Berlin 6 – 13 Jan

A bit behind with the culture diary thanks to the winter gloom induced lethargy.

Thursday January 6 2011 – Chiyoko Szlavnics presentation at TU Thursdays meeting.

Her compositions start out as line drawings describing the general movement and density of textures, and are generally “held tone” pieces (a.k.a. drones?) Sometimes the pitches seem to continually rise or fall like Shepherd Tones. I enjoyed it, closed my eyes and entered a daydream, which is the effect such music usually has on me. I also felt it wasn’t anything I hadn’t heard before. I mean, if you are an “experimental” composer, the first thing you’re going to do is score some dissonant droney stuff.

Tuesday 11 – 11 Series concert @ Ausland. Mat Pogo performed his bizarre vocal stylings, somewhere between Dada and some non-specific mental condition. At first he “scratched” the live audio on a CDJ-styled jogwheel device, then shuffled awkwardly round the room for five minutes, continuing the yelps and exclamations. It was often funny, sometimes touching and pretty entertaining. Benjamin Laurent Aman played a low bassy drone with crackling sounds, and extremely loud gunshots. It was aimless and boring, and prompted some audience evacuation.

Wednesday 12 – Mattin discussion and non-concert @ NK. At December’s 11 series concert, Mattin was unable to attend his own performance, so instead devised a “non-concert” and left instructions for this, which the organisers failed to follow to the letter! What did happen was that for the first hour, there were no lights in the venue, so those present sat in the darkness talking among themselves, perhaps waiting for the music to start, but (and I cottoned on to this fairly quickly) in fact we were being recorded, and when the hour was up, the lights came on and the recording was played back at loud volume. As an experience it was fun, although a lot less fascinating to listen to than I was imagining. And if you play the sound of people talking in a venue, all that happens is that those present start talking over the top, so it wasn’t really listened to in the same way as a typical concert situation. The instruction that failed to be followed was that Mattin’s fee for the show was to be left in the middle of the floor – after all, the audience were the performers.

So Mattin hosted a round-table discussion about his ideas to do with the (non) performance. In order to remedy what didn’t happen at the concert, he placed the 60 euros on the table, which the (roughly) fifteen of us then used to buy ourselves beers. Over the course of two hours, the conversation touched upon the notion of the concept of “performer” and how it is “names” that gain success in a somewhat capitalistic setup. Promoters putting on the concerts are after all participating in a market, and the success or otherwise of their ventures depends on people attending, which depends on offering some names the audience might want to see. It amuses me that for instance on the dance music scene, which is full of producers having multiple aliases, one “name” will be hot property whereas another “name” from the same person, perhaps even presenting the same style of music, may be much less regarded or even ignored!

There were many elements to this discussion, and the limited time I wish to spend writing this entry combined with my failing memory prevents me paraphrasing the whole thing. One point of view I put forward was that it is all very well bravely confronting the audience with their rigid notions and attempting to disrupt them, but in a scene such as the “experimental music scene” in Berlin where lots of people know each other, and a typical gig may have 20 or so attendees, at least half of which will be personally known to the performer, to what extent are you simply taking the piss out of your mates? The discussion was followed by another non-concert, i.e. the audience were in darkness and silence apart from their own sounds. After a while, one lady present started fiddling with a long piece of metal. I left after my third beer, having had my fill of the concept. I don’t know if this idea that the audience should provide their own entertainment at the gigs they attend will catch on in Berlin or elsewhere, but I certainly hope not.

Thursday 13 – TU Thursdays presentation by Alex Hofmann. He played his sax while his laptop improvised from snippets of the live recording. It was fun, although I must admit to tuning my brain in to the electronic mish-mash rather than the saxophony. We were played some bits of a sax being played through a circuit bent FM synth, which sounded great, and the presentation finished with the playing of his CD of counting (in German) every second up to about 70 minutes, the voice made from cut-up recordings. It was mesmerising and a lot more interesting than can be described in words.

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