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New Zealand classical composer and musical everyman John Psathas should be well known, his work roams from the strictly classical worlds and across to electronic influenced sounds.

He has appeared at Elsewhere a number of times, but a new project No Man's Land finds him in different territory yet again.

This ambitious work is a ground breaking new cinematic performance in commemoration of the First World War.

Musicians descended from opposing forces of the Great War will be brought together on the battlefields of WWI in an original composition.  These musical collaborations will be fused into a unique 70 minute film, to be projected alongside live musicians on-stage.  All musicians, live and virtual, will perform as one epic global orchestra.

The intention is to communicate a simple idea, says Psathas. "No Man’s Land presents a powerful opportunity to reflect on the similarities and differences in ourselves between then and now.

"The way of expressing this idea is by taking musicians to the exact places where, a century ago, soldiers from these same countries were fighting and dying.

"No Man’s Land will combine intense musical and visual expression, filmed on-location at the Western, Eastern and Mediterranean fronts, to communicate the idea that such collaborations would have been unthinkable by the warring nations at the time of the conflict.  Thus, perhaps, we can hope that nations currently at war will find themselves friends and collaborators in the years ahead."

When a Turkish musician collaborates with a New Zealand, American or Indian counterpart; when Russian, Brazilian, Japanese and German musicians perform together; when French, Austrian and Liberian musicians collaborate; they are bearing witness -- often unawares -- that those who once fought are no longer enemies.  By celebrating positive human connections through music in this unique way, No Man’s Land is an unashamed commitment to optimism.

No Man’s Land will premiere at the 2016 New Zealand Festival and Auckland Arts Festival, followed by a major-centre tour of New Zealand. And at the Taranaki Womad (see all dates below)

A standalone 15-minute version of the film and a 5-minute inspirational promotional film will be made available for use at ceremonies and commemorative occasions.  These will be available to embassies, consulates, local councils, museums, institutions and schools.

Tome for John Psathas to answer some world music questions perhaps? 

The first musician whose music really affected you was . . .

Keith Jarret and Ludwig van Beethoven (simultaneously)

Your first appearance on stage before an audience was . . . (And you were how old?)

Napier Boys High School (year 9) playing Billy Joel

If music was denied you, your other career choice would be . . .


The three songs (yours, or by others) you would love everyone to hear because they are so emotionally moving are . . .

1 Russell Walder’s “Wisdom Calls when the Wall Falls”

2 Pat Metheny’s “Song for the Boys”

3 Arvo Part’s “Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten”

The most unusual place you have performed would be . . .?

Private audience with Helen Clark, Condoleeza Rice, Winston Peters, and a few other NZ MPs. Weird….

The most important book you have read is . . .? And why?

Rohinton Mistry’s “A Fine Balance” because it taught me that love and true friendship can overcome anything in life, no matter how extreme.

If you could get on stage with anyone it would be . . . (And you would play?)

Serj Tankian – and yes I’d play – the song ‘Gate 21’

The three films you'd like anybody watch because they might understand you better are . . .

The new Star Wars

The next Star Trek

The as yet unmade (and possibly unplanned) sequel to Bladrunner

The last CD, vinyl album or download you bought was . . .

Vinyl – ‘Love Can Prevail’ from Electric Wire Hustle

When you travel, what is it you most miss about your home country?

Everything. The list is very long. There’s no better place – I’ve felt that at every stage of life.

The artist you most admire would be . . .

Pat Metheny. The pinnacle of ‘musical positivism’

Your favourite meal to share with friends would be . . .? (Care to share a simple recipe?)

Three courses – tiramisu entrée, lemon meringue pie main course, baklava dessert.

David Bowie sang, “Five years, that’s all we’ve got . . .” If that were true, you would spend them where, doing . . .?

Traveling to every place I could get to, to meet as many people as possible.

And finally, do you have any unrealised goals in music?

To sing well. I suck.

New Zealand Festival, Wed 2 Mar, 7.30pm at Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington

Auckland Arts Festival, Friday 4 March, 8.00pm at Great Hall, Auckland Town Hall.

For more on other artists coming to the New Zealand Womad in Taranaki in 2016 go here.


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