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War Damaged Musical Instruments, installation by Susan Philipsz, Tate Britain

April 2, 2016

War Damaged Musical Instruments is an installation currently (March 2016) on display at Tate Britain, London.  The description of the installation is below.

War Damaged Musical Instruments features fourteen recordings of British and German brass and wind instruments damaged in conflicts over the last 200 years.  The notes recorded are based on the tones of the military bugle call “The Last Post”, but the tune is fragmented to such an extent that it is almost unrecognisable.  The tune signalled to lost and wounded soldiers that it was safe to return to base and is used today as a final farewell in military funerals and Remembrance ceremonies.

The artist [Susan Philipsz] has worked with the architecture of the space devising a sequence of sounds that travel the length of the Duveen galleries.  Philipsz explains, “I am less interested in creating music that to see what sounds these instruments are still capable of, even if that sound is just the breath of the player as he or she exhales through the battered instrument.  All the recordings have a strong human presence”.

Forming part of the 14-18 NOW arts programme to commemorate the First World War centenary, the work features several instruments from that period, and has a special resonance with the history of Tate Britain, as part of the site was originally a military hospital that treated soldiers injured in the First World War.

It is also a poignant reminder that conflict and loss are present in the world today.

The exhibition is curated by Sofia Karamani.

The sound of the damaged instruments being played can be heard in the background as people walk around the nearby galleries in Tate Britain.

The sounds of the war damaged musical instruments being played are heard through several speakers.

Tate Britain, speaker used in War Damaged Instruments installation, 2016.

Tate Britain, speaker used in War Damaged Musical Instruments installation, 2016.

A set of videos demonstrates how the recordings were made.

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Barry Mitchell

March 2016

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