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Tags for: The Crossing: David Lang’s “Lifespan”
  • Performance
The Crossing. Photo by Carlos Avendaño

Lifespan, 2014. David Lang, composer; performed by The Crossing. Hadean-period rock sample and 3 vocalists; approximately 15 minutes. Courtesy of the artists. In collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia, and Allora & Calzadilla. Photo credit: Carlos Avendaño.

The Crossing: David Lang’s “Lifespan”

Friday, January 6–Sunday, January 8, 2017
Location:  218 European Sculpture
Betty T. and David M. Schneider Gallery
Gallery 218, East Wing Glass Box

About The Event

Consistently recognized in critical reviews, The Crossing has been hailed as “superb” by The New York Times, “ardently angelic” by the Los Angeles Times, and “something of a miracle” by The Philadelphia Inquirer.

In this unique performance, a Hadean-period rock sample, estimated to be more than 4 billion years old, hangs from the ceiling. During performances, this rock is “played” by three vocalists whistling and breathing, which subtly moves the rock like a pendulum. The singers’ breaths, acting as a poetic form of wind erosion, bring humans into close contact with this rock sample.

Commissioned by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Fabric Workshop for their major exhibition by Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla, David Lang’s Lifespan connects the present moment with that of the earth’s origins—a time when there were no witnesses to the planet’s geological transformation.

David Lang, Lifespan


Performance schedule

Friday, January 6
4:00, 5:00, 6:00, 7:00, 7:45, 8:30 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday, January 7 and 8
12:00, 1:00, 2:00, 3:00, 4:00 p.m.


Collaborating since 1995, Jennifer Allora (born 1974, Philadelphia) and Guillermo Calzadilla (born 1971, Havana) have developed a complex artistic practice encompassing sculpture, video, photography, performance, and installation. They are often active outside an institutional context and create public situations that encourage communication and interaction. Simultaneously critical and playful, their conceptual works are both thought provoking and politically incisive, incorporating their interest in the sociopolitical implications of music and sound.

—Susanne Ghez et al., foreword in Allora & Calzadilla, ed. Beatrix Ruf (Zurich: JRP Ringier, 2009)


I like the idea of acting upon something because it is an affirmative practice. We try to make things affirmative in some way, always engaging with things in a direct manner. But that doesn’t necessarily have to be reduced to the idea of activism in the popular sense of the term. We relate more to the idea of a general sense of activeness, being engaged with reality—directly and frontally. We are not interested in performing this activism for ideological purposes, but rather in keeping our critical faculties as sharp as possible, so that we can contribute to the creation of meaning.

—Jennifer Allora

Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla asked me to work with them for a major 2014 retrospective of their work in Philadelphia, this time on a piece that would represent an encounter between musicians and a four-billion-year-old rock, one of the oldest intact rocks remaining in the world. For this piece I imagined that the musicians would use their breath and their voices to challenge and threaten the suspended rock, in the way that the forces of nature have been challenging it for the previous four billion years.

—David Lang

For three or more whistlers

Light and unpredictable, like air.

All performers surround an ancient rock hanging from the ceiling, and are spaced evenly around it. They should be close enough so that when they lean in they can almost touch the rock with their faces.

Unless otherwise noted, all musical ideas begin with one designated leader and are passed around all the performers, clockwise, overlapping, speeding up, and slowing down unpredictably. The passage from performer to performer should not be metronomic, but should have an air of wildness to it; this is not a gentle piece.

Unless otherwise noted, each section changes when the designated leader moves on to the next section. Sections may last as long as the leader determines, and each section may last a very long time. When the leader changes sections the other performers may wait a long time, and ad lib, before changing to the new section.

Unless otherwise noted, all actions should be accompanied by leaning in toward the hanging rock when the action is initiated and pulling away when the action begins to stop.


These programs made possible in part by the Ernest L. and Louise M. Gartner Fund, the P. J. McMyler Musical Endowment Fund, and the Anton and Rose Zverina Music Fund.

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