2016 Action Project – Universal Language: Connecting People Through Music


Kate Chiucchini, Chaza Abou Daher and Youssef El Toukhy

The Challenge

The relationship between the East and West is often framed   by economic and political boundaries, while connections based on ideologies and values have become increasingly   fragmented. In the globalized world we live in today, media plays a prominent role in shaping our perceptions of different cultures. Generalizations are imposed on individuals and nations have often served as a proxy for entire populations, inhibiting communication and understanding to a more basic human level.

Egypt and the United States are two nations in the midst of transition that are experiencing significant events that will have reverberating effects across the Eastern and Western world. Shifting the focus to connections on a personal level is a way to promote deeper understanding of this critical time for our generation. Music is one universal commonality that has the ability to break down barriers across cultures. The challenge of this project will be to use the power of music as a universal language to connect people from the East and West, at the most basic human level—through a shared emotional experience.

Project Overview

The cornerstone of this project will be the creative development of original compositions by musicians from the East and the West. These compositions will be inspired by the musicians’ reactions to images representing different themes relating to human experiences. Five photographs depicting powerful images of critical events from around the world will be selected as visualizations, and a selection of performers and orchestras from both regions of the world will each interpret the photographs through music. The resulting pieces of music will be recorded and compiled into an album.

In conjunction with the completion of the album, an event will be organized and held to exhibit live performances of the compositions, to be played by one prominent orchestra. The event will be promoted to a broad  audience, in both Eastern and Western countries, which will help build upon the idea of communication  through music, regardless of nationality, language, or culture.

The Goals

The goal of this project is to foster human understanding and dialogue through the universal language of music. By eliciting the audience’s emotional response to the music, a connection will be created between people from around the world, on a personal level. While the pieces may have different interpretations from both the musicians and the listeners, and contain unfamiliar instruments, sounds or languages, the resulting multi-national and cross-cultural album will break boundaries currently blocking communication, through a shared experience.

Population Served

The prospective audience to be served by this project is expansive. Music is a widely accessible medium through which the project hopes to reach people of all ages in Egypt, Lebanon, the United States, and other nations around the world via the internet, streaming and live performances.

Project Milestones

Phase 1: Selection of themes and photographs, and outreach to musicians and orchestras Phase 2: Recording of original compositions and album development

Phase 3: Album distribution and choosing a prominent orchestra to perform at a live concert

Phase 4: Planning and logistical coordination for the event

Phase 5: After the inaugural performance, future events will be planned to hold additional performances   that will reach a broader audience in both Eastern and Western countries

Expected Outcome

The outcome of this project will include the production of an album holding 10 tracks of music from Eastern and Western composers, and a live orchestra performance of these compositions. After the completion of the album and the first performance, the project will continue to be promoted and exposure generated via online portals. The creation of dialogue through music between cultures will promote the values of respect, diversity and cooperation between East and the West.

Future events will be held, with different musicians performing the album to communities from both the Egyptian and U.S. regions, to further the project’s overall mission - to foster an intercultural experience and develop understanding between East and West through the universal language of music.

Furthering the Foundation’s Mission

This project ultimately seeks to promote the Gabr Foundation’s mission of bridging the gap between the East and West, through the creation of shared experiences at a personal level and by impacting how people perceive their differences, focusing on integration rather than opposition. Music is the universal language of mankind and it can break barriers between cultures and promote dialogue through shared emotion and human understanding.