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.