To create National Anthems of the World, artist Sanne Vaassen fed a book containing the scores and lyrics for the national anthems of 198 countries
to a group of snails. They slowly ate away notes and words, creating holes in the score that alter the material content and challenge the intrinsic authority of the national anthem.
We invited pianist Imri Talgam to take on the challenge of playing this score. He decided to deviate from a purist approach and damage a copy of the score even further where holes were visible but too small to register aurally.
Talgam notes, “From a musical perspective, this additional damage creates more harmonic and rhythmic clashes, manifesting as polytonality and rhythmic juxtaposition. Some moments of simultaneity can pass unnoticed, owing to the remarkable similarity of just about all anthems. It is not a coincidence that all national anthems are modelled on occidental musical language. National anthems in many non-European countries reflect the process of cultural colonization that started with the import of church hymns, often used to encourage conversion. Occidental/tonal musical means became dominant, making them ideal vehicles for promoting national identities in the place of ethnic and cultural diversity. More optimistically, the resulting mash-ups in this performance reflect the porousness of borders in cultural development. As we know from history, national identities dissolve and mutate; our musics will fuse and grow together. “
About Imri Talgam
A versatile performer of both contemporary and traditional repertoire, Imri Talgam’s recent appearances include Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, KKL Lucerne, Alice Tully Hall and the Shanghai Conservatory. As a soloist, Talgam has toured widely in Europe, North America, Argentina, Russia, China, and Israel. Talgam is the winner of the 11th Concours International de Piano d'Orleans, as well as the Denisov and Claude Helffer prizes. Talgam received a M.Mus from the Juilliard School of Music and recently concluded his doctoral degree at CUNY’s Graduate Center, with research focused on the perception and performance of rhythmic complexity.
Image: Sanne Vaassen, The National Anthems of the World, 2014. Hardcover book. Photograph by Marie Noële Guex.