Public Art Munich - PAM 2018 – Michaela Melián Music from a Frontier Town Installation

Public Art Munich - PAM 2018 / Game Changers

In 1997, the US government concluded its work at Amerikahaus after over 50 years and shipped almost all its contents back to the States. However, 1,630 long- play vinyl records from the library were left behind in cardboard boxes in the basement. When Michaela Melián looked through this forgotten collection, one of the first things she came across was Don Gillis’ 1940 tone poem Portrait of a Frontier Town, whose second movement is entitled Where the West Begins. Don Gillis, a composer and radio producer, used the musical styles and genres of that decade to create an explicitly American program music.

Following the US Army’s liberation of Munich in May 1945, the Amerikahaus ( was inaugurated there with a library, a magazine reading room, a children’s library, a record and film department, and lecture and seminar rooms (some of which were used by the Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich), together with a concert hall and exhibition space. During its early years, up to 80,000 people a month participated in the program of the institution, the first of its kind in the world.

Beginning in 1953, the United States Information Agency (USIA), an institution founded as an instrument of the Cold War, began to finance Amerikahaus. In addition to representing the US, its principal task in West Germany was to democratize and denazify the postwar population. After the beginning of the Cold War, many of these re-educative measures also served as propaganda in a programmatic linking of democratic and economic principles meant to strengthen transatlantic relations against the Communist Bloc.

Melián will create a sound collage from the extensive collection of audio recordings from the re-education era, presented as a 24-hour performative music installation in the garage of the interim spaces of what is now the Bavarian Center for Transatlantic Relations at Barer Straße. Visitors are invited to play music from the vinyl archive and to construct contemporary soundscapes from sonic material once considered an instrument of cultural education.