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[Opinion] The Clock of Emotion

Posted July. 10, 2001 09:38,   


It was a taboo to play music by Wagner (1818 ~ 1883), a German composer who is famous with his work, Der Ring des Nibelungen, in Israel. Israel identified Wagner as a pro-Nazi and anti-Jewish composer, since the Nazi had intensively played his music at inflammatory propaganda assemblies or at the Jewish camps. Israelites considered that Wagner’s music inspired the German nationalism motivating Adolph Hitler to slaughter the Israelites.

It was last October when Wagner’s music was first performed in Israel. It was a lifting of a ban of 50 years. Of course, much commotion took place. Those who lost their family members due to the Holocaust, brought the case to the court to stop the plan reminding that a Wagner performance was canceled in 1991. When the music started in a small city located in the southern part of Tel Aviv, one audience began to ring a plastic bell. In the middle of the performance, an 80 years old man interrupted the music with same method. Protestors even displayed protestation banners and distributed handouts outside of the hall.

The music of Wagner with a such history was performed in Jerusalem on 8th. It was the Staatskapelle Berlin led by Daniel Barenboim, an Israelite conductor. The music was played by an impromptu suggestion made by Barenboim. In fact, it was originally decided not to play any of Wagner`s music. But Barenboim asked the audience whether they could play music composed by Wagner at the end of the day’s performance schedule. The performance was accomplished after a 30 minutes argument. Needless to say that although there was opposition from some audience, most of the audience approved and there was a standing ovation following the music.

Why did the Israelite audience display such subdued reaction? Of course, the petition made by Barenboim that the arts and ideology have to be separated could have played a role. In addition, it was possible because, although it is impossible to forget the Holocaust, the Israelites began to open their hearts accepting Germany’s sincere effort to heal the wound of the past.

Recently, Japan is piercing our hearts with the distortion of their history textbook. Whether it is intentional or not, it is regrettable. Are they asking us to turn our emotional clock backward, or to shut down the doors of our hearts?