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BEHIND THE SCENES with Alessandro Bosetti


What was the genesis of Children's America ? Where did the initial idea come from

I'd been asked by a German radio station to produce a piece on the "New America" right after the inauguration of Obama in January 2009. In that period it seemed that all the media landscape in Europe was starving for any kind of pieces featuring the change happening in the USA. I decided to make the piece on my own terms, imagining a special kind of United States inhabited and run just by kids

Underlying inspiration came from a radio play by Giorgio Pressburger produced in Italy in the 1960s called Giuochi Di Fanciulli (in English that would be Children at Play ). In that piece some sort of playground was set up in the radio studio and many hours of kids playing were recorded. The life of a man was then reconstructed in sound, from his birth to his death, simply using recorded materials coming from games, rhymes, and songs used by the kids. Every aspect of life is in it: the gentle, sweet, and childish sides of humanity and also the hard, violent, and painful aspects of it. There is space for explicit descriptions of war and death, love and parenting, power struggle and solidarity. I had that play in mind for a long time. I was mistakenly convinced that all the recordings of children in there were unscripted

With Children's America I decided to pay some sort of homage to that piece and to use what I believed was the technique that Pressburger used. I created contexts for children to imagine this sort of parallel reality and never worked on anything scripted with them. I wanted to observe how a description of the supposedly new United States would come out of it

Could you describe your process – how did you gather the tape you then used in the composition? What kinds of questions did you ask the kids

I set up recording sessions with children. Some were the children of friends of mine, some others I reached through summer camps and schools in various east coast locations, mostly New York City, Brooklyn, and Baltimore

During the sessions, I gave the kids some very loose descriptions of an exclusively children-run USA and then asked them about it. At the beginning, I tried to keep a certain structure in my questions, trying to have them focus elaborately on certain topics. But childrens' thoughts are so meandering that I soon realized it was much more interesting to just follow them in their mental itinerary

I acted as a facilitator providing some simple social, political, and historical scenarios, and presenting some problem solving tasks that the kids had to work on collectively. Once the process was started I just had to be that man behind the microphone and listen to some interesting narratives unfold

I later worked in finding connections and hidden narratives while working on the sound collage. The musical quality of the voices played a central role. I was more driven towards a certain recorded fragment because of the way it sounded more than the meaning it carried, just to discover later on that it would have taken some unexpected twist into the narrative side

Did any of the kids' political insights / observations / flights of fancy surprise you? Did the project change the way you think about politics? (And American politics, in particular?

Kids can be seen as blank canvases that we project our theories upon (and this would be one way to read the piece) or as already formed personalities and strong characters, already charged with apocalyptic visions, idyllic nostalgia, surreal humor, and ordering obsessions (and you can read the piece this way too, seeing the author as a caretaker and collector of scattered dispatches with some special musical touch for spoken language)

I am very interested in poiltcs as a dynamic and unstable process, and children provide an interestingly chaotic description of it. Their politics are rooted in chaos. And this makes sense to me since politics and American politics seem to be often ruled by chaotic processes themselves

More than embracing one political view, kids in the piece just created some sort of multi-dimensional and de-stabilizing perspective. I would be interested in hearing what people that deal with politics in a more technical way than I do (philosophers, politicians, political theoreticians, and activists) would have to say after listening to it. I think I just set a process in motion... I just wanted them to talk and think and act politically, but I didnt want to draw any conclusion on the meaning of their acts and words

I observed and interacted with the children in a somehow unconsciousway. I let the process unfold and then made a bunch of editing decisions especially in a musical perspective. I am sure that some of my political ideas may come out of the piece as well, but they are less relevant than the whole chaotic process that is displayed here

How did you make decisions about the structure and rhythm of Children's America ? Did you have a narrative line in mind as you composed

No, I just had a series of questions, an "image" of an imaginary place, and a "sound" in mind. But those got transformed as soon as I confronted my propositions with the children's fantasy

As in other pieces of mine, I treated the whole ensemble of musical and spoken fragments as particles of a big puzzle and let them fall together with little kicks here and there. Of course my musical and aesthetic judgment is at work here, but it functions on an indirect level. Decisions often come just by noting how that fragment sounds good close to that other fragment... One doesn't know why at first and then realizes that there is some sort of story or some some of musical structure forming there.