6 min read 🤓

Diktat rules in Brussels

december 23, 2023

« Dig and go down deep inside the earth,
purify, so you may uncover the hidden stone »

Haekem Theatre

The Haekem Theatre is a small bar in the centre of Brussels. A staircase leads down into a cellar just as small, but meticulously equipped by organiser and curator Gerard Daval with top-notch sound (projection and recording) equipment, and a vast array of lighting tools. (I don't think I've ever seen so many spotlights attached to such a tiny-sized ceiling before.)


The first floor is made into a second small theatre-like space, mainly used for film presentations, with a projection screen and an old piano.

[[ I dreamt about an event in something of a space like this, a few weeks before actually entering Haekem. The piano in my dream was also in Brussels, and it was as old and degraded as the one at Haekem's. But it had not eighty-something, but one hundred keys of ivory, on which the names of notes were handwritten, scribbled with a pencil, be it that their order was permuted, it did not at all correspond to the usual ascending low/left - high/right scales. I did not have the time, unfortunately, to study and memorize the permutations, but I sat down, played, as I was asked to do. Out came a music that surprised me. A dark but soft contingent jazz, modal, harmonious, with lots of open chords, minimal and ambient-like. ]]


This fine and well-equipped space became Diktat's scene on this year's eve of Halloween. In that small cellar we performed our XPmusic, for an even smaller audience. With a break, in two parts of pretty much equal duration.


Here is a few of the pics that Yungwei Chen shot that Hallow-eve, the start of Diktat's second set of dates with Shih-wen Lee on the double bass.



[ Many thanks to Gerard Darval, and to Maurice Charles JJ for making the Diktat<->Haekem introduction and connexion ]

Brussels Park

The day after, in the afternoon, with strongs winds and hard rains building up in the foreplay of the Ciarán storm that was just about to hit parts of Europe, we brought Diktat into Brussels' public spaces. We met in the Brussels Park (in Flemish called the Warandepark) at the kiosque de musique, a metal music bandstand, a fine example of eclectic Belgian architecture, constructed in 1841 by Jean-Pierre CLuysenaar. But the middle of the scene there was taken by a sleeping person, deeply covered in a sleeping bag. That's why we set up around a bust of Tsar Peter the Great in the remains of the lower ground, somewhat further south, in the corner (formed by the rue Ducale and the place des Palais) of a park that some consider to be the 'largest masonic space in the world'.


The spot in which we settled is a somewhat hidden, low enclave, a somber shallows into which one has to descend. Being somewhat out of view and away from the straight paths that the visitors tend to follow, it seems not to be a priority for the park's maintenance teams, full of crushed empty beer cans, used condoms and comparable litter. It is also home to a number of enigmatic curiosities, backed by intriguing tales. The bust of Peter the Great by German sculptor Christian Daniel Rauch (on that first of november Peter's head was littered by birds' poop, covered with graffiti, and the folds in his neck and hairdo were home to handsfull of busily crawling bugs), was offered to the city of Brussels by Russian prince Anatole Demidoff in honor of the Russian tsar's visit to Brussels in April 1717, and installed in the park in 1854. It got stolen in 1993 or 1994. But was returned to or found back by the authorities in 1997, and then re-installed in the park. The tsar's visage then though was turned in a direction opposite to the one it used to face. That is, the tsar looks away from a small solitary square bath said to once have been part of a Mary Magdalene fountain (but now mainly serves as a great spot to light wood and paper into campfires). The Latin text engraved all around onto the bath's stone edges, euphemistically memorizes that fact that during the party thrown on the occasion of the tsar's visit, the latter ate and drank so abundantly that already in the early afternoon he vomited most of it out again, right into Mary Magdalene's fountain. Or well, did he or did he not? It's but one among a whole slew of stories arising from the mists of time.

« petrus alexiowitz czar moscoviæ magnus dux margini hujus fontis insidens illius aquam nobilitavit libato vino hora post meridiem tertiadie xvi aprilis anno 1717 »

In English that translates into something like: Pierre Alexiowitz, Tsar of Muscovy and Grand Duke, sitting at the edge of this fountain, ennobled the waters with the wine he had drunk, at three o'clock in the afternoon on April 16, 1717.


The repenting Mary Magdalene backing Shih-wen in the picture is a copy of a late 16th or early 17th century sculpture by Brabantine sculptor Jérôme Duquesnoy the Elder, probably best known as the maker of the Brussels tourist attraction Manneken Pis.


Repenting Mary is looking sideways at vomiting Peter, who also turns his back at the stone wall severing the park, on which large and widely spaced mirrored capital letters spell:— ⅃ . O . I . Я . T . I . V — The letters are said to be the leftovers of a 1991 art installation in the park, that then probably was referring to the maconic smell that surrounds the park. And enforcing it: loiɿɈiv —|— 'vitriol' is the common name for sulphuric acid; in freemasonry and alchemy it also is the acronym of a motto for spiritual purification:

Visita Interiora Terrae, Rectificandoque, Invenies Occultum Lapidem

In English: "Visit the interior of the earth, and by rectifying, you will find the hidden stone".


The Ravenstein Dome

From the depth of the shallows of the park we rose and settled on the circle marking the large dome some 10 meters above, built with glass bricks and organized in a geometric pattern of concentric circles, that covers the rotunda of the Ravenstein Gallery, a covered shopping arcade (currently rather a passage used by commuters that pass from Brussels Central Station to their offices the European district) enclosed in a vast 4-story office building, built between 1954 and 1958.



The Day of All Hallows is a holiday in Belgium. Offices were closed, and it was a day with few to no commuters, which made the Ravenstein rotunda pretty much an empty space, for us to fill with sound, playing on that circle with the fascinating reverb and echo provided by the dome high above our heads.


Special thanks to the anonymous kid, taken for a stroll in the Ravenstien by his parents, whose vocal objections and loud whining signaled the conclusion of our performance under the dome. Gratitude also extends to any security personnel who might have been monitoring our activities through the visible CCTV cameras scattered throughout (ah, maybe we should request the footage!). Their non-intervention suggests they were likely accustomed to diverse weirdish and eccentric ritual performances in the space they overlooked. (Of course we were not the first to explore the grandeur,the acoustics and sonic potential of the Ravenstein rotunda and its dome, as proven by this—it was the first, so sort of 'random', reference I found googling the rotunda—short report written by Jason Kahn in 2011.)


[All of it was recorded, inside and outside.
In Brussels.
Diktat rules.]

Read about Diktat elsewhere:
Gonzo #175, mei/juni 2023 - Een Band zonder Eigenschappen

Read about Diktat on the SoundBlog:

(2023, december 23) - Diktat rules in Brussels
(2023, august 20) - Three days of residency at Les Ateliers Claus, Brussels
(2018, august 13) - Rage, rafts & refugees
(2014, july 01) - Speculative Dancing - Diktat - americana / 2
(2012, october 20) - Audio monitoring the Watergate Hotel - Diktat - americana / 1
(2012, august 11) - Diktat outside/inside the Manufactured Normalcy Field
(2012, february 19) - Magnetic Remanence
(2011, August 05) - (I can't get no) Immediate Satisfaction - Diktat in Berlin [iii]
(2011, Juli 31) - 'Komm raussi!' - Diktat in Berlin [ii]
(2011, Juli 29) - 'Where ist Ausland?' - Diktat in Berlin [i]
(2010, march 30) - on-g'luk = un-luck, that is: malheur, twice ...
(2009, april 16) - Le Grande Cirque
(2009, february 10) - DIKTAT's "Sturm der Liebe"
(2007, october 19) - Diktat in Breda [ii. boezem]
(2007, october 14) - Diktat in Breda [i. dutch angle]
(2007, september 20) - Diktat in Den Haag
(2006, april 7) - The birth of Diktat

Listen to Diktat:
(2016) - Tour de Force (Coherent States, CS-7)
(2012) - DIKTAT in Berlin

See & hear Diktat:
(2014) - 4 US Dances


tags: Diktat, Brussels

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