The Divine Comedy was an exhibition featuring new works by world-famous artists Olafur Eliasson, Ai Weiwei, and Tomás Saraceno. Working with filmmaker Rob Meyer (Honorable Mention at Sundance, Emmy and Peabody award-winning documentaries), I composed a musical accompaniment for videos of each of the three installations. Full-screen viewing recommended.
Three to now by Olafur Eliasson
The exuberant nature of Eliasson’s “cabinet of wonders” sculptures called for a playful musical approach in the accompanying video. Around every corner another unconventional wonder to behold, another angle of perception revealed. In Eliasson’s purgatory, we are trapped in a world of illusion but kept too busy marveling to notice.
In keeping with the variety of physical forms represented in the film, I incorporated a broad spectrum of acoustic and electronic sounds as might be found arrayed in a tinkerer’s workshop. The individual bits vary tremendously but all carry the imprint of the same maker.
Untitled by Ai Weiwei
The installation consisted of 5,335 backpacks arrayed in stark cube formations, commemorating schoolchildren lost to earthquakes and corruption in Sichuan. Already stark in its representation of the tragedy, this installation took on an even more somber character in the week leading up to the exhibition, when its creator, Ai Weiwei, was detained by Chinese authorities without formal charges. His whereabouts were unknown at the time I was composing the piece and during the run of the exhibition.
What can one do with these truths? The innocence of the children; the distortions and misdirections of the official reports; the ruthless force of gravity — I translated these realities into musical elements only to find myself haunted and devastated by their combined effect.
Cloud City by Tomás Saraceno
At once intricate and abstract in form, Saracenoʼs inflatable sculpture embodies a radical elegance in its call to transcend boundaries of nation and politics. There is an energy of potential, a harnessing of power yet-to-be-released.
To portray the inscrutable form musically, I paired a one-chord major statement by string instruments with sound-design elements in a rising non-diatonic motif that casts a sonic shadow across the main theme. We sense its arrival, briefly witness a dream scarcely tethered to reality, and then are left with only a glimmering vision — a possibility to aspire to if we can just hold it in our memory.