National Anthems

2021; dur: 35'; Voice solo, Picc/Fl, Ob, Cl/B Cl, Bsn, 
Hn, Perc, Pno/Synth, 2Vln, Vla, Vc, Cb/El Bs, live 
electronics and projections; Score at nb.no

Imagine there’s no countries.

Despite today’s globalization, we still structure our world and its people with national states. Despite collective ownership to the world and global principles of justice, such as determined by international organizations, each country’s internal structure gives huge differences in living conditions for its people. Within a state, principles of justice are depending on which grounds are shared among its people: politically, socially, cultural and religious traditions. Citizenship alone gives no guarantee for actual participation. The historical forming of a national state is not necessarily built on rational or moral virtues unique to the state, or on an internal collective affiliation. Crucial for a state to uphold existence, is its ability to realize basic moral rights. Crucial for our highest political ideal for states to coexist is to prevent boundaries from becoming barriers that sustain suppression. 

In National Anthems, I have tried to look at national states through the eyes of artificial intelligence (AI). One of the worlds most up-to-date machines has learned how states are presented on Wikipedia, and has responded to that with a collection of new, fake states that are presented in a concert performance with textual fragments from the AI and with music based on national songs derived from existing states. (The countries are also presented in full online at Atlantispedia.art.)

What can artificial intelligence, also created by humans and completely lacking morals and deep rooted cultural understanding, tell us when responding to how we present our national states?

Full texts are presented additionally as online articles for those interested. AI learning is done with the help of Inga Strümke, Steffen Mæland, Henrik Sundt and Anders Vinjar.

A co-commission by Ensemble Modern with kind support by the Minister of State for Culture and the Media and Kölner Philharmonie. The premiere was presented by Ensemble Modern on the 6th January 2022 in the Kölner Philharmonie.

„National An­thems“ von der norwegischen Sängerin und Komponistin Maja S. K. Ratkje, und dieser Zyklus hatte wirklich alles, womit man hätte locken können: Phantasie, Humor, Einsatz von Künstlicher Intelligenz beim Materialarrangement und eine charismatische Ratkje mit auf der Bühne, die ihre Nationalhymnen für erdachte und jeweils auch in Worten vorgestellte Staaten zusammen mit dem Ensemble Modern zum eklektisch-elektronischen Spektakel machte. Am 10. Januar wird dieses Konzert in Frankfurt, dem Sitz des Ensembles, noch einmal gespielt: dem Vernehmen nach ausverkauft, Heimvorteil.

Andreas Platthaus, Frankfurter Allgemeine

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