Susan Philipsz: War Damaged Musical Instruments

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While at the Tate Britain seeing Tracey Emin and Francis Bacon they also had a sound piece by Susan Philipsz. Now I’m not brilliant with sound art, I either like it (yay) or don’t. This is more than likely a combination of ignorance, personal bias, and laziness. I am always drawn to visuals quicker, I am tone deaf, so music and sound either works for me, or it doesn’t.

susan-phillipsz-tate-britainWar Damaged Musical Instruments worked for me.

The sounds play out across the vast expanse of the Duveen Galleries at Tate Britain and I found myself stood still to listen, to take in how the sounds made me feel. I had shivers down my spine like a good tune causes.

Susan Philipsz has recorded British and German brass and wind instruments that have been damaged in conflicts to play ‘The Last Post’, a military bugle. The tune is unrecognisable though, to those that even might have an idea to what it should sound like.

I am less interested in creating music than to see what sounds these instruments are still capable of, even if that sound is just the breath of the player as he or she exhales through the battered instrument. All the recordings have a strong human presence.

Susan Philipsz, Tate Britain

I’m reminded of many heartbreaks and to the bottom-of-my-boots fears. Philipsz describes her work well, and there is a strong human presence to each sound, at times as if someone was stood behind me playing a flute, a recorder. It’s a piece of work that I will remember for a long time to come, as it speaks of such terrible atrocities and a moment in time that slowly edges away from us.

As like many pieces of artwork that resonate with me, War Damaged Musical Instruments touches me personally, and I cannot be alone in that. War and conflict are big things and take up so much mind space at times, it’s only fitting that Susan Philipsz took up one of the largest spaces at Tate Britain.

Susan Philipsz/Tate Britain

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