New York Philharmonic’s trip to North Korea

Perhaps you’ve seen a news clip or read an article about New York Philharmonic’s trip to Asia this month. The trip to North Korea, also to perform, was added as an overture to goodwill. Back in December, I wrote a post about the visit. Yesterday I came across a short CNN clip about the significance of this artistic endeavor. The logistics of getting the orchestra to North Korea partly involved talking the South Korean American orchestra members into going there.

Within the clip, there’s footage of the war between the two Koreas and an explanation about what made the orchestra members initially not too thrilled with the trip. They did decide to go after all. As explained, trips like this one are not only about music, they are about diplomacy. The arts (and I’d add sports) are ways for countries to cross the barriers between them. I would agree that having an renowned orchestra play is certainly more appealing than threatening a war.

According to the clip, the North Koreans met all the conditions the New York Philharmonic called for in order to agree to come. The conditions were nothing like one hears rock stars wanting, ie, blue M&Ms only, or some such thing. Conditions had to do with the size of the concert hall, being able to perform what they wanted, and the safety of the Korean American orchestra members. Here’s a link to the clip, plus another link to a news conference clip. As the conductor says, “Music has the power to unite people.” The concert in North Korea is on the 26th.

There are photo essays that chronicle the trip through Asia on the New York Philharmonic’s Web site. It makes me sad I didn’t practice the flute more.

Western culture meets Pyongyang

An article in yesterday’s New York Times neatly dove-tails with Neil’s Infiltrating North Korea post on Arts and Culture. This coming February the New York Philharmonic will be performing in Pyongyang. North Korea invited them. Perhaps Neil’s visit so impressed the higher ups, i.e., “Who is that incredibly tall American who takes pictures of food and traffic women? He’s so polite, so charming, so interesting. Are there more like him?” that they decided to bring in more. Probably not, but it’s a thought.

The Philharmonic’s visit is no small feat. It’s more than just getting a large group of people with their instruments on an airplane. This is diplomacy at work. Despite the differences countries have politically, it’s hopeful that all will work out if the artists among us have the chance to share their talents around the globe. While the New York Philharmonic is in Pyongyang for their concerts February 26, 2008, they’ll also meet with conservatory students to give instruction. What a fascinating opportunity for both sides. Neil would probably vouch for that.