It might be a city built on sand but going underground in Berlin lands you between a rock and a hard place: on one side, the raw, existential rock-soul-noise drummed up by Einstürzende Neubauten and any number of unstable units permed from the small pool of artists, chancers and nay sayers they started out with in early 1980s West Berlin; on the other, the precisely calibrated monochrome Techno ricocheting off reinforced concrete walls in subterranean bunkers and abandoned industrial plants in the lawless grey zones opened up in the Eastern sector when the Berlin Wall was breached and brought down in 1989-1990.
Of course, much else has happened before and after and around these two black hole energy fields in the 30 years since Einstürzende Neubauten launched in 1980, especially after the Wall came down and made Berlin the default destination for outsider types from all over the world, among them former DDR artists like Carsten Nicolai and Rammstein, the latter conceivably being the biggest German group in the world. But none of it is so deeply rooted in the city and its ongoing endtime dramas of total war, destruction, occupation, cold war division and reunification as the music Neubauten hammered out on old West Berlin’s foundations, or the Techno scene that stealthily colonised wastelands of ruin after the collapse of the DDR.
With so much to tell about themselves and where they come from, these two grand narratives continue to overshadow all the city’s other smaller, yet no less revealing stories. The good news is you can find many of these untold stories in Danielle De Picciotto’s Berlin memoir The Beauty Of Transgression. An American artist who drifted into West Berlin via Cologne in 1987, she has been a shyly reluctant protagonist yo-yoing back and forth from the sidelines to the dead centres of all the great and small histories she has been actively involved in; and her diaristic accounts of them patchwork together an extraordinarily vivid and comprehensive portrait of Berlin city lives, her own and other creatives. These were frequently eked out in impoverished conditions, albeit ameliorated by a support network of scene bars and clubs and galleries either offering waitressing work or free drinks to artists on the other side of the counter.
De Picciotto is one of the very few people granted free passage between the city’s rock and a hard place. Shortly after her arrival in Berlin she became partner to Dr Motte, with whom she helped launch Berlin’s Love Parade. Another enduring friendship through the book is with Dimitri Hegemann, founder of the Tresor club; though Motte participated in The Untergang Show where Neubauten et al announced their existence, and Hegemann was the organiser of the early 1980s Industrial/Noise showcase Atonal festivals, the respective scenes gravitating around the city’s rock and a hard place rarely had anything to do with each other.
As an artist without a clearly defined portfolio, De Picciotto has worked for 30 plus years on both sides of the divide, only for her contributions to go largely unrecognised. She has acted as fashionista, dresser, stage designer, events organiser, exhibition curator, film maker, adviser, musician, vocalist and more; much of the time, her energies have been expended in the service of making others look good, or in creating costumes and backdrops for the memorable happenings that advance Berlin’s reputation as a laboratory for louche, decadent art experiment wherein the usual laws of gravity are suspended and hierarchies of high and low culture are turned upside down.
Unfortunately it’s not to easy to upturn or overthrow that other hierarchy, which seemingly only permits women to act in a supportive capacity to the more serious work of men; it’s unsurprising but no less shocking to see such a hierarchy repeatedly reasserting itself in the supposedly more enlightened Berlin underground circles De Picciotto passes through. And that’s despite the presence in these pages of so many extraordinary women, among them Gudrun Gut, who also moves freely between rock and Techno circles. Working with Gut and others, Picciotto grows optimistic about the changing status of women in the underground. But her relationship and eventual marriage with Einstürzende Neubauten’s Alexander Hacke quickly shattered any dream of sisterhood when she found herself the target of murderous envy from the more extreme female fans clammering for the group’s attention. Happily, their relationship has held true, with De Picciotto and Hacke now equal partners generating a series of mixed media projects incorporating literature, music and film, and pitched beyond the long shadows cast by Berlin’s rock and a hard place.
Danielle De Picciotto’s The Beauty Of Transgression: A Berlin Memoir is published by Gestalten. She’ll be reading from her book, with music supplied by Alexander Hacke, at the Idler Academy, London at 7pm, 2 December.
At the turn of the century sound art reached a new level of visibility with a cluster of high-profile shows and countless below-the-radar initiatives. Meanwhile, new thinking about sound has led to an extraordinary proliferation of practices, and in recent years a phalanx of sound recordists and sonic artists has emerged to stage a revolutionary coup on behalf of sound, demanding its right to exist both in and of itself, free of the competing agendas of music or the visual arts.
The emergence of this new world of audio was accelerated by the dual technologies of microphony and digital processing, and can be heard in the examples of acoustic ecology and anthropology; desktop synthesis; the form-destroying praxes of Noise makers; Reductionism's amplification of previously occult sound events; frequency experiments with waveforms and pure tones; and more.
A cluster of recent books on this area has showcased the range of thinking behind the new sound art. For some, this work calls for a renewed focus on the perceiving body; for others, sound art offers new perspectives on the circulation of cultural meanings; for others still, sound has removed itself from the realm of the human to occupy a world where we simply don't figure.
For this edition of The Wire Salon, artist/writer Salomé Voegelin, author of Listening To Noise And Silence (Continuum), Helen Frosi, curator of the Soundfjord gallery, and critic/sound artist Will Montgomery discuss the new philosophies and practices that have emerged in recent years to map and calibrate the new world that has been revealed by 21st century sound art.
The Wire Salon: We Hear A New World: Microphony, Technology & The Rise Of Sound Art takes place at London's Café Oto, 2 September, 8pm, £4 Ticket on the door only.
Plus: take part in an audience-participation sound art quiz and have your perception of the audio world around you reshaped!
In anticipation of the night, we've put together the following reading list with links to online MP3s, videos and texts:
• Anne Hilde Neset hosts an edition of The Wire's Adventures In Modern Music on Resonance FM. Anne was joined by Dont Rhine and Robert Sember, members of the international activist/art/music collective Ultra-red.
• Recordings of Futurist composer Luigi Russolo's compositions using his noise making Intonarumori instruments (page also contains a downloadable PDF of Russolo's The Art Of Noises manifesto from 1913)
• A selection of video work by Brandon LaBelle: Concert #2: working with participants to stage the tension between sight and sound; Perspectives: writing and listening action in public space; Z: writing action utilizing motion-tracking to generate sound in real-time.
sound art links (via Seth Cluett)
The Wire Salon is a monthly series of salon events, hosted by The Wire magazine, and dedicated to the fine art and practice of thinking and talking about music. The evenings, which take place on the first Thursday of each month, will consist of readings, talks, panel discussions, film screenings, DJ sets and even the occasional live performance.
Tune into to Resonance FM tonight, 9 August, at 23:00 to catch the latest edition of Glossolalia, a show which, according to presenter Oliver Fay, is "produced with the intention of exploring the outer limits of composition, searching for those still thrashing uncomfortably around the perimeters of genre, the outsiders of the experimental music/sonic art frameworks."
Tonight's edition features an hour long collaboration between digital composer-improvisor John Wall and poet Alex Rogers, both of whom fit Fay's brief for the show to a tee.
John's last CD release was 2005's Cpohn, which contained just 20 minutes of material, and his live performances, while they have been growing more frequent in recent years, are still relatively few and far between, so this is a rare opportunity to hear one of the most unique and advanced (non-)musicians we have. As Helena Gough put it in The Wire 318: "His work is so intense and stark, and has this absolute precision to it. I don’t hear that anywhere else.”
John has just launched a blog too, complete with sound files, video clips, software demos, and so on.
Our monthly salon series continues with a talk by The Wire’s Editor-at-Large Rob Young based on his history of folk, folk rock, psychedelia and the British imagination, Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music (published by Faber And Faber, 5 August 2010.). The talk will be illustrated with film and audio clips and will be followed by a discussion of the book’s central themes; plus DJ Jonny Trunk will be in attendance spinning the sounds of wyrd and wired Britain. London Café Oto, 5 August, 8pm, £4.
• Read: The Incredible String Band and The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter. Extract from Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain's Visionary Music by Rob Young
• Read: Into The Woods. "Across folk, classical, pop and exploratory music, the sense of exile from Eden is key to the progress of British music in the twentieth century, writes Rob Young." Article for The Journal Of Music.
• Listen: Exotic Pylon podcast. Featuring conversation between Rob Young and host Jonny Mugwump. The show lasts 90 minutes and includes a selection of music from Talk Talk, Peter Bellamy, Steeleye Span, John Ireland, Dave Cousins, Archie Fisher, Mandy Morton & Spriguns, Robin Williamson and Alasdair Roberts.
Brighton's Lighthouse organisation is hosting an emergency public meeting to discuss how best to secure the archive of local underground film maker and artist Jeff Keen.
Keen is ill with prostate cancer, and also faces eviction along with his wife Stella from their current home in the town. This necessitates them moving into Keen's studio, which currently houses his archive, which in turn necessitates relocating the archive to another location. Any interested parties are urged to attend the meeting at Lighthouse in Brighton on 28 July, whether to show support, or to offer practical solutions.
Keen is one of the UK's pioneering experimental film makers. Three of his short films dating from the mid-1960s are currently on show as part of the exhibition Blow Up: Exploding Sound And Noise (London-Brighton 1959-1969) at Flat Time House in South London. The exhibition has been curated by The Wire's David Toop and Tony Herrington.
A DVD box set of his films, Gazwrx, was issued by the BFI in 2009.
If you haven't already had your brain rearranged this year by Dave Tompkins's How To Wreck A Nice Beach, an occult history of the vocoder from Cybertron back to the communication R&D labs of Second World War... well, you should. But if you want to try out your code-breaking skills before you buy (by the way, it's one of the most beautifully produced books I've seen in a long time) you can visit Dave's blog. Essential musings on Rammellzee's death, vocoder ephemera, an astonishing and essential mix taking in Jonzun Crew, ELO and The Human League, and many other enigmatic variations on the vocoder theme. All done by the dude above in the Luke Skyywalker jacket. Essential reading and listening... as is this completely singular book.
Sound poet Christian Bök performing at Flarf
vs. Conceptual at NYCs Whitney Museum, 2009
A precursor to the INSTAL festival of new and experimental music and sound (scheduled for November), UNINSTAL, kicks off 9 May with the first part of a walk/screening event, In The Shadow Of Shadow, led by artists organisations The Strickland Distribution & Ultra-red. The walk focuses on the gentrification of Glasgow.
Following this, field recordist Eric La Casa and musician Jean-Luc Guionnet present House, one-shot subjective sonic portraits of four houses, their inhabitants and their relationship through sound, 13 May.
15 May hears Loïc Blairon's, It Doesn’t Say What It Says, followed by 'conceptual improvisor' Taku Unami's Inferno Quiz Show
On 16 May, The Strickland Distribution & Ultra-red return
return for the second and final part of In the Shadow Of Shadow, followed by
What Is To Be Done?, sound poetry and
conceptual writing from Christian Bök, Craig Dworkin and JLIAT
Tags: arika | art | Christian Bök | Craig Dworkin | Eric La Casa | events | Gigs | instal festival | Jean-Luc Guionnet | JLIAT | Loïc Blairon | News | Ray Brassier | Seijiro Murayama | Taku Unami | the stricland distribution | Ultra-red | uninstal
Experimental arts space Area10 is calling out for support to secure a longer term lease on their premises at Eagle Wharf in Peckham, South East London. Their lease is set to run out on 15 July.
Area10 have been in the warehouse space behind Peckham Library for the past eight years. Along with studio and rehearsal space for artists, they host and organise a wide variety of international art exhibitions, workshops, performances, and Audiovisual Art Lab, and other collaborative events.
They're currently working with the local council, Southwark, to gain a longer term lease so as to keep – and increase – their activities: They're asking their supporters for help and to sign a petition, along with a testimonial http://www.savearea10.org/
Eccentric electronic composer/lecturer/performance artist Goodiepal (real name Parl Kristian Bjørn Vester) from the Faroe Islands who has been living in London for the past few years doing workshops at his residency in Bethnal Green, is now on the run from Danish Police. Sort of. This morning he booked a series of full page adverts in The Wire, to be published in the July issue, and subsequently phoned me from the Faroe Islands where he managed to get to by boat from Iceland. Goodiepal left the Århus conservatory of music in 2008, when he was fired - as he puts it himself - because, according to the university’s heads, he wasn’t following the teaching plan. He’s since spent his time touring his performances and lectures wordwide, preaching, in his own peculiar fashion, how to reinstate the notion of utopia back into electronic music. Sporting a handlebar moustache and wig - he’s every bit the mad professor – he’s declared war on Århus University and modern computer music and switched name to Gæoudjiparl – The Århus Warrior.
So why is he wanted by the police? It started with
the video "Eventide H 8000 –
Frisk Hacket Musikundervisning" (Eventhide H 8000 - Freshly
Hacked Music Education") , posted on YouTube 30 April. The film was
sent to Århus Conservatory and featured a stolen piece of
equipment, the Eventide H8000. Goodiepal (Baddiepal?) has confessed
to taking the machine from Århus, "in order to repair it and bring
it back", however to Politiken,
a Danish broadsheet newspaper, he claimed it was a gentleman's act
- to steal something from the losing party in a war. Head teacher
at the conservatory, Thomas Winther, has proclaimed to the
newspaper that he's not interested in any war with Goodiepal and
just wants his faculty's machine returned.
Whatever the outcome, a machine is missing, and is in Goodiepal's possession. Once he's taken the boat back to the UK, played a concert at Cargo on the 31 May (with Oneohtrix Point Never) he'll return to Denmark as per the Danish Police's instructions and turn himself in. "I'll probably get 2 weeks. I'm going to jail for my beliefs. It's rock n' roll," he enthused on the phone.
The great composer and installation artist died
yesterday October 22. "A sound artist with a reputation for
overwhelming volume, precise speaker placement, and site-specific
environmental and architectural installations" wrote Alan Licht in
his interview with her in March 1999. A student of Karlheinz
Stockhausen and a collaborator of John Cage, Merce Cunningham,
Alvin Curran and others, she has been dubbed New Music's best kept
Thurston Moore made a fascinating documentary on Amacher called Daytrip Maryanne, clips are available here: http://www.ecstaticpeace.com/daytrip/.
Alan Licht's personal piece on listening to her work Sound Characters (Making The Third Ear) from The Wire issue 181 is now uploaded here http://www.thewire.co.uk/articles/3220/.