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Washington Post


On the last Sunday of every month in 2017, a string quartet convenes in the shadow of the United States Capitol building to perform a new work by Hays and Ryan Holladay entitled 'Columbia Diminuendo.' The composition is a re-imagining of the piece 'Hail, Columbia', first performed at the inauguration of George Washington in 1789 and which served as the unofficial national anthem for years after. For each of its 12 renditions, the performers will be given revised sheet music containing fewer and fewer notes. Throughout the course of the year, the song will become increasingly abstract as the clarity of the original melodies begin to recede, eventually beyond recognition and, finally, to silence.

Launched just days after the inauguration of Donald Trump, Columbia Diminuendo imagines the consequences of complacency at the outset of this new, undefined American chapter. “As we prepare to test the strength of our democracy, an alarming truth has come into sharper focus, one that has always existed but that many of us have taken entirely for granted: that a free and open society is not a given, our democracy is always just a generations length away from extinction…The fundamentals of a democratic society are not inevitable and they are not irreversible. In order for democracy to survive and flourish, each new generation must resolve to protect and uphold the values that define it. Will ours join the chorus of millions that have come before, adding new colors and harmonies to this ongoing national collaboration or stand by as the music fades?”


Music and Art Direction
Ryan & Hays Holladay


Additional funding
DC Commission for the Arts

Additional transcription
Theresa Schlafly

Special thanks
Theresa Schlafly and co
Victoria Reis
Georgie Payne
Yassine Al-Mansouri


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