Acceptance Speech on the Occasion of the International Brücke Prize

9 November 2007

Dear Guests, Dear Friends,

It is an unusual business for a musician to be standing here, the centre of attention for politicians and scientists. I hear words about my music and my person that sound, to my ears, somewhat exaggerated, since I never set myself such grandiose goals as those you speak of here. My goals and standards are much more modest, and a lot simpler. At the time when my present music came into existence I had my hands full just trying to solve my own problems. I had to put myself into a state of mind which would allow me to discover a musical language that I could live with. I was in search of a little island of sound. In search of a place in my innermost being where—shall we say—a dialogue with God might take place. Finding this place became a task of vital importance for me.

I am sure that such a need is felt—consciously or unconsciously—by every one; and perhaps many of you know this, know what I am talking about, already.

To illustrate my thoughts I would like to offer you a picture: if we look at any substance through an electron microscope, a magnification of a thousand will obviously look very different from that of a million. But if we move slowly through all the possible gradients of magnification we may discover unimaginable, fairly chaotic landscapes. Yet, at some point there is a border—somewhere in the region of a magnification of thirty million. Here all the fantastic landscapes disappear and we see a strict geometry, a sort of network, very clear and very special. What is surprising is the fact that this geometry looks very similar, even in very different substances.

Is something like this true of human beings?

Let us fantasise. Let us attempt to examine a human soul as if it were under such a microscope, gradually increasing the degree of magnification. We will witness how all the superficial features of a human being—his particular characteristics, all his virtues and weaknesses—disappear more and more from the image as the magnification increases. It will be like an endless process of reduction, which leads us towards the bare essentials. On this “journey into the interior” we leave behind all social, cultural, political, and religious contexts. In the end we arrive at a net-like basic pattern. We might call it a human geometry, clearly organized, peacefully shaped—and above all: beautiful.

At this depth we are so similar that we could recognize ourselves in each other. And this level may be the only place where a practicable bridge of peace is conceivable: where all our problems—if indeed they still exist here—might be solved.

For me it is a great temptation to see this well-ordered, fundamental substance, this precious island of the soul’s seclusion, as the place of which it was said 2000 years ago, here is the Kingdom of God—namely within ourselves. Irrespective of whether we are old or young, rich or poor, woman or man, coloured or white, talented or less talented. And so, to this day, I try to stay on that path in search of this long-awaited magic island, where all people—for me, all sounds—can live in peace with one another. The doors to this place are open to all of us. But the path towards it is difficult—difficult to the point of despair.

Your Brücke Prize gives me new strength, and encourages me to carry on along this path.

Many thanks!


Translated by Robert Crow

On June 22, the Centre is open until 4.00 p.m., on June 23, the Centre is closed. Happy Victory Day and Midsummer to everyone!

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