Friday, March 17, 2006

On the importance of cultural identity

Blogger Kyle Gann, former music writer for the Village Voice, has an interesting post titled Advantages of Foreign Imperialism, which discusses the prominence of living composers from Estonia, the Ukraine, and Georgia in new music in his Arts Journal.com blog, PostClassic. He even received an email from Paavo's friend, composer Erkki-Sven Tüür, saying E-S reads PostClassic from his home on the Baltic island of Hiiumaa! And here's a reader comment that I was particularly taken with:
From Diego Chávez-Vargas at March 9, 2006 09:47 PM

I was fortunate to travel as a journalist with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra during its 1998 European tour, which closed with two concerts in Tallinn, Estonia, the hometown of then music director Neeme Jarvi, who is treated like a rock star whenever he returns to Estonia. I was struck by the degree to which Estonians --from the president of the country to the halter-top women in the hotel disco -- were aware of the cultural importance of classical music figures like Jarvi.

In a piece for the Free Press I wrote: "Jarvi's place in the Estonian psyche transcends his musical gifts, burrowing deep into the nation's soul, both its cultural identity and its political ambitions. As soon as Jarvi and his family emigrated to the West in 1980, he began to champion the Estonian composers whose works the Soviet authorities had forbidden him to perform at home -- Arvo Part, Eduard Tubin and many others. Jarvi's concerts and recordings were patriotic flares announcing the wealth of musical talent produced by this Baltic nation of just 1.5 million.

'The way a small country can feel herself part of the world community is not through battles or armies,' explained Lennart Meri, the president of the Republic of Estonia. 'We have one means: That is cultural identity. That's why we attach so much importance to music, poetry and painting.'"

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