When I let my frustration out in an article in this column in August, I didn’t expect I would get the needed answer from a respectable celebrity within a month.
To my relief and delight, however, I did get one and the godsend is Maestro Chung Myung-whun, the world-renowned conductor-pianist, and a member of the unrivalled Chung Trio.
In the article headlined ``Barenboim vs. Oh Se-hoon,” for which I feel sorry for the first man for putting his name together with the second, I talked about the overwhelming impression I had had from the Aug. 15 Peace Concert featuring Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 presented by Maestro Daniel Barenboim and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.
It was so damp and hot on that evening and Barenboim had to wipe off his sweat a few times while conducting the youths from conflicting Middle East countries, yet he made every effort to show what music could do when peace was at stake.
The orchestra was founded in 1999 by Barenboim and Edward Said, the late Palestinian-American academic, to encourage people ``to think and feel alike, to get together and feel one huge common lung” as the maestro once said. After watching and listening to the Divan’s performance, I could tell their efforts were succeeding in great ways.
So, in my column on Aug.27, I expressed frustration about the lack of such musical endeavor in this part of the world. ``It is unfortunate that we, South and North Korea, don’t have our own Divan whereas we need such an endeavor more than any other people in the world, being the only divided nation on the globe,” I wrote.
As if he read me, Maestro Chung announced last week that he had agreed with North Korean musicians to create a joint symphony orchestra and hold regular performances in the two Koreas. Speaking to reporters after a four-day visit to the Communist North, Chung said that he, the music director of the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra and a UNICEF goodwill ambassador, had signed a memorandum of intent to the effect with the North Korean Association for Art Exchange.
``If the South and North governments approve, I wish young musicians from both sides will stay and practice together for about ten days, alternating Seoul and Pyongyang, and present a joint performance at this year-end … I haven’t heard opposition from the (South) Korean government and thus will push the project with hope." He said concert proceeds would be donated to help the needy in the North.
The Maestro said he had wished artistic exchange with North Korea all his life, yet it couldn’t take place due to political reasons. ``I am grateful that I have this opportunity.” He said the orchestra would be composed of an equal number of musicians from the two sides. ``Personally, I want the joint orchestra to perform Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 'Choral' in Seoul and Pyongyang at the end of the year."
During his visit, Chung met the North Korean State Symphony Orchestra and conducted rehearsals of the fledgling Eunhasu (meaning ``Milky Way”) Orchestra for seven hours. ``The North Korean musicians played Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 for the first time during a rehearsal on Sept. 13 and their performance was of very high quality.” He also attended auditions of seven musicians and ``experienced the North Korean education system pursuing accuracy and clear articulation.”
I am particularly happy to note that the first such inter-Korean exchange is being promoted by none other than Chung, because he and his two sisters _ cellist Myung-wha and violinist Kyung-wha _ were on my mind while I was writing the article. I thought the trio or any of the three would be most suitable for the historic mission not simply for musical but also for personal reasons; the trio’s devoted mother-mentor, Mrs. Lee Won-sook, was a native of Wonsan, North Korea. It is regrettable that she passed away last May. Had she been alive, she would have rendered all-out support for the musical exchange as she had for her children’s musical career.
If I may put in my two cents, I would call it ``Kimchi” or ``Bibim” Symphony Orchestra. Kimchi is Korea’s indigenous side dish: Whether you live in the south or the north, you make and eat Kimchi. The northerners make whiter, less spicy Kimchi than their compatriots in the south and the tradition is rooted largely on the weather. In warmer areas, Kimchi ferments easily and should be made with a little more salt and spice to keep its original flavor. ``Bibim” means mixing various ingredients without compromising each of their tastes. A good example would be bibim-bap or mixed rice mixed with a variety of seasoned vegetables. The Maestro is welcome to use either of my proposals for free. Dear Maestro, whether you like my suggestions or not, I salute you for your endeavor. Thank you.
Politicians and government officials on both sides are hoped to abstain from pestering Maestro Chung for his enthusiastic move, humbly recognizing that they had failed to build a common ground where people of the two sides could truly share something. I hope they will appreciate what the honorable conductor is doing for the nation and join me in wishing for his music to prevail over the national division and eventually enable the communists and capitalists in the two halves to ``feel one huge common lung.”
I wonder if and what the conductor will name the joint orchestra. I don’t think he will make another Divan. As I wrote in my earlier article, the Divan came from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s anthology of poems symbolizing East-West harmony. If the orchestra were an inter-governmental creation, it is highly likely to be called ``Peace” or ``Tongil” meaning ``reunification.” However, those words don’t seem to fit the artist’s sensitivity.
지난 주 지휘자이며 피아니스트인 정명훈 씨가 남북한 음악가들로 구성된 오케스트라를 구성하겠다고 말했습니다. 3박4일 동안 북한을 방문, 조선예술교류협회와 남북 합동 교향악단의 정례 연주회도 추진하기로 했다고 합니다. 남북한 젊은 음악가들을 같은 수로 모아 오케스트라를 구성하고 서울과 평양에서 번갈아 열흘 정도 함께 생활하며 연습하게 해서 연말에 합동 연주뢰를 열고 싶다고 합니다. 가능하면 올 연말 합동 연주회에서 베토벤 9번 교향곡 '합창'을 연주하고 싶다고 합니다.
지난 8월 15일 임진각 평화누리에서 열린 '평화콘서트'에 다녀온 후 코리아타임스 제 칼럼 'Random Walk'에 'Barenboim vs. Oh Se-hoon'이라는 제목의 칼럼을 썼습니다. 평화콘서트에서 감동적인 연주를 들려준 West-Eastern Divan오케스트라 얘기를 하며, 왜 세계 유일의 분단국인 한반도에는 그런 오케스트라가 없는지 안타까운 마음을 토로했습니다. 바렌보임과 팔레스타인계 미국인 학자 에드워드 사이드가 구성한 Divan의 연주자들은 갈등이 끊이지 않는 중동 국가의 젊은이들로, 바렌보임은 그런 지역 사람들이 '한 자리에 모여 하나의 허파로 숨 쉬게 하는 것'이 Divan의 목표라고 말한 바 있습니다.
코리아타임스 8월 27일 자에 실린 그 칼럼을 쓸 때 저는 정트리오를 생각했습니다. 정명훈 서울시립교향악단 예술감독 겸 유니세프 친선대사, 그리고 그의 두 누이인 첼리스트 정명화 씨와 바이올리니스트 정경화 씨야말로 그런 오케스트라의 산파역에 적임자라는 생각이 들었습니다. 어쩌면 지난 5월에 타계하신 그들의 어머님, 이원숙 여사님이 북한 출신이라 더욱 그런 생각을 했는지도 모릅니다.
그러니 지난 주 정명훈 씨가 남북 합동 교향악단을 구성하겠다고 했을 때 제가 얼마나 기뻤을지 짐작하실 수 있을 겁니다. 정 감독은 "북한과의 음악 교류는 평생 원해 온 일인데 항상 정치적 이류로 무산됐다"며 이런 기회가 온 것을 감사한다고 했습니다. 남북한 정부가 그를 응원하고 도와주기를 진심으로 바랍니다. 남북한 음악가들이 한 자리에 모여 연주하고 남북한 사람들이 하나의 허파로 그 음악을 들이킬 수 있기를 바랍니다.
이 오케스트라의 이름을 정 감독이 뭐라고 지을지 궁금합니다. 양측 정부가 추진해서 한다면 틀림없이 '평화' 또는 '통일'이라고 지을 것 같습니다. 그러나 그 단어들은 좋은 의미를 갖고 있긴 하지만 음악적이 아닙니다.
감히 제안하자면 '김치' 혹은 '비빔' 오케스트라가 어떨까 합니다. 남북한이든 어디에 살든 우리는 모두 김치를 먹습니다. '김치'는 우리를 '하나'로 묶는 암호 같은 것입니다. '비빔'은 여러 가지 요소를 섞어 새로운 것을 만들어내지만 그 요소 각자의 맛을 파괴하지 않습니다. '김치'와 '비빔'처럼 그 오케스트라의 취지에 잘 부합하는 것도 없을 것 같습니다. 정 감독이 제 제안을 받아들일지 어떨 지는 알 수 없는 일이지만, 아무튼 저는 정 감독에게 깊이 감사하며 그의 뜻이 꼭 이루어지기를 축원합니다.