No Man's Land
Victoria University music professor, who is an internationally-acclaimed composer, has led a ground-breaking cinematic performance commemorating World War I.
No Man’s Land
Professor John Psathas, Professor of Composition at Victoria’s Te Kōkī New Zealand School of Music, has brought together musicians from around the world in an original and inspiring audio-visual experience: No Man’s Land.
The piece includes performances from more than 150 world-renowned musicians from 25 countries and the widest range of genres, including Armenian-American artist Serj Tankian (from System of a Down), the Refugees of Rap, and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg.
Professor Psathas is familiar with producing such large-scale works, having composed feature films scores and music for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Athens Olympic Games in 2004.
Victoria’s leading role in an international collaboration
To make No Man’s Land, Professor Psathas travelled the world with Director Jasmine Millet and Cinematographer Mathew Knight, filming and recording on location at the Western, and Eastern fronts of World War I.
The musicians performed together on the same battlefields where their soldier ancestors fought and died a century ago—collaborations that would have been unthinkable by the warring nations at the time of the conflict.
No Man’s Land brings together contributors from countries as diverse as Turkey, Armenia, New Zealand, America, India, Russia, Japan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Germany, France, Greece and, Syria celebrating positive human connections in a unique and unashamedly optimistic way.
Professor Psathas says the intention behind the piece is a powerful yet simple one: to reflect on the differences in ourselves between then and now, with the hope that nations currently at war will one day find themselves friends and collaborators in the future, too.
“Together these virtual and live performers create an international orchestra performing music that leaps musical genres as it does borders, from folk to hip-hop, rock and classical,” he says.
“If you said to those fighting in 1916 that 100 years later representatives from all these countries would be reunited on the same piece of earth and make music together, they wouldn’t have believed you.
“Victoria University was uniquely positioned, with its reach and facilities, to make No Man’s Land happen—it’s fantastic that that this university has been able to lead a project that crosses genres, cultures and countries and is a force for good,” he says. “Many of those who were involved in this are very keen to work together again in the future, so watch this space.”
Experience it for yourself
No Man’s Land premiered at the 2016 New Zealand Festival to a sold-out crowd at Wellington’s Michael Fowler Centre in March. It was also performed at the Auckland Arts Festival and at regional shows in Tauranga, Napier, Whanganui and at WOMAD in New Plymouth.
While conceived as a live experience, Professor Psathas and a team of filmmakers have turned No Man’s Land into a standalone film.
Professor Psathas says it’s exciting to share the feature length film with a wide audience, given the intensity of the reaction to the live shows.
“I feel incredibly positive about the impact of the work—it profoundly moves people,” he says. “More than 300 people contributed generously to this project, so it’s great to be able to share that with an even larger, and online, community.”