CLASSICAL MUSIC : AN ETERNAL SOURCE OF COMFORT
by Kent Nagano
Music Director of the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal
In these most uncertain times, I wish to address myself to the deep community of Montreal and Quebec, so dear to my heart.
Throughout history, we have seen how constant and faithful a companion music is. In all phases of life, from childhood to mature adulthood, at times of tragedy, of love, joy, loneliness, reflection, or celebration, we who share a love of music find that it is the most distilled medium of the human spirit, of what it represents and of what it has to offer.
For me, it is always important to recall that all forms of musical expression and especially our “Classical Art Music” reveal human creativity in a special way, different from what other art forms reflect. For example, listening to Johann Sebastian Bach, one becomes aware of a universal sensibility and of a certain level of perfection.
Moreover, this music, which we share as a community, reveals something even more exceptional, a unique power. Namely, music allows us to overcome fear and rise above the usual limits of tolerance. It gives us the ability to connect to a singular time, to that “moment” when one experiences the “here and now” simultaneously with memory and hope. These elements merge to offer us a pathway towards the future. This “moment” is what makes music so different from any other aesthetic or form of communication. It is exactly what our musical tradition is based upon and which ultimately explains its timelessness.
As we face this difficult period, we are also reminded that history is filled with conflicts and situations of great need and despair. We have seen that those before us found the strength to ensure their survival, resist adversity and keep their hopes and dreams alive. Again, and again, our forebears found new ways of facing life-threatening conditions and emerged from them renewed. We will do the same.
Let us remember the Age of Enlightenment. During this fertile period, so many initiatives and creations benefited civilization. And though it is true that the Enlightenment was a period of optimism, we have only to take Bach’s Passions, or the content of the new and emerging art form of opera, or Napoleonic ambitions and conquests as examples of the fact that no one had forgotten the fatalities of life.
Much like today, this period of unbridled imagination and creativity was one of immediacy, of “right now.” Then, as today, it would have been easy (and legitimate) to emphasize the negative. However, history constantly reminds us that we must accentuate the positive.
No one understood this better than Beethoven, Mozart, Bach and the long line of creative musical voices who have given us rich dimensions and a lifelong wealth of contributions filled with deep, complex perspectives.
Today, as we face a pandemic and great uncertainties, when we ask people to remain isolated indoors and to avoid social contact except for particular needs, music can become a refuge and offer some hope and comfort. That is why, in the wake of concert cancellations, the OSM will continue to nurture access to classical music through its digital platforms.
Through music, we hear and see the vitality of the human spirit, the strength and richness of community, for which we in Montreal and Quebec are blessed. We can hear and experience the now, the memory and the future—all of which combine to offer the perspective of eternal hope.
With my full solidarity and support,
Yours, Kent Nagano