Maerzmusik pt. 2-3: Jetsons musik und primal screams

Two more concerts for the Maerzmusik festival:

The first was a piece by local composer Moritz Gagern, written for a chamber ensemble specifically playing in the rotating cafe at the top of the Fernsehturm here, the huge Soviet-era TV tower in the center of Alexanderplatz. I had never been up in the tower itself, save once during my first trip to Berlin in ’92, from which I recall largely seeing a spectactular but hazy view, and having an annoying fellow American tourist tag along with me despite my best attempts to ditch him. The turm is very DDR-jetsons, kind of lounge-chic with space age retro lines. The cafe itself rotates strikingly fast (three times an hour), enough to cause a wobble and a mild sense of disorientation stepping onto the moving disc.

The cafe is shaped like a donut, spinning around the central core of the tower. Gagern’s composition spaced musicians evenly around the inner, non-rotating circumference, alternating wind-brass-string-percussion, so that the two halves were effectively mirror images of each other. The music then played with this spacial relationship, letting fragments of melody, phrase and rhythm ripple around this ring, as the audience itself, on the spinning section of the floor, moved past each musician in turn. Dubbed “Babylonian Loop,” the piece ultimately finished as it started. Utimately a striking piece of music, always interesting, but as much for the puzzle of its structure than for intrinsic musical qualities.

Last night was our final foray, watching a semi-musical theater piece about the Weathermen, written more or less by Raymond Pettibon, visual artist and brother of Black Flag founder Greg Ginn, accompanied by the entirely insane Japanese noise guitarist Keiji Haino. The text itself was impossible to understand, some in German, some English, all read off pieces of paper by Pettibon and several collaborators. Haino fragmented, rather than linked, the pieces with stunning performances: hurricane guitar, a shaman-like, utterly spastic dance with two tambourines, solo primal screaming sampled and looped. He alone was worth watching, entranced with exploring his own sound worlds, even if it had little to do with the performance as a whole.

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