A few months ago I organized a one-day conference on the subject of "Music in the context of the Holocaust - therapeutic aspects in the past and present". The first part was dedicated to the past. Two musicologists talked about music during the holocaust.
Tamar Machado, a musicologist and a music therapist, who works in "Yad Vashem" - The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority in Israel, talked about singing as a means of survival and resistance during the holocaust and performed some of the songs that were sung in Ghettoes and concentration camps. Prof. David Bloch talked about the music in Terezin (a concentration camp during the holocaust). Prof. Bloch is the head of "Terezin Music Memorial Project" and his mission is to revive and record the music that was created and performed in Terezin.
The second part was dedicated to the present. Two music therapists talked about their work with holocaust survivors. Ayala Gerber Snapir called her lecture "singing out of silence" and described her music therapy work with a group of women who were hidden children during the holocaust. In my presentation I described my two-year work with a woman who is a holocaust survivor. Several years after she was born in Poland the Nazis started the pogroms against the Jews. A short time before her parents were sent to Treblinka and were murdered in the gas chambers by the Nazis, her mother took her to a Catholic family where she was hidden throughout the war and luckily survived. She came to live in Israel when she was 12 years old and never talked about her past. Ravel's Bolero was the most powerful composition in our work. While listening to the Bolero in a safe and trusting environment (the music therapy room) she was able to revisit her past. Pieces of memories from her childhood came back to her and as gently as possible we tried to put the pieces together and re-build her memory. Slowly she started sharing these horrible stories with me and her family, allowing herself to experience the terror and horror, to express pain, and mourn her lost childhood. Later on, we started to create and sing songs that told her story.
Although her physical health improved during and at the end of our work together, she still lived in her own inner Ghetto, surrounded by transparent walls. Maybe the music made the walls more elastic; maybe music therapy succeeded in opening some windows there.
Ravels' Bolero was the shuttle that bridged and connected time-periods, geographical places and internal and external worlds. She was haunted by her past. Her internal present was frozen - her past took over her present. She re-experienced her childhood in Poland while at the same time was an adult who lived in Israel. In her past, this woman's geographical and 'real" home was Poland. It was her childhood place, where she felt loved and secure, until one day everything was shredded to pieces and gone - Poland became a place of terror and horror. It was not home anymore. Later on she came to Israel and made it her homeland, but internally, she wasn't home. Her heart was in exile. She was living with a big secret, not being able to share any of it with her husband or children, who grew up knowing that something was terribly wrong with their mother.
Many holocaust survivors, and people who are second and even third generation to the holocaust don't feel at home with themselves. They are lost in their own past (or in their parents' and grandparents' past) and unable to live fully in the present. Some of them listen to "back-home" music and to music that is connected to the holocaust in order to remember, to re-live the past so they can feel more at home with themselves; Others refuse to listen to any piece of music that reminds them of the holocaust in order to be able to live their lives more at peace.
What is home? Where is home? Is it a geographical place? Is it something that we carry with us no matter where we go? Is it a feeling? Is it a state of mind?
What happens to people and to their art/music when they move from one country to another? What role does art/music play in creating "home"?
It is interesting to see that throughout history, many artists left their home countries and went to live in new places. Some because they were forbidden by the political regime to create and perform their art and had to escape from their "home" country and live in another one in order to be free. Others left their homelands because they felt they needed more inspiration and went to live in a place that in those days was the center of inspiration or in a far-away, exotic place.
The world is full of refugees, migrants and immigrants. Some of us, music therapists, are ourselves immigrants; many of our clients are refugees, migrants or immigrants. Some of them bring their "back-home" music and use it as a wall around them - as a way to protect themselves, as a shelter, as a way to stick together as a group and become a closed community in the host country. Others, especially the younger generations, mingle with the host country's habits and music and leave their "back-home" music behind, sometimes totally reject it. Some of them are ashamed of their own traditions and rebel against it. They don't want to make such music or listen to it - it reminds them of being different, while all they want is to be the same as others in the new country.
How do we help our clients to feel at home no matter where they are? What music do we use as a shuttle between here and there, now and then?
I would love to read some of your thoughts and experiences.
Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956): http://www.kirjasto.sci.fi/brecht.htm
Paul Gauguin (1848-1903): http://www.malaspina.com/site/person_546.asp
Franz Liszt, Abacci Books:
Kurt Weill foundation of music - biography: http://www.kwf.org/
1) The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra is still not allowed to play Wagner due to the sensitivities of holocaust survivors. Recently Daniel Barenboim conducted Wagner in Jerusalem and that caused a big protest by both public and government.
2) Examples: Kurt Weill was born and lived in Germany until Hitler's ascent in 1933 forced him to leave Germany and never to return. In 1930s Brecht´s books and plays were banned in Germany, performances were interrupted by the police or totally forbidden. He went into exile, first to Denmark, then to Finland. From Finland Brecht continued with his family through Russia to the United States, then to Switzerland. In 1948, after 15 years of exile Brecht returned to Germany.
3) Examples: Chopin, Verdi, Rossini, and many others went to live in Paris in the 19th century. Liszt, for example, was born in Hungary, studied and played at Vienna and Paris.
4) Paul Gauguin was born in Paris in 1848, left to Copenhagen where he unsuccessfully pursued a business career. Driven to paint full-time, he returned to Paris in 1885, leaving his family in Denmark. Later on he sailed to the Tropics to escape European civilization and "everything that is artificial and conventional." He remained first in Tahiti and later in the Marquesas Islands for most of the rest of his life, returning to France only once. In the Tropics islands he painted as he never painted before - Gauguin's bold experimentation with coloring led directly to the fauvist style of the 20th-century.
Amir, Dorit (2003) Home, Time, Space: Music as a Shuttle Between Here and There, Now and Then. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved June 11, 2013, from http://testvoices.uib.no/?q=fortnightly-columns/2003-home-time-space-music-shuttle-between-here-and-there-now-and-then