Last weekend beginning Thursday I went to all four evenings of the Hans-Joachim Roedelius part of their Lifelines series, a few expressions of my impressions of which’d threatened their loss, therefore this makes use of a flew notes from over that meantime that were updated here regularly until they were not, which is about now.
QLUSTER from Saturday night gets the all-caps first mention for emotiona(l)ogical emphasis over the chronological, my original sketch has its own sequential logic that trumps both of the others, and they’ll be a few exceptions that will rear their heads intermittently.
To wit: the word emotiona(l)ogical is my takeaway from the event, a recurring thesis: Logic is not fully formed until its emotional counterpart has informed it.
Along the way, I’ll try not to lose sight of what I scribbled under the title Skizze (phonic), which roughly translates to: There is Art:. . …
And there is writing about art: Blay, blee, bligh, blow, blue & sometimes why?
Back to the third evening and Qluster, the third iteration after Kluster and Cluster: As you may know, Roedelius’ 40-year colleague Dieter Moebius’ life left our sphere in August. His absence could be sensed, but when Qluster with a Q took their place on the stage, their method presented the same quintessence Cluster with a C had done by doing what Roedelius announced Qluster would do just prior to their beginning to play — namely, to employ the same intuition Conrad Schnitzler had imagined when applied to the collective manipulation of electronic sound when he, Moebius, and Roedelius formed Kluster with a K in 1969.
Patience. Appreciating the moment. Appreciating the moments inside the moment. I daresay a lot of the people in this hall had or did most of these, myself in particular. Nevertheless, something was taking place inside my head that was new to me. As often occurred over the previous two evenings’ performances, I was judging Roedelius’ collaborators’ every move. Unique here was that I never lost the thread. So each time the moment returned, it was if it’d never left.
It occurred to me most explicitly that there are two approaches to this kind of musical creation that bridges any representational gaps between genres of improvisation. One approach is to avoid doing anything from the very beginning that might keep the piece from sounding complete. That is, not making a sound unless your sure it won’t be a mistake. The other approach is more experimental and forgoes the need for aesthetic logic at the outset for the development of otherwise unlikely musical revelations throughout.
It’s not that Qluster were ripping away without listening to one another, but I did frequently nag myself with the thought that Onnen Bock seemed less reverent to what they were doing than Armin Metz, whose contributions seemed to spring from being spellbound by Roedelius. So the former generated much that wasn’t working for me, and the latter often complemented that which was.
Always returning over the hour was the moment. If you were to excise recorded sections for a number of tracks for an album, there would be many smaller moments of several minutes to choose from, but that would entail the excision of the most powerful moment of all, which was the whole that led to the payoff I was hardly aware would be coming in spite of having been enraptured here & here and here & there.
I was only certain that Qluster ‘d captured me at the end. The term “creeper weed” comes to mind. This is when you smoke a joint all the way down past the roach, disappointed that you didn’t get high and then, bam! you’re wasted. QLUSTER !
The music had faded & the band had left the stage but the hazy daze remained. I sat silently seriously stunned staring at the stage & seats as the hall emptied before glancing aside to see which way I would exit myself. To my left sat someone whose countenance so mirrored what I imagined was my own that it substantiated the whole having happened how I’d thought.
My cerebral critique of every loud little loop I’d heard Onnen Bock force into the proceedings melted into, “Wow, man. That was fucking killer!”
Tempus Transit was my favorite ensemble from the night before and were the only to include a woman if you don’t count the Chor der Kulturen der Welt who opened the night before that with an interpretation of a cantata of Roedelius’ ancestor Johann Christian Roedelius from the 1700s. Who knew?
The woman in question was Heidelinde Gratzl on accordion, a name worth mentioning to the exclusion of too many others not only because she was the only woman to play with Roedelius over the four nights and was not the leader of her group, but for the way she extracted sound from her instrument with an expression undulating between emotional and rational that led me to think, „Denkst du wirklich darüber nach, was gerade von deiner Seele herrührt?“
The rest of the combo consisted of a zither violinist, a guest on tenor sax, and the spokesperson of the group either playing bagpipes, jewsharp, or throat singing. As with many of the musicians he accompanied, Roedelius sometimes only contributed a tone or two on the piano. If you weren’t observing closely, you’d think he’d just sat and watched the band the whole time.
Also, if you weren’t familiar with the man and only saw his gate in & around the space, you might have taken his passive playing for the uncertainty of a frail age. As one intimate with his style, I’d tell you he’s always been that way. Bearing witness to his music’s fragility is a reminder of the importance of the music — before the musician.
Tempus Transit’s performance reminded me of Penguin Cafe Orchestra, and it was an enjoyable part of another successful night of curation, a prominent commingling of acoustic compositions by an artist and his friends.
Working further backward: Thursday’s theme was to be a quick rotation of officially scheduled but quite informally announced, largely electronic team play. The checklist was Hans-Joachim calling from his bench the name of the next artist from the audience to the stage. In spite of the inclusions of Tim Story (w/ Lukas Lauermann on cello), Christopher Chaplin (yes, that Chaplin), and Stefan Schneider, my favorite was the beginning with pianist Arnold Kasar.
Their benches were perpendicularly adjacent beginning with Kasar starting at the piano and Roedelius briefly at his electronic table before he stood and walked around to the mic and recited his lyrical poetry. The first:
was du je bejahtest, wird es je vergessen
du folgst der Straße, die du selbst gewählt
durch Bilderfluten, die dich oft bedrängen
doch manche deiner Stunden gleichen festlichen Empfängen
und reich beschenkt beginnst du dich zurechtzufinden
und langsam weißt du dich zuhaus in Labyrinthen
und langsam wirst du an dir selbst gemessen
sieh’, über deinem Horizont erscheint das erste Licht
was dir im Spiegelglas entgegenblickt ist dein Gesicht
du blickst mit deinen Augen in Natur
du drehst die Zeiger deiner Uhr
du kannst das Netz nicht lösen, das du bist
du selbst bestimmst doch Art und Menge seiner Knoten
nur so bist du imstande, dich als wirklich auszuloten
nur so wirst du einst eins mit dem was ist
was dir im Spiegelglas entgegenblickt ist dein Gesicht
du drehst die Zeiger deiner Uhr
You mighta had to be there, although I have to admit that the Google comes up with an almost tolerable overall rendering of the essence of Das Netz if you click on the poem.
Kasar & Roedelius closed by swapping seats, trading piano for e-piano or electronics and back. A moving inclusion on opening night.
The weekend’s experience began with my arrival early enough on Thursday to catch the installation work before the crowd flooded in. In the corner of the main lobby stood a larger than life discographic music player via touch screen monitor created by Hans-Joachim’s son Julian. With a touch or swipe of your finger you could either spin the globe for a chronicle of live performances or index a catalog of recorded albums, select one, and then touch play.
It was here, for example, that I would later with Julian’s assistance be able to locate which album the song Kleine Blume Irgendwo (Little Flower Somewhere) is on. That was not too small an accomplishment, as my query to the artist himself following a panel discussion of his work garnered the wrong answer.
In the main exhibit hall was a timeline of photographs and mementos going back to a note from little Hans to his parents about Santa. Beneath a collection of concert posters on the wall was a tiny old radio playing a composition that so fit the room that it almost didn’t exist. And although Brian Eno’s installation was five footsteps away, I didn’t see it until I had already visited Hanno Leichtmann and Carolin Brandl’s “Unfinished Portrait of Roedelius Today” on the other side of the hall.
In a sizeable rectangular room with a strong speaker in each corner from which came microloops picked from Roedelius’ catalog and replayed through the four channels in such a way that you might never be listening to the same thing quite, it invited one to lounge on the floor to the side or wander about between the speakers to take in a particular mix. After several minutes I came out from behind its curtain back into the larger hall and retraced the perimeter until I saw the words on the floor: For Achim.
Behind another black curtain was an entry way of sorts with a few electro tealights on the floor, the faint sound of familiar ambient music from behind the next set of curtains into another rectangular room, this time much darker & smaller. More e-tealights on tiny shelves on the walls and an ambience a la Mini Music for Airports or in the style of Just a Moment of Your Thursday Afternoon.
I had seen documentation of an Eno installation that involved a dark room with the dim light of upturned televisions illuminating thereupon placed plastic geometric structures with what one assumes is images created or chosen for the purpose. And of course the ethereal Eno patented drone & tone. The years that’ve accumulated since seem to correlate with my decreased interest in seeing one of these. Maybe just the jade on the age. At any rate, it should’ve kept my expectations in check. Or might lowered expectations lead to higher ones?
I sat in this room like the last, but for a few moments fewer. The tone announcing “concert time” had me hustle to the hall. I spent the next couple of days infected by the idea that Eno had phoned it in. I thought, how could he on such an occasion contribute so superficial a piece of work? Here’s a guy whose name recognition increased with the decades while Roedelius’ remained in obscurity after the work of the latter having been claimed by the former to be consequential in influencing the direction of his own.
This is a crucial point, as it concerns two primary influences that led to my creating what I have — especially when I got down to making solo music.
Logic is not fully formed until its emotional counterpart has informed it. Now, a further implication of that axiom is that this ignorance can have a negative emotional impact. So I go into a room hearing “nothing new” and the first visual effect is “tealights you’d get from IKEA” (literally 6 quid for a pack of 8), and I sit off to the side and try to pretend like these thoughts don’t color the illusion.
Fortunately for me I bought the weekend pass and had my creeper weed Qluster moment on Saturday night that inspired an extra early revisit with Eno’s installation on the final day.
The first flat black surface has three times three LED candles grouped like globules on a circuit board — simulated organic, stimulated electronically — thrice in the sparseness of the patterns depicted upon each of three walls, the final three factoring to reflect the Ach(t)ogenarian +1, scarcely more than a month from that day.
Hence For Achim. It’s not for us unless we have the patience to allow ourselves by way of the frequency of the music — the infrequency of Achim’s piano tones, the less frequent voicing of the installator calming us “down, down, down” three times each cycle — to happen upon these and/or many other realizations. So much reflection in the deceptively simple. A life’s work to the tender tune of a diorama. Bitter longing and sweet nostalgia. Do you remember?
For Achim was weep-worthy on three levels: The sob that grips you when you least expect it. The tears that come from the realization that you are in the presence of profound beauty. The crying shame for anyone whose brain didn’t get to know the feeling of the piece.
The first kind of cry also came from Hans-Joachim at the conclusion of the exuberance of opening night when he abruptly broke the mood with the unexpected — telling us he was deeply sorry for the seventy-one Syrian refugees found suffocated in the back of a transport truck along the Austrian motorway. Involuntarily mid-sentence his voice choked before concluding that he’d just had to say how sad it made him.
There was much so much more to this Lifelines that I can’t recount it all here, but a few more things at least are worthy of note:
Christine Martha & Rosa Roedelius created “Der Lauscher” — a wooden king’s chair with a speaker mounted for each ear so that you could listen to their father & husband while sitting somewhat at attention outside in the cool Berlin air.
Verklungene Melodie (1938) is a film that was screened in the theater that features a three-year-old Hans-Joachim Roedelius playing the son of the leading lady in the final act of the story. With the help of the leading man, he even taps a few notes on the piano.
At another session in the theater, curator Detlef Diederichsen read astonishing autobiographical accounts of the artist which included: his fleeing from, returning to, and being imprisoned in the GDR before he left for good; his seminal time at the Zodiak; his fertile years way out in a forest in Forst with Moebius and the occasional visit from Rother and/or Eno (which recollection clinched my purchase of THE TAPES, on vinyl, no less); and included other moments of the eventful life of the most unlikely musician.
Roedelius’ closing remarks from the stage Sunday night were a grateful expression wishing he could keep right on playing as they had the last several evenings, as it was the best way to spend his 80th year.
Together it’s left a tone fading so slowly it sounds like an endless sustain.