Sound of the Revolution

Of all the arts, music possesses the greatest power for social organization.      

                                                            Arseny Avaraamov, 1923           

Today 100 years ago women workers in Petrograd facotries laid down their work, because they didn’t have money to buy bread for their families anymore and thus finally brought about the break-through of the the Russian Revolution. It was still the beginning of the 20th century, nobody knew how devastating it would get, and so hopes were still high that a new man and a new woman would be born through the revolution. According to the Russian avant-gardists one of the most important means to accomplish this aim was sound, respectively acoustic experiments, mainly – noise.

For example Viktor Khlebnikov dreamt of a new, universal language, the so-called Zaum, and had incredible visions for the future of the by then brand new medium radio. Mikhail Matyushin, Aleksei Kurchenykh and Kazimir Malevitch composed a futuristic opera entitled Victory over the sun and even Dziga Vertov experimented with hearing and radio before he turned exclusively towards cinema. But probably the most extreme example for the combination of sound and revolution is Arseny Avraamov’s Symphony of Sirens, which was only performed twice: November 7, 1922, for the fifth anniversary of the Russian Revolution in Baku, an important seaport of Azerbaijan, and one year later in Moscow. 

Proletkult Composer Areseny Avraamov approximately in 1923

Writer and engineer Aleksei Gastev

Inspired by texts of the revolutionary poet and engineer Aleksei Gastev, Avaraamov used the whole city as an orchestra or as a „music box“, as German media archeologist Siegfried Zielinski calls it: Foghorns, 25 steam locomotives, hundreds of sirens and choirs with up to 1`000 singers collectively performed this Symphony of Sirens in honor of the Russian Revolution, while Avraamov was standing on a tower and conducting by waving flags. 

Arseny Avraamov conducting with flags 1922

FM Einheit conducting with flags 2017

Since then the Second World War, the Holocoust, the Atomic Bomb, the Gulag, the landing on the moon, the vanishing of the Soviet Union and many, many more things happend but neither the new Soviet man nor the new Soviet women, of whom the communists had dream, did show up. Performing the Symphony of Sirens almost 100 years later therefore of course cannot only be a sheer re-enactment but requires a reflection of the dissonance between the dreams back then and our reality in today’s very late cpatialism. Invited by the Brno Philharmonic in the South East of the Czeck Republic, the German noise musician FM Einheit and radioplay author Andreas Ammer came up with a very poignant and convincing adaption of Avraamov’s Symphony of Sirens.

On October 21, 2017 they performed it together with Byelorussian sax player and free jazzer Pavel Arakelian, the Austrian-Amercian tubist Jon Sass, the German percussionist Saskia von Klitzing, Siegfried Zielinski as the German performer of Avraamov and Ján Sedal as his Czeck translator. Instead of foghorns they used cleaning machines, concret mixers, two Harley Davidsons were driven through the hall full of audience, the fan club of Brno’s renowned ice hockey team Kometa was cheering, a choir sang The Internationale and La Marseillaise as well as different kinds of ambulance vehicles sounded their horns and sirens. In front of the hall 25 cannon balls were fired and a steam locomotive was whisteling:

 

Probably this was one of the most unique concerts I ever attended, regarding the degree of loudness but also because of the meaning of its noise. There was no utopian optimism to it anymore. It’s been an impressive mixture of disillusionment, despair, melancholia and uproar against unacceptable realities, a noisy bemoaning of all the victims and sacrifices that come with so-called capitalist progress. I wouldn’t call it a cathartic experience, rather a reminder why silence isn’t the only answer – despite John Cage’s precious inshights – and why noise still is and always will remain mandatory.

My compliments to all of the artists and especially also to Vítězslav Mikeš, Lukas Jirica and the whole team of the Brno Philharmonic for making this happen.

In case you missed it: Next year a recording of this performance will be broadcast on the radio by the department for radio drama at Bayerischer Rundfunk

Energies & the Arts

Visiting Joyce Hinterding & David Haines in the Blue Mountains (NSW), Australia

“Like linguists turn to coding, silversmiths turn to electronics”, says David Haines. For the Australian artists it seems to be the most natural thing in the world to artistically transcend materials, media and genres. Haines, who just has been awarded the 2017 Australia Council Visual Arts Fellowship for two years, to delve further into his “abiding interest in aroma as an art form” and develop a substantial exhibition across the range of his practices, is one half of the intriguing Australian art couple Haines & Hinterding. The other half is Joyce Hinterding, a former silversmith and nowadays an artistic expert on energies, especially on Very Low Frequency Radio Waves and Natural Radio.

 

During my research stay in Australia Douglas Kahn was so kind and generous to introduce me to his dear friends and neighbours Joyce and David. The couple invited me to visit them at their lovely home in the bush of the Blue Mountains to learn more about their art practices – an unexpected, spontaneous visit, which turned out to be one of the highlights of my research trip down under. After a nice spring roll lunch and some conversation we wanted to go and see some kangaroos together. However, I quickly became so fascinated by the multisensory artistic cosmos of Haines & Hinterding and our conversation lasted so long that the kangaroo visit had to be postponed. 

What makes the works of Haines & Hinterding so fascinating to me is the fact that they are outstanding examples of artistic research.

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Natural Radio

Energizing Encounter with Douglas Kahn

What makes Australia and especially Sydney for radio art researchers like me such a desirable place to go to is the variety of sound and radio artists and scholars, who live and work there. There are numerous reasons for this cluster or gathering, as I found out during my research stay. However, one main reason certainly is Douglas Kahn, Professor for Media and Innovation at the University of New South Wales. Being responsible for such outstanding, seminal books like the essay collection Wireless Imagination. Sound, Radio and The Avant-Garde (1992), which he co-edited with the radio artist Gregory Whitehead and his two monographs Noise, Water, Meat. A History of Sound in the Arts (1999) and Earth Sound Earth Signal. Energies and Earth Magnitude in the Arts (2013), Douglas Kahn attracts PhD candidates and researchers from all over the world, who are interested in radio and sound and their relation to the arts. 

 

When I eventually dared to contact Douglas Kahn and kindly asked him for an interview, he was very friendly and generous and invited me to visit him at his home in Katoomba, a cozy little town at the fringe of the overwhelming, scenic Blue Mountains Nation Park, about two hours by train west of Sydney. 

After I had read „Wireless Imagination“ and „Noise Water Meat“ with great benefit for my own research on the epistemology of radio art, I turned to „Earth Sound Earth Signal“, which left me behind quite a bit baffled at first. At the same time I developed the hunch that this book is about something really fascinating, mind-blowing. And as I like challenges, I kept coming back to it, over and over again. One sentence, which had struck me in particular, was „Radio was heard before it was invented and it was broadcast before it was heard.“ Therefore I asked Doug at the beginning of our interview, if he would be so kind to explain this phenomenon, which is called „natural radio“. You can listen to the interview dubbed in German here, and you can read it below in English. This is what Doug answered:  Weiterlesen

Sonic Reflections

Conversation with Colin Black about Radio Art

When I met Colin Black for the first time in June 2014 at the Radio as Art Conference in Bremen it made a strong impression on me when one evening this tall, slim man with shoulder-length blond hair from Australia looked up to the German sky and wondered whispering to himself: „Oh, this is how the moon looks like up here.“ Since then I was longing so much to go to Australia someday to find out how the moon looks like Down Under.

Of course the moon was not the only reason I very much wished to travel to Australia. Like Canada this huge country on the other side of the planet has an amazing radio research and radio art scene and as a radio art reseacher I of course wanted to find out more about the reasons why this is so.

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„Desert Bloom“ received renowned Karl-Sczuka-Preis for Radio Art

Yesterday the German sound artist Christina Kubisch, the producer and composer Peter Kutin and the musician and sound engineer Florian Kindlinger, both Austrian, received the renowned Karl-Sczuka Preis für Hörspiel als Radiokunst at the Donaueschingen Festival. Their radioplay Desert Bloom, which was produced only in English, is an intriguing portrait of the city Las Vegas, of its shiny, gloomy and fake promises of quick wealth – and of  its dark, disturbing sides as well.

 

This city portrait is mainly told by the means of electric static, by noises that the human ear normally cant’t perceive. Christina Kubisch is well-known for developing her very special head phones which make it possible to discover the un-hearable side of modern cities and environments in the context of her performances and so-called Electrical Walks.

img_2057Being a great fan of Christina Kubisch’s work I of course went to the arward ceremony. Asked how she came up with the idea if portraiing Las Vegas this way, Christina Kubuch just replied: „Oh, I married there once.“ Listening to Desert Bloom I venture to say: It was definitely worth it…. Congratulations to all the artists!

Okwui Enwezor on „Aesthetics & Postcolonialism“

Before I left the drama department of Bayern2 Radio for working at the University of Basel and starting my PhD, I had the great pleasure to interview Okwui Enwezor, who had just become the director of Haus der Kunst in Munich. Tonight the interview from 2011 with interesting insights on growing up in Nigeria, being a young black man in the New York art scene in the 1980s and many more will be broadcast again. You can listen to the pocast here. (All dubbed in German)

Okwui Enwezor, director of Haus der Kunst in Munich, Germany. Foto: Andreas Gebert

Okwui Enwezor, director of Haus der Kunst in Munich, Germany. Foto: Andreas Gebert

80 Years Living Legend: Happy Birthday, Bazon Brock!

Birthday boy takes a nap.

Birthday boy takes a nap.

Today Bazon Brock turns 80. Being an unique mixture of an artist and an polymath, Bazon Brock studied with Theordor W. Adorno, helped to bring Fluxus to Germany in the 1960th and was a close collaborator of Joseph Beuys and Wolf Vostell. Brock is emeritus Professor of Aesthetics and Cultural Education at the Bergische Universität in Wuppertal, Germany.  He developed the method of “Action Teaching”, in which the seminar hall becomes a place for staging oneself and others. From 1968 until 1992 he launched the documenta-schools for visitors. As „Bazon“ is the Greek word for a talkative person, Bazon Brock developed talking and the mediation of art to an art form, always driven by on the one hand his fury against Hitlerism, which he suffered severely of as a child, being a refugee at the end of the Second World War from the east, and on the other hand by his euphoria to be alive.

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Radio portrait of Miranda July

On Sunday night, the 3rd of April at 10.05 pm my one-hour long radio feature „Wir und sie und alle die wir kennen. Die kalifornische Konzeptkünstlerin Miranda July im Portrait“ will be boradcast in German at Zündfunk Generator on Bayern2 (afterwards available as podcast). Based on my November 2015 interview with Miranda July and my interview with the scholar Antje Czudaj, who wrote a book on July’s intermedial art, I am analyzing her work in a wider context. In this portrait I am looking at Miranda July’s background in 1990s Riot Grrlism in Portland, Oregon and at her own art work alike: I will talk about her short stories and her debut novel, her films and her media art pieces. Especially I will focus on the interactive and webbased project „Learning to Love You More“ (together with Harrell Fletscher, 2002 – 2009) and her latest intermedial art work „Somebody“, a combination of an app and a wonderful short film, which the fashion label Miu Miu of Prada helped her to realize.Thus I strive to unravel her artistic concept and claim that Miranda July should be regarded as one of the most interesting artistic voices of the current generation.

The Answer

Eifelturm_Peace_Zeichen

By Jean Jullien

Three days after the terror attacks in Paris, four days after the massacer which the suicide bombers caused in Beirut, in the middle of the biggest refugee track through Europe since World War II, during an evil war in Syria and daily terror in Israel, Iraq and so many other places since decades: I still feel speechless and deeply sad. On the contrary to so many politicians and demagogues and their immediate response to the terror attacks. All over the planet they seem to know the answers right away and cannot wait to spread their verbal build-up of arms via any channel of communication. But their hatred and racism, their cry for war and revenge is no answer. It never was and it never will be.

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