Some music—take any track off the new Swans record, for example—almost mimics the effects of a grenade. You push play, drop the needle down, and like pulling the pin out of a frag, a sonic explosion is ready to decimate your eardrums on contact. Artist Maskull Lasserre’s new project, Beautiful Dreamer (pulled), takes a similar ideology, but translates it into sculptures with a twist. His newest work includes a series of grenades that “detonate” a melody from an enclosed music box when the pin is pulled and the spoon is released.
Each grenade is wound and set, and can only ever be “played” once—much like how a grenade can only explode once. “Music expands outwards from its source in compressive waves, just like detonated ordnance” he explained to The Creators Project over email. “Both possess the power to affect people at great distance.” But rather than releasing a surge of distortion or feedback (i.e. explosive music), his crafted bronze objects play “America The Beautiful” and “Beautiful Dreamer” by Katharine Lee Bates and Stephen Foster, respectively.
“The ephemeral quality of music is at the heart of this piece,” explained Lasserre. Just like music that’s played live, once the instruments stop vibrating, the sound is final. “Its poignancy rests with its vulnerability, its finality, but also its promise of beauty.” We are teased with an explosion, or something epic or climatic, but ultimately these sculptures—both in form, and what they release—are more delicate than violent.
I originally thought that calling the piece Beautiful Dreamers and including two patriotic songs inside could have an undercurrent of nationalist criticism, yet Lasserre—who was a war artist in Afghanistan in 2010—explained otherwise: “The title imparts a whimsical dimension to an object that is rarely associated with poetry, although the aspirations of conflict are often romanticized and idealized in retrospect, if not at the outset.”
He continued, “The immediate reflex is to ascribe an agenda to the use of ‘America the Beautiful.’ However, if you look and think about it carefully, there is no objective evidence of either criticism or support for war inherent in these objects. Each is just a thing, a grenade that plays a melody.”
Lasserre’s goal was just to arm the grenades. How they get incorporated into a context or curated environment is what will give them the ultimate flavor or hue. The work was made so recently, though, that the artist hasn’t looked into exhibiting them in a gallery or museum. “I imagine the right spot will reveal itself eventually,” he noted.
When asked if he could instill any modern song inside these sculptures, Lasserre said “It would definitely come from Tom Waits. Let’s go with ‘Dog Door’ from Orphans. I hope you weren’t expecting ‘Wrecking Ball’…”
See some photos of the artworks below, and visit Lasserre’s website to see more of his work.