David Lang, Symphony for a Broken Orchestra, 2017, presented by Temple Contemporary. Photo by Karl Seifert.
On December 3, Temple Contemporary premiered Symphony for a Broken Orchestra, a new composition by Pulitzer Prize- and Grammy Award-winning composer David Lang for 400 musicians using broken instruments gathered from Philadelphia public schools. The project has received extensive national and local media coverage, including reviews and interviews in The New York Times, NPR, and The Atlantic, among others.
“The youngest performer was a 9-year-old cellist; the oldest, an 82-year-old oboist. It looked like the most diverse orchestra in America, ” reported The New York Times’ Joshua Barone in a review. “As the 40-minute symphony progressed, the instruments roared to life with powerful force…the score was playful, even joyous.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer’s David Patrick Stearns lauded the composition as “a genuine piece that’s likely to have a continued life,” noting that “even before its premiere, [the work] had fulfilled its larger function in the musical ecosystem: By simply writing a major work for 400 broken school instruments, the much-awarded composer David Lang had called attention to the need for more functional musical instruments for the betterment of the educational system and the community at large.”
In an interview with NPR, Lang described the impact of music education and its ability to connect: “When you play an instrument in a public school, this is the lesson you are learning. I have a connection to the person next to me and our connection is based on our ability combined to build something beautiful.”
For The Atlantic, Kriston Capps wrote, “The piece repurchases the dreams that these instruments represent for children...making new art is the best redemption imaginable for a broken instrument.”
The Guardian spoke to Lang about the project’s larger effect on the community: “What was apparent from beginning is that it’s as much a social and community project as it is a musical project,” said Lang. “These instruments represent something larger than themselves.”
Stay tuned for a video interview with David Lang, coming soon in our Questions of Practice series.