Playing musical diplomacy with North Korea - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Playing musical diplomacy with North Korea

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Posted: Saturday, March 1, 2008 3:37 am | Updated: 11:55 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Who knew North Korea's secretive and tight-lipped leadership had such expansive tastes in Western music? No sooner does the New York Philharmonic make a groundbreaking visit to Pyongyang than the North Koreans invite British rocker Eric Clapton to come on over and put on a concert.

The orchestra was greeted with great warmth and received a five-minute standing ovation from the North Korean elite.

Dictator Kim Jong Il did not attend the concert and six North Korean musicians who rehearsed with the orchestra did not play. But nothing official happens by accident in this hermit land, and it does appear that its leadership is tentatively testing the possibility of a little more openness to the outside world. North Korea's own symphony is to visit the United Kingdom this fall.

Once the door is opened enough for the North Korean people to get a peek at the outside, it will be very hard to close.

Besides, if as William Congreve said, "Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast," maybe it also has the power to calm a bellicose regime.

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