Symphony For Broken Instruments

by David Lang

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about

“The piece repurchases the dreams that these instruments represent for children, whether it’s performing Mozart with a chamber ensemble or wailing on a tenor sax. Making new art is the best redemption imaginable for a broken instrument.”
Kristen Capps, The Atlantic
December 4, 2017

“Last year I got an amazing phone call, out of the blue, from Robert Blackson, who runs the contemporary art gallery at Temple University. He told me that he had somehow – miraculously – gotten access to all the broken instruments in the Philadelphia public school system, and he asked if I had any interest in writing something for them. In fact, I did! Robert didn’t know it, but my first thought about these instruments was autobiographical. I am only a musician because there were robust music programs in the public schools that I attended as a child – a public school music education is why I am here today. My first thought was that 1500 broken musical instruments meant 1500 missed opportunities to change school children's’ lives, the way my life had been changed. What I hoped to do in these pieces was to give untrained and lesser trained performers the chance to do what our most trained and sophisticated performers do all the time – to work really hard together, to solve a tough musical problem together, to make something beautiful together. Our ensemble has a range of everyone in the city – from school children just learning how to play to amateurs to future professionals to members of the Philadelphia Orchestra. People from all across the city, coming together, making music. It is a beautiful sight.” Of course, in this piece, one of the problems these musicians have come together to solve is that their instruments don’t work as they are expected to. Some are barely changed, some are just more complicated to play, and some are now incapable of doing what they were designed for. Part of each player’s job is learning what each instrument can and cannot do, and then adapting himself or herself to it. These instruments, like the people who play them, are unique, extraordinary. It has been a joy to work with them.”

David Lang, Introduction to Symphony for Broken Instruments


In early 2017 Found Sound Nation was asked to participate in Temple Contemporary's project Symphony for A Broken Orchestra. Temple Contemporary collected all the broken instruments in the Philadelphia public school system and had the idea to create a concert with them, while raising enough money to repair them. David Lang would be the composer and FSN was brought in to catalog and record the sounds, archive the material, coach musicians to play these broken instruments and conduct community outreach in Philadelphia. All this culminated in a world-premiere of David Lang's Symphony for Broken Instruments at the 23rd Street Armory performed by 400 musicians, amateurs, students and Philadelphia community members.

Recorded live on December 3rd, 2017 at the 23rd Street Armory, Philadelphia
Conducted by Jayce Ogren
Engineered & Mixed by Devin Greenwood & Arun Pandian

Symphony for a Broken Orchestra was commissioned by Temple Contemporary at The Tyler School of Art. Major support is provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, with additional support from the Barra Foundation.

credits

released April 22, 2019

Recorded live on December 3rd, 2017 at the 23rd Street Armory, Philadelphia
Composition - David Lang
Performed by over 400 members of the musical community of Philadelphia
Engineered & Mixed by Devin Greenwood & Arun Pandian
Mastered by Dave McNair

Symphony for a Broken Orchestra was commissioned by Temple Contemporary at The Tyler School of Art. Major support is provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, with additional support from the Barra Foundation.

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