The Unhasu Orchestra, North Korea
Recent events reported out of North Korea are disturbing.
If you haven't heard, several musicians associated with the Unhasu Orchestra, including a young woman reportedly having been (at one time) a romantic interest of North Korea's dictator Kim Jong Un, have been executed.
Executed because of some perceived failure on their part to fulfill the wishes (read "propaganda") of the government. I believe family members were also executed or imprisoned. This is to have taken place in the past few months.
Truth in this report is (unsurprisingly) denied by the North Korean government and is, as yet, unsubstantiated though the evidence is mounting that the executions did occur.
It is nearly impossible to imagine living in a place that imposes governmental propaganda on it musicians in 2013.
This is not the first time it has occurred in world history. I remind you of when the Soviets and Nazis were in power. Not just musicians, but all creative sorts, were given the option to comply with governmental directives or else.
Or else they would be
Or all of the above.
I recall reading about how Rachmaninov escaped Russia under the guise of touring to represent the many exceptional talents of the Russian government. He left with his family and thus was able to leave his beloved homeland for good. Upon realizing Rachmaninov had duped the government, from then on when an artist left the country with intent to perform, teach, etc. the artist's family was not allowed to accompany them on the journey. Essentially the family members were held hostage until the artist returned to the country.
I cannot imagine living in such an environment.
We speak frequently of freedom of religion and freedom of speech.
How often do we consciously realize the glorious freedom we have to make MUSIC?
I mean, think about it. We can play/sing/compose any type of music whenever we want without fear of governmental retribution. We can listen to a seemingly infinite and varied supply of music. Our government, though with dwindling support in recent years, actually financially supports artistic endeavors. It even honors musical artists with prestigious awards.
So, when you pray prayers of thanksgiving for the freedoms our country affords, don't forget to pray for the freedom of music.
Not everyone is blessed as we are.