Background Music for Fundraising Event
Instrumentation: Full Orchestra - 3 Flutes, 3 Oboes, 3 Clarinets in Bb, 3 Basoons, 4 Horns in F, 3 Trumpets in C, 3 Trombones, Tuba, 3 Percussionists, Harp - Tuned a quarter-tone lower, Piano, Strings
First performance by Tongyeong International Music Festival Orchestra - 14.09.2011, Seoul Arts Center Concert Hall (South Korea)
The piece is based on testimonies of human suffering from different parts of the world. I collected these testimonies from different sources, in a tedious process that was a challenge in itself. In the beginning of the piece, the testimonies are being read by the orchestra members, creating a counterpoint to the playing their instrument. The initial thought in the piece was a criticism of the way we listen to human suffering. The first section of the piece is built in such a way, that there are too many testimonies read in parallel to be conceived and understood. The perception of the texts as a coherent texture gives a false impression of redemption. The human suffering becomes background music for the conscience clearing which leads to a Catharsis.
Another key element in the opening section is the experience of the orchestra members. They are asked to read such horrible testimonies without being heard. This reflects a very basic human experience – the attempt to catch the other’s attention and the failure to be heard. This special concert situation extends the traditional performative situation in classical music and gives a new meaning to the notion of communication between the musicians and the audience.
The first section leads to a cathartic orchestral climax. This saturated orchestral sound is an ambiguous element in my musical language, and it is as vague in this piece as well. These climatic sounds represent a duality for me and the danger of immersive art. The historical baggage that these sounds carry lead to the abrupt treatment of them in the end of the first part of the piece.
After finishing the first section, I realized that my criticism was not directed towards the society, but rather inwards. I acknowledged the fact that by trying to express my message in music I am doing the same action as the fundraising event’s visitors – clearing my conscience without truly listen or act in any way.
In this last section of the piece, there is only one text being read at once at every point. But now the text is not understandable, as it is not written in any known language. This symbolizes the experience of truly listening and acknowledging one voice. It is the realization that the better we listen, the more we understand that we cannot understand, that these experiences are not communicable. The second part culminates in a moment where the musicians scream together: “This art is quite useless”. This sentence refers to the introduction of “The Picture of Dorian Gray”, where Oscar Wilde cites Bertrand Russell saying “All art is quite useless.”