Menu Close

‘You have to do more with your music than just play concerts…’


June 15, 1993

‘You have to do more with your music than just play concerts…’

By Ashali Varma

Musician, conductor and composer, Marvin Hamlisch is a world renowned figure.  As the composer of “A Chorus Line” which won nine Tony’s and Academy Award winning movies, “The Sting” and “The Way We Were”,  Hamlisch at 49 is one of the most successful talents on Broadway.  He attributes his involvement in human rights to former US President Jimmy Carter and the Dalai Lama. He spoke recently with The Earth Times. Excerpts:

How did you get involved in the issue of human rights?

In my profession in music there is one language called music – the note in New York is the same note in Italy is the same note in France.  I had never really for many years thought about human rights because in America we take so much for granted.  When you get a chance to travel, you get to see different cultures and the way they do things and it is not a question of one better than the other, it is just different.  For this human rights conference what I think is different now, that wasn’t true 25 years ago is that though there may be cultural differences, the world has become so interdependent that the policies any nation makes are dependent on other nations and we must get one musical scale that works for everybody.  The world has got to understand that we are now a nation, which is a member of the world order.

Do you think this is possible, one musical scale that works for everyone?

I believe there is a universal instinct which says that human beings have rights.  I am hoping that the people who are framing this doctrine are not framing it just so that it sells in their country because it has to sell to the world- it has to be a worldwide understanding.

You mentioned that you were also influenced by the Dalai Lama?

I think to me, meeting the Dalai Lama was a sign, it said, “Marvin, you have to do more with your music than just play concerts. This is a sign to use your music to do something for other people.”

What made you decide to go to Vienna and do something with children for

the  Conference?

First of all, my parents came from Vienna. Vienna is for me a very bittersweet place to go to. It’s a wonderful city, yet we all remember what happened in Vienna, it has historical undertones of some sad times because human rights of people were totally dismissed.  To use Vienna for the conference is, therefore, very relevant. As far as children are concerned, it is interesting for me to work with children because children never edit anything they say. I like being with children because they say what’s on their mind. I also think that though we see Bosnian children on television, it’s a different story when you see them in person, it makes a greater impact. I am hoping in a small way to try and make an impact through the concert.

What are you actually planning for the concert?

We have a song that we are going to do at the concert, which I am hoping to teach the children, which is called One Song.  It was written about two years ago and it is an anthem for everyone.  The words go like this: “If we all sing one song; one song of love, one song of peace; one song to make all our troubles cease; one hymn, one theme, one hope, one dream; Imagine what tomorrow would bring; If we all sing one song.”