"I feel anxiety, I feel awful and I wish to be alone," some
people shouted. At other times people sang or clapped, while the
piece opened with performers walking about the central atrium
area of the Millennium Point conference venue whispering phrases
like "I lost it all", "I start to panic", "I push, I shove, I
glare, I mutter".
Lang's 40-minute piece was inspired by the chanting and
singing he heard at an Arsenal soccer game years ago and he took
the text from a Google search of how people feel when they are
in a crowd.
Written to be performed even by people who cannot read music, it
went a long way to capture the excitement, but also the fear,
loneliness and confusion of being in a crowd.
"I had some ideas of what it was going to sound like, but not
all, but I think that's one of the thrills of this," Lang told
Reuters after the performance in the central English city. "It's
very easy to do the things we already know how to do and
sometimes you want to actually do something else."
"This piece is one of those," said Lang, who won a Pulitzer for
his haunting and intimate "Little Matchgirl Passion" based on
the Hans Christian Andersen story about a girl who cannot sell
her matches and freezes to death.
"Crowd Out" will next be performed in Berlin under the auspices
of the Berlin Philharmonic, and after that at the Spitalfields
Summer Festival in London.
For the Birmingham premiere, the 1,000 performers included
nurses, teachers, manual labourers, lawyers, school children and
a smattering of music students, plus many members of amateur
They filled the stairways, the main floor and the balconies of
the conference venue, blurring the distinction between
performers and the audience, who stood anywhere they could find
[to top of second column]
Choir director Simon Halsey conducted from a vantage point about
midway up a tall escalator connecting the ground floor to one of the
balconies. He used an enormous amount of body and arm language to
get the performers to sing, yell or speak louder or softer.
He and an assistant also used coloured flags - blue, green, yellow
and red - to clue in colour-coded subgroups of about 250 people each
to indicate what they were supposed to do next.
Halsey said Lang's piece set an excellent example of showing a way
to involve the broader public in musical performances.
"I do believe very strongly that professional musicians of the next
generation are going to have to be every one of them involved in
community work and education and this is such a creative expression
for them to see how to do it," he said.
With its 40 minutes of eddying currents of whispering, shouting,
clapping, singing and talking, the piece struck a powerful chord
with some of spectators.
"It made me feel uncomfortable at times, because of all the
shouting," said Georgina Jones, 20, a university student in
Birmingham, who added that she really does not like being in crowds.
Her companion Daniel Prosser, 23, who works for The Royal Mail,
said: "I liked the fact that there was an overlaying of shouting and
singing so you never knew quite what was happening."
(Reporting by Michael Roddy; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)
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