The Broken Orchestra.

Hong-Kai Wang

New York (USA). 2007. Original format: Multi-channel sound installation. Original duration: 27'. Duration of Madrid Abierto's edition: 8'53".

Participating musicians: Joshua Camp-Accordion; Andy Cotton-Upright bass; Kathleen Edwards-Violin; Ben Gerstein-Trombone; Michael Hearst-Theremin; Kurt Hoffman-Clarinet; Ben Holmes-Trumpet; Meg Reichardt-Banjo; Pei-Yao Wang-Piano.

Arnold Schoenberg famously quipped, "My music is not really modern, just badly played." The piece, The Broken Orchestra, metamorphoses his complaint into a guiding principle, imposing a musical procedure designed to reduce the proficiency of professional musicians to a primitive state, in the interests of effecting musical discoveries.

A group of musicians on various instruments are asked individually to recreate the sounds found on an old cassette recording of Bach's Ave Maria as performed by his brother on violin and the artist on piano when they were youngsters living in Taiwan.

The original recording is characterized by its youthful performers' wobbliness, and a significant about of extra-musical ambience: Her 3 year-old sister's giggling, her scolding, and so on. The participating musicians personal memories might be summoned by having to imitate the childish quality and recall the times where they were still fumbling the instruments and learning what music could possibly mean to them. Their musical sensibilities might be challenged by having to respond to this universally known tune in this imperfect and distorted form. As each re-creation is made, the musical qualities translate through each participant's memories and their own interpretation of a form of musical simplicity.

The result of the experimentation was originally a multi-channel sound installation consisting of the original recording layered with each re-recreation in separate speakers played back in loop. For Madrid Abierto, Wang's made a stereo mix from the original format.