News about the 4th edition of the Festival that will take place in Berlin all through the year 2008. The information about the former editions that were held on 22-26 november 2006, 13-22 february 2007 and 1-29 august, 2007 are still to be found somewhere in the jungle of this blop.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Pavement Tapes – dkfrf intiem – 5th of July Harold Schellinx, Ben Roberts, Soinumapa

harold schellinx - picture by wolfgang dorninger

I wondered where The Ramones had their music from. In the middle of the seventies there was nothing that sounded like it. Their songs were funny, fresh and explosive. They were also easy to hook up with. Those Ramones could have lived right around the corner. Everything else I heard then lived around the corner from years before.It took a few weeks to understand. I got a little help from television. It showed a piece of ‘paranoid’ by Black Sabbath. Now listen for yourself: “PT boat on its way to Havana, used to make a living man picking the banana” or “1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 dàdadàdadàdadàm dàdadàdadàdadàm”, that “dàdadàdadàdadàm”, is half the riff of ‘paranoid’ which ends more like “dàdaaa dàm”, but needs loads more of dàda’s to come to the point.

I can imagine The Ramones sitting together drinking beer and throwing empty cans at the loudspeakers. They somehow like the song, but Black Sabbath are a bunch of hippies wearing big silly crucifixes. The song is too long. The song is too long because it has to many dàda’s in it. And they don’t like the dàdaa dàm. The first Ramones long player is a 28 minutes remix of ‘paranoid.’ “Beat on the brat with a baseball bat, o yeah.” That ‘brat’ was Ozzy Osbourne singing “Can you help me?”

Now I think this remodeling was a postmodern act. And if it was not a postmodern act, because I am too dumb to understand postmodernism, it was at least a liberating one. Black Sabbath and such were still battling with their formative years, when they were forced to listen to headmasters, and morality weighed heavy on the young souls. Their resistance was a moral and philosophical discourse; it hadn’t anything to do with street life. Their generation gave us the yuck of last century: Pink Floyd’s The Wall.

The cover of the first album is in black and white. Everybody knows that cover. Everybody who has seen that cover remembers the position of Joey’s right foot. Everybody knows that all four members had chosen Ramone as a family name. That was funny. In those days other families included The Waltons, The Partridge Family, The Carpenters, Sly and the Family Stone, The Osmond Brothers and The Monkees. Baptizing oneself Ramone could be classified a postmodern act, if I weren’t so ignorant about that.

The Ramones were unique. Maybe only the Cramps can be compared to them. The Cramps used swamp zombies as their running gag. It is not a long way from Ozzy to the swamp, though the bookshop where they sell comic strips is almost next-door. Donald Duck and Ronald Reagan were equally important to the Ramones.

Just as their first album marked the beginning of a new era, so did disco. Disco is gay. The gayest of them all were Village People. Their songs came directly from Hollywood, an endless mix of ‘There is no business like show business’ and Kojak. Disco tried to restore the Hollywoodean America of the twenties, when everyone was gay (as in having or showing a carefree spirit) and white, well dressed and rich. The only black people around then were stall mates, waiters or chubby house helps. The disco blacks served their beats with a smile; all of them were very well mannered. Disco gave us funny diseases like Aids or the Beegees. But it gave us also postmodern philosophies, o yes.

In the last years of the twentieth century postmodernism was really big. Every newspaper and periodical bulged with articles on postmodernism. Postmodernism was not only mainstream, it also defined what belonged to mainstream and what not. This mixture of being the nominator and the nominated was of course very postmodern. No wonder it attracted loads of persons who only wanted to talk about themselves and sneer at others.

Postmodernism was about editing; thoughts, fashion, arts, politics, city center’s, logo’s, companies, health care, shopping, language, social behavior, dna, the human body and Michael Jackson were all subject to this editing. If the Ramones and their likes behaved as if a new era had begun, this new era had to be defined. In politics the isms disappeared. In discourse serious thinking and arguments disappeared. Popular insult was to call someone moralistic. Immoral behavior makes you end up in jail or in big business. Mainstream postmodernists never admitted that they were in fact post nihilists. The meaning of ‘to bother’ and to care’ got mixed up. Buddhist maxims like ‘detachment’ were used as a disguise. In the nineties everybody was on its way to enlightenment. Everybody was wearing shades as well; you simply had to.

These days the very margins of society are well defined. And though Tuned City was big, as in lots of things happening, many people involved, hundreds of hours invested in organization, I consider it a marginal event. I don’t think Carsten Stabenow compromised a lot. I admire him for setting this up; I take also courage and inspiration from it. Carsten knew what he was doing: the subjects discussed in the symposiums reflected his personal interest; the sound installations came from artists he knew, the same for the performing artists. He didn’t look at numbers or curriculums; he looked at character and quality.

On Saturday fifth of July Tuned City was built under the roofs of Funkhaus Nalepastrasse, former home to the GDR radio studios and equipped with one of the best recording halls in the world. I also read one day that in some parts of the buildings the marble floor was brought in from Hitler’s Reichskanzlei. This mere fact alone constitutes my fascination. Some day I want to go there and record echoes of footsteps that have died down long ago. But I was busy on Saturday. They won’t confiscate the building right away. MTV has still to colonize the more central river part of Berlin.

In fact we were sitting on the sidewalk of the Weserstrasse in Neukölln. Next to us was a tailor studio, owned by a lady who had lived here for more then twenty-five years and had seen the rise and fall of her street. For long years she had lived between black windows and the noises of empty houses. Cake and Coffee records shop was yet another little store that opened in this dangerous neighborhood. We got in, while restoring work was still going on: the perfect space for Harold Schellinx’s Found Tapes Exhibition. Most of his equipment comes from flea markets. The tapes he finds along the road. While the neighbor repaired clothes, Harold repaired tapes. The idea to launch a tape repair shop came up. Maybe we will do so next year, when we can afford to pay the rent.

Sunday afternoon might have been better, but most of us were leaving on that day. So there was Ben Roberts rushing in directly from Madrid who talked about his fascination for abandoned tapes and the sounds on it, especially the unintended sounds, because they evoked so many images and thoughts about life that once was and now is not any more. He played some of these recordings causing a kind of tap dance for three cassette players whose play, fast forward and rewind buttons were pressed continuously: in came voices from answering machines and African missionaries and lots more.

When that was done we went outside and had a long talk with Xavier Erkizia about the sound map of the Basque Region and his exceptional ideal situation in the Basque Art World, where he has carte blanche at the San Sebastian Art Centre, because the director has a blind belief in his moves. Of course also this situation is threatened by bureaucracy and political programs composed by editors. We ended up with hours and hours of recorded material. What started as an interview turned into a very long talk among friends. All the time Oier Iruretogoiena played sounds from his closed laptop. Some day it will be heard. But then again the program for ‘some day’ is quite full already.

Monday, August 11, 2008

24th of July - Barack Obama's imaginary concert

Back in 1981 when the godfathers of emo carried white flags, I joined one of the biggest demo’s the Netherlands had ever seen: hundreds of thousands marched the streets of The Hague and protested against the neutron bomb. It felt like we the people really could influence politics. Similar protest marches were seen in West European capitals. Whatever the result of the protest was, the people also gathered in such huge masses because they were sick and tired of the cold war atmosphere.

Cold war ended in 1989. Now the godfathers of emo wear Gucci, and Bush and Blair have given us another cold war. In times of sloganism and endless zapping, of hyper realities and internet friendship, saturation is reached far more faster then in those days. Barack Obama carries a message of change and hope for a better and peaceful future.

When Obama came to Berlin I claimed his speech at the Siegessäule as a performance at the dkfrf. This news was read by maybe one hundred and sixteen persons. It didn’t shock the world. It was not my intention to shock the world. The evenings of dkfrf have an average attendance of thirty-eight persons. Maybe some of the possible thirty-eight went to see Obama, and thought of his talk as an imaginary concert. Wasn’t it a visionary who would talk, and wasn’t this vision one of a better world? Does a better world also sound better? Obama didn’t know he was playing at my festival: The letter I send him along with an english version of Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin was identified as a dangerous object by security.

I did record his rally. I walked from Unter der Linden U-station to the Pariser Platz, where I found a crowd gathered in front of hotel Adlon. I took position among the onlookers, convinced that they were waiting for Obama; it was 18.25. The speech would start at 19.00. I thought, well he will come out, step into the car, drive to the stage, do ‘toctoc’ on the microphone and say: ”Hello Berlin, my name is Barack Obama, I’m the next president of the United States.” At 18.45 I thought that Obama was living up to Berlin conditions and would start his performance half an hour later. At 18.48 I thought to hear crowd cheering in the distance. At 18.51 I finally realized what fool I had been and started walking towards the Brandenburger Tor, and from there, together with others, to the Siegessäule.

I recorded fragments with the inbuilt microphone of a cheap cassette Walkman. Longer pieces, like the mumbles of the waiting crowd, some police walkie-talkie messaging, the footsteps of the people walking towards the stage I recorded with a separate mini microphone of a very good cassette Walkman. As soon as I heard the voice above the sounds of the moving crowd – he thanked the Berlin fire brigade – I started to record my walk; It was my intention to get as near as possible. I started at approximately thirteen-hundred meters from the stage.

On my walk I first encountered little improvised beer and wurst stands, uncountable rows of people in front of me, building an impenetrable wall, TV-screens and a massive loudspeaker system. The road to the Siegessäule is slightly going downward, so everybody could look over everybody’s head. Over all those heads there was nothing that could lead to identifying Obama as a person existing in real life, holding a speech. Since I didn’t want to fill the tape with sounds coming from the loudspeakers, I decided to enter the park at the left side of the road, and continue my walk towards the source of it all.

Here I encountered individuals sitting on the green, solemn faces, drinking every word they heard. Then I thought of Jesus who after his talk did this wonderful thing with bread and fish. Now I think of habitants of this earth, who, by attending the rally, gave expression to their concern about the current political state of things. My Walkman recorded people walking by, the sounds of little branches breaking under my feet. I ended up at a point where I recorded the voice coming out of two different loudspeaker towers. The message was captured by a sonic whirlwind; the sounds that escaped the centrifugal power were not detectable any more as words.

I finished my walk at three steps from a policeman, who joyously asked me where I thought that I was going. I recorded the question, but I didn’t record my thought. I was joined by some young men who had no problems with the policeman’s wit, and even got a decent answer after four attempts to find out what those white tents were at the other side of the fence. From the answer I learned where Obama was to be found in the immediate hours before stepping up to the microphone.

Then I walked back through the centrifuge of sounds and recorded the end of Barack Obama’s performance.

4th of July - Tuned Citizens

On the first days of July an event called Tuned City was held in Berlin. I quote from the programme: ”Tuned City between sound and space speculation is an exhibition and conference project which proposes a new evaluation of architectural spaces from the perspective of the acoustic.” I was invited to curate one evening of dkfrf on the Wriezener Bahnhof, a stretch of wasteland in Friedrichshain along the railway track. The idea was to have a pleasant evening of listening under a star spangled sky, given all visitors a perfect example of a new evaluation of an architectural space from the perspective of the acoustic.

Derek Holzer who invited me and Carsten Stabenow who agreed on having the dkfrf at Tuned City – and my gratitude goes out to them, also from this digital screen – must have had similar visions to mine: A warm summer’s evening, sounds coming from a perfect sound system to give every listener the chance to dive into an acoustic wonderland, no outside noises to disturb the sonic flow, and enough land to walk around for those who wanted to chat without disturbing the dedicated listener.


The great weather prophet in the sky looked down on Berlin, saw a blending sheet of white sunny days spread over the city, and decided to treat that image in the same way Lucio Fontana did to canvas: He took out a Stanley knife and made a deep and sharp cut. On ’our’ Thursday temperature had dropped twenty degrees. Rainstorms swept over the barren land. It was cold, wet, humid and unpleasant. One could expect a theatrical remake of Moby Dick, with Ahab climbing the mast and going berserk. One could expect the most violent scenes of Wagner’s ‘The Flying Dutchman.’ One could even expect Vietnam, Beirut or Managua. But one could not expect that the audience, who had been listening for three days to lectures and stuff, would lean back and listen. No, now it was their turn to talk, and talk they did. A lot.

Were they sitting in the mud? No, no, wasteland had it, that one of the buildings had a sane roof. What we had was a hybrid between a hangar and a market hall with excellent acoustic qualities. Too bad that only the ceiling had been complete renewed Made entirely of wood, it was an absolute masterpiece of German craftsmanship. Whoever commissioned it, was the secret star of the evening. The building also had doors, or rather, entrances, huge and wide entrances that gave a clear view, but above all, feel, of the weather conditions. The ambience was kind of brrr. The audience was kind of half eared. The performers were kind of lost. The dkfrf was kind of shipwrecked.

The next day summer had returned as if nothing had happened. The shore we had washed upon was a sidewalk in Neukölln.

An extensive report on the dkfrf evening at tuned city will appear in Harold Schellinx’ SoundBlog. He will also present an on line audio-impression.

Playing on that evening were ( in a continuous flow) preluded by a walkman performance by Harold Schellinx.

The Phonographic Arkester

Peter Prautzsch

Richard Francis

Somaya Langley


Lasse Marc Riek

The recordings (from the mixer) will become available soon.

14th of June - Through the Mazes of the Map – Koen Holtkamp, Stephane Leonard, Daily

The man who tried to find the origins of money committed suicide. He was a German who studied in Munich in the seventies. Germany in the seventies was a good place to take your life. But why one should become so desperate on the way to the very beginnings of money has always puzzled me. And it also disappointed me, because he had arrived at some strange places where coins looked like stone wheels, had a hole in the middle and were left outside leaning against the house. They were bigger then a man who would stand on the shoulders of his stronger brother.

I mean he got so close to the solution, or did he? Was he cursed? Money is about organizing a society, or a community. It is also about here and there, and us and them and a sense of geography that stretches beyond the horizons, thus adding past and future to a present that probably never was experienced in such way. But inventing money is about knowing this all, before every one else knows.

It is said, written and printed that scripture was invented in a civilization that was coming to its end. The writer felt like packing his suitcase. Just like Abraham did at one stage in his life. Maybe he was also a writer. He counted the stars.

Everybody is in ispace. The second coming of oneself can only be canceled by an eternal electric fall out. Did you know that the first politician who will be treated as a rock star wants to come to Berlin to talk at the Brandenburger Tor? There are two sides to the Brandenburger Tor. At one side is the Pariser Platz where the new USA embassy has found its home and JFK is the name of a museum. At the other side is a long road that leads up to the pillar with the golden angel. In times of popular demand this stretch of land becomes a zone known as the fan mile. Love parades or the matches of the German football team projected on big screens attract up to one million people. Obama might not talk directly from the Obama main stage on the fan mile, but I am pretty sure that at the other side of the Brandenburger Tor the biggest crowd this place has ever seen will follow his speech. The next day you will find the videos on youtube.*

What is it about this frantic archiving that has invaded our lives? Why should every move be recorded/filmed/stored so that it can be seen or listened to by an invisible audience? Are the number of views or downloads the poor mans substitute to the millions of dollars from the rich? Is someone packing his suitcase? Sure one does so, because he has the tools. But what would a historian write about this phenomenon in a few hundred years from now? “File under gossip”? And will the satellites with all these data be rusted or even disintegrated by then? How futile is it all?

Field recordings are related to a space, even if you record refrigerators. Some of them are site specific. The rain forest sounds different from a rainy day in Berlin. Field recorders have discovered the Humboldt in them. Not the cdr or the hard disk became the storage place for their recordings. Internet has provided them with a visual aid. Futility? It gives the user a possibility to experience one aspect of life outside its physical boundaries. But this visualization is also an important help in the process of convincing curators and politicians to consider field recordings as a groundbreaking discipline. And it defines ‘home’ to the field recorder.

Then they walked out one fine summer day.

Koen Holtkamp’s parents probably took the plane when they emigrated from the Netherlands to the U.S.A. Koen (short for Koenraad, that is the Dutch Conrad, the ‘oe’ is pronounced like ‘ou’ in ‘you’, but short, so more like an ‘ou’ in a James Brown song) arrived in his new homeland at a very young age, and grew up in the American language. He speaks this language like every other American, with a deep round voice that seems to come from somewhere below his knees.

Alessandro Bosetti might still wonder why different languages resonate in different parts of the human body. He might have been flabbergasted if he had heard Koen speak, or rather stumble through a restricted vocabulary of Dutch words. I found myself not listening at what he was saying when talking to him; actually –sorry Koen – I was listening through him, because I couldn’t understand what I heard. Untill I realised the virtual time travel: I had been listening to the Dutch language as it was spoken some thirty years ago. Language is an invisible continent: this one opened up a vision of the Netherlands in the late seventies. Now go and be touched by far away years, and see what happens.

The dkfrf evening turned out to be a meeting of travelers, but geographical distances were not the only ones to be covered. Koen played binaural recordings from a walk through the forest. If there is one thing besides the clouds and the canyons that the first immigrants to the Americas found on their way, it was a forest. So his walk could easily be listened to as a momentum in American History; If then from the crackle of the bushes a most angelic voice arises the momentum becomes monumental in its reference to the enormous almost supra – religious impact this landscape must have made to the stranger who entered this world for the first time; pure bliss!

Dkfrf-veteran Stephane Leonard had freshly arrived from Brooklyn, New York City. ‘Brooklyn’ is not only the name of one of the Beckham kids; it is also an answer to a popular Dutch quiz question. What part of NYC is named after a Dutch city? Breukelen is now a part of the city of Utrecht. Van Breukelen, Hans was for many years the goalkeeper of the Dutch team. I am sure the Beckhams weren’t thinking of him when they made love under the Brooklyn bridge. Their sighs must have gone since a long time.

In Bosetti’s imaginary discourse Manhattan was a small island. It is a strange thing to realize how field recordings can visualize the layers of time. Now imagine a young man from Berlin, born and raised in the last years of a now non-existing country who comes to New York, stays at a friends house in Brooklyn and who is confronted with the bridge almost every day. The bridge has become a symbol of the new world and everything this new world stands for. As a photographic and cinematographic icon it has entered our minds even if we will never be able to see it, touch it, go over it. Stephane found out that it produced noise. And noise he played for thirty minutes, like a kid would play with cars and trains. Or should I say like Woody Allen imagines playing his clarinet alongside Django Reinhardt? Or do you hear Gershwin poke his stick to the ceiling of his coffin? Rhapsodies sound different today. Stephane should return some day to get us the next movement.

When Daily embarked for the first time on the German part of the western hemisphere he spend some time in the regions where volcanoes seem to have fallen asleep eternally, but in fact observe the land of whine and wheat from under half sunken eye-lids. The town that was chosen as the capital to the BRD because one of the greatest composers of all time was born there became his second hometown. Here, walking the streets at daytime Daily got stunned, because he actually saw a fast running animal that resembled a rabbit but is larger, has long ears and legs, and doesn’t burrow. It was not the reason he moved on to Düsseldorf, or maybe it was. At the Art Academy he heard Yannis Kounellis tell long stories. That was then. Now he was in Berlin, because Baruch Gottlieb, an assistant professor at a Seoul university popped up in my mailbox for a short chat. A few weeks later, kindly supported by the Arts Council Korea, Daily arrived in Berlin.

He stayed at my house and we watched some matches from the European Championships together. He amazed me that he never had one favorite country. He laughed and booaad just the same when the Turks scored or when the Germans did so in the same match. An extensive portrait of Daily can be found on Hars’ sound blog. While staying at Berlin he was either out shooting pictures or making recordings, cooking dinner or working and cutting until very late at night. He had to. And guess what? The Arts Council Korea also sponsored the propaganda! Ten nice posters were made, that looked so good in fact that I put up only four of them in public spaces. I am sure the ATK can forgive that move.

Also because more people showed up at our evening, then at Daily’s show in Amsterdam where three guest musicians played the city nightscape turned musical score. On the evening of DKFRF we agreed on showing two of his compositions. The first one was made in Seoul. It would give the general public an impression of what Daily’s work should look like. It looked like a lot of white dots on a black surface that slowly moved from the right to the left. Each dot was a light in the nightly city. To each dot a computerized note was played, a very dry note, as you can expect on short wave radio. It made me think of the art movements in the sixties when intellectualism met good-looking women smoking cigarettes, and men looked like scientist who read poetry.

Those days poetry looked like

Summer in a dry shirt wrinkles over the low cast frowns of your face shuts up in a factory when the sirens call and the trucks drive charcoal in a baby’s mouth in a winter of drug stores worn down petticoats forgotten hillsides and row row row if veronicas drench the shiny part of the birch and beasts come nibbling from your nipples and weasels are fearless in the shadow of America America moon love dairy mothers and olive trees washingshiningshirts come back from next summer

Or maybe it didn’t.

The Seoul composition also looked like a short movie one could encounter on television. It looked good, but it looked good in a world that was not mine anymore. The composition with the field recordings looked good as well… a different good. It was fascinating to see the result of two days hard work. It was also fascinating to see how the images floated with the same speed from the right to the left of the screen, the same slow as Tarkovsky used for his camera shots. His pictures showed Neukölln, the most dangerous area of Berlin. Daily can be lucky he didn’t fall victim to a robbery.

All his pictures and recordings came together in a composition especially made for the festival, an enterprise in which Daily showed more courage then when walking the extremely notorious Rütlistrasse at night. He risked very much to fail. He did not. No way. Watching his composition was like daydreaming behind the window of a bus that after a long day of traveling drives through the streets of a new town. One is too tired to get excited, even a bit anxious because the hostel has still to be found. The bus slowly moves on along shops and bars that somehow look familiar. Daily stated that he would need another two years to perfectionize this concept. Yep. That was to be seen. I guess that is part of the fascination: if you leave enough space for the onlooker, then the story will meet another story. In this invisible space that got created by Koen, Stephane and Daily a lot of stories must have been told. Most of those stories will remain unheard. And unmapped.

*This paragraph shows how much time it took me to finish this report. Barack Obama came. He was not given a stage right under the Brandenburger Tor, where the German football team shared cheers with the most sought after dumbo’s from German television, but he was offered a kind of ‘taxi zum klo.’ He stood right under the Siegessäule, the pillar with the golden angel on top. Not my expected one million people showed up, but with a crowd of two hundred thousand he still could beat a German chancellor who had held the record for more then seventy years. I claimed Obama’s appearance as an imaginary concert at my festival, since no one ever presented the rally as his or her event.