave me some perspective. I have lived deeply this century, I have a kind of experience. I know people of all colours, races and religions. At the same time, I have never become a slave to any race or religion. This allows me to compare and approach the human. I imagine a kind of contemporary religion that would be in harmony with knowledge. It is a heresy to say: God is in me. God is a father, a kind of tyrant. We cannot imagine a religion that would not derive from experience. For some tribes, it was the volcano, because it was powerful and dangerous. All gods are powerful. They are built in the image of men, not the other way around. Yet it is the same energy that has formed us. And which allows us, century after century, to get closer to this primary intelligence. We are possessed by this eternity. We exist on several levels: the moment, the years, the generations. But there is a much larger dimension than that. We are in a state of creativity, of constant adaptation. Our destiny is to learn and approach this intelligence that we will never touch.


Why have you so often been attached to lost causes?

I wouldn’t say lost.



Like the Dalai Lama against the Chinese?

His cause is greater than that. Faced with the Chinese, there will always be this human conception. I hope that each culture will one day accept the other. And that no power will ever seek to impose itself again. Even in Europe, we must protect ourselves from the European Union, where some would like to see the full integration of States, but also of culture. Perhaps tomorrow there will be no more poets, since everyone will speak in an understanding way through computers. To fill the gaps created by globalization and globalization, every child must learn to work with his or her hands, to work the land without a machine, to grow herbs and flowers, to paint, to dance, to make shoes. It is important to maintain this balance that tends towards the abstract and towards the part of ourselves that allows us to live, to have joy, to share these joys and to find security in an atmosphere that is unique to us. We call ourselves German, Catholic, vegetarian. We must belong to the same tribe that nowadays goes beyond borders. Like when I find myself with my African colleagues.


Why do we hear so much music that has no soul?

I would not say that, but it is true that things are done for the masses and that majorities can make mistakes. So do minorities, for that matter. The other great danger is that we want to satisfy everyone. We are therefore not taking a position. As with Kosovo, where Europe is inert. If’justice is not done to these poor Muslims, there will be a reaction, and France’s five million Muslims will react. We are the ones who are pushing them to become fundamentalists. Look at the camps in the Middle East. We take everything away from them and tell them: Live! They find substitute to survive, and since they have nothing of their own they have to take it from others. If we do not do something to show that all people have the right to live, that these people of Kosovo have the right to be protected, we will reap the seed we have sown. Politicians don’t want to risk anything, especially not losing votes. Faced with this inertia, something will move, and I would prefer that we do not wait for a disaster to happen before it moves. We are at the mercy of an impending disaster. Humanity is showing frightening violence.




Where are we going?

Yehudi Menuhin “Where are we going?” – 1993

One salient fact emerging from the daily diet of barbarism and wantom cruelty which we are offered from screen or newspaper is that mankind has lost its way; there would seem no longer to be a structure upon which behaviour or judgment can build.

The European Community exists not only to create a happy hunting-ground for a prosperous free market, an aim which can hardly claim outstanding success, but, even more importantly, we exist to protect European men, women and children, whether Muslim or Christian, black or brown, nomadic or settled and to recognize and protect not the spoils of genocide but the myriad of enriching cultures of Europe. There is at present the greatest need for timely prevention rather than for belated cure after a most appalling carnage has already happened and threatens to continue. We are, I believe, already well aware of the dangers for ourselves, beyond the horror and shame. The following are the likely effects of our incapacity to dampen the fires of rage in our Europe: the tragedy of refugees on a scale beyond previous experience contributing to growing callousness and endless suffering; a backlash of religious and racial origin for never has the ‘west’ been more hated and feared than today; the dangers of our too evident physical, moral, economic, educational and health weaknesses offering encouragement to our enemies; the shattering of our dreams of order through internationally upheld law, or of such ideals as we might still entertain for the European Community, and the dangers of reversion to European civil war.

Now, what makes us different? Only art, craft and though and science and sport can prevent us from being barbarians. Those are the only expressions which save us from our own barbarous, evil side—we have to say that because we see so much evil in the world—I hate to use the word, but evil is apparented to good, it is simply the wrong choice. It satisfied—it appears to satisfy—a narrow vision of the world. As soon as we exclude other people, we become poorer; as soon as we include other strangers, even the enemy, we can learn and we become richer. So that is a form of thought; exclusion is a form of thought which makes us poor, but now we have a yearning for infinity and perfection because we have this yearning. I feel that God is not somebody with a beard, or not with a beard, or looking like an Aztec idle or whatever, outside of us, we are inhabited by the divine. That I think is probably an old “Vermuden”, an old Jewish feeling that we each have this yearning to infinity. I mean it is very obvious we cannot have enough of what we love, or if we are ambitious, our powers can never be big enough, we want to read the stars, we want to achieve perfection. Well, in life that is impossible. There is no perfection and I am glad there isn’t because if there were nothing would happen. Perfection is of crystal which cannot combine with other living, moving substances. But perfection exists in our home and our minds, and sometimes we achieve it in art. The great works of art are perfect. The great paintings, the great pieces of music and they do not need to be great, they can even be very light and entertaining like the Strauss waltz, that is perfect. And everything about it, the construction the proportions, the lilts, it has to be interpreted too.


There are specialists in culture—here is a violinist, here is a composer, here is an opera-house and so on. When I speak of culture it is not of gala concerts or operas, they must be kept going too, naturally, but I am as interested in the opera company that is operating on a shoe-string with a travelling upright piano and a few poor, very good often, but literally singers with no resource, living on a pittance, such as there are in England, in Australia and no doubt in many other countries bringing it to the people. When I speak of culture it is more the expression of the person who is living in this sad, high-rise building, who has no contact with himself actually and how do we reach those people? Well, if it is a matter of medicine let us say. If a man has a medical problem, there will be a doctor whom they may know who looks after them. There may be a person who understands them. There may be one who is not a fanatic and who is ready to speak with the enemy. You see, there are I don’t say solutions, but there are stands we can take. The point is that we must have a Europe that works together on the basis of our yearnings for perfection in art; we can see it but we cannot translate it into living life. But we can get closer to it by thinking in terms of our harmony today for instance. We have a certain harmony and a certain concern which is a forum of art, if you wish. It is a forum of an orchestra which consists of many different instruments playing together and when I say that we are inhabited it means that we have another voice to which we must listen in our heart of hearts. I am sure that it can be made more noticeable, more audible.

The MUS-E project

Yehudi Menuhin’s speech at the European Parliament – 1995 

The MUS-E project stands for ‘Music and Arts in Europe’: It has been my experience that through music, and particularly through singing and dance, we can give a child, these particular children are between five and eight, a fulfilment of the sense of existence, of being, of breathing, of saying something, which is irreplaceable, which brings together the rhythm of the heart, the sound of the lungs. The lungs provide melody and speech but the heart brings rhythm and balance. These are the basic elements which no child should be without. In fact, if you wish to sum up the whole of my life in thought, you could do it in one word, which is the desire to communicate. To have something to say, something to listen to, something to pray to, something to hope for, in the way of closer understanding, and as one cannot practically communicate without voice, I cultivated mine and I am now working on giving voice to the voiceless.


We have one school in Brussels, one in London, in Paris, in Budapest and in another five countries; in Germany we will soon have one, probably Dusseldorf. – We come into a school that is full of suspicion, of racial antagonism, of bigotry, of prejudice, of fear, of children who are full of energy and have no focal point, nothing that binds them together. In Brussels they are mainly Moroccan, in London they come from every imaginable background. We train teachers, as we did last year, summer 1994; for about two weeks; we brought the school some very simple singing and dancing, mostly folk and chorales, and within a very short while the children began looking at each other directly in the eyes, trusting each other, singing together, dancing together, to music of the different folklores in their class. And the result was that they began to understand each other.

When I travel to different countries, I come to know the musicians. The truest expression of any civilisation is through their music, not through their words. You may understand their language, their literature, their poetry, but their music is what reveals their character. The same with composers; when I met Bartok for the first time, he realised that I knew him, I knew his integrity, his passion, his capacity for anger, his serenity, and I understood the man from his music. We were closer to each other after the first movement of the sonata that I played for him; we were as close as people can be, deeply understanding each other’s music – his master – work, my interpretation.

In Brussels we have also mime, which I think is very important as the reflection of the children to each other and as a bodily expression of imagination, of beauty, of meaning. These children grow perfectly naturally, without prejudice and fulfilling their potential. Because I have a simple axiom by which I can judge the human temperature, and that is when any child or any person has not fulfilled their potential, that potential goes sour and becomes destructive. In other words, if a child has a talent that must be satisfied, if a child wants to sing (every child wants to sing and dance), then we are fulfilling a basic potential. We have met people who have not known that and that is something which leaves a gap, a void, which is automatically filled with the resentment at being denied a birthright.

Now this is to tell you that we have embarked on a three-year pilot project. I am sorry that we have to call it a pilot project, because this statement that I am making to you has been proven in the Kodaly Method in Hungary; they have published a big book about it, wherein they prove, with statistics, that children who sing every morning are better in their mathematics and better in their studies and quicker to learn than children who have not. Therefore, it is not a loss of time, it is a positive advantage. But now we have to go through three years of pilot projects to prove something that has already been proven, in the hope that the education authorities, the ministries and the whole attitude of people will understand how important it is to give children this opportunity of self-expression, of motion – motion and emotion which awakens also their thoughts and their curiosities and satisfies them, making them into healthier and balanced human beings.

Unfortunately, with many parents the first thing they want to do is to inculcate their own prejudices, their fears, their phobias into their children, and we have to educate the adults as much as the children. That is for the project MUS-E which has already your provisional support, your approval; I am speaking of the Council of Europe, the Parliament of Europe, and of UNESCO, of course. MUS-E needs support, but that I will leave; I will not speak about finances now; because my main purpose now is to communicate the sense of what we are living for and what we may reasonably expect.

My proposals for a better world

My proposals for a better world – London, May 18, 1992

Humanity is drifting dangerously in an uncharted sea, having lost any sense of direction as a whole, and without a compass to guide it.

Although we are recognizing the new situation, its dimensions and its problems, no one can answer the simplest questions – where are we going, what do we want, how do we see ourselves, i.e. humanity, even only ten years hence? The old answers are no longer convincing.

Many of us are locked by habit, precedent and convenience into antiquated ways of thought, stereotyped images, unable to distinguish between the often-conflicting requirements of the moment versus the future, and very largely lacking the means – intellectual, physical, organizational or administrative – to assess, analyse, to relate in informed discussion, nor to reach comprehensive decisions.


Our problems

We all know the problems that face us. They are: pollution and degradation of air, water, earth, of man, woman and child; decimation of species and habitat; alienation of Nature; increase of disease and crime and wanton violence; problems – urban and social, but also rural; personal and cultural breakdown – psychological, spriritual, moral, aesthetic; educational problems, in all their manifold aspects – physical, intellectual, intuitive; feeding the legitimate thirst of our senses with false and poisonous substitute nutriment… we are aware of all this and yet we cannot grasp the many strands we must handle to weave the tapestry of our own lives, both individually and collectively.

I have already hinted at two principles categories: the private and the public, the here and now as opposed to the more distant and omnipresent, the tangible and material as opposed to the spiritual and affective, the State as opposed to the Culture.

Humanity has changed radically from an ethos concerned largely with the relationship of man to nature, of man to God, of man to the unknowable, of man to his own specific culture, of the relationship of his very own hands and his senses to the creative and the ordinary tasks he was called upon or called upon himself to do.

In the course of the transformation into modern “advanced” man, he has progressively realized the increasing advantages of growing, ever larger inter-cultural, inter-national cooperation; he has also interposed many separations which have become blockages between the direct relationship of hands to task, of feeling to fulfilment, of man to nature – to his God. Taboos have become religions, scripture and finally laws, cumbersomely administered.



In this context, I would like, first of all, to define the word culture. Culture is everything which determines our mode of expression and which distinguishes one group of beings from another, in contradistinction to competing nationalisms which tend towards uniformity and the flattening out of variety.

The one, culture, defines the very way each person expresses his feelings and thoughts about himself, his sense of values, his relationship to other people, to earth and its inhabitants, from languages to the crafts, to the arts, to his style of living and thinking, his dress, his food, his imagery, superstitions, beliefs – his poems, his myths, his symbols – usually attached to a particular place or small region, or nomadic and nostalgic, attached to the firmament and the open country. Culture radiates from a centre.

The other, nationalism, defines the forces which oblige a variety of cultures to live under one flag or one religion, a particular State or Church. It is measured by power, conquest, subjugation, exploitation through arms or tools – guns, money – and a conviction of superiority, as much in the universality of its beliefs, marked by the emergence of single Gods from multiple Ones, by single currencies from multiple ones, as from a vindicated superiority based upon the success of its technology, weapons, commerce, and the spread of its language, and its own morals. This mode of existence is dedicated to the strengthening, the defense and the expansion of the frontiers, physical boundaries of a given power.

To put it in a few words: a culture radiates from a centre and permeates adjacent cultures; a power consolidates a given area within defined frontiers constantly readjusted by war.

The solution?

The question is: how do we protect and cultivate the dignity, autonomy, the independence of cultures in a world increasingly dominated by and reduced to the most crude and basic urges – greed, fear and sex – unsublimated, even barely disguised, and now a recipe for increasing chaos?

Is the problem not that of finding and creating the “juste milieu” – the climate, intellectual, physical, and spiritual – the structures – representative, administrative, and executive – the formation – logical and intuitive, conceptual and tactile – which would do justice to and would respect the demands of the whole of our nature?

It is not necessary to discard the ritual of State, Church and Law; in fact, it seems essential to me to retain them. But its content must be thoroughly rethought, recasted and rebuilt. If we do not follow this procedure for transformation, we will face the chaos of sudden revolutions now threatening.

On can only command Nature by obeying its laws. Likewise, there can be no acceptable progressing future without an honestly recognized and understood past, which lends the spring-board and the sense of direction to the future.

First of all, in our thinking we must try to distinguish between culture and power. In a civilized world we should no longer have to confuse the two. It should no longer be necessary to assume that a culture goes hand-in-hand with armed militancy. The dignity, autonomy and the independence of a culture should not depend upon its own exclusive apparati of State, i.e. army, foreign office, etc.



In the matter of power, however, our national units, our great States, our countries have in many respects lost the last vestige of sovereignty they ever possessed. Thus, it is inevitable that we are proceeding in the direction of the Confederation or the Federation of States, many of which are already global.

Thus we already have three tiers of human association, i.e. the Culture, the State and the Federation of States.

Hitherto cultures have been at the mercy of Powers. It is essential that, as we grow in amplitude in the one direction, our roots grow in depth in the other.


Representation in Parliament has hitherto favoured the play for power among various competitive interests, but Parliament has rarely heard the voice of the human being as he is, apart from power and money, economic interests, and defense.

In Parliament we have our “right” and our “left”, traditionally the one representing the doctrine of the stronger, independent and better able to look after himself, and the other doctrine of the weaker (formally and globally stronger in numbers), requiring protection, planning, the application of theories of justice, of fairness. Both are subject to the virus of unrestricted power, private initiative degenerating into Fascism, care and concern degenerating into the other most hideous forms of oppression.

Today, in civilized countries, the contrats are nowhere as fierce for each and both partake of each other and discuss alternatives and compromise.

But cultures are left largely unrepresented, and today it is essential to rescue the human being, his family and children, his dignity along with a reconciliation with Nature, and the unknowable – or God –, for these have preceded us and will ultimately succeed us.


My proposal

I would, therefore, propose that at the levels of State and Federation, we institute in addition to the usual House of elected representatives, as in the House of Commons or Congress, another House, another “Chambre des Députés”, representating cultures, with their bonds to earth and sky; that, say, the cultures of Europe be represented by men and women nominated by their people, and several cultures joining to nominate a spokesman. This House would correspond to the House of Lords or the Senate, but would be more attuned to the problems of our day.

A clear division of labour and responsibility must be established between the two.

Politicians would sit in the on House, delegates in the other. I feel that politics should be practised by people with professions, so as not to make politics a profession, i.e. a surveyor, a painter, a craftsman, even a musician would run for office and be elected for, say, a two-year period, after which he or she would return to his or her profession. This would obviate the growing dependence on politics as the sole support for life and ambition.

The other House, in which delegates of cultures would sit, would be responsible for the protection of given cultures, their modes of education, sports, their traditions, languages, religions, holidays as determined by each. However, these must never be hostile to a neighbouring culture or prejudiced against the binding tenets of the larger units.

Measures to be taken

Certain issues may partake of both the economic factors and the cultural, a discussion between the two Houses would ensure a fair solution.

It is absolutely essential, however, that certain practices and types of exploitation be generally and completely outlawaed, be they of men, or women, or children, of animals, air, water, of the fertility of land. It is essential, for instance, to ensure the conservation of species, and severe limits should be put on the size of mono-crops (as well as the misuse of genetic discoveries) – if possible, worldwide.

The measures to be taken should certainly include limits on tourism, on production and dissemination of pollutants, on types of propaganda and all the contemporary influences of communications, electronic, subliminal, or overt, of sheer noise, which desecrate our lives.

Decisions taken in Parliament would have to be ratified by both houses. They would have to consider, for instance, the inherent fault in the policy and the doctrine of constant material growth, of quantity at the expense of quality, of life as of production. The only possible way can persuade and convince our acquisitive, warped societies to renounce part of their vested interest in unqualified growth is to offer in return, for what may appear as immediate sacrifice, a definite improvement in quality for ourselves, our children and global life, as opposed to further unrestrained exploitation and debasement of Nature, its resources, its living beings.


European cooperation

Certainly, only a cooperating European Community can establish Commissions concerned with, say:

  • The waters of Europe (underground and on the surface), including the course of water from the snow of Alpine regions to lakes, rivers and deltas, from the evapotranspiration of plants to the purifying process of each waste water collector, all these waters must be totally protected. The commission should support and rely on such private initiative as “Alp-Action”, but it would have the official clout to take decisions and enforce the urgent measures.
  • The fertility of the earth and the protection of the species adapted to it would be the responsibility of yet another Commission, appointed by our second House to take measures for protecting and restoring to earth, its flora and fauna.
  • Our second House would also mobilize Amnesty, a private organization which could form the guarding nucleus of a Commission concerned with the spread and distribution, the variety of fears, threats, abuse in Europe, ranging from the psychological to the physical.
  • There are already private and semi-public organisations like World Health, but they have little clout. A Commission for Disease and Health would draw upon many sources to guide, to educate as well as to protect the peoples of Europe and adjacent regions.
  • Other Commissions responsible to our second House would study the problem of human time, lives and money spent in counter-productive, wasteful or degrading occupation, and with the redistribution, the re-training of skills.
  • The arts have been debased into the questionable function of some superfluous extravagance – I am thinking of music and the other arts in schools, and as the creative expression of what really distinguishes the human being from other creation. Singing, painting, fashioning, architecture, etc… are not economic concerns: they are essential human arts required, as play and discipline, from the earliest years, just as therapeutic knowledge which is used for the well-being of people and point to the desire to be mutually useful to each other.
  • Commissions on European travel and the movement of goods and people in the fastest, noiseless, vibrationless, most efficient and economical way possible would constitute the aims of yet another Commission serving our second House. – Switzerland is building a tunnel between Basel and Lugano on the principle of magnetic, frictionless propulsion invented by Braithwaite, an Englishman of my acquaintance.
  • Sub-cultures, a result for our particular societies, should be the subject of a Commission responsible for assessing and guiding the needs of an “unemployment” culture, a violent culture, a culture of ruthlessness, impatience, and superficiality.

A global restructuring

Certainly, no Parliament has as yet given itself the task of implementing measures which all our hearts, minds, our knowledge and determination to address these problems, except to mistake them largely for economic problems, on the assumption that a little more money will cure these evils. This approach will not succeed; only a second Parliament on a European scale might conceivably and successfully handle such essentially human matters.

We will have to call into question the practices of industry, of commerce, of agriculture, of defense, of values, beliefs, education, of government bureaucracy, of sheer size. We must equally cultivate a deep respect for serenity, for peace, the pursuit of knowledge, the exploration of hypotheses in all fields of human thought and experience.

I feel that if such a system, incorporating the twinned worlds of power and culture, had existed a few years ago, the tragedy of Yugoslavia might have been averted.

A stand against nationalism

The procedure I propose is, I believe, our protection against the danger of a new round of growing nationalism in Europe. Actually, the European Community is as much a return to all that bound us together in the past – the Judeo-Christian faiths, from ancient Israel, Rome, Byzantium – the Greek and the Roman civilizations, embracing our world from India to Iceland – our Renaissance, our languages, even our wars which, in a way, could be seen as civil wars.

Certainly, Latin and Greek were the European languages and should be reinstituted in schools. Only in Luxemburg are they still obligatory. In Europe until the rise of the nation-state, travel was unencumbered by passports; scholars, knowledge, fashion, styles were freely interchanged. Vienna was the centre of the two axes, East-West and North-South. England and Spain became the repositories of the richest assortment of assimilated civilizations in the world – in language, traditions, customs; in Spain embracing Mohammedan and African, in England, Anglo-Saxon, Celtic and Norman.

What wealth, what knowledge, what beauty, binding us as much with pride as with guilt to Asia, India, and the peoples of the Americas!

My violin and my feelings

I have spoken from my heart, the heart of a European. I love the countries, the regions, the cultures of Europe, which I came to know at an early age. I adore their music, their literatures, their Nature, their people. As an American born of Russian-Crimean Jewish parents, I embrace the whole of Europe from both sides as well as from the Baltic to the Mediterranean.

At home and attached to every part of this most precious and treasured peninsula, and knowing it as well as my native America, I am not only formally British and Swiss but in addition informally and with all my heart a European.

These, alongside with that instrument of music, the violin, a key to the soul of every people, are my credentials.

Culture & Peace – Luxembourg, 11 January 1997

Yehudi Menuhin – Extract from Culture and peace (Concert pour une culture de paix et de bien-être, Luxembourg, 11 January 1997)


“The instantly brutal is invading the realms of cultivated and subtle expression. Our five senses are assailed with mortal effect—to quote the last words in Hamlet, (a massacre) “of course and fury signifying nothing”. Nothing is more revealing of the eternal truth of Shakespeare’s words.


On television, genocide, killing and torture, in our media a constant stream of degrading sensations, reports and gossip as against that never-never land of enticing advertisements where we learn the purity of purchased bliss. We suffer the noise of road drills or the forced feeding of music, deafening decibels at discotheques. These insults to our senses of hearing, smell and taste are brutalizing and are a symbol of the confrontation between human beings and their different needs. These divisions make ever less sense in a world ever more dependent on itself, and one in which each of us is dependent on so many other people and furthermore a world in which we instantly react to events all over the globe.


Yet we must ensure peace for each and for all. I will now speak of the conditions for such peace. Such peace must allow for the full unfolding of our talents, our gifts for self-expression, for otherwise they fester, ferment, rot and destroy. The societies we envisage must be bound by a sense of belonging to ever-widening concentric circles or spheres of common dependence and interests. Such societies must be as robust as they are subtle and must allow man, the religious animal, the full expression of his feeling and his faith in eternity and mystery of life in its oneness and in its diversity. He must live creatively, yet with profound respect for nature and the ways and freedoms of his co-habitors.


His formation must begin at the earliest age with the refinement of his senses, first and foremost the sense of hearing, of voices, of music, of memory, of surrounding space. Yet, even before, there must come in chronological order the sense of immediate touch, skin and tongue, the warm and protective, the caress and, of course inevitably, the unpleasant, hurtful or corrosive. Speech and music are but extension of the tactile as vibrations from beyond us set up vibrations on and in our ear drums, i.e. within ourselves. Our hearing, unlike our sight, which is directional and confrontational (subject v. object), is global and all-embracing. Our eyes should rest on the green of nature, on the sky, on the stars and the moon, on the seas in all their moods, on sources of sounds which occasion human reaction, protecting, comforting, meditating, but also frightening in small inoculative doses, whilst learning to defend ourselves, or to avoid, to intervene or to ignore. Writing and reading are visual skills which cannot really flower until listening, thought and speech are fully evolved.


The senses of fantasy and observation by singing, drawing, painting, reciting by composing poetry and music, by mime, by acting, the control of our body and its health by a knowledge of nutrition and training in various disciplines—yoga, Taichi, martial arts, paired with movement and dancing as with singing from the earliest moments possible—constitute a child’s world and are the basic formation which must precede the abstraction of reading, writing and calculation. The cultivation of thought and speech is far more important than of reading and writing because it is basic. Dreaming, talking, indeed even philosophizing, must precede abstract study.


The aural is more important than the written, however less advanced it may be in terms of recorded knowledge and wisdom. The aural represents, however, our accumulated wisdom and constitutes our separate cultures. We tend to spurn the aural in our civilizations and in civilizations which have evolved the aural to a very high degree of memory and social responsibility. But with the incredible advance of memory banks, computers capable of thinking in a manner, man’s and woman’s and a child’s inner world, inner life and integrity must be protected and encouraged. This is what I am attempting to achieve with the schools project MUS-E and with the project for the representation of cultures, as distinct from the political representations of nationalities. For this project to work it is essential that both the European Community and the Cultures recognized their respective reciprocal responsibilities. The Community as ‘Guardian of Cultures’ in the words of President Higgins, and the Cultures as supporters of the Community and of its functions. My very modest Foundation in Brussels, The International Yehudi Menuhin Foundation, is engaged in these tasks to help guide our European Community towards a balanced harmony in which autonomous cultures would be represented and protected by the European Community whilst themselves supporting the Community. The “porteparles” would have to be individuals fulfilling four qualifications:


(a) the trust of their group,

(b) the unquestioned authority and knowledge of the subject under discussion,

(c) the ability to talk to an ‘enemy’

(d) of course no terrorist


Once a mission or task has been successfully accomplished, that person would be eligible for a five-year appointment to an Assembly of Cultures meeting twice a year.


We are intent on reviving and inspiring a genuine European conscience conceived in the image of what the integrated diversities of Europe have already brought the world—in music, language, in literature, in science, in parliaments, in democracy, in open-mindedness and in social conceptions in advance of many other parts of the world.


One of the most inspiring examples of man’s thought was the establishing of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). It was conceived in London by a wonderful group of men of great vision—Julian Huxley, the great biologist, was its first President—and it was to be totally apolitical, the counter-part of the United Nations. I am glad to say that in the hands of Federico Mayor it is in a strengthened way fulfilling its original concept of bringing the world together in the recognition of our responsibilities and obligations in the realms of education, of art, of heritage in all forms, from music to ancient architecture, of relief to the destitute and abandoned children in the streets of Sao Paolo and to hundreds and hundreds of wonderful human and humane initiatives taken throughout the world. I continually regret that the United States and England following in dutiful echo renounced UNESCO some years ago and are still refusing to rejoin this great human global organization.


These thoughts occurred to me last Christmas Day. I feel humanity is passing through a very crucial time. We must all hope and pray for the triumph of good over evil, whilst recognizing that it is possible to transform the negative into positive energies. This dynamic and living state of peace will require as much courage, faith, philosophy, compassion, foresight, reasoning as ever did any war in the past.”

Cultural Diversity – An underlying principle of European Integration

Newsletter of the European Committee of the Regions  20 January 1999 – Cultural Diversity: An underlying principle of European Integration

An interview with Yehudi Menuhin

“Politicians must know and understand every note of their score and the sound of every note – every voice in their community… and be able to communicate the score to citizens they serve in the most human way”. As a prelude to the Committee of the Regions’ forum ‘A Europe of cultures in a Europe of Regions’, Lord Menuhin voices his thoughts on how cultural interaction can create better relations between people and act as a positive force in the fight against racism.


Can music really help bridge the ‘understanding gap’ that lies between the average European citizen and his/her appreciation of minority culture?

It would be naïve to imagine that playing a violin live or on a recording can arrest prejudice or violence. But participating in the culture of others (including getting to know one’s own better) through singing and dancing of their rich folklore, or in the creative exercise of mime martial arts or other arts help raise people’s level of conduct – from brutal to enlightened, from the crude to the nuanced, from weak and merely obedient to strong and critical.


Getting the message across to young people is a vital link in increasing tolerance in today’s society. How do you suggest that educators and local and regional governments can best gain the support of the younger generation?

By not imposing their own prejudices on the young, by respecting and encouraging acts of compassion and understanding. Educators and politicians should learn to trust those young people who already think more clearly than their contemporaries and allow them to carry the future on their shoulders. Give these young people the responsibility.


It looks as though a difficult economic transition period lies ahead for many Europeans. How can our society retain its solidarity and improve its tolerance record- and avoid sliding back into extremism and persecution of minorities?

By assuring a respectable, dignified life and basic comforts for all. This includes access for all to literature and the arts, sport, holidays, radio, television, sufficient living space, hot water, etc. The point I raised in the previous two answers should also be addressed. It is important that a respect for, all of life, is instilled in people – by instilling humility, poetry and humour and by insisting on quality rather than quantity in everyday life.


What can a politician learn from musician in terms of communicating with people, building consensus or security agreement on delicate or controversial topics?

A good politician, will know and understand every note of his/her score, and every sound of each note – each voice in his or her community. They will interpret this score to the citizens they serve in the most human and communicative way.

To encourage the tolerance and understanding of the opposition and build bridges of open-minded dialogue between the members of his/her constituency, instead of pitting them against each other.

To withhold any word of aggression or insult about opponents – unless that person or party is guilty of a lack of compassion – as are parties dedicated to criminal action and the fanning of prejudice. Political parties with these agendas should not be allowed.

To guide the public to develop more self-reliant and self-critical qualities.

To fight against the consumer mentality, the lowest common denominator, and the use of sex and violence as a means to gain power and money.

Concert “From the Sitar to the Guitar” – Cirque Royal de Bruxelles – 24 November 1995

With Ravi Shankar, Les Magiciens du Rajasthan, Ludovit Kovac, Trio Loyko, Abdelli le Kabyle, Blanca del Rey, Felipe Maya

Speech by Lord Menuhin at the European Parliament – September 1995 (PART II)

Speech by Lord Menuhin – Session of the European Parliament – Brussels, 27th September 1995 (PART II) 

Now, states have grown bigger and bigger from the time we were tribes, the various stages of duchies and regions and great cities like Venice, and independent principalities. Until the 19th century they were coalescing into great states. This growth continues towards the global, because today we are faced with global difficulties, menaces, powers and visions. Again, the effort must be collective; we cannot envisage a single global empire ruled by one single power. Space exploitation is a wonderfully positive global hope. It is an expression of initiative, of imagination, of capacity. It is not a small thing to walk on the moon or to send a satellite to Mars; these are very great achievements which can only be done by a great common effort of humanity as a whole.

But there are also global menaces; we know that pollution is one; we know of growing violence is a contagious disease. The very same illnesses and diseases which affect the body effect the mind. We have seen what happens in former Yugoslavia. This could happen almost anywhere – perhaps not as quickly, we hope – in countries which have a long history of democracy, but nonetheless there is violence in everyone of us, and unless that violence is, in the child, guided to the positive, it would turn in the negative. Any unfulfilled talent or potential must turn sour and destructive.

The European Parliament and the whole concept of the European Community now is faced with a distinct disapproving voice; we know it, I know it very well from England; we know it in Sweden recently, in Denmark and even in France; in far too many countries there is fear of a further loss of sovereignty. Today the concept of absolute sovereignty is, of course, a fairy tale, an image that can no longer be entertained. We are all at the mercy of the rest of humanity, and we are continuing, however, our separatisms, our violence against or suspicion of other in many ways. I do not have to tell you about the ways that is happening vis-à-vis the third world, vis-à-vis our own people often, and this is a restrictive element. We see it also in the ultra-nationalist expression of people that have been long suppressed, like the people of Chechnya, the different races of Yugoslavia, where it did not have to happen because they lived in understanding. In a town like Sarajevo you had the Muslims, the Christians and the Jews; I was there at that time; they were living perfectly well together.

Some of the troubles are because we still live possessed by the territorial imperative, by people who feel that the only security lies in larger control, larger domination and, of course, their own ambition lies there. And others exploit the fears which they rouse, they awaken old memories of revenge and they organise these into people’s hate and their desire to destroy their neighbour. This is a very immoral attitude. We receive these leaders with honour because they have power, but they have power only because they cut their people and say, ‘look, you are not going to fall back into old phobias, into old habits; we are building a new world where your energies will work a different way”. But unfortunately, the leaders are often the very opposite, intent on power and territory, and they are chosen by the populace who is made to fear and is encouraged to trust them as their saviours.

What I am coming to is this reaction to the European Community this negative reaction, which comes, I believe, partly from the fact that the Community was established in the first place as an economic community without reference to the moral code and the concept of the wonderful world of Europe, a world full of variety, which is rich and great and has given us music and harmony and parliaments and many of the most important advances in the world by virtue of their variations and their differences. They based Europe on an economic model first, which was hoped could provide a greater market – which it has – and economic security – which it has not – and enable people to unite nations so that each may share a greater part of a larger pie. But that still represents greed. It did not apply to the founders – Adenauer, Schumann, Werner. These were people who saw beyond their own statesmanship. They were great statesman but they had in mind a European Community in which each state would surrender part of its sovereignty. Therefore, they transcended, they went beyond they own official actional brief.

I am looking to you for people to support three projects that go beyond balancing budgets, and I am looking for musicians who go beyond music and people who transcend their own immediate professions and calling, who see beyond. My suggestion to you – and it is something we have started – is what I call the “Assemblée des Cultures”. You have extended a bureaucracy of nations competing with each other, regulating a great many small details, which may be necessary, and establishing a web of regulations over the whole of Europe. Some of those are very good. I am all in favour of regulations governing working conditions, for instance; in fact, even those have been opposed on the grounds that it would allow too many concessions for you to sell your product at a competitive price. Now that must be discussed, for there might be a case for all people to have a basic net below which they cannot fall, and at the same time perhaps reducing wages in return for no risk. The objections come, as I said, from the rebirth of this idea of sovereignty. The resistance to Europe is partly for negative reasons, but there are also positive reasons. People have their way of being, have their language, their traditions; Europe consists not only of many states but it consists of even more cultures.

The cultures have never yet really been protected by the state, the state cannot protect minority cultures adequately, they cannot give them a voice because the state is concerned with creating a reliable population and with defence of frontiers; it is concerned with balancing the budgets, with interests which are definitely defence, commercial, diplomatic, and also with lobbies. So, states are at the mercy of many forces which are antagonistic to the respect due each culture, each of which has much to contribute. These cultures are not represented, they do not have a voice. Some regional cultures are very anxious, in Eastern Europe, to join the European Community because they have no security of their own, as, for instance, nomadic cultures, like the Gypsies. I am giving a concert on the 24th November, illustrating the epic voyage of Gypsies from Rajasthan, India, to Spain. This is beside the point, but the Gypsies have no voice, and we all know they are persecuted in Romania, even in the Czech Republic. But they have brought us their music, they have acted as fertilising agents, like insects, bees, going between flowers. They travel and we owe them a debt for this cross-fertilisation of cultures.

There are also different passing cultures – I hope they are passing cultures – for instance the momentary situation of seven million Mohammedans in France, or Turks in Germany, the conditions of the inner cities; these are groups of people who live in a certain way distinguishable lives that are different from us, people who are victims of certain situations – commercial, intellectual, impoverished, educational – refugees and all that happens on the city streets. They have a different life from ours. Did you know, for instance, that Prince Charles, who is a very good man, took months to persuade the ministries in London who are responsible for the inner cities, to receive members of the inner cities? This is the extent to which the bureaucracy is often cut off from the victims of their own responsibilities. These are good people, prepared to speak on behalf of their fellow-men. It is not even necessary to read or write in order to speak intelligently and with conviction of their own condition, but is necessary to find willing and understanding ears in responsibility.

Therefore, my concept of an Assembly of Cultures. This Assembly or Parliament would provide the state with its minorities representations, which will not aim any longer for sovereign status like Slovakia from the Czech Republic, because if we are going to have in Europe a hundred different sovereign states, each with their atom bomb, with their foreign service, it would be chaos. Therefore, we have to offer something different, and what we want to offer them is cultural autonomy. This depends on reciprocity, the reciprocity of the community, to protect them in turn their support of the community. Without this reciprocity it cannot work. Therefore, sovereignty alone cannot work in the new world; the new world cannot admit a hundred different sovereign states in Europe. Therefore, they must belong to each other and they cannot belong until we establish a balance of reciprocity between obligations. I feel that this is an important counterweight to the bureaucracy which is alienating both states and their cultures. We would not accord a voice to them unless it were to an audience which would assess them as the mad fringe of society they are. Ultranationalists and the fundamentalists would no longer need to claim that you have to kill your enemy, because we will be giving them a voice, so please speak; we would not give terrorists a voice but we will be giving people of a given culture an opportunity to address a meeting like this, in perfect understanding, who would be broad-minded enough to know that they live in a world with other people.

Speech by Lord Menuhin at the European Parliament – September 1995 (PART I)

Speech by Lord Menuhin – Session of the European Parliament – Brussels, 27th September 1995 (PART I) 

Already from the day I was born, I became aware of the world and the world’s sufferings, for my parents were very conscious of social injustice but were very happy. So, I had a very happy childhood, and my mother loved and at the age of 99 still loves to look after young people and to guide them. My father always was worried about greater social issues, and he was very much a man of the left as a young man and then gradually found the middle road. I was surrounded with great music; I have spent my life with the minds of Beethoven and Bach and Ravel, and all the other creators of music. I spent my life trying to get the nicest, the most beautiful sound out of a little bit of wood – the violin – and I learnt a great deal in the way of handing an object on which you depend and from which you want to bring out the best. You have to handle it with great delicacy and with great subtlety. You cannot beat a violin into beautiful sound any more than you can beat a flower into blooming. And then I was blessed by a wonderful wife, who is so very beautiful and full of integrity and natural dignity – and fine children. And, therefore, I feel that somehow, I owe humanity – you all and your people, my own friends of every country – I owe them a debt because of my life has been almost too wonderful, and the debt is paid with great satisfaction.


(…)  I founded the Organization, which is known as the International Yehudi Menuhin Foundation, with no resources at all, because we did not begin with money, we began with ideas. I think that this is the safest way to begin, as the rest follows. I believe we have something that is not new but it is something which represents a need of our moment, of our day. – Just briefly to tell you about the autobiographical aspect, it began with what was closest to me, music and teaching.


I know that many of you are concerned with the condition of the world today, where more and more violence exist. If you want to reconcile aggression and polarization with what we call peace, which is a dynamic harmony, because peace is not a paradise in which we all sit down and enjoy our whisky or whatever else we drink, but it is a state of dynamic equilibrium, which is constantly changing, ever adjusting to change. For instance, as we sit down here is a peace that was built upon democratic political party polarizations; the sun, too, which draws the tree and the leaves to their height with their wonderful panoply, and gravity, its polarity, which draws the roots into the earth which provides the tree with strength—these two forces can be viewed as opposing each other. They appear to be so, but they are, in fact, complementary to each other. Therefore, the forces of antipathy, of aggression, of suspicion, of antagonism, can be reconciled by the concept of complementary, as the opposition should realize that all opposition, even our enemy is necessary to us. And what is most important is that we should understand our potential enemy. There is another resolution of aggression that is possible, in the concept of reciprocity, meaning that we are courteous to our neighbor, because it is much more practical not to waste time in getting excited, but to work together, for each other and to establish trust. For that we give each other the benefit of the doubt, we are courteous to each other for a perfectly natural, selfish reason, which is that of saving ourselves for the positive and not spending and destroying ourselves on the negative. This is yet another element which will contribute to the resolution of conflict and that is the concept of equilibrium. We are in constant balance, a balance between emotions. We live in a world where the stars and the sun and the earth, everything is moving, and we are only here in peace because there is a balance, an equilibrium between all the moving parts that have to be adjusted according to each momentary new position of the elements in the equation. Motion and human emotion are inseparable. Therefore, the sense of wanting to establish the harmony, this sense of dependence on each other, has been very strong during my whole life. As a boy I hope—I had the childish idea—that if I played the Chaconne of Bach beautifully enough—but it would have to be very, very beautiful—I could bring peace. Well, I have not succeeded, but I am still concerned with harmony and with the idea of dynamic balance, of reciprocity of equilibrium, of complementarity.

Yehudi Menuhin during World War II – 27 June 1944 – Capt Maurice Evans – Major 7.B Schultz 147th General Hospital

Yehudi Menuhin, violonist & visionary

Yehudi Menuhin (1916 – 1999)

Yehudi Menuhin was one of the greatest musicians of all time. But not only.

From the concentration camps liberated in 1945 to the end of the siege of Sarajevo in 1996, Yehudi Menuhin never resolved to separate music from his political commitments and he was the author of impactful writings and speeches that we should never forget. 

More than ever, his values and messages of tolerance are a powerful source of inspiration for the 21st century and the future of Europe, especially at the eve of the European Parliamentary elections.

For those who have not dared to enter his music, his texts and speeches will be the gateway to the universe of this great musician engaged in the battles of his century.

Yehudi Menuhin for Europe” is a recollection of inspirational speeches and writings as well as joyful souvenirs, pictures and videos that should resonate with the present days.

Texts selected by Kira Alvarez in collaboration with the IYMF