july 31, 2011.
The heart of Diktat's sound material consists in a collection of dictaphone and other lofi cassette recordings that are being played back & manipulated by Rébus, Rinus and myself. Rébus has a number of tapes that are reserved for Diktat. Over these five Diktat-years little by little he has been listening back to them; but only during Diktat events. I also have a set of tapes that I always bring along for Diktat. These are tapes with (voice and other) recordings, that span a period of more than three decades. For specific performances, or occasions like our Berlin trip, I usually also add one or two tapes with very recent recordings, or recordings that I did especially for use at an upcoming Diktat performance. There's however always a quite considerable sub-set of recordings that are proper to almost all Diktat events; even though they will (or sometimes will not) appear in different and shifting contexts, these are the fixed points (references) for regular Diktat-goers. They make, I think, Diktat into an interesting hybrid: for Diktat of course is a performing quartet (band, group, ensemble, orchestra, ...) but one can argue (and there's many hours of Diktat live recordings of the past five years to back this up) that Diktat is also actually one single piece of music, of which each of our successive concerts presents a certain projection. ( * )
The recurrent elaborate braiding of the, often intimate and delicate, tape recordings of various quality and in diverse state of 'degeneration', is most effective when being done at low volume. For your ears only, as it were. With the tapes being played back through the built-in speakers of handheld & battery powered dictaphones, and the mixing done by stepping back from or moving closer to the listener... It is this, close-up, way of listening that will enable one to really acquire a taste for the very divers and subtle sonic textures present on the different tapes.
It is what happens when we take Diktat OUT-side; though the ears involved are hardly those of flesh-and-blood listeners. It's - most in particular - the electric ears of a (digital) recorder that will do the hearing.
Thus on Saturday afternoon, June 18th, we rolled out the orchestra into Neukölln, where we halted at three different spots for a brief performance and recording session. On the OUT-side.
Here is Rébus' uTube report of our Rütlistraße performance:
Rébus' uTube report of our Lohmühlenbrücke performance:
Rébus' uTube report of our performance at the Wachtturm:
Just like our IN-sides, also Diktat's OUT-sides (in the wild), in principle, are public. But they never were (and probably never will be) announced. They are in a way, like, secret concerts: 'of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven' ... At each location, recording (audio + video) and performance will last typically around 10 minutes. Occasionally a passer-by will stop and reflect for a while on our curious gestures; and maybe even be led to pay some attention to the sounds; when asked, she will probably guess that the little boxes that we are waving with and swaying around are radio's; and then conclude that, given the fact that our intervention does look organized, it must either be art or religion; of some sort; but nothing dangerous or to worry about, apparently. Every now and then (from a safe distance) one or other will steal a quick shot with a camera or cell phone. By far most passers-by, though, will simply ignore us, whatever our actions, and continue on their way. (In some of the OUT-side clips I find this gives rise to images of a certain quite wonderful tristesse ...)
I like the format a lot (very different from the IN-side concert set-up). The results are short and concentrated. Having to adapt to the particular surrounding (which is a fifth actor, and in a way makes a quintet of our quartet) has us act more intuitively; all is done quickly and spontaneously, without giving things too much thought. The resulting recordings breathe, they are spacious and open.
Each of Diktat's Berlin OUT-sides is documented by Rébus in a short video clip. At the moment of this writing, he's still fine-tuning them here and there, but as soon as the clips become publicly available, I will add links to the corresponding sections above.
After Friday's performance at Ausland, we went for Saturday's IN-side to the Flughafenstraße. There one finds Le Petit Mignon, the (former) store of Staalplaat, beating heart for the distribution of CD's, vinyl's, cassettes, video's and related products by makers of underground fringe alternative pop experimental & whatchamacallit music worldwide, issued from and living icon of the thriving experimental post-punk pop & DIY music scene in the Amsterdam of the early 1980's.
The Staalplaat evening had an up-side and a down-side. On the up-side there was the opening of an exhibition of drawings, paintings, silk screened posters, record covers and books by two French DIY collectives and silkscreen studios: Catoblépas (from Paris) and l’Auberge Floue (from Marseille). It accounted for a largish aggregation of beer drinking and French speaking youngsters, squatting in front of the store that Saturday evening; which for me gave these couple of Berlin square meters suddenly a displaced, but definite, Bellevillean feel ...
And here is a picture of the down-side: Staalplaat's tiny basement, with all set for a second live IN-side of Diktat in Berlin.
Which brings me to the second part of our 'Diktat IN-side Berlin' recording triptych. The Staalplaat track was extracted from Nicolas Wiese's digirec recording of our performance in the Flughafenstraße basement. (One among many interesting sonic details of these and other ambient recordings of Diktat IN-sides, is the occasional hectic clinking and clanking of the plastic cassette boxes, of the in- and ejection of tapes, and the on and off switching of cassette players; sometimes these mechanical sounds - collateral to the performance, like the sometimes squaky and clacking sounds made by a piano's pedals and hammers mechanism - get really loud, and function like an additional random percussion part.)
And the evening and the morning were the second day.
notes __ ::
(*) Come to think of it: this idea of a being 'hybrid of a band and a piece' might prove useful not only in thinking about Diktat, but also in the analysis and description of a much broader range of work in electro-acoustic improvisation and other 'non-composed' musical performances. [ ^ ]
tags: Diktat, Berlin, Staalplaat
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