Sunday, April 29, 2012
Profile of Meir Buzaglo, a brilliant Israeli academic born in Morocco and bred on different musical influences. "Music is the soul of peace and a messenger for change", he tells Haaretz.
Meir Buzaglo, who was born in Morocco in 1959, grew up in a home suffused with music: piyyutim; hundreds of traditional Hebrew texts set to music by his father; a mixture of sacred and non-sacred music; a blend of Jewish, Muslim and Jewish-Muslim melodies.
“Father would take popular songs and ‘convert’ them to Judaism. Students would come to prepare for singing the songs of supplication in winter, and all self-respecting singers would come to sing and listen to the others sing.
“My brother Shalom, who was my mentor, made sure that I also heard rock ‘n roll, top-quality English rock, as well as the sound-tracks of Indian movies. Different types of music express different aspects of the soul. Whoever sings well is on top of the world. People like Aviv Geffen, Naomi Shemer, Kobi Peretz. Those who can sing well are in a special category. Plato says: ‘When modes of music change, the laws of the state always change with them.’ The reason is that music is the soul of a nation. Clothes and food might be the outward signs of a culture, but a nation’s soul is in its music.
“Profound change will never occur if music does not change. Look at the Zionist movement, for instance, which arose on the wave of a major musical phenomenon. The ethos changes when the music changes. Without jazz, Barack Obama would never have become president of the United States ... Music is the soul of a place; it is both a messenger and an agent of change.”
Buzaglo is a senior lecturer in the Hebrew University’s philosophy department; he has degrees in mathematics, physics and the philosophy of science, and his doctoral thesis was on the 18th-century Jewish philosopher Salomon Maimon. Over the years, he has received among other things a Fulbright scholarship, a Hebrew University citation for excellence in teaching, and a three-year scholarship from the Israel Science Foundation.
The articles and books he has either written himself or edited deal with various aspects of philosophy, logic, the connection between language and mathematics, and medieval thought. The music he absorbed at home, and which has become an integral part of his life, has played an important role in his philosophical thought as well as his approach to sociopolitical issues.
“Conflict between parties can be along the lines of what was depicted in the movie ‘Avatar,’” says Buzaglo, “but it can also take place between parties that share a common essence, in which case there is the possibility of peaceful resolution. Music is one of the central components in the kind of Jewish-Arab friendship we would like to see. The prayer book of Moroccan Jews contains the phrase, ‘We begin when we hear the prayers in the mosque.’ This embodies the ability to see the ‘other.’ It boils down to being aware that the muezzin is calling his fellow Muslims to prayer services. This surpasses the idea of ‘building bridges’ or looking only at the economic dimension [of conflict]: It is the ability to open your eyes.
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