The House In The Middle

  • Instrumentation: Film, Piano
  • Composition Year: 2020



A piece for solo piano and video, written for and premiered by Nada Kolundžija.

I’ve never had much interest in writing directly about current events, but I’m very interested in exploring themes that have heightened relevance to them. This piece is about the importance of preparedness in mitigating disasters, but it’s also about propaganda–two subjects which were very much on my mind as I was writing it at the end of 2020. The first, deadliest wave of the pandemic was finally receding in New York City, and the president was attempting to subvert democracy at every turn. The nuclear test footage in the film was shot by the US Government on May 8th, 1953 at the Nevada Test Site, and initially packaged into a short black-and-white film by the Federal Civil Defense Administration. The version you see here, however, was subsequently created by the National Clean Up – Paint Up – Fix Up Bureau which, despite its official sounding name, was a project of the National Paint, Varnish, and Lacquer Association. If it sounds like the narrator is trying to use the threat of nuclear war to sell you paint, that’s because he is. At the same time, the scientists who ran the tests were clearly serious about discovering the effects of a nuclear blast, and presumably part of their interest was in learning how to reduce casualties in a nuclear exchange–fire resistance outside the immediate blast radius would, in fact, be a major factor in the total death toll. In many ways, the world at large and the United States in particular failed the test of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, our resilience in the face of global thermonuclear war has not yet been tested, but I fear that we would fare poorly. How do we, as a nation and as a species, prepare for crises that require collective action? How do we protect the most vulnerable members of our society? How do we prioritize science and truth when there are so many short-term political and economic benefits to ignoring a looming crisis or exploiting an unfolding disaster? I have more questions than answers. – Galen Brown, April 2022

Galen H Brown - The House In The Middle