Music world reacts to Paris attack

January 07, 2015

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Police forces gather in street outside the offices of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in Paris on Wednesday, after armed gunmen stormed the offices. (Martin Bereau AFP/Getty Images)


On tomorrow's Performance Today, we're broadcasting a concert recording from Paris, from a venue very close to today's Charlie Hebdo attack.

Musicians are among the millions around the world who have reacted with shock, anger, and in many cases, with new resolve to the Charlie Hebdo attack.

American cellist Alisa Weilerstein tweeted "Long Live Freedom of Speech." And she used the hashtag "#JeSuisCharlie." I am Charlie.

Italian conductor Enrique Mazzola lives and works in Paris. He tweeted "with all my heart near my friends in Paris."

The Martha Graham Dance company tweeted: "We stand in solidarity with artists from all over the world: for freedom of speech and expression. #jesuischarlie."

How should … and how CAN artists respond … to violence?

Three days after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, conductor Leonard Bernstein wrote: "This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before."

And I'm reminded of a conversation I had recently with composer John Luther Adams. We talked about how artists respond to terrible events in the world.

He mentioned the great painter, Claude Monet. At the height of World War I, Monet retreated to the gardens of his home in the French countryside. Not simply as an escape: his own son was in the war. The front moved to within about 30 miles of the garden. But still — every day — Monet stepped outside … and painted water lilies. In full awareness of what was going on around him. Composer John Luther Adams picks up the story from there.

"He confided to a friend that he felt guilty pursuing his 'little studies,' as he put it, of form and color, while so many people were dying and suffering. The irony is that those last paintings of the water lilies were his greatest gift to a troubled world. So that spoke to me the imperative of art in our times … and in all times."

On behalf of each one of us at Performance Today: Je suis Charlie.