Premiere: March 4, 2007, Moritz Eggert, piano • Montréal / Nouvelles Musiques 2007: 40 doigts sur les cordes raides 1, Chapelle historique du Bon-Pasteur, Montréal (Québec)

I have always had a perverse fascination with national anthems dating back to my childhood when I found—in my grandfather’s sheet music—an anthology of national anthems from the 1936 Olympic Games. Anthems are rarely—contrary to common belief—good compositions. The few well composed ones by composers like Haydn or Mozart really stand out and were rarely conceived as national anthems originally. Most anthems have been commissioned or are the result of nation-wide competitions. As the people who finally decide over the use of a specific melody—very often dictators of ill repute—are far from being musical geniuses, the selected anthems are often bizarrely bad.

I spent weeks researching the Internet for this piece, and sometimes downloaded barely readable scribblings of the anthems of obscure countries. One thing I definitely learned was that the smaller the country the more pompous the anthem (and often vice versa). Some songs proved so popular that several different countries use exactly the same anthem.

In my Hämmerklavier piece I wanted to reach a certain “Ivesean” over-saturation. After a while the grating clichés of most hymns are the same. In (impossibly) trying to use ALL current national anthems of the world (which change daily) there is a certain sense of loss of individualism, which is basically what the piece is about. The more the individual states try to be “different” from the others, the more they show that we are all the same after all.

Moritz Eggert, 2006 [ii-07]