My young son Nathan and I recently started reading the Harry Potter series. I’m only halfway through the second book, a total Muggle, way behind Nathan, but already I’m hooked. I didn’t want to be, I’ll confess. I’m averse to being trendy, almost on principle, and Harry Potter is all the rage. But I understand why, now. How can anybody resist a good story, especially when the words leap straight from the page onto your tongue? I mean, you see the word “Hogwarts” and you just have to say it, and as soon as you say it, that part of you that only pretends to be grown-up wants to sign up for a few witching classes. And once you’ve said “Quidditch”, how can you not want to play a game or two, even though you know it’s pretty much impossible for us earthbound Muggles?
|Michael Gambon playing “Dumbledore.”|
And then there’s headmaster Albus Dumbledore. With such a fabulous name, the old fellow probably had me from the start. But he had me for sure when he announced to the entire student body of Hogwarts, after they had just bellowed out the school song at the first assembly of the year, every little wizard and witch to his or her own tune and tempo: “Ah, music. A magic beyond all we do here!” The old fellow was actually wiping tears from his eyes, and I, a Muggle musician, was wiping my eyes as well. (Well, almost.)
Music. The highest form of magic. Beyond all Potions and Hexes and Charms, beyond all Divinations and Transfigurations and Teleportations. It doesn’t hurt, I suppose, when the music’s being conducted by a silver-haired wizard whose baton–er, wand–shoots out long golden ribbons into the air that twist themselves into words to be sung (and, I also imagine, notes to be played). Each to her own tempo, of course.
I know another wizard with tremendous faith in the magic of music. He’s known among Muggles as Daniel Barenboim. He says he’s no wizard, but don’t believe him. Just listen to him. Just watch him. As a pianist he can summon a world out of his fingertips just as surely as Dumbledore can conjure Gubraithian fire. As a conductor he can draw forth the heart and soul of an orchestra, just as surely as Dumbledore can pull out the innermost thoughts and feelings of sorcerers, dragons and ghosts.
Like most wizards, Barenboim doesn’t pay much attention to boundaries that ordinary Muggles won’t step across. Consider, for example, the boundary between Israelis and Palestinians. Barenboim crosses that ugly border so often and with such disdain for what it represents that he enrages some Muggles, while inspiring others.
“It is our duty, all of us,” Barenboim said, his hair as silver as Dumbledore’s, “to find a way to live together. Because either we all kill each other, or we learn to share what there is to share.”