Building East-West Bridges in Tune

Demonstrating the ways music has created connections among disparate cultures has become a minor industry within the classical concert world. Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project has ranged freely through musical history, reviving ancient works and commissioning new ones. Early-music specialists like Joel Cohen and Jordi Savall have taken a more scholarly but equally lively approach, and Mr. Savall’s offerings have been particularly ambitious.

One area he has mined devotedly is the interaction among the musicians of Arab cultures — including the Sephardic Jews who lived in Muslim countries after they were expelled from Spain in 1492 — and those of Christian Europe. That relationship animates “Orient-Occident: A Dialogue of Souls,” a program based on a 2006 recording, which he presented at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Tuesday evening.

This was a Middle Eastern ensemble at heart. But in the 14th and 15th centuries you might have found one like it playing in Spain or Italy.

DNA study shows Spain’s Jewish and Muslim ancestry

The genetic signatures of Spaniards and Portuguese are providing evidence of the mass conversion of Muslims and Sephardic Jews to Catholicism during the 15th and 16th centuries. Eleven percent were found to have DNA reflecting Moorish ancestors, according to geneticists. The finding bears weight on two different views of Spanish history – that Spanish civilization is Catholic and other influences are foreign, or that Spain has been thoroughly enriched by drawing from all three of its historical cultures, including Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim. The genetic studies were based on examining the Y-chromosome in people, as the Y-chromosome remains unchanged from father to son, detecting similarities in those in the present population with those just after the expulsions of the 15th and 16th centuries.

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