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Music Quickens Time

The maestro’s acclaimed examination of music's power to transform society.
In this eloquent book, Daniel Barenboim draws on his profound and uniquely influential engagement with music to argue for its central importance in our everyday lives. While we may sometimes think of personal, social and political issues as existing independently of each other, Barenboim shows how music teaches that this is impossible. Turning to his intense involvement with Palestine, he examines the transformative power of music in the world, from his own performances of Wagner in Israel and his foundation, with Edward Said, of the internationally acclaimed West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. Music Quickens Time reveals how the sheer power and eloquence of music offers us a way to explore and shed light on the way in which we live, and to illuminate and resolve some of the most intractable issues of our time.


  • “Whether discussing the structure of a Mozart finale or the problem of performing Wagner to a Jewish audience, Mr. Barenboim proves a wonderfully compelling maestro.”
  • “The writing brims with an optimism that is both heroic and hard-won.”
  • “Truly riveting.”
  • “Electrifying … Barenboim concludes through these illuminating meditations that the power of music lies in its ability to speak to all aspects of the human being.”
  • “There is no one quite like him today in the music world.”


  • Pierre Boulez (1925 – 2016)

    Pierre Boulez, iconoclastic composer, conductor, writer and pianist, died last week after a long illness at the age of 90. Michael Chanan pays tribute. 

    It was the mid-1960s, I was in my late teens, I was already becoming familiar with post-war avant-garde music, yet the first time I heard Pli selon Pli by Pierre Boulez, who has died at the age of 90, I couldn't make head or tail of it. Something in the back of my head, however, insisted that the problem was mine, not the music's, driving me back to hear it a second time when he conducted it in London again a few months later. This time I was rewarded by a musical experience as scintillating, diaphanous and transcendent as I've ever had. When I talked to him about his music a year or two later, I immediately connected the experience with his description of music as 'controlled hysteria', an effect which is highly calculated but produces in the listener a peculiar kind of euphoria, a free-floating intensity that can also be found in certain old time composers like Perotin or Tallis, even Beethoven, at least in the readings of certain symphonies by certain conductors–try listening to Boulez's recording of Beethoven’s Fifth.

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  • Letter from John Berger to the Palestinian resistance

    Beethoven’s Piano Concerto no. 5 summons up a happiness that is almost boundless and which, for that very reason, neither he nor we can possess. The Concerto was nicknamed the Emperor. It carries us to an horizon of happiness we cannot cross.

    Daniel Barenboim, Klavier-Festival Ruhr 

    I send it today to the Palestinian students demonstrating at the Beth El checkpoint at the entrance to Ramallah. They too are inspired by 
    a vision of happiness they cannot know in their lives. I send the Concerto as an arm to be used in their struggle against the Israelis who occupy and colonize their homeland. Beethoven approves. He cares deeply about politics. His Symphony No. 3, the Eroica, was inspired by Napoleon when he was still a freedom-fighter and before he became a tyrant. Let’s rename the Emperor for a day: Piano Concerto no. 5, the Intifada.

    John Berger

  • Listening to Noise Uprising: A playlist and discography

    Michael Denning's Noise Uprising—out tomorrow—offers a radical new reading of the cultural revolution that developed in the half-decade following the 1925 advent of electrical audio recording. These years saw the development and consolidation of a wide range of new musical idioms in port cities across the globe, including Havana's son, Rio’s samba, New Orleans’ jazz, Buenos Aires’ tango, Seville’s flamenco, Cairo’s tarab, Johannesburg’s marabi, Jakarta’s kroncong, and Honolulu’s hula. Below, Denning has assembled a selected discography for the book and an accompanying Spotify playlist.

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