Duet: Lift Me Up For I Am Dying, an audio installation for the Rothko Chapel, Houston, 14 - 15 May 2013


Duet >

Research Themes:
Contemporary Art & Curating

Research Staff:
Ross Birrell

Duet is an audio and film installation featuring Lift Me Up For I Am Dying, a composition for viola based upon the last spoken words of John Keats (1795–1821) and performed by an Israeli and a Palestinian musician. Each musician plays separately, resulting in renditions of differing tempo and duration; the resulting chance harmonies and dissonance which result when the individual tracks are played back maintain the presence of irreducible antagonism whilst simultaneously offering the possibility of a potential harmony to come.

‘Lift Me Up For I Am Dying’ was composed for the Non-Catholic Cemetery in Rome by transposing the last spoken words of John Keats into musical notation by selecting letters which directly corresponded to notes. Duet, filmed 10 July 2011 in the Claerchens Ballhuas Berlin, features recitals of Lift Me Up by Avri Levitan (Tel Aviv) and Tyme Khleifi (Ramallah). The film superimposes the scarred context of the Spiegelsaal (mirrored ballroom) of the Claerchens Ballhaus itself – bombed during WWII – upon the faces of the musicians as they perform.

In the audio installation version of Duet at the Rothko Chapel, the harmonies and dissonance are continually evolving and continually different each ‘duet’. The failure of the duet to find final harmony and its continued lapse into dissonance mirrors the fractured history of the Arab–Israeli conflict and its seemingly intractable condition. Equally, its evocation of a potential harmony, however fragile, reiterates the necessity of seeking a solution for sustained co-existence based upon mutual respect of the human rights of Arabs and Israelis, and the importance of defending and building upon every fragile ground of peace.

An audio installation in 14 variations over two days to mark the 65th anniversary of the formation of the Israeli State and Palestinian Nakba was held at the Rothko Chapel, Houston, 14–15 May 2013.

Project Paper on RADAR:

Duet: Lift Me Up For I Am Dying - Ross Birrell, 2013

Ross Birrell on RADAR


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