“Music for Everyone: Variations on a Theme” opens in Singapore after its Venice Biennale debut

by | October 8, 2020

Visitors can look forward to complementary online and offline programmes that will revive memories surrounding the humble recorder, and broaden their understanding of Singapore’s music appreciation history.


The humble recorder.

“Music for Everyone: Variations on a Theme” by interdisciplinary artist Song-Ming Ang opens at the National Museum of Singapore (NMS) till November 8, 2020, following its celebrated run at the 58th Venice Biennale in 2019. Commissioned by Singapore’s National Arts Council (NAC) for the Singapore Pavilion at one of the world’s most prestigious art institutions, the Venice Biennale, the show returns to Singapore with a total of nine physical works for local audiences to experience for the first time, along with digital programmes and more.

The exhibition is a grounded and powerful statement that contrasts amateurism and agency through the humble recorder. Singapore takes the spotlight in this internationally-acclaimed exhibition, as the show investigates our relationship with music on a personal and societal level. The works reference a series of concerts organised by Singapore’s then-Ministry of Culture in the 1970s and ’80s, where the arts served as a cornerstone for nation building. Beyond social commentary, the joy of music-making with this familiar childhood instrument and purposeful play underscores this whimsical and candid presentation from Ang, curated by Michelle Ho.

The homecoming show, which drew crowds in tens of thousands since its opening in Venice, will see three additional physical works being presented together for the first time in the expanded site at NMS. These works are an extension of Ang’s egalitarian vision of “Music for Everyone”, engaging thoughtfully with the structures and contexts of music-making and how greater dialogue can emerge from the universal language of music. Approached as a “remix” of the original presentation, the three works combined reveal the collaborative process of music and art-making, communication through music, and ways of co-creation with the public that bring forth a more empathetic connection in the experience of art.

The exhibition in Singapore will also feature the rest of the Venice display, such as anchor piece “Recorder Rewrite”, a three-channel film installation that features children of diverse backgrounds playing a composition of their own making. The children’s performance deviates from structured learning and is instead based on improvisation exercises and unconventional uses of the recorder. Singaporeans will immediately recognise the Singapore Concert Hall in the backdrop, as they reminisce about their personal experiences with music through the beloved recorder, which has been a part of Singapore’s music education in schools since the 1970s. Connected by shared memories of music-making, visitors will also encounter “Music for Everyone” banners that reveal the historical context of music in Singapore, while appreciating the sense of wonder and revelry that Ang injects into experimental “Recorder Sculptures”, twisted in unexpected shapes and forms.

Apart from viewing the show at NMS, NAC has also commissioned a host of digital public programmes that can be enjoyed anytime, anywhere. This includes a special performative lecture by Ang himself, as he delves into the expanded range of artistic and musical influences for “Recorder Rewrite”, from musique concrète to postmodern dance. A panel discussion featuring visionaries and past participants of the Venice Biennale such as the likes of Young Artist Award recipient Ho Tzu Nyen and Singapore-based Ute Meta Bauer will also be held during this time, looking back at a decade of the Venice Biennale. This is an opportunity for audiences in Singapore and beyond to learn more about Singapore’s lesser-known music appreciation history through a contemporary lens, while understanding the evolution of our local visual arts scene from the comfort of their own homes. Interested public can also sign up for guided curator and exhibition tours.

Artist Song-Ming Ang said, “This is an exhibition that is truly collaborative in spirit and extensive in scope, and we have expanded the presentation to include even more elements of national history as well as my own artistic output throughout the years. I am happy and grateful that our presentation in Venice can now be experienced by everyone in Singapore, and hope that it resonates with the audience.”

Curator Michelle Ho added, “By revisiting Singapore’s music appreciation history through a new light, we hope to inspire deeper thought into the musical icons of our country. Some may be surprised to learn that our earliest taste for music was from a collective cultural exercise driven by social pragmatism, but that’s just one part of the story. We hope that this expanded showcase persuades visitors to make their own creative connections with music and the arts.”

Follow the show’s Facebook event page HERE for more information on its upcoming public programmes.




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