The War Song

Single-Channel HD Video
8:07 minutes

Lyrics by Culture Club
Re-arranged by Jon Øivind Ness
Performed by Jenny Hval and The Norwegian Radio Orchestra
Conducted by Thomas Søndergaard
Produced by Henie Onstad Art Centre, Høvikodden, Norway
Supported by Ultima Oslo Contemporary Music Festival, Oslo, Norway

We're interested in the cover song's function as an analogous musical transgression and transposition; a renewal and re-evaluation of earlier codes; a simultaneous looking forward and listening backward. This project begins with Culture Club's radio hit The War Song from their 1984 album Waking Up with the House on Fire . We were bemused by its upbeat tempo, banal lyrics, and uncomplicated populist message. It is a pop song that gets under your skin. Every year, Oslo hosts the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony. We first visited Oslo soon after Barack Obama accepted his 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. It is at this event that The Norwegian Radio Orchestra plays for the prizewinner and audience. While the work can function in multiple settings, The War Song initially reflected upon the city of Oslo as context and stage - positioning music and lyrics at the center of social/political critique, and considering the contradictions and the "difficult questions about the relationship between war and peace" (from Barack Obama's Nobel Peace Prize speech, Oslo 2009). This version, performed in front of an audience at the Norwegian Opera House has become an entirely new song, referencing the original, but with a darker and somber tone.

Related Info:
The Wire Magazine, November 2010

ARTFORUM, December 2010

Signal to Noise, Winter 2011