Home Song by Phillip Golub

A New York City based composer, Phillip's work reflects on a Financial Times op-ed about underclasses rising up during pandemics, and will be scored with sounds of his own home.


'Home Song' by Phillip Golub

Commissioners: Barbara & Bob Boies

Mezzo-Soprano: Kelly Guerra

Vocals: Eden Girma

A/V Editing: Phillip Golub & Zachary Lavine

Text: Editorial Board, The Financial Times, April 20, 2020 [excerpt]



"The Black Death is often credited with transforming labour relations in Europe. Peasants, now scarce, could bargain for better terms and conditions; wages started to rise as feudal lords competed for workers. Thankfully, a much lower mortality rate means such a transformation is unlikely to follow coronavirus. Instead, policymakers must prevent a stunning rise in unemployment from scarring a generation with lower living standards."


From Phillip:

I would never like to know the amount of time I've spent on Twitter and Instagram this year. To think of how many Scriabin Preludes or Fats Waller songs I could have learned in that time, or how I could have practiced rhythm or ear training ... One of the hallmarks of being on social media in the age of Bernie Sanders, justice for George Floyd and Breonna Taylor protests, and covid-19, is that the hollowness and hypocrisy of the liberal ruling class is regularly on display. In fact, some accounts are dedicated to showcasing only that in a rather brazen fashion. I came across a sentence from the Financial Times editorial that I ultimately chose to set on one of these silly Instagram meme accounts. After digging up the full editorial, I realized that their argument was that: Governments should act in response to the greatest spike in joblessness in the history of the modern economy not because people's dignity and lives were at stake, but so that people like myself — young and precarious — wouldn't get "scarred". Nothing could be worse, in their eyes, than delivering an ultimate shock to the system that would once and for all turn "a generation" against the economic and political systems in place today. In other words: a little bread for the peasants to keep them quiet. The absurdity of the text felt perfect for a song responding to 2020, but how to set it? A mezzo-soprano sings the text forcefully. But, instead of an instrumental accompaniment, I chose the sounds of quarantine itself as a palette: kitchen implements, family members talking on the phone, MSNBC and the Tennis Channel, me stumbling through my favorite fugue from the Well-Tempered Clavier, street noise through the window, and so on. I intended to reflect back to the listener something of what this year has felt like. A second non-classically trained singer gives voice to that feeling, playing with that essential word from the editorial — “scarring" (or is it perhaps “scaring”?) — and inviting us to feel it fully. What would happen if we all did that?


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This activity is supported in part by the California Arts Council, a state agency. Learn more at cac.ca.gov
Supported in part by a grant from the Arts Council for Long Beach and the City of Long Beach.
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