Istanbul, Hespèrion XXI, J. Savall
You are a "classical" musician, a Westerner, but you love to play with artists from other cultures. Is it truly possible?
Today more than ever, musicians have the responsibility to remember that connections existed and endure between civilizations. And ultimately it is quite natural for me to play a Sephardic cantiga with a Moroccan or Turkish oud player, because these artists have preserved more or less intact the practices of the Middle Ages.
What do you learn from contact with these musicians?
To be with them is to learn something every day: they improvise more spontaneously than we and do naturally what we seek to obtain through work. In such cases our musical culture is an embarrassment!
If music maintains bridges between East and West, does the daily news not tend to destroy them?
To keep a relationship, you must know how to give of yourself, to accept the other. To establish a tie with the unknown implies letting oneself be taken in by the other, to accept a certain fragility, to abandon one's privileged position. For centuries the Western world was convinced it held the one and only truth, to have evolved into the most brilliant civilization. Tolerance, with the condescension that it implies, was the strongest sign of openness and generosity. However, conflicts remain and we felt them during our projects reuniting musicians from different backgrounds, from countries that politics divided. Tension was palpable in the first rehearsals. Then we were surprised by Israelis and Palestinians having fun singing the same songs together during breaks. Nothing and no one made them do it. It was the power of music: it can bring peace because it forces you to converse and respect one another.