Abstract Nationalism & National Abstraction
- 2001 (flags & scores) / 2014 (musical premiere)
Projects and individual elements in the Abstract Nationalism and National Abstraction series:
On October 27th, 2014 the world premiere of Anthems for Four Voices took shape as a set of musical interventions at the extraordinary galleries and Music Room of The Phillips Collection in Washington, DC. Produced as part of International Forum (October 25-28, 2014) with its immediate Embassy Row neighborhood in mind, these interventions incorporated live music, video art, flag displays, and other visual props used by the performers as they moved through the iconic building and its world renowned art collection.
Each piece in the series combines four national anthems, arranged for four voices (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass). Each voice is assigned one of the national anthems. The countries' groups of four are determined by their English alphabetical order, as found in the 2001 World Almanac and Book of Facts. The language that each anthem is sung in, however, shifts to that of the country that follows it in the Almanac. So, for example, the United States anthem is sung in Spanish, the official language of Uruguay. For some parts of the project, the voices are allowed an independent flow, so that the audience can appreciate them in their new linguistic and poetic articulation. These sections are called the musical processions. Other parts, called compositions, are created with Lasch's conceptual guidelines by guest composers. Generating a complete musical overlay of complex phonetic and semantic contradictions, these compositions are contemporary works of music in their own right, consistent with the aesthetic and stylistic vision of each composers.
Anthems for Four Voices is part of a larger oevre and social practice series entitled Abstract Nationalism & National Abstraction. Its social interventions, visual compositions, flag displays, and musical performances allow the audience to understand other national anthems in their native language for the first time, while their own anthem becomes incomprehensible. For those speaking several languages, or having strong associations with more than one anthem, the experience is even more layered and representative of today's cultural pluralism. These works incorporate a classical voice recital, yet placing it with the paradoxical establishment of anti-art. The recital is not simply intended to be 'musical' but is rather nurtured by the experimental attitude of avant-garde groups from various decades and regions, as well as their conceptually structured approaches. Channeling the intense emotional and cultural associations we have towards anthems, the premiere performance of these compositions at The Phillips will also invite discussions around the notions of independence, colonialism, (multi)nationalism, migrations, and mapping, all so deeply related to the history of nations and cultures. Other works in the series include video, visual scores, paintings, and various media associated with socially engaged art.