WEEK 7: 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.