In the beginning ... there was sound
The 2006 BBC Reith Lecture Series was delivered by a Supreme Master of the Podium, Daniel Barenboim, drawing on a lifetime of musical experience to illustrate eloquently how music is a way to make sense of the world.
In the first lecture Barenboim speaks with humour, clarity and coherence about how it is impossible to speak deeply about music, that all we can really do is speak about our own reaction to it. Wryly pointing out that the impossible has always attracted him more than the difficult, he sets out to weave connections between the inexpressible content of music and the inexpressible content of life.
Almost every definition of music that Barenboim has come across, he tells us, describes a subjective reaction to music rather than music itself. Precision is to be found in the following, from the Italian pianist and composer Ferruccio Busoni:
Music is sonorous air.
I loved what Barenboim had to say about how sound doesn't exist by itself but has a permanent, constant and unavoidable relationship with silence. Music does not, therefore, start from the first note and go on to the second. The first note determines the music, emerging as it does from the silence that precedes it. Music, for Barenboim, is not about being, but about becoming, and nothing in music, not even a single note, exists independently.
He speaks of passionate discipline.
The full lecture series includes Barenboim's insights into the impact of living in a predominantly visual society, and how hearing has become a neglected sense; how formal education is failing our children; about the ability of music to integrate, and how the very nature of being a musician is integrative, bringing together rhythm, melody, harmony, volume, and speed; and about the difference between power and strength.
You can listen to the full series of lectures via the link http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/reith2006