The Piece

David Lang’s brilliantly conceived 40-minute work, Crowd Out – for 1000 or more voices – was commissioned by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group with financial assistance from Arts Council England West Midlands and individuals through BCMG’s Sound Investment scheme Spitalfields Music (London) with major funding support from Arts Council England and financial assistance from its New Music Commission Fund; and the Education Programme of the Berliner Philharmoniker – with each city devising its own staging in June 2014.

The piece realised the composer’s vision of creating a community of performers – brought together through a joint musical and social experience – so people with mixed musical abilities, including no experience of performing, could take up the challenge and enjoy the thrill and satisfaction of giving voice to this distinctive new piece.

Taking inspiration from a wide range of ‘community performances’, including chanting at football matches and Balinese Ketjak choruses, Lang compiled his text from an internet search results for ‘When I am in a crowd I…’. The deceptively slim 12-page score of text, instructions, and simple musical lines that resulted, creates in effect a massive piece constantly in transition, with 8 sections of speaking, shouting, singing, whispering and chanting overlapping each other to climactic effect.

Crowd Out is scored for 4 groups of at least 250 participants, each divided into 5 groups of 50 with their own vocal leader/conductor. These 20 conductors are in turn directed by a ’super-conductor’. This simple hierarchy means that performers are never more than a few feet away from their vocal leader – greatly helping those with little or no musical performance experience.

Musical America’s 2013 Composer of the Year, the passionate, prolific, Pulitzer Prize-winning David Lang is one of America’s most performed composers. BCMG has enjoyed a long and successful relationship with Lang – his previous BCMG commission The Passing Measures received huge acclaim and was subsequently recorded on Cantaloupe Records, a recording which was named one of the best CDs of the year by The New Yorker.