Stefan Prins: Generation Kill

(Submitted by ISCM – GERMAN SECTION)

Stefan Prins (Belgium, b. 1979, Belgium) graduated as an engineer before studying piano, composition, and electronic music at the Royal Flemish Conservatory, the Royal Conservatory of Brussels and the Royal Conservatory of The Hague. In 2017 he obtained a PhD in composition at Harvard University under the guidance of Chaya Czernowin. He received awards such as the Kunstpreis Berlin für Musik, Kranichsteiner Musikpreis für Komposition, Impuls Composition Prize, and, in 2014, the ISCM Young Composer Award. His music is performed worldwide at major festivals for new music by many of the leading ensembles and musicians and has been released on CDs and DVDs by Kairos, Wergo, Sub Rosa, and Neos. Stefan is artistic co-director of the Nadar Ensemble, and also regularly performs in the improvised music scene (electronics). He is currently Professor of Composition and Director of the Hybrid MusicLab at the Hochschule für Musik Carl Maria Von Weber Dresden and regularly teaches masterclasses and workshops at other institutions and festivals.

Generation Kill, commissioned by SWR/Donaueschinger Musiktage, is a 2012 composition for percussion, e-guitar, violin, violoncello, 4 musicians with gamecontrollers, live-electronics, and live-video. It is dedicated to the Nadar Ensemble who premiered the work at the 2012 Donaueschinger Musiktage. Prins writes:

While I was working on Piano Hero #1 and #2, the Arab Revolutions had ignited the Middle-East. Protesters in several Middle-Eastern countries made the whole world witness the revolutionary events by making video’s with their smartphones or webcams and uploading them to the internet. With the use of the social media -such as Facebook and Twitter- the whole process was accelerated, and before anyone realised, the people of Tunisia and Egypt had overthrown their dictatorial regimes, while full-blown civil wars started to split Libya and to paralyse Syria.

In the same year, 2011, a large-scale investigation was released, which calculated that there is one CCTV surveillance camera for every 32 persons in the UK.

In October 2011, the Americans started to withdraw their troops in Iraq, while they were still fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. More and more images were released of successful (at least according to the official bulletins) bombings by so-called ‘drones’ -‘unmanned aerial vehicles’ which are remotely controlled by military personal in secret control centers in the US. Parallel to these images, an increasing stream of eye-witnesses started to appear on the internet, telling of innocent people who were killed by these bombings.

Strolling through the internet, I found at around the same time a 7-year old video-clip on YouTube which was a teaser for the TV-series Generation Kill, based on the homonymous book in which Evan Wright chronicled his experiences as an embedded reporter with the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion of the US Marine Corps during the 2003 Iraq invasion. One of the statements which shocked me the most was made by one of the soldiers: “It’s the ultimate rush — you’re going into the fight with a good song playing in the background.” Evan Wright explained further: “This is a war fought by the first playstation generation. One thing about them is they kill very well in Iraq.”

At that point, I realised that my next piece had to musically reflect on all of these connected facts, on a society which is more and more monitored, on the increasing importance of internet, networks and social media, which are fuelled by video’s taken with webcams and smartphones, on video-games and on wars fought like video-games, on the line between reality and virtuality which gets thinner by the day.

Stefan Prins: Generation Kill
Performed by the Nadar Ensemble (Donaueschinger Musiktage 2012)

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