How I Wrote... Crowd Out - David Lang

6 June 2014, 12:36

Capturing the collective individuality of being in a crowd, prize-winning composer David Lang's latest piece is something of a modern classical football chant.

Listen to Crowd Out in rehearsal:

In a sentence or less, how would you describe the music to someone who's never heard it before?
Crowd out is a piece for 1000 or more people, making music out of only the things they can do with their voices, their breath, and their movement.

How did the idea for the piece come about?
I was at an Arsenal match in the early 1990s and I listened to how great it sounded when all the lewd songs travelled all around the stadium.  And I have been thinking about that sound ever since. I was curious what happens to people when they are in a crowd, so I Googled the sentence "When I am in a crowd I..." and looked at all the ways that people have completed that sentence. I took out all the answers that were about a particular person or religion or product or political idea - anything that would make the answers seem less universal - and I took out all the things that were mean to other people, or too rude, and what was left became the libretto of the piece.

Did you have a musical 'EUREKA!' moment where everything fell into place, or did the piece gradually shift and change over time?
The EUREKA moment was when I remembered that I don't really like to be in a big crowd. I figured out that the piece should not be about how great it is to be in a crowd, but it should be about the things we lose as individuals when we are in a crowd.

Is there a musical moment in the piece you're most proud of?
1000 people yelling at the top of their lungs, together: 'I AM ALONE!'

What's been your favourite performance of the music?
The premiere hasn't happened yet so all my favorite performances are in the future.

If you could hear anyone admit they're a huge fan of the piece, who would it be?
Arya Stark
If you had to compose it again, what would you change?
Ask me again after the premiere - I am really hoping it all works great!

Where was the premiere and how did you feel hearing the piece for the first time?
The premiere is June 8 in Birmingham, produced by the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, then on to Berlin and then Spitalfields.  I am planning on feeling great.

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