Orpheus concerns itself with music as a medium that aims to create a mindful and an open society based on equal participation within the Palestinian community in Israel in particular and within the society in Israel in general.
Music is able to deliver on these societal and cultural values and objectives due to its special nature as a medium. For it combines the need for distinctiveness, independence, self-awareness on the one hand, and collaboration, coordination and harmony on the other hand. This dynamic translates into an extraordinary power that captures our attention and captivates our souls by weaving shifting ambiences, moods and world of feelings that relieves us from grip mundanity. Attentive listening to music enlivens our vitality, cultivates our individuality and boosts our imagination. Music-making develops the human mind’s most precious traits and capacities: it refines and grows perceptual sensibilities, the ability to sustain our span of attention, and the disciplinary capacity needed for meaningful and productive activity.
Rousing musical soundscapes and narratives do not come to being out of hand; they demand from the practitioners to hon their courage, to focus their strengths and efforts and to practice to the extent demanded by the rigorous integrity of the ear and the social standard of enchantment. Just as concepts help us to organize and order the randomness of phenomena and just as patterns of behavior are necessary heuristic for navigating life’s complexity and thus must be learned and adapted, so is music as a cultural and aesthetic form – it shapes social learning to accord with its own organizing ideals and embedded values. Moreover, music is a collective ordeal and submits itself to an “alchemic” encounter between the performer(s) and the listener(s). Most musical performances are practiced collectively, bringing together various musicians and instruments, which requires simultaneous cooperation, collaboration and harmonization. As such, the listeners are forced to utilize all the spectrum of their attentional capabilities to conjure up the gestalt and general contours of the aural experience. Put differently, music draws us to listen wide and deep, to accommodate ourselves to the moods, tones and expressive figurations of others. In the case of chamber or orchestral music, the performers are assigned a station, a location and thus are expected to demonstrate response-ability from that location and role towards their peers and the architecture of the music performed; to give and take, to blend and groove in the service of the holistic and truthful expressivity.
In this regard, the orchestral configuration allows or even epitomizes a model that allows distinctiveness and individuality on the one hand, and collaboration, togetherness and harmony-seeking with others on the other hand. Orchestral music invigorates perceptions an attitude that view reality as an interdependent whole. Withing its framework, each player has his own role and her distinctive sound within in the sound map of the composition, and that is her responsibility, but on the other hand for the success of performance she is dependent on others and their collaboration. This implies both independence and interdependence in an equi-dependent venture of participatory, dialogical and democratically-inclined deliberation. In this regard, music-making embodies the intrinsic sociality of human beings and fulfills their need for communication and mutual understanding without involuntary imposition or coercion. Each note, and each sound must find breath alongside others produced simultaneously without the risk of suffocation. Music-making in this sense represents an ideal type of self-governing society which balances the creativity of the individual and the virtue of communal cooperation and collaboration. It neither allows for the self, the “I”, to be devoured or consumed by the community, nor propels it to atomization or illusions of self-sufficiency.
While many people tend experience music as passive recipients of entertainment, Orpheus aims to highlight music’s intellectual, pedagogical and philosophical dimensions, those which promote existential reflection of self and society. To that end, Orpheus believes that music education can augment the socio-political processes and enterprises of multiculturalism, pluralism and equality. Though many of our projects and concerts bring together musicians regardless of background, including mostly Jewish and Palestinian musicians, we think that the positive educational quality of music does not come only from mere being together. This positive role stems rather from the nature and the setting of music making and the performative practices which invites and musters images of harmony, attunement, equality and respect between the instrumental roles and the players occupying them. To paraphrase Theodor Adorno in this regard, we would say that the musical performance creates a medium of equality and harmony that makes us aware of the lack of harmony and equality in real political life. Here lies music’s forte – it nourishes virtues which are fundamental for the makeup and sustenance of equal and pluralistic society. The model and praxis of orchestral music-making sets an alternative example of how togetherness and apartness, community and individual, can develop and thrive and ignites latent potentiality for equalizing the level of the “societal playing field”. In other words, it can serve as diagnostic mirror for discerning inequalities and disharmony in common life. By analogy, thus, the model of orchestral music-making provides us with an alternative imagination for practicing and realizing the ideal of equality in the face of domination and abuse of power.
Orpheus believes that introducing Western classical music to the Palestinian community contributes to its reflective capaciousness and intercultural competencies. This objective is delivered by various and on different levels: (1) through explicated introduction of evocative and intellectually intriguing music to the wider public; (2) by nurturing and mentoring the Palestinian community emerging musical talent; and (3) via presenting the music and the talents to educational for a like schools and clubs in a structured manner. What distinguishes music as a language from natural communicative languages is the backdrop of commonalities it possesses across cultures, in the sense that there is a basic grammar to all music and in the sense of the universality of the musical gesture and emotional expression. While aware of and opposed to Orientalist prejudice, the aforementioned formula and frame fertilizes the ground of deploying Western classical music as a vector for strengthening intercultural exchange and widen the margins of the local public and aesthetic spheres. Eventually, Orpheus aims to establish a framework for inter-penetration and mutual influence between local Arabic Oriental music and Western classical music, and deploy the latter as catalyst for emergent and alternative formations in the music-society nexus. Our experience hitherto has stimulated composers and musicians to engage in composing and performing probing and stylistically innovative music works and resulted in a novel performative practices across diverse audiences locally and worldwide.
Orpheus’ goals cannot be achieved without serious and broadly accessible music education; therefore, Orpheus devotes a major portion of its work to bringing music to primary school students, thus also reaching the students’ families. Children’s musical talents are fostered through private instruction and their interest deepened through learning about and listening to classical music. Children and parents alike learn to hear music’s multiple dimensions to gain a deeper appreciation of this music as art form and social interaction model.
The Palestinian Arab Community in Israel
The war surrounding the establishment of the state of Israel broke the Palestinian Arab national identity that had developed over the preceding decades; community and culture as it had been known disappeared virtually overnight. Personal and communal identity began a gradual entrenchment into religion, absent from the preceding generation. Today, national and religious identities have unique roles in community social and political life. After the war, prioritization was given not to identity development but rather the community’s survival under the hardship of the Israeli military administration. The military administration ceased in 1966, but the racism and discrimination in public life did not. The consequences of these phenomena can be observed in the disproportionate levels of poverty, unemployment, and underdevelopment in Palestinian Arab society in Israel.
“It’s better if there weren’t Arab students; if the Arabs had remained woodcutters, it would be easy to control them,” related Uri Lubrani, Prime Minister’s advisor on Arab Affairs, in 1961. The actualization of this notion is observed in the neglect of Arab public education in Israel. The Arab public-school system is lacking basic resources: qualified teachers, current educational materials, classrooms, and educational guidance; extracurricular and enrichment activities are out of reach for most Arab students. In short, Arab youth are at a severe disadvantage in attempting to achieve educational excellence.
While most Arab schools in Israel have some form of musical program, such “non-essential” subjects are less emphasized and funded. Most music programs are staffed by unqualified instructors and without instruments or music for the students to experience. The consequence is that a few Arab students do study music in the music academies.
Orpheus wishes to instill music education into the lives of Palestinian youth in Israel in particular, and youth in Israel in general, in order to enrich, encourage, empower and open them up towards distinguished achievements. Orpheus has begun bringing the knowledge, qualified teachers and material resources to Arab students and the community.
Non-profit organization for the advancement of multi-cultural music education
Est. October 2003
جمعية مُسجلة لنشر الثقافة الموسيقية متعددة الحضارات
تأسست بتشرين أول 2003
עמותה רשומה לקידום החינוך המוסיקאלי הרב תרבותי
נוסדה אוקטובר 2003
“Only the chords of the lyre know the truth”