Following is the text of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s introductory remarks at the lecture on “Why Music Matters” by Professor Leon Botstein in New York.
Dear colleagues and friends, I am delighted to welcome you to another lecture in this series. Today, our subject is music.“What’s that got to do with the UN?” you may be asking. My answer is that music has to do with everything.
From the first lullaby sung to us as newborn babies, music provides the “soundtrack” of our lives. So much so that I think many of us take it for granted — just as we do the soundtrack of a film, which we often hear without listening to it. That is, we enjoy the film without realizing how much the music conditions our reaction. Music penetrates almost every part of our lives: our rest, our entertainment, our education, and our worship. Throughout history, it has celebrated the triumphs and tragedies of life. As Plato said, music “gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination”.
Music both shapes and reflects society. Dancers follow its beat; protesters use it to find their voice. It can promote ideas — like peace and solidarity — but it can also prepare armies for battle. It is part of almost every important personal and collective moment.
But it is also mysterious. Rhythm and pitch can be expressed as mathematical formulae, and musicians know the techniques by which they produce a certain sound. But no scientist or musician can explain the power that music has over our emotions. That, surely, is what another Greek writer had in mind, who said that song is a divine gift from God.
In a world of diversity where often values clash, music leaps across language barriers and unites people of quite different cultural backgrounds. And so, through music, all peoples can come together to make the world a more harmonious place.
You see, I am getting carried away I’d better stop — I’m not the one who’s here to give the lecture. But luckily for you, you don’t have to listen to me giving the lecture; that is not my plan. We have someone much better, much better qualified here with us to give that lecture — Professor Leon Botstein, who is President of Bard College and music director and principal conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra.
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Source: United Nations