Friday, February 29, 2008

Music Hath Charms

The image above is from the recent concert by the New York Philharmonic in Pyongyang, which I watched the other night. I was struck when I saw the woman, who appears to be sleeping but in fact is singing the words to a traditional Korean song, “Arirang,” performed for her and her country by the orchestra. She actually appears to be in a state of profound reverie, which is all the more striking for the contrast with the expressionless audience around her. (I found the performance, of a song I had never heard, beautiful.) She appears to be in her 50s, too old to remember the Korean War or a world in which there was simply Korea, and I am compelled to wonder what is moving her at this moment. Is it blissful nostalgia at remembrance of a song from her distant past long since purged from the public sphere in her country as “bourgeois”? Is it joy that the long-time enemy Americans are paying North Korea such a sign of respect, perhaps hinting at something better? No one knows, but it is an image to remember in any event, with so much often painful history behind it and such a perilously promising future in front of it.

The entire song can be seen at Youtube The image above is just past the 4:50 mark of a video that lasts 8:43.


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