* "Crowd Out" tries to capture ambivalence of being in crowd
* Written for 1,000, but can be scaled up to 50,000, Lang
* No need to read music; performers will clap, speak and
(Adds name of additional commissioning group para 15)
By Michael Roddy
LONDON, June 3 Pulitzer Prize-winning composer
David Lang thinks classical music needs to get out more - so
he's blowing the lid off on Sunday with the premiere of "Crowd
Out", inspired by a soccer match and written for 1,000
The premiere will take place in the English city of
Birmingham in the gigantic Millennium Point conference hall, the
very kind of place where Lang thinks classical music must be
heard if it is not to become completely irrelevant.
"I feel like there's something that's so powerful about this
music and this legacy and this idea of people coming together
and doing something important with sound," Lang, 57, told
Reuters during a visit to London to plan for the premiere.
"But the world we've built for classical music is very
narrow, we've built this place where you have to know a lot, you
have to go to special places, you have to experience it with a
certain kind of reverence."
"For my entire life, I've been involved in trying to figure
out ways to open up new doorways to new audiences and new
listeners, to bring different kinds of music together so they'll
have a wider impact," said Lang, one of the founders in 1987 of
the "Bang on a Can" ensemble that has become famous for its
marathon concerts of new music.
LOST IN THE CROWD
As a Los Angeles native attending an Arsenal match more than
20 years ago in London, Lang said he felt lost in a crowd where
he realised that everyone knew the sometimes rude songs the fans
were singing, but he did not.
"I was watching everybody and I felt a little terrified
because it's scary to hear all these people doing this - it's a
big sound," he said.
"And I started thinking, 'Well, in order to be in this crowd
you gain something, you gain the power of your comrades and the
people around you, and you also lose something - you lose
control of your environment and, to express yourself, you lose
"Crowd Out" is intended to capture that ambivalence.
The text comes in part from using Google searches to find
out what people say in response to the phrase "When I'm in a
crowd I feel...".
"So it's descriptions of how people answer that - 'I feel I
lose control, I feel my loss of power, I feel connected with
everyone around me, I feel in a river...'
The piece will be conducted by professional choral director
Simon Halsey, but apart from him no one else needs to be able to
read music or have had any vocal training. Section directors
have been specially trained, and organisers say many of the
participants come from amateur choirs, but otherwise all any of
the participants, ranging from lawyers to manual labourers, need
is written out on a sheet of paper each one has.
The piece involves talking, shouting, whispering, clapping
and singing set lines of simple text.
A THOUSAND PEOPLE TALKING
"It's just a thousand people talking, and the most
chutzpah-filled moment in the score is where it says you can
have a thousand more, which is really great. And it gives
instructions on the title page of how it can easily scale up to
50,000 - so hopefully it can be done with more," Lang said.
The Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, as one of the
co-commissioners, is giving the premiere. Next it will be
performed in Berlin under the aegis of the Berlin Philharmonic
and after that in Tower Hamlets, one of the poorest boroughs of
London, as part of the Spitalfields Summer Music Festival.
Lang won the Pulitzer in 2008 for his "Little Matchgirl
Passion", which sets Hans Christian Andersen's tale of a girl
who sells matches freezing to death on New Year's Eve to music
inspired in part by Bach's "St Matthew Passion".
The prize changed his life overnight. Orchestras can
programme his music without raising too many eyebrows, and he
gets more commissions, but Lang says he still feels like an
outsider to the classical music world.
"There's nothing wrong with erudition, there's nothing wrong
with specialised knowledge, but a field has to offer lots of
things in order to be robust and to survive," he said.
"So a lot of my pieces are about trying to identify
different kinds of audiences, or different ways of giving them
the experience of how great a musical message can be."
(Writing by Michael Roddy; Editing by Kevin Liffey)