Opposing views

I read this horrific, incomprehensible article from the Guardian newspaper this afternoon, and it made me immeasurably, profoundly sad. Truly, my soul wanted to curl itself up in a corner and find a blanket to lay over itself, simply to disappear and escape the pure insanity and foolishness of it.

How can we, those of us who are lucky enough to have the freedom to choose to listen to Ella, or Elvis, or Maria, begin to comprehend a life without music? A life without the opportunity to express yourself, whether listening, dancing, playing or singing, via MUSIC? I can’t profess to know that much about the history of Islamic music, but I do know that it is rich and varied and deep. With all due respect to this culture that I do not comprehend well at all, (which should, perhaps, preclude me from passing any kind of judgment, but alas, I cannot help myself on this point) I mourn for the people who have had this life-affirming necessity taken from them, and can only hope that they are resilient enough to find the ways to feed their souls in a meaningful, truthful way.

In a desperate search for the counter-balance to the poison above, I propose a concise, perfectly illustrated demonstration of how invaluable music education is. It’s only an audio sampling, but what an effecive one it is: a band teacher uses his band members to demonstrate the amount of skill and it takes to make music.

Please feel FREE to pass this around and remind people how valuable the study of music is, not to mention a life overflowing with the beauty of music!

Another sublime musical experience today, as I rehearsed Norma with the really superb Camerata Salzburg accompanying us. Watching Ms. Gruberova inhabit the character of Norma so completely inspires me to great heights, and makes me overflow with gratitude that I am surrounded by glorious music, sublime artists and beautiful human beings. It only makes reading the first article all the more painful, thinking that not everyone has this luxury at their fingertips.


  1. kilted2000 said…

    I can't even begin to imagine a world without music, it's such a part of my life. Growing up in Memphis I was surrounded by it. It reminds me everyday that no matter how bad this world seems, there is a such thing as beauty and truth and hope. I have had some problems in my life and without music I might not be here today. Humans are natural music makers so I'm sure the Iranian people will find a way. Just know that for so many people you are one of the reasons that music brings such joy.

  2. Chanterelle said…

    Note that Khamenei calls music inimical specifically to "the "sacred regime of the Islamic Republic." It is halal, i.e. permissible within Islam — just not within this nation. Powerful stuff, this "holde Kunst".

    Clerics who condemn music are threatened by music's power to tap the divine without intermediary of the religious establishment. It's not the first time in history this has come up. And it never sticks.

    I'll bet the guy is tone deaf.

  3. Zsolt said…

    The islamic, muslim culture seems very strange for an outsider..not good if we judge it..but this is just unacceptable, that they not allowed to teach music, and let the young people to learn music.

    The music brings you happiness, and makes people's life better and easier, and makes you a better person.

    Very sad that in a whole country the MUSIC just itself is forbidden, and a whole generation there cannot enjoy music, specially classical music.

  4. Wolfgang said…

    Dear Joyce, next time you sing for an audience, just look in their eyes – there cannot be a doubt that music matters…

    Will not be able to see you in Salzburg (tickets were SO sold out), but I will be there at Usher Hall. Can't hardly wait!

  5. Mei said…

    This also happens in Afghanistan and Somalia some time ago… 🙁

  6. Charlotte said…

    Alas, the sound of the muezzin's voice IS music, at least to a few hundred million pairs of ears around the globe, probably even those of the unsuspecting Ali Khamenei himself. i think it's kinda ugly, but not actually unlike the chants of a Catholic priest or Jewish Rabbi. That's religion for THEM. Music is religion for ME!

  7. Chris said…

    I certainly would not want to live in a culture without music, of some sort. On the other hand, I don't think the West has any right to impose its cultural values on others. Western imperialism has been a great scourge in world history and telling people what their culture should be is, sadly, part of it. Muslims are not the world, only a part of it so I think there is no reason for alarm bells to go off.

  8. Smorg said…

    Wow… I don't know much about Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, but it doesn't say any positive thing about his level of confidence in his own religion that he feels that it can be threatened by music. :oP

    The Why Music Matters Youtube clip by Mr. Stamp is a great find indeed. Thanks so much for sharing this and your thoughts and passion. I'm definitely tweeting this post! :o)

    Best wishes,

  9. William V. Madison said…

    The contrast between a great teacher (the fellow in the YouTube clip) and a bad one (Khamenei) could hardly be more pronounced. One is actively seeking out the best for those who study with him; the other seeks only to protect himself.

    Many political leaders have tried to suppress certain kinds of music, but all music? It's a sign of just how frightened this regime is.

  10. Yankeediva said…

    Thank you all so much for your insightful comments! It certainly is a hot-button issue, but these are the times we live in, and I think if we can find ways to promote healthy dialogue, then some understanding might be forthcoming.

    Chris, I completely understand you – and hesitated to be so strong in my "condemnation" – but I simply couldn't help it. I have seen the healing power of music in people's lives, and I do find it alarming if that invaluable resource is stolen from a person. It has been a fundamental part of human's existence even before we could speak. I'm not implying that it needs to be Mozart and Gershwin, but music of some sort should always be available to the human spirit.

    Here's hoping that the resilience of the oppressed (including those of the western world!) will conquer!

  11. Georgios said…

    Indeed it is an important issue, Joyce.
    It was reported recently that Muslim parents are pulling their children from music classes in London.
    Here's the story on the BBC London page:

    I have to confess that music education within the curriculum in Greece is rather rudimentary. But it was great having an introduction to the history of music and the work of lots of interesting composers. Oh and struggling to read music notation 😉

  12. Zachary said…

    I know a lot of Persian-American people, and they all love music. It seems like a huge part of their culture (isn't it a huge part of everyone's culture?).
    I can't imagine that they'd sacrifice their music, even if the leader of their country requested it.

  13. Sibyl said…

    "Halal" is the key here, I think. It's fine in Islam to have music, just not in Iran. This, then, is not a theological argument, as much as he is trying to veil it as one, so much as it is a totalitarian regime argument. Music is by it's nature anarchic in the sense of giving the soul freedom. You cannot control where that soul may go or where it may find inspiration, nor to what inspiration may lead. Therefore, if you are attempting to clamp down hard and control every aspect of a people, then you need to control art, and music with it's ability to reach beyond language and logic especially. Music, to me, is the voice of the Divine, simply because it touches so much deeper than the mind. I come back to something I read once, "To sing a prayer is to pray twice." Almost every religion has its own spiritual music for a reason.

  14. Sharky said…

    Without casting stones, Khamenei's edicts – all seem to be fixed in a very closed mind. It was mentioned how he "hated music" from the beginning, so in essence he is pronouncing these edicts based solely on his own prejudices. How enlightened. I cannot – and will not – imagine a life without music. It's as necessary to me as food, prayer, water and love. Thanks for sharing this with us Joyce. I think. ;->

  15. Chris said…

    Not to prolong the discussion, but I do want to add that I suspect what we regard as "music" is mainly a phenomenon of European culture from the 17th century to now. Other cultures had "music" but hardly as we know it and I doubt we would have liked it much at all. China was the greatest power in the world in the 18th century, but its music was very very far from European music at the time. Harmonic music as we know it was not there. Ditto Japan. Of course no music of any sort at all is a different story. But Islam has also always been adverse to the depiction of human beings. Yet no one can doubt the greatness of Muslim culture.

  16. Raisa said…

    It's not only heartbreaking but also quite scary to imagine a generation raised without such values as music. Just think about what an agressive and inflexible bunch of people it would be ( it's not a secret that besides all the beauty, harmony and magic that music brings into our lives, it also works as a relaxation therapy. Plus, like any art form it broadens people's horizons in the sence of humanity, kindness, generosity and flexibility of mind.
    Many moons ago, I happened to write a paper on world's religions. Unfortunately, Islam is not the only one and certainly not the first one to have a problem with music. In Orthodox Judaism, men of any age are not allowed to hear a woman sing! In other words, an Orthodox Jewish man would never go to the opera. And a baby boy would never hear his mom sing a lullaby to him?!!
    Isn't it really scary and sad?

  17. marcillac said…


    This is not intended – as will be obvious – any sort of theological proposition or "pontification", but, just as an objective historical matter, the Catholic church has for well over a millenium sponsored, paid for and influenced many of the greatest work of western architecture, art and, of course music. The various requii are only the most obvious examples and induced the composition of great works from even avowed atheists such as Verdi and Brahams. Obviously it had an impact on Beethoven, not only in the Missa but in various allusions in his other works includeing Fidelio. I don't know what you think of Messien but his music was profoundly influenced by his faith.

    Bach was of course intimately associated with German Protestanism and essentially developed the western symphonic form. Mendelsohn frequently worked in a religious idiom.

    And so on, almost ad infinitum.

    You say that Music is your religion. Well. People must decide for themselves whether artistic creations of profound and almost indescribably beauty are or not indicative of "something" celestial.

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18 Sep

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~ Joyce DiDonato