David Rosenboom and Lewis Klahr: Battle Hymn for Insurgent Arts

David Rosenboom and Lewis Klahr: Battle Hymn for Insurgent Arts

“Rosenboom, an iconic figure in the world of experimental music … ‘listening is the performing act.’” Hyperallergic

“Avatar of experimental music.” The New York Times 

“Wake up, the world’s on fire!” (Lawrence Ferlinghetti). This assemblage of aesthetico-political music for contemplation and empowerment features postgenre sounds for vigilance against the commodification of ignorance and the barbarization of democracy. Rosenboom and his team perform with instruments, electronics, and voices and add prescient, prophetic lines by socio-political seers: Ferlinghetti, Foucault, Pythagoras via Ovid, Sun-tzu, Mark Twain, and others. 

Evocative, virtuosic music is interlaced with images by Lewis Klahr, whose uniquely idiosyncratic films use found images to explore the intersection of memory and history.

Performed by a virtuoso ensemble of collaborators: Matt Barbier, trombone; Nicolás Bejarano, trumpet; Swapan Chaudhuri, tabla; Gene Coye, drums; Meltem Ege, speaker/vocalist; Allen Fogle, horn; Alphonso Johnson, electric bass; Miranda Kahn, actress; Molly Pease, singer; David Rosenboom, piano/Yamaha Disklavier(™), algorithmic instruments, and electronics; Aaron Smith, trumpetLuke Storm, tuba; Jake Vossler, electric guitar.

“With my burnt hand, I write on the nature of fire.” (Flaubert)


From time to time, an artist’s eternal aesthetic investigations into the evolution of humanity in the universe can encounter detours when it is necessary to search for light in times of great divisions. Far from obfuscating the ongoing aesthetic agenda, however, such detours can serve as a key informants. The irresistible impulse is to not look away, and to reach for the values of equality, tolerance, and access, while simultaneously trying to avoid causing harm in reaching for the non-absolute of perfection in practice. From time to time, I have engaged in making “musical interventions”—exploring ways to confront the forces of division with music. Over time, a collection of pieces with socio-political content resulted. They emerged from contemplating the perplexing, pluri-perspective character of what could be a principled “aesthetic regime” of political order. How could such a regime arise and be nurtured from within the natural “flesh” of society and “the ungraspable identity of the people that makes democracy an enigma” (ref. M. Merleau-Ponty and M. Plot)?

In this performance a selection of these pieces, some very recent, some from the past, are knitted together in what is intended to be a seamless whole felt as a single gesture. The lucky emergence of Lewis Klahr as a collaborating ally and a brilliant Virtuoso Ensemble of Collaborators has fueled this endeavor.

—David Rosenboom, 2018


Program in Program Order

Musical Intervention 1979 reverses the totalitarian usurpation of a people’s music with electronics that strum the acoustic spectrum of the dark militarization of a previously lyrical Chilean national song following the tragic 1973 coup d’état. Hymn of Change (1978) is a slow, jazzy gospel waltz about the nature of change, here arranged for brass quintet with words of Pythagoras via Ovid delivered by an actor. The Right Measure of Opposites (1968 & 2017) is an algorithmic expansion of a movement from the twelve-movement work for piano Bell Solaris—the Sun rings like a bell emanating subtle portents of change—incorporating lines from Mark Twain’s “War Prayer” in a duet for Disklavier with electronics and actor. Lewis Klahr’s film Jesus Was Invitro incorporates Rosenboom’s early noise construction Music for Analog Computers (1968) and Musical Intervention 1982, a music box-electronic distortion of The Internationale. Earth Encomium (2017) is a solo for piano/Disklavier, electronics, and field recordings, with delicate natural sounds placed in 3D-spatialized, harmonic orbits for a stressed planet, emboldened with a few lines from Sun-tzu’s Art of War. In Battle Hymn of Insurgent Arts (2018 world premiere) a brass quintet with electric rhythm section and electrified singer deliver a new setting of Mark Twain’s little-known rewrite (ca. 1900) of lyrics for the "Battle Hymn of the Republic (Brought Down to Date)."

Lewis Klahr has made a new silent film for this collaboration, Out of Truth (Don’t Motto), to be premiered with a composition performed by a piano/tabla (Indian drum)/guitar trio. The event will conclude with the rousing wake-up call, Fanfare for (R)Evolution Arts (2017). The entire Virtuoso Ensemble of Collaborators with sizzling vocalist will deliver a rousing, enabling call-to-action, quoting prescient lines from Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s Poetry as Insurgent Art.

Thanks to Authorized Yamaha Dealer Keyboard Concepts, for its generous donation of the Disklavier for this concert.

Associated Images: 

SAT 4/21
8:30 pm

G - General Audience

M - REDCAT Members

ST - Students

CA - CalArts Students/Faculty/Staff