A dialogue of souls

Listening to this selection of music from East and West so ingeniously put together by Jordi Savall is no ordinary experience. In addition to the aesthetic emotion, we feel another that is even more intense – a sense of magical communion with reconciled humanity.

One can’t help feeling that, with the simultaneous demise of both Sepharad and Al-Andalus in the second half of the 15th century, only forty years after the fall of Byzantium, some part of the human soul was also lost. Those events led to the destruction of intellectual and spiritual bridges between East and West that have never since been repaired. Once the fertile hub of our cultural universe, the Mediterranean became a battlefield and a barrier between peoples.

Nowadays, our common sea marks the site of an invisible Wall which divides the planet into terror-gripped North and despairing South, into world communities which have grown accustomed to distrusting and distancing themselves from “the Other”. Arab and Jew seem to have forgotten their former, life-giving family ties, while Muslim East and Christian West appear to be locked into a confrontation from which there is no way out.

If our disoriented humanity is to regain some shred of hope, we must go far beyond a dialogue between cultures and beliefs to engage in a dialogue between souls. At the beginning of the 21st century, that is the indispensable mission of art. And that is exactly what we feel we are listening to in this superb collection of music from diverse eras and lands. Suddenly, we discover – or rediscover – that the civilizations we had thought of as remote or even inimical to one another, are in fact surprisingly close, with an astonishing degree of mutual interdependence.

Throughout this journey in time and space, we constantly find ourselves wondering whether the conflicts to which we have become accustomed are perhaps mere delusions, and the true nature of peoples and cultures is rather to be found in this dialogue of instruments, chords, cadences, expression and inspiration. Then we feel welling up in us a profound joy born of an act of faith: diversity does not have to produce adversaries; our cultures are not sealed inside impermeable shells; our world is not doomed to be endlessly torn apart; it can still be saved…

And hasn’t that always, from the very dawn of the human adventure, been the primary purpose of art?

Amin Maalouf



21st May, Monday

Salão Arábe, Palácio da Bolsa
A dialogue of souls ⋅ Jordi Savall and Hespérion XXI