By Martin Schray
7000 Oaks – City Forestation Instead of City Administration is a work of land art by Joseph Beuys, first publicly presented in 1982 at the Documenta 7 in Kassel. Beuys and volunteers planted 7000 trees across the city, each with an accompanying basalt stone. The work was a significant artistic and ecological intervention in the urban setting with the goal of enduringly altering the living space of the city. Though initially controversial, the project has become an important part of Kassel's cityscape. Beuys stated that “each single monument consists of a living part - a tree which constantly has been changing in time - and a part which keeps its form, its mass, its size and its weight.“ In a conversation with Richard Demarco in 1982, he further explained: “I think the tree is an element of regeneration which in itself is a concept of time. The oak is especially so because it is a slowly growing tree with a kind of really solid heart wood. It has always been a form of sculpture…The tree planting enterprise provides a very simple but radical possibility for this when we start with the seven thousand oaks.“ Completed in 1987 by his son, Wenzel, on the first anniversary of his father's death (and included in Documents 8), the project is still maintained by the city.
Trombonist Matthias Muche and guitarist Nicolas L. Hein have tried to map this piece of land art into sound: music that also focuses on changes in form, structure and content. The two instruments clearly represent a tree and basalt stone. Muche is in the tradition of Paul Rutherford and Johannes Bauer, with an organic trombone style, zigzaging between eruptive cries and tender exhalations, able to switch direction at will due to the freedom afforded by Hein‘s percussive bed of static, brutal feedback and staccato chords. Hein attacks his guitar with an assortment of materials – screws, rulers, iron wool and magnets (but uses no effects pedals). The trombone swirls and bends with the breeze while the guitar is rock steady.
Two examples suffice: “Stahlwille“ (Steel Will) resembles the engine room of a huge ship. The guitar fizzles and scrapes, as if hammering on metal, while the trombone plays almost straight hard bop phrases. This spurs Hein into frenzied chords, on the verge of exploding. In “Dick vermummt“ (Wrapped Up Warm) the duo starts with a pumping pulse before Hein becomes a one-man-Einstürzende Neubauten tribute. Drawn-out notes collide with peircing bell sounds and bubbling noises; swinging trombone riffs are confronted with a gurgling vortex of alienated guitar debris. Here, Hein owes an obvious debt to Thurston Moore.
Muche and Hein consider themselves reductionists, excavating down to the most basic elements, and sound artists exploring new tonal dimensions. In the liner notes Evan Parker says: “The oak tree of improvised music gets stronger each year as it adds a ring to its woody growth and sheds its bark. The old oak tree of my generation drops its acorn on the ground and new trees spring up all around it … The future of improvised music is assured in the hands of creative young musicians like Nicola Hein and Matthias Muche.“
I can’t agree more.
Watch them live here: