by Maggie Stapleton
In December 2015, Paul D. Miller (aka DJ Spooky) and The Nouveau Classical Project presented the world premiere of Miller’s Peace Symphony: 8 Stories at Seattle’s Cornish Playhouse. Second Inversion was able to capture some of this piece, which you can read about below.
“Inspired by the everyday stories of the last remaining survivors of the nuclear bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the idea behind this work came from Miller’s personal interaction with eight Hibakusha (被爆者 Atomic bomb survivors) on Peace Boat’s 83rd Global Voyage (Peace Boat is an international non-governmental and non-profit organization that works to promote peace, human rights, equal and sustainable development and respect for the environment) where Miller recently served as a guest educator and artist-in-residence.
Hibakusha’s stories highlight the humanitarian consequences of these weapons of mass destruction, educate youth, and help to bring about a nuclear free world. Miller has sampled the words and stories of Hibakusha to create electronic and acoustic musical portraits that resonate with some of the deepest issues facing modern society.” – Paul D. Miller (aka DJ Spooky)
The stories Miller engages come from several of the last survivors of the tragedy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and he takes their tales and weaves together a sound portrait of one of the most powerful moments of the 20th Century.
A few excerpts from an interview between the chair of Cornish College of the Arts with DJ Spooky about Peace Symphony:
Tom Baker: First of all, how in the world do you find the time for all that you do as a creative artist? And secondly, do you find the time to notice the rhythm of the space between things with what must be an incredibly busy life?
Paul D. Miller: I would say everyone is feeling that they never have enough time in the 21st century. For me, music, art, and literature are all simply reflections of the same creative impulse. It’s a core issue in the 21st Century. Capitalism forces our attention span to be framed by the huge array of commercial advertising that inundate us. I guess you could say that I use my art and compositions to create more time and space to think about all the issues facing us, and distill it all in one form. Music is the language we all speak.
TB: This new piece, Peace Symphony, draws on a dramatic and profoundly disturbing time in world history. I know that you were artist-in-residence for Peace Boat (an international non-governmental and non-profit organization that works to promote peace, human rights, equal and sustainable development and respect for the environment). Was that experience an inspiration for this piece?
PDM: Japan and Germany took radically different routes after World War 2. Japan has an amazing group of peace activists and so does Germany, but Japan has a very different relationship to its collective memory of the war. I wanted to talk about memory with the survivors to see what could be done with their story. It’s a story we Americans never get a chance to actually hear. That’s what this project bears witness to: it has to be about purple to people shared experiences. Anything else is government propaganda. I try make this as much about humanity as possible.
TB: Your work encompasses so many disparate pathways, though there always seems to be singular vision at play, even in the midst of intertwined collaboration. How do you reconcile these diverse adventures and creative work into an aesthetic focus?
PDM: Inter-disciplinary art is the legacy of some of my favorite composers – from John Cage on one hand and Nam June Paik on the other. Aesthetics in the 21st century is one of the most complex forces because it encompasses everything about what it means to be a creative person in this Era. DJ culture is a kind of template because it’s always about searching for new ways to reconsider history. That’s what a good mix does. It gives you a good idea of what is possible.
Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky is a composer, multimedia artist and writer whose work immerses audiences in a blend of genres, global culture, and environmental and social issues. His written work has been published by The Village Voice, The Source, and Artforum, among others, and he is the Editor of Origin Magazine. Miller’s work has appeared in the Whitney Biennial; The Venice Biennial for Architecture; the Ludwig Museum in Cologne; Kunsthalle, Vienna; The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, the Miami/Art Basel fair, and many other museums and galleries.