Today David Lang arrived in London for the UK Premiere of his Cello Concerto (World to Come) tonight at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, tomorrow he flies home to New York, this afternoon was a prime opportunity to meet him and quiz him about his new piece for 1000 voices Crowd Out, which has been commissioned by BCMG and receives its world Premiere at Millennium Point on 8th June.
I was keen to check if David had a preference as to how the twenty choirs, each fifty strong, will be arranged in Millennium Point, different positions could radically change the sound of the piece, so it’s a non-trivial question. I was also keen to run a few of our ‘choreographic ideas’ past him (choreographic idea does rather flatter what is a very minimal approach to movement. The theory being a small thing x 1000 is going to be a big thing and a big thing x 1000 is going to be too big a thing). Finally I took the opportunity to ask him in person about the origin of the piece. I was cautious about this because I’ve read about this and I’ve been told about it by others and he’d just given two press interviews on the piece, but it seemed worth digging a bit in case something useful came to light. Bingo – David spoke of his discomfort in crowds and distrust of them. He told of playing in a marching band at Stanford University at half time in football matches and being horrified by the roar of the huge crowd. This gives us something to go on, somehow these face to face meetings as so much better than any other way of getting to grips with things.
The business of the meeting was so quick and efficient there was enough time for a bit of chat. It was soon confession time. I had to admit that Stan’s Cafe owed David a small royalty fee. Back in 1999 we made a show with De Montfort University students in Melton Mowbray called The Hearing of Susan Tuesday. The first half was performed without words and with liberal use of their fly tower zooming curtains in and out. This was performed to Louis Andriessen’s De Staat. The second half was slow and measured, set in a court, contained words and was performed to Slow Movement by…. David Lang. It is a beautiful piece and I lost the CD it was on, possibly leaving it in the CD player in Melton Mowbray. As David told a short story about the genesis of that piece I was struck by how strange if would have seemed fifteen years ago to have been told about this afternoon’s meeting at the Royal Festival Hall.