Category Archives: writing

Duftgesänge

Pleased to announce that the German version of my 2019 “10 (S)Cent Poems” has been accepted for production by deutschlandfunk Kultur (German National Radio). Such, a new “Wurfsendung” is coming up. Curated by Julia Tieke.

Duftgesänge
Poems, recording & composition: Gabi Schaffner
Voice: Hans Kellett
Will we manage before the blooming season ends? Ms Schaffner hopes so!

Lavendel Lavendel Lavendel

Ein Duft steigt auf und rundet sich
schwebt in der Luft und weitet sich
wie ein Ballon…
So breit und weit
Wie der nächtliche Garten
Von einem Winkel
Zum anderen.

Oh würziges Amor-Aroma!
Du weckst die Damen aus der Ohnmacht
Du schöpfst den Trost ins müde Herz
Du bringst den Schlaf
Vertreibst die Pest.
Du wirst geliebt
Vom Hummelvolk
Und den Bienen.

Lavendel Lavendel

Du wehst davon in Wellen
Lavendel-Ballon
Du wehst davon in Welten
Verschwenderisch veränderlich

Ich atme
aromatisches Szenario,
veränderlich verschwenderisch…


Album Out: June 1

  • Title: “Mauricio Pucci (1899-1926) Fazzoletto per un eternità. Pandemic New Music”
  • By: Gabi Schaffner. Raw Audio Productions 2020
  • Compositions and sound recordings: Gabi Schaffner
  • Participating musicians: Claudio Commandini, Hannes Wienert, Mimosa Pale, Rosanna Lovell
  • Edition with printed cover, insert, 180 grams vinyl: 200 copies
  • Artist’s edition with hand-printed silkscreen cover, 180 grams vinyl: 100 numbered copies
  • Price: 22 Euro regular/60 Euro collector’s item. Advance orders from: 1 June 20

Press info in English language will follow in a short while. Stay tuned 🙂

Cover of Fazzoletto per un eternità

La Défence 2003-2057


[Lopsided Towers – La Defense] has its roots in the terrorist attack of 9/11, and two very different cut-up texts sprang up from it: “Schiefe Türme” on occasion of the “Anagrams of War” exhibition/performance in 2002, – and this text, commissioned by the artist Nathalie Grenzhaeuser for her catalogue “Die Große Arche” in 2004. Inspired by Robbe-Grillet’s “Topology of a Phantom City” a dystopic vision of Paris-in-the-Future evolved. Planned as a radio play for 2019/2020.

Published in: Nathalie Grenzhaeuser: Die Große Arche. Forum 1822 Sparkasse, Frankfurt/Main. 2004

Excerpt: (German only)
Paris, Juli 2008, Observations sur La Défense. Enregistrement No. 7
Am ersten Tag der fünften Woche ist die Situation in groben Umrissen also folgende: Ein Steg aus Stahl und Tropenholz führt über 450 Meter vom Foyer der Arche über Gartenanlagen und schlammiges Brachland fort in den leeren Raum. La Jetée, von Osten aus gesehen, wird flankiert vom Friedhof „Neuilly“ zur rechten, dem Friedhof „Puteaux“ zur linken Seite. Es ist seltsam, dass diese Konstruktion, erdacht von dem Ingenieur P. Chemetov, an keinem bestimmten Monument oder einer irgendwie gestalteten Topologie, sondern an einem klassischen urbanen Unort endet. Ein junger Mann, der sich dem Betrachter nicht zu erkennen gibt, lehnt mit geneigtem Kopf über den Rand der Brüstung. Der seit Tagen beständig zunehmende Wind hat den Pappeln, die unterhalb der Jetée im Garten der Arche eingepflanzt sind, schweren Schaden zugefügt: Hier und da lehnen kleinere Baumkronen wie erschöpft zwischen den Metallstreben. Je nach Windstärke schwanken auch die Gebäude des Viertels, eine Entwicklung der Umstände, die von zumeist unbehaglichen Gefühlen begleitet wird. Der Blick des am Geländer lehnenden Mannes ist jedoch nicht dorthin gerichtet, es scheint vielmehr, als ob er lauscht: Auf das Gurgeln des Wassers unter den Eisenträgern der Jetée oder in Richtung des Boulevard Circulaire, auf dem der immer dichter werdende Autoverkehr jetzt in gleichsam stetigem Fluss von links nach rechts verläuft, mit einem dumpfen Grollen, das an das Brausen eines Ozeans vor dem Sturm erinnert.

Paris, November 2008. Observations sur la Défense. Enregistrement No. 13
Auf den Fliesenplatten zwischen den Bäumen auf der anderen Straßenseite, sind jetzt vier oder fünf Männer in Trainingsanzügen aufgetaucht, die sich einen Messerkampf zu liefern scheinen; eine breite kurze Klinge blitzt von Zeit zu Zeit in einer der Hände auf. Es liegt aber kein Grund zur Beunruhigung vor, denn nach einer Weile trennen sie sich unter Lachen und freundschaftlichem Schulterklopfen voneinander und gehen jeder seiner Wege. Zwei kleine Mädchen in rosa Strümpfen, weißen Schuhen, bis an die Nasenspitzen in bonbonfarbene Sportjacken gehüllt, biegen um die Ecke. Sie gehen schweigend nebeneinander her, jedes mit feierlicher Miene einen Hot-dog in fleckigem Papier vor sich hertragend. Die Bürger in Courbevoie behaupten gehässigerweise, es gäbe etliche Kinder im Viertel von Nanterre (aber auch in Puteaux), die, während noch sie Kinder seien, bereits solche zeugen und empfangen könnten, ihre Nachkommen wären dann allerdings von Geburt an Erwachsene. In jedem Fall kann der erste Eindruck trügen. Es gibt Motorradfahrer, Polizisten und Boulespieler, die alle auf den ersten Blick ganz normal wirken. Ihre Besonderheit liegt im Innenohr verborgen: Es reagiert außerst empfindlich auf die Fallwinde der Wolkenkratzer, deren Vibrationen in ihrem Gehirn eine schwermütige Trägheit erzeugen, die sie zu ewigen Bewohnern von La Défense macht.

Paris, Mai 2010. Observations sur La Défense. Enregistrement No. 23
Manche Fotografien lassen sich wie gewöhnliche Zimmer betreten: Hinter einer Tür, sagen wir, befindet sich eine Küche, dahinter ein Schlafzimmer, daran angrenzend ein sehr kleines Zimmer, in dem ein Bügelbrett an der Wand lehnt. Das Bad nebenan wird ausgefüllt von einer Frau, die in den Spiegel schaut. Ihre Haare sind feucht und hängen unordentlich über den Kragen ihrer Regenjacke. Die Frau, deren Gesichtszüge übrigens nur verschwommen zu erkennen sind, geht zurück in die Küche, stellt Wasser für einen Kaffee auf und schiebt den Vorhang des tränenförmigen Fensters ein Stück zurück: Man blickt auf einen Teil der Avenue Pablo Picasso: die Skulptur einer riesenhaften Python und, in Gebüschnähe, auf ein mit rotweiß gestreiften Markisen verkleidetes Provisorium aus Holzlatten. Doch auch hier kommt es auf den Standpunkt der Kamera an. Links unten im Vordergrund steht ein entblätterter Baum. Hinten leuchtet das Grün des Friedhofs, die frischen Blumen rosa und weiße Farbflecke, daneben eine riesige Anschlagtafel, auf der in roten Lettern die Worte „Réorganisation – Libéralisation – Idéalisation“ zu lesen sind. Der Vorhang fällt, ohne ihre Hand, wieder zurück; aber an der Fensterluke der Wohnung nebenan schiebt eine andere Hand eine andere Gardine zur Seite. Wieder etwas weiter stürzt, in der Nähe eines Geflechts aus Röhrenstrukturen, aus einem ovalen Fenster ein regelrechter Katarakt Regenwasser aus einer Höhe von etwa fünfzehn Metern auf das Pflaster.

Paris, undatiert. Tableau de Nanterre
Auf der Brachfläche neben La Jetée hat sich eine Population von Salamandern häuslich eingerichtet. Sie leben in kleinen, aus Bruchholz und Steinchen zusammengefügten, mit Lehm verklebten Häusern. In der Nähe der an die Gärten der Arche anschließenden Mauer könnte man sogar fast von einer Salamanderstadt sprechen. An den wenigen verhältnismäßig trockenen Tagen sitzt der Melonenverkäufer auf einem Stück alter Karosserie und beobachtet die Salamanderfrauen, die ihre Kinderwagen ruckelnd über den brüchigen Asphalt schieben. Gegen 17 Uhr schält ein plötzlicher Sonnenstrahl ein polyedrisches Gebilde aus den Schatten. Den jeweiligen Standorten der Kamera nach zu urteilen, hat man den Eindruck, dass das Objekt jenes Autowrack ist, das nahe der großen Pfütze auf der rechten Seite mit dem Vorderteil in einer Lache rötlichen Schlamms liegt. Der Boden ist mit einem Muster unregelmäßiger Spuren bedeckt. Es scheint nur natürlich, dass unweit der Großen Arche eine wachsende Anzahl ungewöhnlicher Tierarten siedelt. In Nanterre wird von Hunden berichtet, die, statt zu bellen, sich angeblich einer geheimen Zeichensprache bedienen. Der seit Tagen nahezu unablässig fallende Regen hat die Gärten in Sumpfland verwandelt, willkommene Heimstatt für Scharen farbenprächtiger Wasservögel, die hier reichlich Nahrung finden. Ein Polizist gab unlängst die Sichtung eines Flachlandtapirs zu Protokoll, ein längerer Artikel im „Puteaux Commun“ folgte, das Einfangen des Tieres wurde allerdings durch die Kompetenzrangeleien der angrenzenen Kommunen vereitelt.

Sneeze Music: The Story of Mauricio Pucci


Biography Project/Sneeze Symphonies
Commissioned by Deutschlandradio Kultur/Ars Acustica Group. Core text for the biography of the Italian “Sneeze Music” composer Mauricio Pucci who was born a woman but pursued his career as a man in the 1920s. Planned as a 7″ vinyl in December 2019.

Excerpt:
Mauricia “Farfalla” Pucci was born as the forth child of Anna and Paulo Pucci in the Tuscan village Riotorto in 1899. Her father, next to his daily occupation as a cutler was also a renowned village trumpeter. Yet, in favour of the progress of her three older brothers, Mauricia was denied access to formal education, even though her musical talent and her deep interest in composition stood out against the rural petit-bourgeois background. Aged 18, she decided to run away to Naples where she boarded a ship destined to New York. Tall and lean, with somewhat too straight features to be called pretty, unwilling to come to terms with her preordained role as a woman, young Miss Pucci decided to call herself henceforth “Mauricio” and so stepped 1918 onto the shores of the New Word as a free man and aspiring artist.

Pucci’s fate is one of the few known examples in music history that – quite literally – incorporate and transform transgender issues with utmost sensitivity in music. A coincident brought him into contact with the New York composer scene which at the time was much influenced by the new impressionist style purported by composers like Ravel, Debussy and Varese. Soon he made the acquaintance of Charles T. Griffes… and fell madly in love with him. Griffes, then 35, took instantly to this young, dark-eyed and strangely shy stranger. He was just at the turn to become one of the most acclaimed modern composers of his time and exerted a considerable influence on Mauricio, returning the tender feelings but most carefully hiding the fact that he was indeed gay. Such one of the most wondrous and secret romances in the composer world started… a love that was destined to last little more than a year. Griffes, feverishly working on a set of new compositions that he declared to become his ulterior work and the first modern piece that would “be more physical than any other hence written score”, died on April 8, 1920 of a combination of pneumonia, exhaustion and influenza. Charles’ death left Mauricio in a state of shock from which he would never recover but which – at last – holds the clue and initial inspiration for some of the most unusual compositions ever created in the fore field of Modern Music.

Pucci left New York only two months later to return to Naples where he introduced himself convincingly as a distant cousin of the Riotorto Pucci clan. Hardly any records of his activities remained with the family. It was said that beside his composing activities he earned a living as a teacher of the English language. No one suspected that behind the appearance of this erudite, softly spoken and extremely sensitive man lay the physical realities of a woman. In 1921, Mauricio conceived of a set of partly impressionist partly corporeally inspired compositions connected to the most terrifying event of his life: His lover’s influenza and ensuing death. The very pains, the fever, the sneezing, the snorts and moans, the heavy last breaths witnessed at Charles’ sick bed had left their ineradicable musical imprint upon his imagination and paved the way for his quest into NEW PANDEMIC MUSIC.

In 1922 he founded his “Orchestra di Starnuti” (Sneeze Orchestra) which put him onto the forefront of modern composers though, sadly, his innovative concept earned him at the time rather laughter and contempt than respect or admiration of his contemporaries. Between 1922 and 1926 he created at least 60 “Sneeze Fantasies”, for arrangements with handkerchief, nose, voice, trombone, trumpet, theremin and clarinet. While the instrumental parts had a score the “physical” acoustic elements, e.g. sneezes, were only notated as superimposed instructions. For the realization of his compositions, let alone any kind of recording, Maurizio had to rely on voluntary aid of sympathetic friends and supportive relatives who would partake despite their weakened health.
The combination of unpredictable live elements with a score that drew just as much on emphatic re-enactment as it challenged the virtuosity of the instrumentalists made it almost impossible to set up a “proper concert”. Pucci used wax cylinders to prerecord certain sounds in order to be able to play them back when needed. He experimented with the different properties of space too and was an assiduous visitor of churches and caves. The more he indulged into the musicality of “nasal explosions” and the creation of a PANDEMIC NEW MUSIC the more eccentric he became. Mauricio not only started to stage (and record) spiritualist séances to communicate with his lost love; he even became so obsessed as to distribute infected tissues to his environment in order to ensure sufficient flu infections.
…[musical analysis of the symphony]

“Fazoletto per un’ eternità“ is not only a rare and early synthesis of impressionist and atonal composition. In terms of gender politics and history it is one of the earliest examples of “physical generalities” taking their stance within the field of music. But thirdly and foremost it is a recording that incorporates the very vulnerability and timeliness of our existence.
Research, restauration and digitalisation of sound material: Sisukas Poronainen. Department of musical anthropology, Tami University of Finland. Research partner: UCSB Cylinder Audio Archive, USA. © Poronainen. January 2017.

Symbioses – The Radio as an Imaginative Body

Catalogue Contribution
40 pages, illustrated, bilingual. Besides being one of the authors I also acted as an editor, translator and part-time graphic designer for this most recent Datscha Radio documentation. Co-authors: Kate Donovan, Niki Matita, Verena Kuni, Suki Shanti Osman, Rafik Will. Layout: Susann Richter

“Merde – C’est une belle chose” – the radiophonic opening of our second radio day began with a quote from Alfred Jarry and a contemplation of this special mass by the artist Kerry Morrison. Her text “Body Garden Experiment” describes intercontinental transportation of seeds, the body as a catalyst for multiplication and dispersal: “Clearly, my body waste was not entirely waste material. It had fecundity.”

Datscha Radio17’s “New Symbioses”, in their combination of food, biology, radio(making), ecology and experiment, continued to take on new forms throughout the day. In contemplating the day’s essence, the thought surfaces as to whether or not a radio day can be envisaged as a body. On this elongated, partly winding, partly translucent body which spreads via radio waves across the garden and into the world, there are openings and enates, there are dish-like hollows where tomatoes are stacked next to fishes, and there are tentacles equipped with LEDs emitting the most diverse signals. This body is not human and it is not garden. It is not a breed – not by nature – and it is not a system. Four examples of our symbiotic broadcasting body must suffice to highlight the day’s events.

Raymond Brouwers from Urban Street Forest reaches the Datscha just in time for Carte Verte. It should be clear to us, says Raymond, that our (Western) lifestyle devours landscapes elsewhere, it robs them of water, energy and resources. In the unification of vertical city greening and reforestation, for every urban tree planted, so is another one in areas threatened by desertification. His “One Tour Tree Forest” tour will take him throughout Europe this winter, where he will scout out new buildings for greenification.

The home of symbiosis is the interstice. There it thrives, there it makes its connections: between the buildings of the city, between the continents, between the material and the immaterial, between human and machine. In its semi-opaque depths, hidden in the vibrant folds of its existence, question and answer, wonder, fallacy and fact become one. What could knowledge and learning mean in the future?

After a moment of hesitation, and an effort to imitate a moth, our radio body takes on the shape of orchid blossoms. The broadcast “Hidden elements: reciprocal knowledges” by Shanti Suki Osman and Kate Donovan evolves into circular vortexes of talk – interrupted every so often by a “wow” – about the communication of nonhuman garden dwellers. There are species of orchids that mimic the body of female wasps in order to attract the appropriate pollination partner. Others, in turn, are able to create a sound that resembles the frequency of potential prey insects…

A couple of hours later: A long, thin black cable winds out of a knife’s handle, disappears into the inscrutable tangle on the table and ends up at a keyboard and an assortment of switches. Kasia Justka’s “Singing kitchen” performance merges cutlery and gadgetry, music and electronics into continually new improvised soundscapes.

New Symbioses: Do they require our faculties of imagination? Do they need their own invention? Or could it suffice to translate what already exists into ever-new oscillations? Is not radio itself a symbiotic source of communication and a ‘world receiver’? By the end of the day the channels of the Datscha Radio body open up for breakfast at the other end of the world. We broadcast yet we don’t: Sophea Lerner’s “Saturday Night Breakfast” from Sydney is streamed onto our server whilst we sit down in the nightly garden to finish off the remains of the tomato salad and listen. New seeds for mind and body!

The Megaphone Guerilla


Series of poetic street performances. In cooperation with the maraa collective/BangaloREsidency Goethe Institut. 7th October 2018. Participating artists: Ekta Mittal, Angarika Guha, Nithila M.K., Daniel Tao, Ashwini Charkre, Rajeshwari Krishnamurthy, Tasmeen Lohani. Publication: 22 pages, multilingual, illustrated. Layout and photography: Gabi Schaffner.

I am a stranger in Bangalore. There are many shades to the concept of a stranger; the visitor, the intruder, the guest, the immigrant, the ex-pat, the traveller, and more.
Strangeness is a fruit with many tastes, shapes and colours. From bitter to sweet. From carcass to cake. From black or brown to white or yellow… or orange for that instance.

Hello.
I am nobody.
And who are you?
I am nobody too.


The first “strange” things I noticed in Bangalore were the fleshy orange flowers of the tulip trees that covered the pavement almost everywhere. The second was the omnipresent earpiercing sound of car horns in the roads, and the third thing that struck me as very unfamiliar were the piles of waste sitting patiently, trodden on, kicked over, picked at and awaiting further processing in any corner of any corner.
After that: the great number of very peaceful dogs and cows.
Hello.
Hello?
Mooh!

In Germany we know that the cow is considered sacred in India… yet it is the mix of sacredness and indifference that gives these apparitions their strangely surprising presence. Being a traveller, identity is no great issue to contemplate. Being a traveller one knows about distance and difference.
It is what our eyes, minds and souls feed on and it is totally relative.
If one would go crazy for example, in a foreign country: you’d notice? Stripped naked in a foreign country, who would know who you are? Otherwise: without knowing about “the other” there is no “me”. They are interchangeable. Then again, identity can be a burden. As much as it gives you something you belong to, at times you don’t want to belong. The number of things that seem “strange” diminishes until – eventually – all of them have faded into familiarity.

Who is “I”?
“I live here” is a concept I would apply to anyplace where I can be at ease with myself ,…. where my fingers rest comfortably on a keyboard and nobody threatens to take me away. Where I am safe for the night. Yet here in Bangalore, there are things I dearly miss. Most of it being the perfume of first autumn days in Middle Europe, a mixture of hoar frosted… rotting… leaves and sweet apples.

Hello?
Hello.
Hello? Mam!

Identity cannot be regarded as something that is fully “whole”. It has flaws, Missing bits, embedded particles that reflect the sun like fools gold. it changes and grows, it might even shrink. there are hollows, some of them even containing soil and seed pods. Identity is sometimes rained on, especially in the monsoon season. In death it is accomplished… but probably not before. And this pair of eyes behind the looking glass: Maybe we should take the mirrors down.

Maybe we should take the mirrors down.

The Madness Of The Documentarist

“The Madness” accompanies me since 2006 when I wrote it on request of the Frankfurt label Gruenrekorder. A handmade three-lingual edition was published on occasion of a presentation at the Titanik Gallery in Turku, Finland (“Through the Grapewine”, 2011). In 2015 it was accepted by Soundproof/ABC Australia for a perfected production and broadcast in 2016.

Excerpt:
Any documentarist must either be mad or go mad while pursuing her work. It might be very well to embark on a journey, but carrying along technical devices for the purpose of documentation is sometimes presumptuous and can lead you into the quagmire of self-humiliation, too. Not that it would be a question of falsehood, which is inevitably attached to any object of objectivity. But isn’t documentation, generally speaking, a kind of theft? Isn’t it like stealing from time? And, what’s more, isn’t it done in a more than awkward fashion considering the value of that which is documented? With regards to the total inadequacy of human perception, the question arises as to whether or not the obsessive pursuit of a particular goal must automatically leads to insanity. But a documentarist must turn mad just at the moment he or she realizes that something wonderful is happening… the videotape is at its end, the pencil broken, the aperture wrongly adjusted or simply the battery is dead. It has happened to many, but few have put it in writing: The failure of the ethnographer right in the middle of things. Compared to the total triumph that results from having captured something absolutely unique; something precious; the authentic copy of a stretch of time. The DNA of reality, a sequence of real-time. Holy real-time, mantra of the field-recordists. Lost! Lost!

Technical Failure 1: The Handsome Young Man
The minidisk recorder failed for the first time on a Sunday morning, 7th of July, on the occasion of a bus trip into a neighbouring village (which had been organized for journalists and interested individuals by the festival board). The bus stopped in front of a vestry equipped with a wooden stage and rows of chairs. The backdrop of the stage was adorned with a Finnish landscape painting in sparkling green and blue; cloudlets in the sky and a little brook. We were introduced to: the village choir, the music teacher (being prominently seated next to the piano), some little nippers with violin and accordion at a tender age ranging from five to seven years, and a handful of young talents from the vicinity. Now there was an exception, a boy of maybe 16 years who, when you just looked at him, caused something in your heart to tremble. This, as far as I could see, was due to the delicate features and lines around his mouth which was straight but still the most mobile part of his face. His accordion-playing was without question first class, and consisted of only two short pieces. Each single tone, each note appeared as an innermost expression in his face and only after that were they emitted as sound from the instrument. Naturally, such an instance happens much too fast to perceive and name it consciously – only by memory can one slow it down and retrieve it in fragments. I had put the broken machine aside and was totally absorbed in this much too short contemplation. His face remained, while he played, perfectly naked and sensitive, but so deeply immersed as to be unreachable.

Deleted No. 1. Eero Peltonen sings the “Song of the Happy Squirrel”
Did I talk about the aura of technical disaster in the beginning? Well, now my head is again veiled by a dark cloud, quite similar to a mosquito-cloud and I am being heavily pestered by the vile, derisive hum of failure in my ears. Beform my inner eye: visualizations of finger tips on wrong buttons, the fall of technical devices from tables and rocks, malfunctions of in- and outputs, and in between, the gaping black gorge of forgetfulness. Therefore, it is now time for Laulu Oravasta the “Song of the Happy Squirrel”: A squirrel sits in its cove high up in a tree and it looks down onto the world. But all it sees is death and murder and other evil things happening on earth. The squirre| is very frightened, but then it looks another way. Right before its nose, the tree stretches a big branch out into the open air, green and green with rustling leaves. Just like a beautiful big flag, thinks the squirrel and continues watching the swaying branch. By now, the whole tree has started to sway, and the squirrel feels warm and comfy. The trees rocks the squirrel in ivs cove like a mother rocks her baby to sleep. All the trees of the forest move with the wind and the whispering of the leaves makes the forest sound like a kantele, Metsän kantele, the kantele of the forest. At the end, it looks up through all the leaves and branches into the sky. Birds are floating in a huge flock through the blue, singing. And the squirrel feels very happy.
The song is a famous poem by Aleksis Kivi, the first Finnish writer who dared in 1870 to publish a novel in his mother tongue (and not in the formerly prescribed official language that was Swedish). Eero says, of course everybody would talk about Kivi’s novel „The Seven Brothers“, but his songs would also be very beautiful. The squirrel song has a rather simple melody; at the end of each verse, Eeros voice comes down to a deep bariton, vibrating on a single tone and then starting anew. The song ends very low somewhere in the bass notes – and that was the moment I started to cry. Heart of wax, perhaps, who could tell.


Radio Revolten Documentation


64 blog posts in 30 days
Commissioned by Radio Revolten, radio art festival in Halle, 2016. Curated by Knut Aufermann, Anna Friz and Sarah Washington.

NEW: Radio Revolten. 30 Days of Radio Art.
Knut Aufermann, Helen Hahmann, Sarah Washington, Ralf Wendt (Editors) Marcus-Andreas Mohr (Photographer)

2019. 358 pages. Spector Books
978-3-95905-189-7 (ISBN)

5th Nov. 23:00 Magnetic Layer #3
Going into the archive files is like going underground. You disappear into some rabbit hole of your presence and come to a wonderland of unreal imagery and puzzling sounds. And you come across piles of unused material: The „Red-Zone-Talk with Sally McIntyre recalling ghostly recording situations, an interview with Sebastian who was responsible for the omnipresent beautiful light design, a café-chat with Maya Urstadt, more portrait pics, stills, snippets of tram announcements, more talks… Order is an illusion. Documentation is an absurdist’s game.>

7th Nov. 10:13 Magnetic Layer #2,5: The Bee Hive
I imagine all artists have now returned to some sort of every-day-normality. Some things can’t be captured on film or tape or digital recorders. When people talk about an event like a festival that has passed the talk often turns to „the energy“ of that event, stuff that’s unfathomable but was there. Smiles, encounters, new friendships, prospective projects.
Thinking of Radio Revolten, the thought or image of a wild beehive comes to my mind instead, with the wave-world as a honey comb that provides sweetness and nourishment for present and future. Eventually with the performance of each artist signifying the „waggle dance“ of a bee, the unending, „figure eight“ of infinity showing the way to the multileveled pastures of reality?

19th Nov. 15:05 Magnetic Layer #0,1 The Lost Stuff/Gardener’s View
Some talks got lost though. I saved them, I sent them via mail to myself… they seemingly disintegrated on the way. Others just went to sleep on my hard drives… Others never happened like the one with Miyuki Jokiranta about the Australian sound artist scene. I had visited her in the studio during her broadcast when the sounds she brought with her stimulated an unusual growth of green. She also broke the sad news that her ABC program Soundproof has been sentenced to end this year. A shame and a terrible loss to the sound art and radio world!
Sorting more files: Most of it is reconstruction. Almost nothing – reality excepted – is as fleeting as radio (art). It is there and then it is gone. Situations that enveloped the body in a physical surrounding with noise, talks, sensual contact, wine, smoke and fresh air have strangely faded and taken their place in memory. Three weeks after Revolten the diary reminds me of one of those little wooden boxes where you stash „Krimskrams“, odd earrings and bracelets, chocolate, chewing gum, a spare SD-card, coins and foreign currency, a postcard or two, emergency cigarettes, and, as it is the case with gardeners: Seeds and seedpods…

22nd Nov. 17:49 Magnetic Layer 5
So maybe that is the way… seeds and bees and chewing gum and endless radio art possibilities to sprout and blossom from them (Don’t ask me how comes it is spouting from a chewing gum). Good news for the German readers: Almost all texts (- except this one for the moment!- ) have been re-transferred into my native tongue. Thanks again to Emil for helping out and thanks already to Helen Thein who will take care of some final adjustments and translations. Here come the last pictures of the garden that I took the morning after… our „antenna plant“ in the circle covered in all golden leaves…
Cheers, your diarist.

Last diary entry, 5th November 2017. Complete diary on radiorevolten.net

Transformer: Frequency and Fragrance

Residency at the Bogong Center for Sound Culture. On invitation of Madelynne Cornish and Philip Samartzis. The title “Frequency and Fragrance” is owed to an article about the Japanese philosopher Zeami I read in 2014.

I can see the communion of fog and clouds on top of the opposite mountain range. In between: the trees, rising and falling like waves in slow motion. This space, veiled in moisture, brings Henry Darger’s extensive weather descriptions in his phantasmagorical volumes of the Vivian Girls to my mind. Their function is what? A distraction to the on-going drama of those yellow dressed and red shoed protagonists being hunted down by vile soldiers in blue uniforms? A scheme to infuse the passions of atmosphere into a tale of fight, victory and loss? To provide a heavenly space emptied of human action? If it wasn’t for the hydroelectric dam and the company tending it, if it wasn’t for the occasional tide of cabin owners visiting the village, this place would be just that: a tree-sphere devoid of human activity.

16000 kilometers separate me from Berlin where I come from, 17000 lie between Iceland and Bogong, forming the trajectory of the “Hidden Places” project I am working on. When I sit down to communicate with my loved ones, their morning is my evening, and my evening catches them drinking their first cup of coffee. Before I came here, I was obsessed with the thought of entering a world upside down, a sky with hitherto unknown constellations of stars. Can you hide in the unknown? Or isn’t it rather that in order to know what could be called hidden one must be acquainted with the ways of seeing. Nouns are deceiving, I find, they are mostly not “known”. And with the sky in clouds, I spend my time walking among the trees.
The other day I was trying to record bird song in one of the village streets. However, as soon I tried to get closer the birds changed location. So, what is this idea(l) of proximity and “clean” sounds about? Isn’t a recording as much about the distance and its space as it is about the desired subject? Doesn’t a veiled mountain tell you as much about the mountain as seen in clear sunshine? Maybe even more as there is something visible happening in between you and its body. In Bogong, one of the most prominent sounds is constant broadband stream of almost crystalline white noise mingling with the scent-filled air.
Every evening I copy my recordings and photos from my devices to the computer and further to the external drives. Hundreds of documentation pictures, extensive sound files with or without human voices: It feels like copying mirrors into other mirrors without seeing their reflection… nor myself. It takes more to access the substance of this than just listening to the files or looking at the images. And it might only be accessed from the distance, when I find out what constitutes the in-between… the texture of the veil.


When in the 14th century the Japanese playwright Zeami Motokiyo likened the flower to the notion of “substance” and its fragrance to the one of “instance” he was speaking of the Noh drama. Quite so, a field recordist performs her little dance in the depths of the forest. A choreography of gestures linked to combinations of unpredictable action and non-action. No one can see me as I kneel on the soft ground, balance on river stones, stretch to reach the highest branches. One may follow the fragrance to find the flower. One may create a “flower”, a place, a sound and has the fragrance to go with it. I like to think of this strange, hidden-from-the-world dance as similar to one the lyre birds do. They they are nature’s most gifted recordists, and certainly more graceful dancers than myself. I am going to meet them this evening, by the deserted upside-down tennis court at the end of Bogong Village.

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Snow-Walks and Dances

Original Recordings of modern and traditional Finnish rituals and folk tunes. Vinyl, gruenrekorder 2005.

Recordings of Snow Music are rare, and even more rarely are they presented to a greater public. This may seem curious, considering that the Kalevala, the national epos of the Finnish people, explicitly mentions songs scooped out of the frost. Despite this lack of official presentation, snow tunes and rituals have been performed long before and after the publication of the Kalevala in 1835. This album now lays some of the finest examples of Finnish Snow Music in your hands. Most of the material originates from field recordings made in North Karelia and Lapland. The modern pieces were recorded in Helsinki, Turku and Tampere.

Snow Music can be performed in a variety of manners: traditional, modernist, eccentric. And a new generation of musicians has taken on the task of evaluating and redefining the older traditions of ritual tunes and word magic. The impact of Snow Music has grown with the increasing need for a musical identity incorporating the poetic universe of snow. With this compilation, Snow Music marks its entry into the 21st century.

“Finnish Snow-walks and Dances” embraces a combination of unaltered field recordings and modern compositions. A short narrative description highlights the particular circumstances of each recording. Number of tracks: 12. Concept, texts, images, music (partly): Gabi Schaffner. “Finnish Snow-walks and Dances” was broadcast by deutschland radio kultur (2005), HR2 (2006) and by ABC Australia (Soundproof, 2015)

Based on the music of one of the tracks a video was made in Hamburg, 2006. Costume and Camera: Cecile Noldus, Dancer: Laila Unger. (Quality is currently quite poor, a better version is in preparation.)

Square, Circle, Amoeba


Square, Circle, Amoba – Possible Models of Field Recording and the Auratic Fake was published in “Not Berlin and Not Shanghai”, Transscript, 2009. Until today it is actively performed, e.g. as an integral part of my teaching activities at the School for Music and Media, Duesseldorf (since 2013).

Excerpt:
This essay introduces possible models of on-site acoustic field recording and its particularities.
1. So what exactly is a field recording? While reading these lines, you are probably sitting in a room. Private or public, alone or with people – in any case a space limited by walls, with a ceiling and floor, with a door and possibly windows. Let’s consider this space as a ‘field’ and place microphones in it. We are making a field recording.
The exploration of what constitutes a ‘field’, considered worthy of being documented, began around 1890 with Jesse Walther Fletcher’s research on the Hopi and Zuni of the American Southwest. Since then, field recordings have become an essential component of the field research carried out by ethnologists and ethnolinguists. The second large sector of field recording is – parallel to the concept of photography – phonography, which refers to the recording of natural sounds. Unprocessed recordings of nature and the environment play an important role in today’s natural sciences including newer disciplines such as bioacoustics.

In 1913, field recording found its official entry into artistic practice through the essay ‘The Art of Noises’ by the Futurist Luigi Russolo. Since the early 60s of the 20th century, field recording has gained in influence as a means and medium for compositional work. Almost simultaneously the processing of sounds and sound recordings was found to move into the areas closer to the core of the arts system – mostly in connection with experimental concepts dealing with the architecture of space and time.
With regards to pure, unaltered field recording, defining its boundaries in relation to music, physics, documentary field work and the arts is a matter of each individual listener. But what do you imagine a ‘field’ to be and how could it be outlined as an abstract model? To demonstrate this, we will turn on the microphones and the recorder. We could declare this/any/your room to be a model and thus assume the field was square (ill. 1).
This assumption coincides with certain characteristics: To begin with, a square is the most evident symbol for a ‘field’ as a part of a whole. It has defined boundaries and angles which are calculable. It illustrates a territory possessing measurements and dimensions. It is a closed entity, at least in this particular, most elementary case. You could make yourself comfortable in a corner and continue to think about whether the acoustic field you happen to be in actually is a square. If we now try to ‘listen closely’, a process takes place which can be understood as ‘listening all around you’. The sense of hearing describes a directed circular movement around our head. Angles and corners cannot be perceived. Thus, let’s try using a circle as our next model…
ill.2
Symbolically, the circle stands for an ‘entirety’ or also for ‘the world’. Interestingly enough, it remains unresolved whether we are dealing with the illustration of an inner or an outer world. In any case, the circular model and the square share the qualities of calculability and closeness. But calculability is a characteristic which does not apply to any audibly existing natural surroundings. And besides, nothing real is separated by boundaries. The sounds of the world that lie beyond visually defined borders are also heard. The audible or recordable space has neither square angles nor segments; it may possess ‘intersections’ (to the auditory fields of other persons), but its margins remain blurred. This lacking demarcation is illustrated by means of a variant.
Ill. 3
On the one hand, closeness of the membrane is broken open, and on the other hand, the circle is four-dimensionally shifted around itself. Surface is transformed into space; and the time that is required to evoke the space in this manner is also taken into account. The model Field B/Variant could stand for a spherical space of time within which acoustic phenomena can be perceived and/or recorded. This model could also be considered as the abstraction of an entirety, of which neither the beginning nor the end are recognizable – the world as a field. The model of worlds that touch and are conjoined by membranes reminds us in a highly intriguing way of a foam flake. This basically is quite a useful sketch, though it is indeed so comprehensive that the question inevitably arises, at which point the subject with his microphone should be positioned. Another field could be determined within the maelstrom of multiple penetration, namely that of the perceiving/recording person. It is, however, most unlikely that the documentarist together with his field would accept to be installed in a space located outside of the material physique of the existing world and its acoustic emanations.

Although the dotted arrows in this illustration indicate an interaction between world and person, this concept hardly serves as an appropriate model for a field recording. Whether perception encompasses our world or the world embraces our perception will remain a paradoxical question which does not allow for adopting a fixed position. The ears are – far more than the eyes – a place of interpenetration between the inner and outer world, between the centre and periphery. In order to put an end to speculations on right angles, circular or ball-shaped fields, I would suggest applying an organic model for field recording: the amoeba.
Ill. 5

As a protozoon, the amoeba is classified among the simplest existing lifeforms and thus is well-suited for an abstract model. Other characteristic traits are mobility, mutability, reactivity, blurred boundaries and permeability. Additionally, it includes the aspects of time and space. Let’s assume that the acoustic field surrounding us at any given time resembles an amoeba and the documentarist equals the cell nucleus (regardless of the fact that there also exist amoebas with several nuclei, which, however, isn’t necessarily contradictory to reality). The acoustic field is equipped with pseudopods branching out to various sides, all depending upon what our attention is directed to. Whether it is the shot of a revolver from outside the window, or the clanging of a glass in the kitchen, the field stretches out towards it and tries to envelope the phenomenon, focuses on it and registers it. Each time we move, the surrounding acoustic field moves with us. In this context, the quality of mobility can be understood both actively – a spatial change – and passively, implying a shift on the time axis.
By looking into biological details, the comparison can be pursued further yet: Under the microscope the amoeba appears as a semi-transparent mutable form. To be distinguished are: the usually blurred cell nucleus, the transparent ectoplasm aligning the inner membrane and the endoplasm filling the body along with the organelles required for the osmotic equilibrium and food digestion. There is no fixed relation between the nucleus and the organelles; both change their positions within the field. The indistinctness of the nucleus corresponds to the vaguely circumscribed consciousness of the documentarist, who, in order to ensure proper functioning of the field, fulfils the tasks of equalising tensions (with the exterior world) and processing information.

The amoeba as a possible model of field recording assimilates the aspects of locomotion, indistinctness, permeability, space, time and the particular processes which occur during a recording. The typical dichotomy of interior and exterior, of site and surrounding, does not apply. The same thing happens when we are listening to a field recording. There is, however, another phenomenon appearing in the field which I should like to term the ‘auratic fake’. Thus, if you’ve followed me so far, holding your book, sitting in your room with that real or imaginary microphone, I suggest that you switch off this device. Let’s go to replay and listen to the recording. Our field recording will probably not be too spectacular, consisting of distant music, the murmuring of traffic or perhaps the sound of clothing rubbing against a chair, a dog barking or heavy breathing. Nevertheless: Unlike any other medium, field recording allows the listener to be at two places at the same time. By listening to a field distant to us in terms of space or time, while dwelling in the present- time field of our recording, a doubling effect takes place which may cause confusing disturbances in the flow of our perception. Where does the listening subject begin and where does it end? Between the ears, in this room, in another space beyond?

Phenomena of Inner Topographies

“Phenomena of Inner Topographies” assembles an alphabetically ordered pandemonium of texts about fictional and non-fictional landscapes and the phenomena encountered in passing through them. There are essays, poems, excerpts from own literary texts, photographs, maps and drawings. Gardens are a central theme, just as varied concepts of wilderness and getting lost. Planned as a hypertext network, the “Phenomena” also include some contributions by other artists and writers: Nathalie Grenzhaeuser, Dirk Hülstrunk, Julian Rohrhuber, Mathias Deutsch, Christine Klein, William Burroughs, Emily Dickinson…

Expedition to Hibesa

A series of performance lectures in various adaptions. The project started out as an interactive website in 1996. Diagrams and charts illustrated the journey with supplementary diary entrys and audio logs. The core narrative focuses on a Surinamese wild pig species called Babirussa babirousa. Performed – among many other venues from then on – at the Schauspiel Frankfurt, 2008.

Excerpt: (English version not available)
“Expedition nach Hibesa” handelt von den vielfältigen Wundern eines Bildes. Sie ist der Versuch eine Welt zu erschließen, die jenseits unseres sichtbaren Horizonts verborgen liegt.

Dies ist ein surinamesisches Schwein von der Insel Celebes. Sein deutscher Name lautet Hirscheber (babirussa babyrousa); in diesem Fall ist das weibliche Tier zu sehen. Die Original-Fotografie wurde etwa 1996 im zoologischen Garten Frankfurt/Main aufgenommen. Doch von einem anderen Blickpunkt aus betrachtet, in einem anderem Medium, einer anderen Sprache, bleiben die Dinge nicht dieselben.
Ich hatte Grund zu der Vermutung, daß ihre physische Erscheinung als auch ihre Plazierung im Bild auf geheimnisvolle Art mit einem Rätsel verknüpft seien. Anders als bei diesem Schwein, waren zu Beginn meiner Arbeit an diesem Vortrag Eingang und Ausgang nicht deutlich zu sehen. Mein Blick war auf die Mitte gerichtet, genauer gesagt, auf die andere Seite dieser Mitte. Wiederholt prallte ich an ihrer elastischen Bauchseite einfach ab.

Versunken in den Anblick des eiförmig gekrümmten Rückens, erschien er mir plötzlich wie ein Horizont. Was könnte dahinter liegen? Wie sah die andere Seite aus? Seefahrer hatten die Erde umsegelt, warum sollte ich hier nicht ihrem Beispiel folgen!
Die Angelegenheit – nunmehr längst nicht mehr auf die Seitenansicht eines Schweins der Südhalbkugel beschränkt -, erforderte einen neuen Namen. Ein Name, der nichts für sich bedeutet, der dem Tier als auch meiner Unternehmung gerecht wird und zugleich als geografischer Name funktioniert. Dies kann nur ein ganz neues Wort sein. Die Expedition führt also nach: HIBESA.

Mein erster Gedanke war Hibesa zu umrunden. Je länger ich darüber nachdachte, umso weniger schien dies möglich. Die Beziehung zwischen den Dingen und ihrer “anderen Seite” hat nichts mit räumlicher Distanz zu schaffen. Wie sehr man auch versucht dahinter zu kommen, die andere Seite bleibt die “andere Seite”. Bei Bildern wird das Dahinterkommen zusätzlich durch die Vielschichtigkeit ihrer Inhaltsebenen erschwert.

Sobald aber die erste dieser Ebenen erreicht ist, fließen Raum und Zeit, Form und Distanz in einen fremden Ort zusammen. Darum würde eine “traditionelle” Umrundung zu nichts führen. Ich beschloß, Hibesa soweit es mir möglich wäre zu erklimmen, das Terrain zu vermessen, Haut-, Luft- und Wasserproben für wissenschaftliche Zwecke zu nehmen und schließlich all meine Anstrengungen daran zu wenden, es allmählich durchsichtig zu machen.

An einem kalten Februarmorgen (Dienstag, den 5.2.) verlasse ich meine Hamburger Heimat. In meinem Gepäck befinden sich folgende Dinge:

ein kleines Zelt
ein Videorecorder
ein Kassettenrecorder
einige Handbücher
einige Vorräte
roter und grüner Stift

Ich benutzte ein elektronisches Bildbearbeitungsprogramm, um die Oberfläche von Hibesa weiter zu untersuchen. Ich wollte sie durchdringen, das Dahinterliegende aufdecken, um endlich, endlich auf die andere Seite zu gelangen.
(…)