Interdisciplinary artist Song-Ming Ang presents Music for Everyone: Variations on a Theme


Song-Ming Ang represents Singapore at the 58th Venice Biennale


The Singapore Pavilion at the 58th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia was officially opened on Thursday, 9 May 2019 by Guest-of-Honour Mr Baey Yam Keng, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, and Transport, at the Sale d’Armi building at the Arsenale in Venice.


2          Interdisciplinary artist Song-Ming Ang and curator Michelle Ho puts Singapore in the spotlight with a presentation that extends Ang’s practice of using music as a platform to explore ideas of public involvement, and the myriad ways people relate to music, both individually and collectively. Titled Music for Everyone: Variations on a Theme, Ang’s presentation takes inspiration from Music For Everyone, a series of concerts organised by Singapore’s then-Ministry of Culture in the 1970s and 80s to encourage public appreciation of the arts.


3          The works present a counterpoint to state-prescribed forms of music and commonly held notions of the arts. Ang draws on principles of experimental music and conceptual art to playfully but persuasively show how art can be created by anyone using simple ideas and elementary techniques.


4          A major component of the presentation is Recorder Rewrite, a new work based on the recorder, a music instrument that has been part of Singapore’s music education in schools since the 1970s. Central to Ang’s vision that art can be created by anyone, the three-channel film installation features children from different cultural and musical backgrounds performing a composition of their own, following a two-day workshop on improvisation exercises and unconventional uses of the recorder.


5          The presentation also includes Recorder Sculptures, in which Ang disassembled various recorders into their three sections of head joint, barrel and foot joint, and then rearranged them into distinct forms that demonstrate the potential of art to be whimsical and free flowing.


6          Following a two-week intensive workshop on extended recorder techniques under the supervision of flutist and musical director Cecilia Vendarsco, children from the Istituto Comprensivo Dante Alighieri (Venezia) have created a short composition and performance, choreographed by dancer Francesca Poglie and curated by Lucia Longhi. These compositions and performances inspired by the film Recorder Rewrite took place on Thursday 9 May during the inauguration at 3.50pm, and on Friday 10 May at 3.15pm and 4pm.


7          Commenting on the presentation, curator Michelle Ho says: “By elevating amateurism and agency against the state-prescribed notion of Music For Everyone, Ang’s presentation elicits a return to the fundamental impulse behind art-making: joy, not cleverness, and purposeful play.”


8          Mr Baey says, “Singapore’s contemporary arts scene has grown from strength-to-strength over the years. To witness the work of our home-grown talent presented at one of the most established international platforms makes us proud as Singaporeans. Music for Everyone: Variations on a Theme is a fascinating historical archive re-made and given new life in this exhibition. It is my hope that the presentation of works at the Venice Biennale will inspire meaningful exchanges and conversations that respond to the current state of world, and bind us all in identity, culture and history.”


9          Mr. Paul Tan, Deputy Chief Executive, National Arts Council, says, “We are delighted to participate in La Biennale di Venezia again this year. As one of the art world’s foremost events, it is an important global platform for Singaporean artists. This year, Song-Ming Ang’s Music for Everyone: Variations on a Theme shines a spotlight on a humble and familiar musical instrument and through it, retells Singapore’s cultural history and the story of music education. We believe Ang has created a presentation that speaks not only to Singaporeans but will also resonate with audiences around the world.”


10       Commenting on what they hope audiences will take away from his work, Ang said, “With all the artworks, my motivation is to think about what it means to make ‘music for everyone’ – how to be inclusive and open, culturally speaking. Any person or organisation in a position to think about this question is already in a position of power or privilege, to decide what ‘music’ is and who ‘everyone’ is. This message is at the core of this exhibition and threaded through each series of artworks presented as part of Music for Everyone: Variations on a Theme.”


11        The pavilion is commissioned by the National Arts Council, Singapore and supported by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, Singapore. 


12        Interested parties can join the conversation with the Singapore Pavilion via Facebook and Instagram @NACSingapore, and hashtag #SingaporeInVenice and #VeniceBiennale2019. Stay updated on La Biennale di Venezia via #BiennaleArte2019 and #MayYouLiveInInterestingTimes.


For more information on the Singapore Pavilion: