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Winterreise: Alexander von Schlippenbach (p), Rudi Mahall (cl), Dag Magnus Narvesen (dr)

Ausland, Berlin. Dec 2021

An Ayler Xmas: Aaron Gonzalez (b), Mars Williams (s) Gaika James (tb), Jonathan Horne (g), Helen Gilet (c), Rob Cambre (g - n/p)

The Broadside, New Orleans. December 2021

Kuzu: Dave Rempis (sax), Tashi Dorji (g), Taylor Damon (dr)

Manufaktur, Schorndorf. November 2021

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

echtzeit@30: echtzeitmusik berlin: self-defining a scene

 

By Keith Prosk

The 2011 416-page book, echtzeitmusik berlin: self-defining a scene , whose 10th anniversary we are using as an excuse to feature the music associated with the term, is edited by Burkhard Beins, Christian Kesten, Gisela Nauck, and Andrea Neumann and contains chapters on the history of the scene, the diverse theoretical and practical approaches in it, and critical perspectives on it from the editors, Toshimaru Nakamura, Rhodri Davies, Annette Krebs, Robin Hayward, Ignaz Schick, Lucio Capece, Werner Dafeldecker, Axel Dörner, Olaf Rupp and dozens of other practitioners. If it illuminates any throughline beyond geography, it is the breadth of people, perspectives, approaches, sound practices, and sound results and a consequent uneasiness in using a single term, echtzeitmusik, to encapsulate it.

It also exhibits a heightened self-awareness throughout the network of people. Players approach their practices critically, asking questions of ethics, what it means, how it means, and its relation to the collective and other aspects of life with real effects on their methodologies and thus real effects on their sound results. The critical compendium of the book stems from a series of 2007 roundtables called Labor Diskurs which itself stems from a 2007 discussion list called 27 Questions for a Start… from Trio Sowari (Beins, Bertrand Denzler, Phil Durrant). Some of these questions are: to what degree is this kind of music experimental; to what degree is this kind of music improvised; can this music help to stop global warming; is it easier to play than not to play; is failure one of our main sources for progress; do we listen differently to an improvisation than to a composition; does a recording turn an open process into a completed piece of work; is it possible to have a non-hierarchical group interaction. Transcriptions ofLabor Diskurs and the full list of 27 Questions for a Start with context and responses from a few people each have their own chapter.

As much as anything in the sound result or real-time responsiveness or common denominator in methods or even the location of Berlin, this kind of constant critical questioning might characterize what can be called echtzeitmusik. While common across experimental music, maybe in the constellation of other things it helps to define it. It surely makes the music more interesting.

echtzeit@30: Q&A with Matthias Müller

Matthias Müller. (c) Cristina Marx/Photomusix

FJB: How did you get in touch with “Echtzeitmusik“?

Matthias Müller: I probably first came into contact with the term “Echtzeitmusik“ in 2004. That was the year I moved to Berlin, but it might have been even earlier, I don't really remember. At that time I was still more rooted in the jazz scene, even though my music already was a lot about free improvisation. I then came across alternative concert venues and series via the website www.echtzeitmusik.de, which already existed at the time. So I was able to make new contacts and immerse in an almost completely new musical world.

What does “Echtzeitmusik“ mean to you?

First of all, “Echtzeitmusik" is not a musical style - at least not anymore. When the term first appeared, which was probably in the mid-90s, it was, as far as I know, still intended as a definition of a certain form of improvisation - and above all to set itself apart from other terms like “free jazz“, “experimental music“, “new music“, and so on. It was a very reduced form of improvisation, therefore often referred to as reductionism. But since I wasn't on the ground then, I don't want to hold forth about it. What I do believe, however, is that reductionism still has a strong influence on the scene in Berlin today. Probably not in the same extreme form as back then, but definitely as a formal phenomenon. Today there is certainly much more diversity: new music, rock, noise, sound art, jazz of course, etc. One of the reasons is that the musicians often have completely diverse musical and cultural backgrounds. Today, that’s what “Echtzeitmusik“ means to me. It’s less a musical definition, it’s rather a collection of different forms of improvised music. Even if the spirit of reductionism still shines through until today.

In what way do you benefit from Echtzeit?

I’d rather say that I benefit from the Berlin scene, from the many different artistic personalities around me, from the people who have moved in from all over the world. I try to let myself be influenced by that and thereby sharpen my own profile. I go to concerts and try to play a lot with musicians of different generations, both with those who were already here in the 90s and with much younger ones who may have landed in Berlin for completely different reasons.

Has Echtzeit influenced your music?

Most definitely - if we talk about “Echtzeitmusik" coming out of reductionism. Maybe it’s not that recognisable in the music I make and publish today. But formal structures or the handling of silence and sound are absolutely present. As I said, I wasn’t in Berlin in the 90s, when this music had its heyday. I didn’t know anything about it at that time. I got to know most of it through recordings and later through direct contact with the “pioneers“. I played with many of them for the first time only when they had already stopped making reduced music.

What do you think could work better with the network?

I honestly never thought about "Echtzeitmusik" being a network before. There is a website where the current dates are listed as well as links to venues, etc. And this website is maintained by some people and always kept up to date, which is a great contribution. But the real, personal network is probably always the scene, friends, colleagues, etc. And not just in the city where you live. So from that point of view, I can't really answer your question about what could work better.

But your question is interesting because it actually points to something else! Namely, that the term “Echtzeitmusik“ seems to be pretty much attractive for many people! Many of us would perhaps say that they play “Echtzeitmusik“ without that term being explicitly defined.

To what extent do you think the scene has changed since you’ve got involved and what could be the reason for these changes?

The scene today is much more colorful, much more international, and probably less dogmatic. Of course, this has a lot to do with the changes in the city. Enormous numbers of musicians from all parts of the world have enriched the scene and given it new impulses, and in the last 20 years the scene has become much bigger. Berlin in the 90s and also at the beginning of the 2000s was a completely different city than today. This has had an impact on all areas and it’s been documented by all different fields of art and so - of course - by us as well.

Is what could be called “Echtzeitmusik“ connected by an approach, a process or a sound result?

Well, I don't know that either. The reduced - that is, “original - “Echtzeitmusik“ is still being made. But as I just said, the improvisation scene in Berlin is much more diverse now than it was 20 years ago. At that time, I think the desire to stand out from other forms of improvisation was much greater than it is today. Today, if you look at what concerts are listed on the website, there’s all kinds of stuff: jazz and impro, composed new music, etc. So there’s a wild mix going on. And from that point of view, I don’t think you can speak of a specific approach today.

Are there any recordings, labels, venues, musicians or other people involved that you would like to highlight because they have contributed a lot to the scene or that you consider essential to it?

One CD that was quite important for me is Barcelona Series by Andrea Neumann, Axel Dörner and Sven Åke Johansson (Hat Hut Records, 2001). For me, it’s a record that exemplifies the musical development of the Berlin scene. Of course, I can also recommend the book Echtzeitmusik - Definition einer Szene (Wolke Verlag, 2011) and the accompanying 3-CD box set, published by Mikroton in 2012. Event series that still play an important role for “Echtzeitmusik“ today are “Labor Sonor“ and the “Biegungen“ at the “Ausland“ club, which have always existed, as it feels. Other important venues for Improvised Music in Berlin today are “Sowieso“, “KM28“ and “Au Topsi Pohl“.

Thank you for the interview, Matthias. 

- Interview conducted by Martin Schray

echtzeit@30: Q&A with Annette Krebs

Annette Krebs. (c) Cristina Marx/Photomusix

Explore Annette Krebs’ site here . Recent releases include Konstruktion#1 & 2 | Sah and Konstruktion#4 .

FJB: What is echtzeitmusik to you? Is what might be considered echtzeitmusik connected through any approach, process, or sound result?

Annette Krebs: I think that the term Echtzeitmusik, although it has established in recent years as a style, is still in transformation - at least I hope so.

Originally, we used the term Echtzeitmusik to describe a music genre whose protagonists have diverse backgrounds in music and art, for example, from the classical, jazz, punk or other music genres, or who have studied art and make their art musically audible. Echtzeitmusik is definitely characterized by the combination of various improvised and composed music techniques. It has a lot to do with sound research, adventurousness and musical interest in equal, non-hierarchical (p.e. decoratively arranged) connections of noises, sounds and tones.

I speak here of what I associate with real-time music for 20 years, although today the term may have changed or moved away from some of what I define here.

Is there something material - like demographics, affordability, or cultural practices - about Berlin that you think makes such a scene possible?

For a long time, it was easy to move to Berlin because the prices of apartments and the cost of living were not so high. The city had a lot of free spaces in the vacuum between the two systems of East and West. So, many artists and musicians could meet, work together and also find new spaces for music and art easily. Unfortunately, this has changed in recent years, but there is still a great fluctuation, the city is still inspiring because many interesting musicians and artists from all over the world come to play, live and work here.

In what ways do you think the scene has changed since your involvement and what might have caused these changes?

My preferred time was when the scene was not even called like that, when we started to invent our music and when we were still unknown. I liked the freedom, which was also due to this unknownness and the almost complete absence of money involved. We could develop music without compromise, without thinking about marketing or other capitalistic things. Sometimes five people played on a small stage for six people in the audience, and those six people listened very well and critically, but the music was intense, authentic and very thoughtful.

Today I don't know the scene as a whole so much, because it has become very big and diverse, with over a hundred participants. The term Echtzeitmusik is not clearly defined. This is good, but I'm afraid and observe a little bit that there may already be rules on how to perform Echtzeitmusik, and that you could get graded one day in Echtzeitmusik at music academies. Of course, that would be the opposite of the freedom of art.

Personally, I need the retreat into silence, and the intensive work with a few people, to find and elaborate music in a concentrated way. Therefore, I do not know exactly how the scene as a whole has changed.

Are there any recordings, labels, venues, musicians, or other participants you would like to shout out for cultivating the scene, or that you feel are essential to it? And is there a recording of you or your work that you feel is particularly representative of the scene?

I would not like to do that so happily. I don't believe so much in the artistic necessity of defining a scene, but rather in the creativity of many individual people who are then called this scene. All people are important. Therefore I would not like to shut out someone, or a special production as especially representative: everyone can find out for themselves what they find most inspiring. A lot of information and links are collected on the website “www.echtzeitmusik.de.”

What could ‘real-time’ mean in the context of echtzeitmusik?

It could mean “instant-composing-performing.”

But it does not necessarily have to. 

 

- Interview conducted by Keith Prosk

echtzeit@30: Q&A with Madga Mayas

Magda Mayas. (c) Cristina Marx/Photomusix

Explore Magda Mayas’ site here . Recent releases include Objects of Interest with Tina Douglas, Spoken / Unspoken with Miako Klein and Biliana Voutchkova, and Dinner Music with Chritoph Erb and Gerry Hemingway as well as a print-only volume of non-standard notations, Graphème , in collaboration with Tony Buck, Racha Gharbieh, Mazen Kerbaj, and Ute Wassermann and featuring additional work from Tomomi Adachi, Lotte Anker, Marina Cyrino, Tina Douglas, Phill Niblock, Jon Rose, and Nate Wooley.

What is echtzeitmusik to you? Is what might be considered echtzeitmusik connected through any approach, process, or sound result?

I think in the beginning Echtzeitmusik was very much associated with a reductionist approach, or a starting from scratch and opposing other present movements such as the (Berlin) Free Jazz scene. Many people still associate this with Echtzeit. I think the musicians who started using the label see it more as a phase in the beginning and that Echtzeit can encompass all experimental/improvised music approaches currently happening in Berlin - however, I think that defies the point of using a label in the first place. So personally I guess I would see it as an important and defining movement that happened in the past, which since then branched out into many different directions (along with or parallel to other movements and styles).

Is there something material - like demographics, affordability, or cultural practices - about Berlin that you think makes such a scene possible?

Affordability certainly played a big role for many decades, which drew artists into moving to Berlin. This is of course changing, like everywhere else. As a particular feature of the scene, I also experience the need to discuss and reflect on music/art among musicians and audiences, often right after a performance has happened, as well as warm support among artists, who frequently come and see each others concerts/performances and help each other out. There are still many venues, established and new/temporary ones, where one can try things out, even residency type performances, where artists are asked to curate a couple of days (see Autopsi Pohl) - I find that quite special and necessary. Pre Covid there were also many house concerts happening - meaning a relaxed setting in peoples living rooms and backyards, to experience music. I have organized many of those over many years together with Tony Buck, as have Andrea Neumann, Ute Wassermann, Mazen Kerbaj and many others. Of course, house concerts happen in other cities too though.

Are there any recordings, labels, venues, musicians, or other participants you would like to shout out for cultivating the scene, or that you feel are essential to it? And is there a recording of you or your work that you feel is particularly representative of the scene?

Venues: KM28, Autopsi Pohl and ausland are among my favourites.

There are so many musicians, hard to make suggestions so I will just mention musicians who moved relatively recently, who are shaping and changing the scene: Marina Cyrino, Mathias Koole, Tony Elieh.

My duo Spill, with Tony Buck, started here in 2002. We released 4 recordings.

As smallest functional unit organized Graphème, I imagine you saw a variety of compositions from across the world and I wonder if you recognized any throughlines or even tenuous similarities in compositions or notations from the Berlin scene.

In the first edition we specifically did not include Berlin composers (other than ourselves), as we wanted to introduce the project as an international publication. Of course it being a first edition we also introduced our own work, all living in Berlin and being part of the scene here. I don’t think our 4 scores (Kerbaj, Wassermann, Buck, Mayas) are similar - quite the opposite. And I guess that’s also a problem with using labels such as Echtzeit - if it is supposed to include the totality of experimental/improvised music in Berlin it becomes a redundant label - unless all its meant to be is to represent diversity. One issue with this project was to bridge composed and improvised music scenes, which partly already happens in Berlin, however, one can still feel cultural and financial divisions.

 

- Interview conducted by Keith Prosk

echtzeit@30: Q&A with Sabine Vogel

Sabine Vogel. (c) Cristina Marx/Photomusix

Explore Sabine Vogel’s site here . Recent releases include BOGONG DAM and the ending of isolated . connected .

FJB: What is echtzeitmusik to you? Is what might be considered echtzeitmusik connected through any approach, process, or sound result?

Sabine Vogel: Difficult question as there is so much going on under the “label” Echtzeitmusik and I am not really a fan of putting music into boxes and label it. I’d say Echtzeitmusik means to experiment with sound in different kind of genre, it can be noise, songs, tunings etc.

Is there something material - like demographics, affordability, or cultural practices - about Berlin that you think makes such a scene possible?

Berlin was for years much cheaper than other cities and it was possible to find places to rent. There were a lot of small clubs to play. This attracted musicians from all over the world, which then made Berlin even more attractive.

You couldn’t make much money, but life was not so expensive. This changed quite a while ago.

In what ways do you think the scene has changed since your involvement and what might have caused these changes?

I came to Berlin in 1999/2000 and the city was so vivid and exciting for me. As I wrote above - all these clubs, the people from all over the world and so on. You could go every night to a concert and get a lot of input. And you could meet every day somebody and play and experiment with ideas.

In what ways has the scene changed you and your musical practice?

When I came to Berlin I was very fascinated by the now so called Berlin Reductionism and how silence and quietness can open a huge space. My playing then was definitive influenced by this. Although I studied Jazz, I never really fell “at home” improvising over changes, I preferred playing more free and experimenting with sounds. When I came to Berlin - I grew up in the Munich area and studied in Linz, Austria - it felt like that there is finally the music I was searching for. I then played for a while in a duo with Tony Buck and worked with Michael Thieke, Alessandro [Bosetti] and Michael Griener in the quartet SCHWIMMER and with this group I had my first CD release (creative sources). I worked a lot with field recordings (which was also a logical step for me after working as a sound designer in a video production company in Munich, where I often recorded my own sounds instead of using their sound library). I then just followed this path with music and nature and now do a lot of work outside or work which is inspired by working outside in the fields. Besides this I became, from the very beginning, a member of the Splitter Orchester, which was founded in 2010 by Clare Cooper, Clayton Thomas and Gregor Hotz. We had intense working periods with exercises and worked with composers such as Matthias Spahlinger and George Lewis. It is hard to answer if “the scene changed me and my musical practice” as I feel like I followed my path and yes, this is always influenced or - better said - inspired through the projects and encounters I have. I wouldn’t say that this is necessarily just the “scene.”

Are there any recordings, labels, venues, musicians, or other participants you would like to shout out for cultivating the scene, or that you feel are essential to it? And is there a recording of you or your work that you feel is particularly representative of the scene?

There are so many: Andrea Neumann, Magda Mayas, Annette Krebs, Tony Buck, Robin Hayward, Burkhard Beins, Axel Dörner, Ute Wassermann…. You know all these names and again hard to pick some, there are so many, it’s everybody who is engaged and playing.

Just mentioning two Berlin labels, which sadly does not exist anymore: Schaum and Absinth records.

An important recording for me back in the early 2000 were - as already mentioned - SCHWIMMER on creative sources, but also my release with kopfüberwelle (a duo with Chris Abrahams on pipe organ) on Absinth records in 2012 and for sure my release ‘luv’ and ‘kopfüberwelle’ live in Sydney on the label Another Timbre of the Berlin Split series. As I do a lot of outside work, also often connected with video, my work lately is often published as online releases.

There were many venues, which popped up and disappeared, but some still exist like AUSLAND and KuLe, that still hosts the concert series Labor Sonor since many many years. 


- Interview conducted by Keith Prosk

Liz Allbee - Rille (Relative Pitch, 2021) ****

 By Keith Prosk

Liz Allbee arranges seven songs for trumpet, quad-trumpet, voice, electronics, field recordings, and acoustic homemade instruments on the 40’ Rille.

Allbee is a member of the Splitter Orchester and recent documents like Frost with Annette Krebs and Sven-Åke Johansson, Rhythm Complication with Burkhard Beins, Clayton Thomas, and others, or Salz with Ignaz Schick, Mike Majkowski, and Oliver Steidle showcase an uncanny ability to coax peculiar textures from the trumpet, particularly through breathplay and what sounds like the result of arcane embouchures. And these two elements - breath and the morphology of the mouth, which are also key to speech - seem to reflect an admitted fascination with the proto-linguistic qualities of musical voices (which might find conceptual companions in something like Zinc & Copper’s Words of Paradise or Nate Wooley’s Syllables Music ).

Rille is a rare solo release for Allbee and illustrates the synthesis of voice and electronics with trumpet in their practice. Which here might find a closer analog in something like Portishead or Tricky than any of the above context would suggest. The timbre of the trumpet appears in the bright but blue calls of “Walls & Windows” or the grainy strata of air notes in “Rille Estate” but is not readily identifiable elsewhere. More often tracks are layers of deep bass alternately droning and discrete, rumbling, buzzing, and throbbing, revving and whirring like a motor, sometimes stuttering and stumbling like deconstructed club music. With various accents of rolling-thunderesque sinestral piano clusters reverberating in decay, downtempo clicks and percussive soundings, electric chirping and cooing, bell tolls, whistles in arced trajectories, test tones and singing oscillations, recordings of birds and sirens. And a poetic text, half-sung, half-spoken, not always decipherable in its occasional murmuring or whispering but perhaps with a recurring motif of light in its various gradations and contexts, in windows, moon, and morning, in subterranean spaces and Kaspar Hauser’s darkened cell. This is not a silent music - tracks even appear to flow as if continuous despite appreciable silences separating them - but its theme of light, a property always present to a degree even in darkness, might draw comparison to the spectrum, rather than some binary threshold, of sounding and silence. Or maybe even a more psychological meaning, the creeping inertia of its tempi, restraint of its dynamics, and sometimes soured tones imparting a dark mood that permeates the music.

Magda Mayas & Tina Douglas - Objects Of Interest (Room40, 2021) ****½


By Keith Prosk

Magda Mayas performs Tina Douglas compositions for piano, clavinet, rhodes, and objects on the fourteen-track, 60’ Objects Of Interest.

Mayas’ practice sounds the whole piano, inside and outside and with preparations and objects, expanding the expected sound of the piano into a significantly more expressive palette. In 2021, she has also released Spoken / Unspoken with Miako Klein and Biliana Voutchkova (a working group called Jane in Ether) and Confluence with her star-studded Filamental ensemble. And she helped organize and issue the first volume of Graphème , a print-periodical for contemporary graphic scores in the spirit of John Cage & Alison Knowles’ Notations and Theresa Sauer’s Notations 21 which among others features work from both Mayas and Douglas. Douglas’ practice is multi-faceted but Mayas illuminates a throughline in the liners, describing Douglas’ scores as sculptural and tactile. Mayas’ particularly textural practice seems well-suited to translating these more visual qualities into sound.

Clusters and individual keys glow in generous space, their decay reverberating and undulating, slowly forming gentle melodies with a comfort and warmth conveyed in the care of their sounding but the familiar sound of the piano is only a part of any moment. Strings are popped and plucked. Strummed disjointed and jangling like guitar chords in fragmented rhythm. And beyond guitar the piano appears to assume many other identities. The lateral motion of a spring. Circular lamellophone structures. The metallic swells and roars of bowed cymbal, sometimes beating. The more organic friction of bowed strings though perhaps with a bit more grit like the stroh. Some sustained whisper like a flute or reed. A melody box cranked too quickly. The stochastic twinkling of wind chimes. A stick skipped across fence pickets. The irregular cadence in the balancing act of digits bouncing among strings like a spider traversing its web. And in the moments with electric keyboard, in which the muted plunk of keys’ release can be heard, the textures can be closer to bells or vibraphone. The evocation of an unfolding and the wonder and enchantment felt in that kind of experience is present throughout but the various pieces shift the emphasis in subtle ways. “Sediment” feels slightly more volatile and propulsive, the attacks of its interventions often more sharp, abrupt. “Intersect” focuses on electric keyboards, their facsimiles of bells and mallet instruments lending a lullaby-like serenity in swaddling decay. The brief Point études appear to individually accentuate aspects of the single-performer symphony described above though with enough of everything else to flow cohesively, the points nearly a line.

Monday, December 6, 2021

Echtzeit@30: Introduction

Berlin, through the trees. (c) Paul Acquaro

echtzeit musik - Day 1


When the question was posed to the folks in the Free Jazz Collective, who would like to join in on a tribute to the echtzeit musik scene in Berlin, the main question was "what is the echtzeit scene"? Funnily, that was a similar answer to some that we received from several of the musicians who comprise the scene itself. It turns out, it is not the worst description of it either, as putting one's finger on it and tracing its contours has not been a straightforward endeavor. Yet it exists ... right? 

Well, we say na klar!, we think it does! "Real-time music", the English translation of "echtzeit musik" seems to have a trail of evidence. For example, we have the invaluable echtzeit musik web site, which is the go-to site to know what is happening with avant and experimental music and where in Berlin it can be found. Then, there are the venues, like the mainstays Ausland, Soweiso, Petersburg Art Space, Au TopsiKM28, Kuehlspot, and several others. Plus, there is the history, going back, as electronics artist and saxophonist Iganz Schick points out in his interview here, to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1991.

Anyway, as elusive or as present as it is ... in real time ... the next few days on the Free Jazz Blog we pay a tribute, on its 30th anniversary, to the ever changing and evolving experimental music emanating from the ever changing and evolving city that it has sprung from.

Today, we offer a link to some very recent video discussions that were held at the non-profit art-space exploratorium berlin commemorating, discussing, defining the scene, and we have culled an overview of recent reviews that have been posted on the Free Jazz Blog that are from musicians connected to it. We are also presenting Q&A's that we have conducted over the past month with artists from across the scenes lifespan, starting with founding members Burkhard Beins, Robin Hayward, Ignaz Schick, and Olaf Rupp. 

It is important to acknowledge that this is not a comprehensive list or feature. We would not really know where to start - or more importantly - end with getting to everyone involved. We do have many more folks that we would love to reach out to and hear back from, and maybe we can. If you have suggestions, people we should talk to, suggestions and ideas, let us know. Also, a couple of words of thanks: Keith Prosk was instrumental in developing and shaping the feature, as well as making connections and reviewing albums. Martin Schray and Eyal Hareuveni assisted with Q&As and reviews, and Cristina Marx lent us her fantastic photography.


- Paul Acquaro

And so it begins ... 

echtzeitmusik-related recordings previously reviewed by The Free Jazz Collective in 2021

Lucio Capece & Ben Vida - Unwelt (Bocian, 2020)
Read our review here .
https://bocian.bandcamp.com/album/umwelt

Cranes - Formation < Deviation (Relative Pitch Records, 2021)
Read our review here .
https://matthiasmueller.bandcamp.com/album/formation-deviation

Achim Kaufmann & Ignaz Schick - Altered Alchemy (Zarek, 2021)
Read our review here .
https://zarekberlin.bandcamp.com/album/altered-alchemy

Daniel Lercher, Sabine Vogel - Bogong Dam (self-released, 2021)
Read our review here .
https://sabinevogel.bandcamp.com/track/bogong-dam

Magda Mayas - Confluence (Relative Pitch Records, 2021)
Read our review here .
https://magdamayas.bandcamp.com/album/magda-mayas-filamental-confluence

Microtub - Sonic Drift (Sofa, 2021)
Read our review here .
https://robinhayward2.bandcamp.com/album/sonic-drift

Olaf Rupp - NOBEACH (Audiosemantics, 2020)
Read our review here .
https://audiosemantics.bandcamp.com/album/nobeach

Olaf Rupp - Nowhere Near (Audiosemantics, 2021)
Read our review here .
https://audiosemantics.bandcamp.com/album/nowhere-near

Schick/Steidle - ILOG2 (Zarek, 2021)
Read our review here .
https://zarekberlin.bandcamp.com/album/ilog2

Schmoliner/Melbye/Gordoa - GRIFF (Inexhaustible Editions, 2020)
Read our review here .
https://inexhaustibleeditions.bandcamp.com/album/griff

Superimpose - With (Inexhaustible Editions, 2021)
Read our review here .
https://inexhaustibleeditions.bandcamp.com/album/with-john-butcher-sofia-jernberg-nate-wooley

Biliana Voutchkova - Seeds of Songs (Takuroku, 2021)
Read our review here .
https://bilianavoutchkova.bandcamp.com/album/seeds-of-songs

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Video

In this video, moderated by Mathias Maschat, Alexander Markvart, Rieko Okuda, Ignaz Schick und Alexander von Schlippenbach discuss the generations of experimental musicians in Berlin. It serves as  a nice introduction to the echtzeit musik scene. More can be found on the exploratorium's YouTube channel.

   


Please check out the Q&A's off the site's main page, or by clicking on the "echtzeit@30" tag.


Echtzeit@30: Q&A with Ignaz Schick

Ignaz Schick. (c) Cristina Marx/Photomusix

FJB: What is echtzeitmusik to you? Is what might be considered echtzeitmusik connected through any approach, process, or sound result?

Ignaz Schick: For me „Echtzeitmusik“ mostly is a community of similar minded musicians who started arriving in Berlin in a particular time, from the fall of the wall onwards, who were more or less from a similar generation and who were asking similar questions, confronted with similar hardships, at a certain moment of musical stand still of the first wave of European free jazz and improvised music. A community who were researching similar musical ideas or concepts and who often but not only improvised. For me Echtzeitmusik never stood for a musical aesthetic or method, nor for a style, …. What was new and maybe a key element was the use of extended instrument techniques, instrument building, electro-acoustic sounds and electronics, also the incorporation of formal/material elements inspired from different streams of contemporary music (i.e. musique concrète, minimalism, microtonality) but also a curiosity towards all kinds of forms of experimental (underground) music like noise, ambient, song formats, performance, sound installation. The development of course took its time and over the years developed into a huge and fertile community with several generations of musicians who quite soon started to be noticed worldwide, …. But there is not such a thing like a typical sound or style, the musical results are as diverse as its practitioners and characters. There is sometimes still this cliché (mostly from outside of Berlin) that Echtzeitmusik equals with „reductionism“, this has been attempted to be propagated by a rather small group of players and influencers who pushed into this directions in the late 90ies and early 2000s. There was an extreme period of deep research into those realms, but at the same time others were working into very different directions (i.e. new jazz and song formats, noise, performance or even with techno and club music elements).


Is there something material - like demographics, affordability, or cultural practices - about Berlin that you think makes such a scene possible?

Definitely for the first 10 to 15 years it was the economic & socio-political situation in Berlin in the time after the wall came down. The city was financially broke, and had to re-organize after the collapse of GDR system. The fall of the GDR system had created a vacuum mostly in the East part of town, not only that there was an unclear real estate situation, also politically all the beliefs and utopian hope of the left were scattered, … There were tons of empty lots/houses/factories with totally unclear ownership status, and people went into those houses and squatted them, or rented them for almost nothing, or used them temporarily. For us young musicians who were mostly ignored or not acknowledged by the previous generation of aging free jazz heroes. Many of us were literally kept out of the clubs and funded venues, but we could bypass this ignorance and just create, experiment & explore and also perform concerts with our new ideas in the squats. There was maybe not always excitement about our music in such places, but a huge tolerance for our experiments as there were new forms of living which were experimented with in the squats. We didn’t make much money, but we also did not need much. The housing conditions were often very rough (apartments with coal ovens, cold water, no shower or toilet on the public stair case), but for me particularly as for many others this did not matter, I grew up on a farm and I had a similar childhood with little „confort“. Most important for us at the time was: living costs & rents were extremely low. This attracted more and more adventurous musicians and artists from all over the world. Rents for a long time stayed extremely cheap, and as a result there were/are many spots and venues were opened with no commercial pressure where musicians could perform. And most improtant: nobody had to compromise his ideas and concepts, we could be as radical as we wanted, we were in the underground anyway, nobody told us how to play or adapt our music in a commercial way. Musicians in this music want to perform, as often as possible, like in the old jazz days, as we are developing a lot of our music live on stage. We also always met and worked a lot on our music in rehearsals, but then it really needs concerts to be able to evaluate your findings. In Berlin this was always possible, in contrast to other cities also today you can still play a lot, and this of course has always attracted a lot of adventurous musicians and people from all over to move to Berlin. We have had an amazing influx of fantastic players int he last 30 years, the whole range from super young and unknown to also very known and established players who want to be part of this amazing community...

In what ways do you think the scene has changed since your involvement and what might have caused these changes?

Although that tendency started already in the 90ies it is way more international now. The amount of musicians has probably trippled or quadrupled. The level and the quality of musicianship has constantly been raised. And the stylistic variety of the music is much more diverse today. I think is naturally happens as all those people who moved to Berlin also bring in their individual ideas, approaches and experiences and they start merging and fusing with those already present.So the technical quality is way more sophisticated and refined. In the early/mid 90ies the sound of Echtzeit was more noisy and raw, in the meantime it went through several phases of refinement but also through stylistic transitions.
Now there is more inter-collaboration of musicians from different stylistic backgrounds (jazz, new music, sound art, noise, elects-acoustic), people tend to think less in stylistic drawers. Many are involved in different projects, that can resulting in different music every time.

Another thing I notice is that there is much more money/funding involved, the scene grew up, got 
attention and gets financial support from the cultural administrations. Which also is deeply needed now as the days of cheap rent or empty spaces which can be used for free are long over. Many of the musicians I started out with are now internationally respected and renowned or have become professors. That is pretty awesome I would say. And of course with the change of the monetary situational the conditions of production have changed: when I do projects, I have to attempt to raise funds first in order to be able to pay my musician, the venue, the technicians. That was definitely not the case in the 90ies and worked in a completely different way, ….


In what ways has the scene changed you and your musical practice?

Hard to say, one thing most notably may be that I switched to electronics at an early point in Berlin, … I did already use electronics since I was a teenager and tried to incorporate electronics into my set-up in my Munich days, but it was in Berlin and the earlier Echtzeit days that I decided to make electronics my main instruments for live-perfornance. And I went through amdeep research phase of sonic materials and alternative forms together with my colleagues. For quite some years I did not compose nor play saxophone in concerts anymore. I was busy researching and developing my musical language on turntables and electronics. But that is different now again, as I brought back composition, saxophone, sound installation, visual arts, …. But this is something the Berlin scene has been amazing with, this open supportive climate which allows for people to experiment. I have witnessed how many people completely changed their sound & concept of playing after they arrived here, there is a big tolerance for extreme experimentation in Berlin, always has been.

What I definitely enjoy is this openess of the scene, like so many people are experimenting and are learning from each other, stimulating and challenging each other. I constantly involve with younger musicians, from diverse stylistic backrounds, and I constantly learn, I have to constantly rethink my playing … The scene definitely taught me to stay awake, to keep on researching, to stay curious, and to keep developing my skills and practice, ….


Are there any recordings, labels, venues, musicians, or other participants you would like to shout out for cultivating the scene, or that you feel are essential to it?

Well, that is a bit unfair and difficult, cause there are so many amazing players, but definitely this whole first wave of Echtzeit players like Andrea Neumann, Burkhard Beins, Annette Krebs, Axel Dörner, Robin Hayward, Michael Renkel (=Phosphor) are always worth to be checked out, but also players like Olaf Rupp, Tony Buck, Margareth Kammerer, …. This are all aging veterans of our scene, but they also stand for a certain reliable quality.

Nowdays it is more complex, as there are so many streams, generations and approaches, all the new noise and electro-acoustic artists, the ones who go more into sound art, pretty everyone of Splitter, but also all those people who are developing a new hybrid of jazz and contemporary music (like Christian Lillinger, Achim Kaufmann, Oliver Steidle, Uli Kempendorff…). Or what I call "the new young wild ones" around Loophole and Multiversal (Rieko Okuda, Achim Virtaranta, Utku Tavil, …) who are coming along with a totally different and often opposing musical approach towards the first generation of Echtzeit. Some of this is still in flux and development, but I really dig this next generations as they are challenging the first generation and our musical achievements. I don’t want to fall into the same trap door of ignorance as did so many of the 1960ies players towards us when we came up. I want to stay open and curious, even if I don’t always understand what the young ones are doing. I want to keep learning, and most you learn by playing with others, no matter if older, same generation or younger.

And is there a recording of you or your work that you feel is particularly representative of the scene?

I am not sure if I am particularly representative for the scene, I have so many different interests stylishly, from EAI, new jazz, new music, noise, sound art, electro-acoustic music, I think best is to just check my archival series on Bandcamp (http://www.zarekberlin.bandcamp.com), there are a lot of different things and projects to explore, music from different periods, …Soon I will update the archival series also with compositions of mine.

My recent activities besides long going groups like Perlonex have been working with ILOG (with Oliver Steidle), Circuit Training or Inside A Leaf, or the duos with Frank Gratkowski, Christian Lillinger and Achim Kaufmann, or a larger group including Rieko Okuda and others from that circle of musicians.


In September of this year, you had a month-long exhibition in Berlin (and earlier in Munich) featuring other aspects of your art, could you talk a little bit about how this work (sound sculpture, graphical scores, LP-art) has evolved?

After secondary school I decided not to study music but visual art, I had studied music since I was eleven, and I needed a different perspective/look at things, and I always had a strong interest in painting/collage in parallel to my music. I always tried to fuse this two art forms, and a good way to go about this was doing graphic scores, vinyl objects, music machines or sound installations, …. I never really pushed a career in art, I found the art market way more disgusting than the jazz (club/festival) scene. Also my heavy touring routine did not allow a constant practice in art, for logistic reasons I mostly worked into sketch books, …. But from time to time I got invited and asked to do some stuff and then in 2019 a friend in the country side of Bavaria, where I grew up, and old friend and big supporter of mine who turned me onto music and art back in the day, asked me to do an exhibition at his farm. He is an amazing artist and music lover, he is 85 years old now and still organizes exhibitions at his farm which he converted in big parts into a showroom.. So I said yes, and the whole thing came out quite beautiful, it was a little like a retrospective, and thus I decided that it would be nice to show this works in Berlin as well, but in a much smaller space. Like this the four chapters came about, due to the size restrictions of the room. For „The Theory Of Everything“ I made two new sound installations, and I showed also two older ones, … With the four chapters I decided to change the main installation once a week, the rest of the show stayed for the whole time, … There were collages, graphic scores, cut-up vinyl multiples and objects that I also often use in my turntable performance and which often also have an attractive visual aspect, …

Like in most of my works also in the sonic installations, I work with found objects, I find stuff on the street, or on junkyards, or over the internet, like old speakers, household items and left behind stuff, and I assemble them in a new context, like left behind speakers which are prepared with glass cylinders cut out of jars, and then I use objects to resonate. Through vibration, the mechanical speaker vibration triggered through sound waves. Or I use vibration motors from mobile phones, massage machines or sex toys, and I trigger them through MIDI to animate various metal objects, frame drums or Porzellane to resonate through vibration, …. Usually I work in a serialist way, like 48 source speakers, 22, speakers with fishing rods, or a swarm of 46 metal objects, … Swarms, clouds, or symmetric rows, … This way of working links it with the way I use turntables. Playing turntables is also a way of recycling and re-composing existing material into a completely new context. The same it is with scores, I often use old photogrpachs or graphics from scientific books, I cut them out or glue them into graphic scores and just change the meaning of the parameters, like a graph of population growth becomes pitch movement, or dynamics and so forth, …. It is playful, but has a hidden system and logic, like translating from one sphere to another.


- Q&A conducted by Paul Acquaro

Echtzeit@30: Q&A with Robin Hayward

Robin Hayward. (c) Cristina Marx/Photomusix

Explore Robin Hayward’s site here . Recent Releases include Sonic Drift with Martin Taxt and Peder Simonsen and a reissue of Live At ISSUE Project Room with Catherine Christer Hennix’ Chora(s)san Time-Court Mirage.

FJB: What is echtzeitmusik to you? Is what might be considered echtzeitmusik connected through any approach, process, or sound result?

Robin Hayward: To be honest I wasn’t aware there was an ‘echtzeitmusik’ scene until I came to Berlin in 1998. I came to focus on exploring a particular approach to free improvisation that, unfortunately in my opinion, later came to be labelled ‘Berlin Reductionism.’ The Echtzeitmusik scene also came to be associated with this, though it’s clear that it was always more than this and that this approach only ever comprised one part of it.

Is there something material - like demographics, affordability, or cultural practices - about Berlin that you think makes such a scene possible?

When I first moved to Berlin I was pleasantly surprised how cheap the rents were, having moved from London. Although I had to teach English for the first two years after moving there, this meant I still had some time to focus on the music. The rents are becoming much more expensive now though.

In what ways do you think the scene has changed since your involvement and what might have caused these changes?

I think the people I was working with intensely when I first moved there - Annette Krebs, Andrea Neumann, Burkhard Beins and Axel Dörner - have mostly moved on to explore other musical directions. And there’s a whole group of other people exploring different things too. So it’s more varied than it used to be, at least from my perspective.

In what ways has the scene changed you and your musical practice?

That’s very difficult to say. I never really thought of it as being a scene actually, just a bunch of people whose musical interests overlapped for a while. We all influenced each other in different ways, but it feels a bit strange to say that that it was ’the scene’ that influenced me.

Are there any recordings, labels, venues, musicians, or other participants you would like to shout out for cultivating the scene, or that you feel are essential to it? And is there a recording of you or your work that you feel is particularly representative of the scene?

The recording I made with Roananax (with Annette Krebs, Andrea Neumann and Axel Dörner) in 1999 is probably the best document of what I was involved in back then. This was released much later by Another Timbre, I think in 2015, together with the trio Obliq (Pierre Borrel, Hannes Lingens and Derek Shirley). Of my solo work I think the CD / LP States of Rushing (released on Choose in 2009) best sums up what I was into in my first decade in Berlin. Since then I’ve been focusing on exploring the microtonal tuba, though I would like to go back and explore the ’noise-valve’ tuba more if I ever find the time to do so. Of the current venues I’d say the Labor Sonor series at Die Kule is probably the most reflective of the scene, along with Ausland.

What did you find in Berlin that was not in the UK?

The long winters. People can become very self-absorbed in Berlin too (myself included), so it’s definitely important to work outside of Berlin too.


- Q&A conducted by Keith Prosk