Tin(g)tin(g) in Switzerland

may 06, 2007.

[ podcast :: sbpc 14 ... s ]

I went there in february.

Not counting that long time ago when with my parents we passed through some long dark tunnels there, on our way to a summer holiday camping on the shores of the Lago di Garda in Italy, this was my first ever visit to this curious little country, with four national languages shared by less than eight million people, which dates its independence as far back as 1291.
Curious little country.
European, but no euros, for one. I got so used to a single currency everywhere, that I had completely forgotten about that.

I took the train from Paris to Neuchâtel on early wednesday morning february 21st, 2007. It was a day with lots of sun, lots of light, and as off a certain point the landscape seemed to become more sunny, more postcardy-picturesque and greener with every other mile that brought me closer to the Swiss border; and beyond... on to Neuchâtel, where Jonas Kocher picked me up at the station. From Neuchâtel we drove to Blinder Kinder's hometown: Biel/Bienne, Switzerland's biggest bilingual (German/French) city, at the foot of Jura, on the shores of the Lake Biel (the Bieler See). Biel's main business is - or was? - the manufacturing of precision and micro mechanics, and when strolling along Bieler streets, especially in the evening, it is difficult not to notice how the five BIG sized capitals of R, O, L, E and X, flanked by two golden crowns, seem to be set against the green grayish Jura hillside as a Swiss equivalent to the capitals spelling 'Hollywood' atop L.A.'s Mount Lee...

Blinder Kinder, Biel

The Blinde Kinder have a rehearsal studio in a basement right in the center of Biel, just that single wall away from all the many maybe-treasures kept in the vaults of the swiss bank next door ... (too loud bass sounds apparently already do set off the bank's alarms, so I'm afraid that a jackhammer won't do the job ... ;-) ...) They share the place with some other groups/musicians, and it is crammed with all sorts of fun stuff, like a desperately un-tunable but otherwise original and functioning mellotron, a Leslie box, reel-to-reel tape machines, ...

Blinde Kinder CD coverIt is where we rehearsed - or rather tested - for the trio concert that we did in Bern on thursday february 22th, at r3s3t mark3t, which, among to several other things, is also home to everest records, label on which was released Blinder Kinder's debut CD, in december 2006.

Jonas and Raphael recorded the material that found its way onto this record in february 2006, in an old hotel in the Jura. A place that has been put up there in the first decade of the twentieth century to host that era's rich tourists visiting from the then still relatively faraway Holland and England ... One hundred years later, in the first decade of the twenty-first century, the now-rich frequent other places, and now-tourists have been taught to long for a different, more communal, type of 'thrill'. The Sport Hôtel at Mont-Soleil thus gradually degraded, and ended up "in a pretty bad shape," Jonas wrote me in an email in february last year, "and it is quite uncertain whether it'll remain open to the public for much longer. It has an amazing view on the Jura, and we can work in the big dining room, which moreover has a piano and harmonium ..."

Sport Hotel Oh, there cannot be many left of them in these here regions... I remember chancing upon a different-but-similar-in-spirit place, somewhere along the coast of french Brittany, sixteen or so years ago, driving here and there without any goal in particular. Without a map, and having hardly an idea of where I was, suddenly it there arose, at the end of one long bumpy road that badly hurt my rented car. Three floors high, a gray facade, damaged by time- and weather-wear, but proud and alone - though not empty - it was standing, unprotected, prone to pounding rains and nagging winds. Nothing else man-made to be seen for miles around... Years later I tried several times to redo that day's dérive and find the place back again, but I never succeeded.
Maybe if one were to go further to the east? Or should one drift through certain parts of the United States maybe? How about Kentucky Freedom? The Master of Germany? Rocky Mountains? Formerly thriving resort hotels, like the Overlook Hotel where once Jack Torrance settled for the winter, to compose his masterpiece ... ("All work and no play ...") ?

Shortly after Blinder Kinder's stay the hotel closed, and the building has since changed owners. Whether it will open again as a hotel, I do not know. But surely, even if it will, it'll no longer be the same old Sport Hôtel! ...

What a place to go recording...! A most curious one, with a hotelier that was as typical as the hotel he was running. A sympathetic guy, Jonas told. But also a slightly racist alcoholic. A hotel with but a handful of 'guests'. Most of them regulars, that apparently all took their turn in the Sport Hôtel's service and cooking duties, making it feel oddly 'familiar'.

Together it adds up to something that makes one wonder... Something combining a mélange of unease and creepiness that is difficult to pin down, as if roaming through the long empty corridors of the Overlook, with touches of dadaist absurdity, like the ones one encounters at Fawlty Towers' ... It is thus that Blinde Kinder sound on their first CD ...

Also the r3s3t mark3t proved agreeably étrange. Situated on the ground floor of a large house, just off the Lorrainebrücke across the river Aare. The shop is in a small backroom. It opens twice a month, on each second and fourth thursday, from 19h till 23h. Then there is also a concert, for which one sets up in the hall, between the entrance and the kitchen.
Raphael's home made pick up It was in this very kitchen that, prior to our performance, we were served a delicious meal, and some fine wine ... Now given such a context: how could anything go wrong?
And it didn't.
We played one set - Blinde HarS Kinder - which lasted just somewhat under forty-five minutes. The sound and balance proved to be surprisingly good and we went home with a very fine recording, that we all actually like a lot, and of and about which you might just hear more in due time ...

Next day, friday february 23th.
We went to Lausanne, where we were seven to perform on the occasion of a soirée carte blanche given to Jonas at the Théatre 2.21... Seven of us. That is, me, Blinde Kinder, and four other swiss musicians: John Menoud (electric guitar and things), Benoît Moreau (prepared piano and stuff), Laurent Bruttin (clarinets) and Anne Gillot (contrabass recorder).
Several had already performed together on other occasions, in some of the possible combinations - like me and Blinder Kinder; or John and Benoît, who I had seen perform at the Atelier Tampon in Paris in january of this year; but of course not in all of them ... So much of the fun of the evening was that of a first encounter. And a close one: on a Lausanne stage.

Concert in Lausanne

There was no master plan ... ... Well, actually that is not completely true. Jonas did have some sort of a scheme: the performance would be in two parts. First, there would be a series of short duo's and trio's. Then a break. And then we would perform as a septet.

He also handed each of us a piece of paper with a set of rules.
___Règles de Jeu ___ Here is what was on it:

._Contribuer à l'architecture sonore globale par petites touches complémentaires
._Ne pas construire seul mais toujours avec les autres
._Créer des phrases organiques de différentes longueurs avec tous les petits éléments Chercher et attendre les "cues". Une action sonore est toujours en rapport avec une autre, même à plusiers secondes d'intervalle
._Peu jouer, laisser des plages de silence s'installer
._Silence = tension
._Eviter tous motifs mélodiqies et rythmiques se référant à un style ou un autre
._Evénements f/ff courts et intenses en tant qu'éléments verticaux dans la structure
._Lors de pics d'intensité collectifs, les résoudre rapidement
._Dynamique de ppp à ff
._Eléments sonores de très fragile à très dense (court)
._Importande du geste musical (aspect visuel), tension corporelle

La structure est toujours en mouvement et en progression. L'énergie circule constamment entre les musiciens.

Vents: Longues notes; souffles, grognements ...; éléments f/ff isolés; jeux de timbres.

Even though most of the players seemed actually to be making fun of it and just quickly glanced over it, the subsequent performance in broad outline did turn out pretty much conform the list ...
I find that interesting.
It must be because apart from indicating Jonas' personal musical intentions and expectations for this performance, it also provided a rough description - structural elements and some unwritten rules - of a certain type / class of contemporary electro-acoustic improvisation; of EAI as it is commonly practiced, in particular also by the players gathered that friday in Lausanne. Which explains why they could laugh about them (most of it will have seemed pretty much evident), while still performing accordingly ... :-) . I am pretty much convinced that even without having been given the list, we would have pretty much played in a similar spirit.

The composition and order of the two duo's and the trio performing in the first part of the concert were decided upon beforehand, by pulling numbers and names out of a hat. As a matter of fact: out of my hat. That first set ended with a trio of Jonas, John Menoud and Benoït Moreau, preceded by a duet between Raphael Raccuia and Laurent Bruttin. Anne Gillot and myself opened the evening.

[ For an impression of how we sounded there at Théatre 2.21 in Lausanne, do listen to this soundblog edition's podcast sono, which starts with a (re-mastered) recording of (most of) the opening duet, followed by a couple of outtakes from the septet's set (which together add up to about half of the actual septet performance). ]

With Rébus we originally had an ana-R thing planned in Geneva for the weekend following friday's concert in Lausanne, but unfortunately that got canceled at a time when Raphael and I had already booked a train back to Paris from Geneva on sunday evening. That gave us some time to kill. HarS Lobanov We stayed in Lausanne, where we enjoyed the hospitality of Laurent Bruttin, who let us stay in his apartment in the very heart of the old city. It gave me ample time to enjoy the two things that are especially abundant in Swiss cities: fountains, and the ringing of church bells in all tones and sizes. Laurent's apartment is on the fourth floor, with windows on a narrow street with a corner much frequented by buskers, that especially on market days from very early in the morning onwards play 30 minute shifts more or less on his doorstep. The relatively narrow and high space between the houses acts as a resonance box.
As I was sleeping with the window open in order to minimize the possible damage the presence of Monk - Laurent's cat - might do to my bronchial tubes (I'm allergic to cats), that saturday morning I awoke to the pretty special spectacle sonore of market sounds mingled with the as if amplified sounds of a parade of street musicians (a saxophone player, a hurdy-gurdy, an out of tune violin ...) interspersed at regular intervals with the sounds of a large collection of different sized church bells, banging and ringing all together ...
cabins Later that saturday we visited the wonderful collection de l'art brut (started in the mid 1940s by Jean Dubuffet), and in the evening we went to the Lapin Vert, where Anne Gillot and saxophone player Laurent Estoppey took part in a performance entitled Super Play Station Trois Turbo, conceived (I think) by Brice Catherin, who was doing the mixing, digital treatments (?) and spatialization. We found ourselves in a space, that by means of a lot of tissue had been transformed into a labyrinth of cabins, like the ones any kid loves to construct and play in... and kid-like the players and sounds were moving through the labyrinth; every now and then one caught a glimpse of an instrument (dis)appearing, while most of the audience remained hidden from one's and another's sight. For they were the kids in the other cabins ... It was a nice set up, made me feel comfortable; it made me feel safe.

dollBefore leaving for Geneva, on sunday we went once more to the Théatre 2.21, for a brunch/performance. With good food, a pretty bad bit of solo theatre that fortunately did not last too long, but, en revanche, a fine dance solo. And some fun visual work, by Nicole Seiler, who works with video projections on real bodies, but also on dolls (like barbies), with a surprising '3d-effect', that makes the puppets seem to 'come alive' ...


These were the adventures of Tin(g)tin(g) in Switzerland.
Surely to be continued, as I had a mighty good time.
I didn't find any tapes though ... Notwithstanding the curious 'raving' article ("A la recherche de la cassette perdue") on the Found Tapes Exhibition that appeared about a week later in the Lausanne Cités and that Raphael quite accidentally picked up in a laundry ... Not one single tiny strand ... Both Jonas and Raphael had warned me. Despite my unfailing optimism, they continued to doubt that I would pick one up. "Switzerland is just too clean, man ...," they said. Or something like that. And they turned out to be right. Though I did do quite a bit of walking, both in Biel and in Lausanne. And we did do quite some driving ... No tapes ... I do think though I spotted one or two of them along the highway, when we were driving from Biel to Lausanne. I do think I saw one or two then ... But even about this I'm not really sure ...

tettine No.
No 'found in Switzerland'.

Friday morning in Biel was a beautiful spring morning, and before we left for the concert in Lausanne, I decided to do some walking. I took the funicular from Biel up to Magglingen (Macolin) which is the first hill of the Jura above Biel.
From there I walked down again, and passed a small panoramic viewpoint, above the corner of the Bieler See. While admiring the view, in the underwood, behind a fence, a couple of meters below from where I was standing, my eye caught a blue soother ... (If you click the picture, you will see it appear.)

I did not climb the fence to get it.
We had to do a concert in Lausanne that evening.

[ Earlier related SB-entries: how to: build blind kids :: ]

tags: switzerland, performance, blinde kinder, biel, bienne, lausanne, soother

# .233.

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