Diktat in Den Haag

september 20, 2007.

On friday september 7th, with the Diktat we traveled to The Hague (the Netherlands) to perform at the Tic-Tac party in King-Kong, next to Het Paard van Troje on the Prinsegracht, as part of the Ground Two festival.

The Hague is at about four hundred and seventy kilometers to the north of Paris. That's not very far. So why be hasting? Rébus even strongly suggested we'd do an extensive half-way stop for an on the road performing and recording session somewhere along the highway. But we began by taking our time, and a coffee at Jean's, in the rue Paul de Kock, Paris XIX.

We had forgotten about the rugby world cup. The very same evening that Diktat would kick off the Tic-Tac party in King-Kong in The Hague, in the Stade de France the french national rugby team was to open the tournament in a match against Argentina. The Stade de France is in Saint-Denis, a suburb of Paris. The (obvious) way we had chosen to lead us out of the french capital led along the suburb of Saint-Denis.

chenilleIt must have been the reason why it took us near to two hours even to leave the french capital. And from there we struggled on, underneath herds of clouds dressed in gray. I kept hoping for sun, but there was none. There was a caterpillar though, that somewhere along the belgian highway suddenly as out of nowhere appeared creeping along a sleeve of Rébus's shirt, who was driving us. Apart from that curious incident and a stop for some fri(t)es at the first proper occasion after having crossed the belgian border, we just dragged on from traffic jam to traffic jam.
So it was already way past seven when we finally arrived at King Kong's, where we had just the shortest of breaks and a beer before setting up. We then waited for Rinus, who was to join us by train from Wuppertal.
Meanwhile out in the garden Wolfgang Dorninger asked me some questions to get me talking about how and why I use field recordings, and filmed my s-s-s-tutterings for the documentary that he is shooting on the subject. He had come over from Amsterdam (where he spent a week at Mediamatic learning about Pure Data for video) just before - early next morning - catching a train back to Vienna.
In hindsight I am afraid that it was not my brightest exposition on the subject. (Though because of the lamp directed at my head in the dark behind King-Kong, in a way it was my most enlightended one to date :-) ...) I think that I more or less forgot to say most of what should have been said. But maybe one could not expect more so shortly after having been exposed for eight hours at a stretch to car and traffic sounds ... It was sort of a funny setting though, out there at the back of King-Kong in the dark of the evening with that improvised spotlight hurting my eyes ...

Not long after Rinus had arrived, which must have been shortly after nine, we started playing.

king kong king kong

If nothing else, this became the best documented Diktat performance to date. Rébus plugged his Zoom into the mixing console. I recorded our doings on MD (with microphone). Wolfgang filmed the concert. And so did Rébus, posing his small digital camera somewhere near the back of his head, whence it is but the upper part of his skull that figures in these shots. For an impression, watch and listen to Rébus's montage at YouTube's ...
After Diktat had done, there was more still to come. Much of which had a curious retro-early-1980s feel to it. For me the evening was nothing short of a flashback to the days that, in the wake and spirit of the work of some of the arty 1960s/-70s progressive/psychedelic pop and rock groups, the achievements of twentieth century avantgarde contemporary music and visual arts became a major inspiration for popular expression in highbrow circles of the young, the white and the western ...
mekanorganicMuch of this tic-tac evening, both in content and design, was a 'post-punk experimental pop' feast if ever I saw one - or rather: it seemed to be parodying it. Like the belgian Mekanorganic, who diligently filled the small stage with big drums, percussion machinery made out of scrap metal, and other stuff reminiscent of, say, early Neubauten, to then venture into a set of predominantly Test Dept-ish rhythmical pieces. They managed to go through each one of these while always hitting the can way off beat. Which might have been rather funny, were it not for the Mekanorganics's tight-lipped faces and dead serious looks all through their performance, seeming to indicate that the impression of parody was indeed merely that: an impression ...
Far more interesting was the reticent, nearly timid performance by a duo called FastForward. While Mekanorganic set up their gear, FastForward played sort of a game, seated at a table in front of the stage, that consisted in the building of a shaky structure out of loose metal pieces, each of which had a contact mike attached to it.

Diktat the morning after It was at the dawning of the saturday morning that we could finally lay down for some sleep, spread out over the floor at Kim Laugs's place (thank you, Kim, for the hospitality!), only to rise again but a couple of hours later.
Before hitting the road back to Paris, there were two things that we wanted to do: buy some dutch cheese (of the spicy, yummy, 'old' variety that is hard to get in France), and do some Diktat recording on the beach.
We started by buying some cheese, then headed on to the beach...

While driving in the direction of the sea, we chanced twice upon a procession of insistently honking trucks. Surely they must have been engaged in some sort of a demonstration, some sort of a protest. But at the time it was not clear at all what they were protesting for or against; I have not been able to find that out afterwards either...

The second time we crossed the procession, we were already in Scheveningen, driving along the Gevers Deynootweg, not far from the Kurhaus, which you'll see passing by in the mfnm (an "interlude for 67 trucks & other assorted vehicles") that I managed to shoot through the open window of the Berlingo that we were driving in. It's upside down, because that is the way I happened to hold my telephone while filming ...

Here it is, as found - complete and unabridged - at YouTube's :

I had never been to Scheveningen before. At least not as far as I can remember. And I surely would have remembered, as the seaside resort, and more particularly its pier, plays a major role in what as a kid was one of my favorite books: "Het Geheim van het Oude Horloge", by Leonard Roggeveen. The Secret of the Old Watch was first edited almost eighty years ago, in 1928. It tells the story of a mysterious invention: a whitish powder that is a material form of some of the - immaterial - main forces of nature. ( * ) Some of the powder, which its inventor (the late 'professor' Stuyvesant) had put inside a worn old watch that was running too slow in order to make it tick properly again, accidentally came into the possession of young Bram Vingerling, the book's protagonist, who then manages to also get hold of the remaining stock of the mysterious powder: it is in a leaden box hidden underneath a stone in the dunes. It is then as if a meteor crashed in the Arizona desert: strange things begin to happen, all over The Hague ... and Bram becomes a suspect. It was not his nor the powder's fault, though, that one hot sunny afternoon some of the metal poles on which the Scheveningen pier was resting got displaced... Quite suddenly the resort's main beach attraction finds itself on the verge of collapsing ...

Oude Horloge cover Like on board of the Titanic when it hit the iceberg, also in the pier's cafe a band is playing when disaster strikes.
"The orchestra played a slow melody," Roggeveen writes in the story's twelfth chapter, entitled 'In Scheveningen' ... "The piano's low tones were droning heavily; the saxophone's nasal sound vied with the nervous trills of the clarinet, the banjo's and guitars were tinkling mysteriously and the violin quivered in heartbreak. A short musician held a long shiny saw between his knees. By twisting that saw in all sorts of curves, he succeeded in bringing forth a kind of shrieking music ..." ( ** )
Then later, from a distance, onlookers noticed that there was something moving in the pier's cafe ... "A heavy object was rolling to the side and bounced against the wall. At that same moment a soft music rustled across the water, a slowly fading chord ...... 'The piano,' the policemen muttered." ( *** )

Which just goes to show that the Scheveningen pier did hear some noteworthy sounds before in its days ...

plage plage

It was that very same pier which that saturday afternoon for a while became Diktat's decor, when we un-packed our instruments for an un-plugged late summer beach session. You see the pier in the background of the picture (click to enlarge) that a passer-by was kind enough to take, in exchange for a short explanation of what the hell we were doing ... But that you can see it, and in that good state? It is all thanks to Bram Vingerling and the mysterious powder, which together at the very last possible moment arrived in Scheveningen and rescued the pier ...

Ah, there sure was some of that Vingerling spirit left on the Scheveningen beach! You may check it for yourself in the clip that Rébus put together ... there would've been more, hadn't we run short of media to record on...

It started raining only after we had finished our un-plugged secret beach performance and we got back into the car. (Whether there is any relation I will leave for you to decide ... )
We then set upon our southbound journey, back to France, with a little detour to drop Rinus at the train station in the city of Breda, where, btw, Diktat will perform on saturday september 29th, during the BUTF-festival, the B-Movies Underground & Trash Film Festival.

We had our fri(t)es and drank a beer at the very same joint as the day before.

notes __ ::
(*) " [...] Hoe professor Stuyvesant 't klaar gespeeld heeft, om de krachten te verstoffelijken, is voor de wetenschappelijke wereld een groot vraagteken. Wij dienen nu te onderzoeken, welke krachten hij gebruikt heeft, en hóé hij die heeft kunnen omzetten! [...] "
(uit: Het Geheim van het Oude Horloge - Leonard Roggeveen, Hoofdstuk XIV) [ ^ ]
(**) " [...] Het orkest speelde een langzame melodie. Zwaar dreunden de lage tonen van de piano; de saxofoon wedijverde met z'n neuzig geluid tegen de zenuwachtige trillers van de clarinet, de banjo's en de guitaren tjinkelden geheimzinnig en de viool beefde hartroerend. Een kleine muzikant had een lange blinkende zaag tussen zijn knieën geklemd. Door die zaag in allerlei bochten te wringen, slaagde hij er in een soort gillende muziek te maken [...] "
(uit: Het Geheim van het Oude Horloge - Leonard Roggeveen, Hoofdstuk XII) [ ^ ]
(***) " [...] Een zwaar ding rolde naar de kant en bonsde tegen de zijwand. Tegelijk ruiste een zachte muziek over het water, een langzaam uitstervend akkoord ...... 'De piano,' mompelden de agenten [...] "
(uit: Het Geheim van het Oude Horloge - Leonard Roggeveen, Hoofdstuk XII) [ ^ ]

[ Next related SB-entry: Diktat in Breda ]

tags: Diktat, Den Haag, The Hague, Scheveningen

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