SONGS OF SPAM

2019

6 singers and instrumental ensemble [7 musicians]
soprano 1, soprano 2, alto tenor, baritone, bass, Bb clarinet (with polystyrene and harmonica in D), saxophone (soprano, alto, baritone, also polystyrene and harmonica in C), accordion, percussion, mandolin, guitar and double bass

COMMISSION • commissioned by the Ensemble C Barré with the support of the Ernst von Siemens Music Fondation

WORLD PREMIERE • February 9, 2020 at the Festival Eclat in Stuttgart (Germany), by Ensemble C Barré and the Neue Vocalsolisten of Stuttgart, with Sébastien Boin (conductor)

Songs of Spam is based on texts from my spam. These unwanted messages, often coarse, use the most aggressive marketing techniques (lying, manipulation, threat), revealing more clearly than other ads that advertising is a control mechanism. Having discovered in the course of the writing that what interested me was the mode of speech and not the origin of the lyrics, I diversified the sources: if the first text is indeed a spam message, the others come from Youtube, a church in Sicily and a teleshopping.

 

I chose for the first part a classic scam, known as fraud 4.1.9 or Nigerian Prince: a so-called Nigerian prince needs an intermediary to take a large amount of money out of his country; if we give him our bank details, he uses them to steal from us (the version I chose takes a science fiction turn, with an astronaut prince stuck in space). I have learned that these scams (which work mostly in rich countries) are often organized by Nigerian academics who need money to pay for their studies, which gives this crime an unexpected side of social justice.

 

The second piece has little text. It is built on the expression billions and billions, which Donald Trump constantly uses in an exaggerated way; I was struck by a video where these repeated words roll in his mouth with obscene pleasure. Like spam, these words carry an insistent message: I know how to manage money because I am rich. In reality, Trump's business tends to go bankrupt, but he knows very well that appearances are more important than truth. With these words, I have built a short fatal march: that of the ecological crisis we are experiencing.

 

The case of La Madonnina piange is less obvious: it is the story of a miracle in the city of Siracusa, Sicily: it is told that the virgin cried human tears. Although this little fantasy story seems to have nothing to do with spam, it is through the abundance of seemingly harmless small gestures that the Catholic Church has deployed a strategy aimed at controlling the mental (through confession) and economic (denarius) control of its followers - and even, through its press, banks and lobbies, the rest of society.

 

The last text is the teleshopping ad for a penis extender. I chose to talk more about a nose extender, to show how useless it can be to change a part of your body to become happier. Advertisements often attack our bodies, because by destroying our trust they make us more vulnerable to consumption. To think about it, to talk about it or to write about it, seem to me to be necessary acts of resistance.

 

Mikel Urquiza

I] Dear Mister Sir
Dear Mister Sir,
I am Doctor Tunde, brother of the world-famous Nigerian astronaut, Prince Major
Tunde (the first African in space). He was stranded in the Soviet space station Salyut-8T in 1999. He's in good mood but wants to come home. In fifteen years he has accumulated fifteen million dollars. We need your help to access his account and bring him back. In reward for your help we can offer you ten percent of this sum. This request is strictly confidential.

 

III] La madonnina piange
Il 29 agosto del 1993 in via di San Giorgio, città di Siracusa, la madonnina piange. L'evento straordinario accade nuovamente, la madonnina piange (no al primo di settembre. In un prezioso reliquario si conservano queste lacrime che analizzate da scienziati risultarono lacrime umane. Maria piange le nostre (stesse) lacrime, e poi da quel momento si fanno illimitati miracoli e misteri, cure, guarigioni nello spirito.
Maria, prega per i figli tuoi.

 

IV] Size matters
Life changes, habits change, taste changes, things that matter change. But size will always matter. Introducing X-tender the most wonderful method for enlargement of your nose. Enlargement, yes, because not only it makes it longer, but also, thicker. Larger, longer, thicker. Forget about doubtful treatments or miracle medicine. You will be convinced that X-tender is all you need. Size matters !