A place in the mind's eye, an opening, an emptiness, a song and a number of places in hundreds, thousands of songs, the promised land is the ground beneath our feet, the recurring motif of our histories of migration, real and mythic, a transcendental figure of speech for the already epic, always almost impossible journey; as layered as the geological strata beneath the land itself, the promised land could be anywhere, not least Europe.

Seldom what they seem, promised lands reveal as much about the fatal limits of our civility as they do the myths that underpin our claims to civility.

Promised lands are elliptical spaces: the circle of salvation is never complete, redemption never fully secured.

The poetics of the necessity that drives the desire for a promised land is a poetics of contested space governed by aesthetic acts of remembrance and futurity whose forms are sonic, textual, polyvocal, visual, open ended...

[On Promised Lands, Flow Motion, 2006]

About the project is the component of our Promised Lands project that engages with music and migration. Our interest in songs and music about promised lands, in compositions whose names comprise, include, or evoke these two words, goes back at least to the beginnings of the project in 2006. Two years later, we began our research residency at Iniva.

During our residency we traced the theme, the trope, of the promised land across Europe, the Middle East, the Americas, Australasia, Africa [and Mars], by bringing together compositions that span a 400 year history of migration beginning in the 1600s and going right up to the present. We then narrowed the material down to ninety seven compositions and three essential songbooks, for which we created one hundred textual and visual narratives.

Of all the compositions we found, the ones that resonated most with us were the ones that were intersections between history, fantasy,mythology, past, present, and future - and the ones that provided openings onto other accounts, other narratives, as well as their own.

The music here is all in one way or another migrant music, music of migration, about migration, for migration. Music made because or in spite of migration, exile, internal displacement, or statelessness. Music of the coloniser and colonised, of kings and queens, of slaves and serfs. Anthems of dispossession and national belonging, compositions for countries that no longer exist and countries that have yet to – and may never - exist.

On reflection, on the value of music and the music of promised lands for thinking about migrant history, memory and fantasy, about struggles for land, power, and identity, we’d add the following:

1. Music cuts across the lines that divide and bond the powerful and the powerless. Through music both groups are empowered. Music maps the movement of migrant desire through time, across space, and gives expression to his and her struggles, aspirations, experiences, reflections and reveries, wishes, defeats and victories.

2. Music makes public the inner worlds, the desires and demands, fantasies and phantoms, the otherwise illicit rages, projections and necessary fictions, of both the oppressed and the oppressor. In music the migrant returns to the present and even in death is close to the listener who otherwise may not have felt something of the migrant’s physical presence. Through music the distant migrant touches the listener; sound brings to life, brings to mind, the body [and soul] of the migrant, makes the migrant’s quest immemorial and thus timeless.

3. Music – a body of music on promised lands – documents and suggests an archive of claims and counter claims, an archive of futures and pasts, whose function for us was to serve as a means of thinking and feeling our way through, through art and writing, the idea of promised lands.

4. Phonography provides a technology, a movement machine for terranean and subterranean journeys into migrant past and future projections of promised lands.

5. In music, the promised land trope is recurrent, indomitable, moving back and forth across time, splitting and permutating, as old as the Biblical text from which comes the first promised land song, as contemporary as the most recent report or account of migration from our century.

We used each piece of music as an opening, a window onto the world of the composition and a window onto the world toward which the composition gestures – the worlds of history and memory, of terror, strangeness, and the uncanny, of the mystical and the mundane, worlds made visible and kept in motion by the act of bearing witness through music – and writing.

We spent the residency reading, looking at documents from a whole range of textual sources – writings around the themes of migration, displacement, exile, statelessness, as well as poetry inspired by these themes; writings on the idea of promised lands; writings on music, history, geology, cinema, and theology; archival and official documents, news journalism and NGO reports, scholarly, sacred and visionary writings, biographies, autobiographies, personal testimonies and eye witness accounts.

From this raw material we assembled a hundred narratives, stories told - sometimes across more than one song and often through recurring groups and individuals – using essays, textual montages, textual extracts, and historical documents.

We also spent the residency documenting visual material and not so much thinking about as being permeated by the presence of spectrality which appeared in many of the narratives unexpectedly and without our bidding.

Promised lands, we discovered, are haunted lands, haunted by the stories of other promised lands, haunted by the migrant, the displaced, the forcibly removed, the vanquished, and the past and place from which s/he is part and apart.

Our visual research provided the basis for the creation of one hundred triptychs. The triptych, with its roots in the presentation of early Christian art and texts, through which the sacred is given aesthetic form, made it the ideal form for conveying the effects left with us by the music, narratives, and images of promised lands.

The hundred pages presented in this website do not ascribe a descending or ascending order of significance to the musical excerpts or the narratives. The pages are fragments, collected and created, of a work which could go on for some time if not indefinitely, considering the persistence of the promised land trope in the ways we talk, write, make music, in the ways we think about, live and relive the experience of migration.

We have uploaded the first fifty pages [100 – 50], which you will find in the songpage, and will upload the remaining fifty throughout October and November.

We hope you enjoy and we welcome your responses, which you can leave in the Comments section. is a non profit, educational artwork. The musical extracts, transcribed lyrics, and archival images belong to their respective owners. We will remove any such items from the site at the request of their respective owners.

Edward George & Anna Piva
Flow Motion