Music for Troubled Times

On Sunday evening, my husband and I attended a concert meant to broaden our horizons — Three Letters from Sarajevo, by Goran Bregović, a diversely talented Serbian-Croatian musician. For much of the evening, I found my thoughts drifting to the horrific shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue and the lives senselessly ended.

Each of the “three letters” to Sarajevo was a composition representing the three major monotheistic religions. Three astounding violinists, hailing from Belgrade, Tunisia and Israel, performed evocative solos. My amateur ears heard notes as delicate as the beating chest of a songbird, as melancholic as old photographs.

For the most part, Bregović, let the music speak for itself. He did, however, introduce the program with an admission that he worked from a place of privilege for, as a composer, he knew how well high notes paired with low notes, how beautifully fortissimo went with pianissimo. He lamented that many politicians did not have that same privileged view of the world.

The evening started with this note of philosophy, haunting vocals and a transporting curation of songs played by the aptly named Wedding and Funeral Band. I could see, by the way people clapped and stirred in their seats, that many of the songs were familiar tunes from the old country. By the end of the night, people danced in their seats and in the aisles. A child bounced jubilantly on a lap. A woman tossed a scarf in celebration.

Out of a pained history, came beautiful music. Perhaps this is what we should be demanding from ourselves, our neighbors, our leaders — more nights in which our flawed humanity can devolve into beautiful, unified raucous.

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