hasBara (first version, for Musica Nova ensemble)
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hasBara (first version, for Musica Nova ensemble)

The title hasBara literally translates from Hebrew as “explanation”, or, more specifically, “an act of explanation”. This is also the name of the department of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs which is responsible for communicating the policies and actions of the state of Israel to the media abroad. Pro-Israel propaganda has become an important matter in recent years (especially since the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict, which was followed by strong international criticism of the actions of the Israeli army). “Hasbara” has also been suggested as the personal responsibility of any Israeli citizen abroad to explain and justify the actions of the government to a supposedly non-understanding, “hostile” environment. Thus Israeli “Hasbara” is regarded as an important tool for gaining international acceptance, an essential non-lethal weapon in the fight against the Palestinian and Arab world who try to influence public opinion from their side.

hasBara was composed at the invitation of the Israeli ensemble Musica Nova Consort. In the first version of the piece, the score also included a part for live electronics, a real-time processing of several audio samples with strong political connotations. Among others, I used the voice of Asa Kasher, a renowned Israeli philosopher and a strong advocate for the right of Israel to defend itself by using militarily force and for the policies of the government in this matter; and, from the other side of the political map, the voice of Yeshayahu Leibowitz, an Israeli Orthodox Jewish intellectual, who, to many on the left, functions almost as a prophet-like figure because of his clear and uncompromising voice, since as early as 1967, against the Israeli occupation.

hasBara was composed from the viewpoint that musicians could, and should, take positions in debates concerning moral issues. Written after the massive destruction that Gaza suffered from the Israeli bombing in 2014, the piece aimed to transmit an unambiguous message by using materials that contained direct references to actual political issues. The “voices” of the musicians were masked by sidechaining the control of the digital playhead (the playing progression of the audio samples) with the real-time input of the musicians. Instead of playing continuously, the samples were staggered and the original sentences or words sliced into smaller particles individually triggered by the musician’s gestures. The division of the ensemble into group and soloists referred to the individual responsibility of each citizen to contribute his or her effort to the propaganda machine by functioning as an active voice. And finally, the way in which this responsibility should be discharged is represented by the deconstruction of notated structures, literary disassembling the original message.

hasBara contextualize free improvisation as an extra-musical concept, as observed by improviser and scholar David Borgo, to “define free improvisation in strictly musical terms . . . is potentially to miss its most remarkable characteristic – the ability to incorporate and negotiate disparate perspectives and worldviews” (see in Sync or Swarm: Improvising Music in a Complex Age, Borgo, 2002, p. 167).

hasBara (first version) played by Musica Nova Consort at Hateiva, Tel-Aviv – Jaffa, February 2015. (The ensemble chose to use the translation “Propaganda” as the title for this video.)