Bang on a Can composer David Lang doesn’t purport to be a prophet. At least not so far as I know. But you gotta hand it to him, the piece he wrote for the Philadelphia-based choral ensemble The Crossing last year is a little bit on the nose.
“I had no idea when I wrote this piece last year that we would be living it this year,” Lang tweeted.
The tweet comes in response to the radio show Performance Today which is featuring Lang’s choral work “Protect Yourself from Infection” on today’s episode devoted to music connected to the Influenza Pandemic of 1918. The “Spanish Flu” infected a third of the world’s population and killed tens of millions of people.
The piece was commissioned by the Mütter Museum College of Physicians of Philadelphia for their “Spit Spreads Death” exhibit which took place last year documenting the devastating effect the Spanish Flu had on the city.
Chant-like and entrancing, the words are taken from a 1918 U.S. Government directive on how to handle yourself during the pandemic and interspersed with solo singers taking turns singing the names of those Philadelphians who lost their lives to the disease.
The film is conceived by The Crossing conductor Donald Nally and directed by Brett A. Snodgrass with artwork by Steven Bradshaw.