Anoushka Shankar’s Land of Gold marries the sounds of contemporary piano with classical Indian music and spoken word. The songs logically progress to illustrate the story of refugees escaping. The beginning of the album presents a sense of hope for a better life and is then met with more volatile pieces representing the struggle and severity of the crisis. When the tempo quickens it evokes a sense of urgency and conflict. The longest song on the album, “Crossing the Rubicon” is the climax of this narrative and provides a soundtrack for the moment when refugees have gone so far that there are no means to return. Its length expresses the great significance of one short time period and covers a range of emotions that an individual would be likely to experience at that moment. The piece calms down through the middle, almost marking an acceptance of the new future, and then picks up again as an adrenaline rush. While this album is certainly an artist’s response to the refugee crisis, it may be difficult for people to recognize this without any prior knowledge if it weren’t for the audio clips in “Dissolving Boundaries”. What sounds like a real news report pulls the listener back into reality and creates a sense of disorder when multiple clips are played over each other. The songs are beautiful and emotive but may not hold an intrinsic connection to the issue.
Listening to the album with the refugee crisis in mind, I was certainly transported to the world of the refugee and sympathized with their unique struggles. It also brought back thoughts from a presentation about how this crisis will affect my students someday. I could see this work being presented in combination with images to inspire action in our communities.