The Letchworth 7-and-8 (for Georgina Brett)

Here is a piece I improvised in Letchworth (north of London) on Nov 1st, 2014. Maybe you like it

My mini-England-tour was big fun. Thank you so much to Georgina for organizing the concerts in Letchworth and London, and for spending time with me (especially on Halloween evening), to the ladies at Dot to Dot in Letchworth, to Michael Bearpark and his family for hosting us, to Roger Harmar for spending a lovely day with me in Brighton, to Darren Sangita for a lovely spontaneous party, to Mathura Das for letting me be his cooking assistant.



























 
(some photos were shot by Michael Bearpark)

The music that I played and the music that I had recorded during rehearsals before the tour ended up in this album, a very heterogenous collection of musical sounds, voices on the streets, and field recordings that is almost like a diary to me. The days in England were intense and surreal at times, and you can hear it. Listen loud.

And then there were flowers

My grandma (mother of my mother) was born in 1900 and died more than 90 years later. She raised her five children more or less alone and was an independent and strong woman. She got furious about politics sometimes when she got older, fantasizing about shooting them all with a laser gun. I liked her.


Aunt Lori, grandma Charlotte, and my mother (also called Charlotte)

She was a gifted painter (I would say) but apparently she only painted flowers.

When I emptied my parents’ house after they had died, there were a number of flower paintings hanging on the wall, and several jugs, jars, trays, boxes and such everywhere over the house, all covered with flowers. I don’t want to keep it all (not sure who would want to have this stuff) but I took it home with me, and took photographs (or scans) of everything. Then I uploaded them all to flickr, a popular photo community that has lots of groups, some of them about flower painting. My grandma’s work will get a little bit of digital immortality.

Here are some of her pictures. Go to flickr if you want to see them all.








(This is the writing on the back side of one of the postcard sized paintings, from the 1960s like most of her work. Funny how the writing style has changed – I have a hard time deciphering this)

Paper Crane


 
let us meet again
in this secret world
that our minds will never know

we can open the windows
and let silence in,
bird calls and wind in the grass

let us align ourselves with this
it has been patiently waiting
while we were dreaming

 
the autumn wind caresses the lake,
making little ripples of tenderness
birds swoop down, shouting with joy,
reeds and trees are swaying

wind, lake, birds, reeds
are all in love with you
and dance to remind you
to drop your imaginary baggage

and end your imaginary travels!
you have been home all the time
please be here with us
and dance with us again!

 
a dark pond in the woods –
over the years I’ve found out how to
still its ripples until
I can see the moon’s reflection:
by not doing anything.

Today I find myself
about to jump right in,
knowing I will dissolve
in the depth
where all knowing ends

 
tonight I dreamed
I was in love with a beautiful lion.
I knew I should be very afraid
but I decided to trust.

We lied in the dark and held each other very close.
In the morning she ran and turned
into a beautiful and dangerous creature again

 
jump into the endless glistening blue
sink beyond the multitudes of sunlit
movements and colors and forms.
In an ordinary ocean you’d now disappear
in a cold dark mostly lifeless abyss,

But in this kind of depth,
the deeper you sink, the more wonderful it gets –
it will be beyond your wildest dreams,
because this abyss is lit up by
something brighter than all suns

 
step aside and become quiet,
let this cat’s purr fill the universe
like each of these dew drops mirrors all creation

afterwards, you are free to resume your dream of self.
you are sitting in God’s lap and all is well,
even if you walk away from it,
but then it might be difficult to notice

 

Drone

Maybe it was the last warm summer day of 2012. I took a longer walk up and around my favorite hill, enjoying the warmth and the silence – nobody was around and sometimes I need to be completely alone to find myself.

There was no wind and it was very quiet, except for some faraway birds and some crickets. I stood and scanned the far horizon when I became aware of a very quiet, almost inaudible high drone – and of a cloud of several dozen tiny insects that circled around and above my head.

I don’t know why these insects flew around me – they didn’t settle on my skin and they seemed completely harmless. They liked me for some reason, and they stayed with me for about 15 minutes. They were very small and very fast, tiny dots, barely visible against the blue sky. I couldn’t believe my ears – I don’t think I have ever heard something like this before. Unexpected and magical!

I found that the swarm of insects reacted to my movements – I could raise a hand, and they would back up a little bit. For some reason, the pitch was higher when they were close, and it went down immediately when they went further away. Eventually, they flew away, and the sound vanished into silence.

I did not have a recorder with me to record the sound, and the insects were very quiet, almost inaudible, the recorder wouldn’t have recorded much. Here is a recording of a swarm of insects inside of a hedge behind my house, recorded in 2007. I sped the recording up to give it a pitch that was like what I heard today. It sounds a bit different (that sound was much more steady and quiet), but you can get an idea.





Firefly Season


a sip of wine from my wife’s glass
late evening at the pond with the neighbours.
they are back, the tiny wandering lights
of pure magic. bats whizzing by very closely.
between the clouds: summer stars

fireflies stay home on the next night
they couldn’t compete with that
fantastic moon rising, almost full
outshining everything
making moon shadows

early sunday morning, sun and
warm enough for a breakfast outside.
It is quiet first, then it gets even quieter.
The stillness is palpable, a dense presence
underlying everything.

sparrows chirping, emphasizing the silence
stars twinkling, emphasizing the black velvet emptiness
thoughts thinking, emphasizing this presence.
a quiet fire of happiness
our birthright, our natural state

Good Advice

When I was a kid, it was customary to have a special kind of book (called “Poesiealbum”), empty at first, that was given to parents and teachers and school friends, and everyone wrote some sort of inspiration quote, small poem, or short text into it, meant as an advice for life. Is this a phenomenon specific for Germany or do other cultures have this as well?

I recently found my own Poesiealbum – apparently I got it in 1964 when I was ten. The first four pages were autographed by my parents and my grandparents (mother’s parents). Later, after some empty pages, they are followed by pages by two or three teachers and just two or three friends, but their quotes aren’t really interesting. I am surprised to what degree I can agree today with what my parents wrote, even if the whole thing seems pretentious, even kitschy to me today.


“Who relies on others will live in a shaky world. Who relies on himself, stands well”
This sentence, written (as I googled) by Paul Heyse, was actually my father’s own motto for life I think. He hated to be dependent on others. During most of his working life, he was the boss of a small print shop, and he managed to keep the family alive and fed.


“Don’t destroy your peace of mind by looking back, worrying about the past. Live in the present; enjoy the present”
This one, contributed by my mother, really surprised me – I googled it and it turned out to be by Henry David Thoreau. I don’t believe she was actually familiar with Thoreau’s work, she probably found it in some collection of dictums, but nonetheless a remarkable choice – the modern mystics such as Eckhart Tolle couldn’t have put it better (although there is far more to living in the moment than most people realize).


“Let yourself be guided – but not in your feeling and your thinking”
This one, suggested by my grandma (who had a rebellious spirit and raised her five children without religion), was originally written by Friedrich von Sallet, a German writer from the early 19th century who was critical of religion and the military. Not bad, grandma!



“Making others happy makes you happy”
Don’t remember much of my grandpa. And I don’t know who wrote this line – but the German wording can be found back into the mid-19th century, according to Google. Not sure what to think of this but I see the source of happiness somewhere else. Too bad I can’t discuss this with my grandpa! he died when I was a child.

What would I write in a boy’s Poesiealbum book? something like a motto of my life? What is that motto? I can’t seem to put it into words at the moment. The simple insight into reality can’t be put into words.

White Light


Charlotte Peters 1921 – 2012

THE UNIVERSE IS AN OCEAN OF WHITE LIGHT,
AND ON IT DANCE THE WAVES OF LIFE AND DEATH

 

It was no surprise to us that my mother left her body last Sunday – she was 91, had struggled with dementia for 10 years (since my father had died), and more and more severe health problems added to her suffering. Besides the obvious feelings of loss, we are glad that she finally made it, it must have felt like an enormous relief to her.

Sitting in the grass
on top of the hill
where I sat when my father had died.

Now both are gone
but both are inside of me,
father in the belly, mother in the heart

a quiet double presence of support
and strength and love
allowing sadness and joy to coexist.

What holds me, when I look closer,
actually extends to the horizon
and further than that.

The wind blows eternally
over the hill, bending the grass,
a few raindrops like kisses.

Yes, they are gone, and I’ll be gone
eventually, as will everyone else,
but that what is here will always be here

And always is now

Turquoise Coast 3: A Taste of the Orient

We also went to several cities during our Provence/Cote d’Azur vacation: Marseille, Aix-en-Provence, and Toulon. We actually went to Marseille twice because there was so much to see and do! Here are some of the things we saw … (and we came back in 2016 to see that the whole harbour area had been renovated and is now shiny and beautiful!)


Some of the architectural details … parts of them still very beautiful, other parts … I guess they were meant to be beautiful …

 









 
Finally, we sat down for a tasty mezze dish containing tabouleh and other treats …





 
The Game is a very serious thing …


 
Soaps are a big thing in the Provence … at least in tourist shops …


 
Taking a short break from the hot day in a cool church, with two women practising on a beautiful organ …


 
Various coffee places …






 
We found the oriental culture especially fascinating … the shops offer an overwhelming variety of oriental food … food and more. So many things I did not know! I thought I could spend weeks here, finding out about all these mysterious things in detail …






 
Toulon contains a military harbour … who would have thought that (at least on the advertisements) French torpedoes are dispatched by good looking young women wearing civilian clothes …



 
This ad promotes “shopping attitude” – yes, I’m sure even the inhabitants of these ugly buildings are more than happy to bring all their money into the expensive clothes shops …


Turquoise Coast 2: Underwater Concert

I’ve seen hundreds of concerts in my life, some of them rather unusual, but the most unusual of all definitely was Michel Redolfi‘s underwater concert that we had the pleasure to visit on a hot afternoon in May, in a modern indoor pool of a little town called Martigues, just west of Marseille.


Redolfi, born 1951, is an electronic avantgarde composer. Unlike many of his colleagues, he manages to create soundworlds that are utterly beautiful, adventurous, and fantastic, while never using any of the kitschy clichés that are often used by popular music composers. He has always created something that is entirely his own – a visionary, and one of my great musical heroes since I heard his first album back in the eighties.



He was also (as far as I know) the first composer who performed music underwater, starting this in California in the early eighties. Since then, he has conducted underwater concerts in pools, lakes, ocean shores, coral reefs. Real instruments (mostly metallophones) have been used but due to the physical properties of water, very few instruments can be used successfully under water, so most of Redolfi’s underwater concerts consist of electronic music transmitted via underwater speakers.


In Martigues, Redolfi was sitting beside the pool in front of his laptops, creating an ad-hoc mix of his own sounds for the 30-40 people floating in the warm water for an hour (foam tubes under feet and back helped us to float lying on our backs, with our ears in the water). A very relaxing experience!

All sounds could only be heard under water. The vibrations weren’t transmitted through the air into our ears, but somehow materialized directly in our bodies, heads, brains, minds – a very peculiar and unreal feeling, especially with this kind of dreamy and floating music.

I had the privilege to talk with Redolfi, asking questions about various aspects of his work, for half an hour after the evening concert. (I hope I’ll be able to use the interview for a radio feature later this year.) It was very heartwarming to talk to him, we have so much in common (because he influenced me so much, not the other way around) and we feel similar about so many things. We had met and talked before once during a concert in 1999 but we did not really know each other well. When we hugged after the interview though it felt like we were old friends.

A thorougly enjoyable event, and one of the highlights of our vacation in Southern France!

Turquoise Coast 1: Walking in Beauty

We spent a week or two in Bandol, a coast town at the Cote d’Azur east of Marseille. We took walks along the beautiful coast and in the countryside. Of course, lying on beaches, swimming, and coffees were also part of the program. (We also visited the cities – this will be another entry.)

Three days after we came back, my mother Charlotte died. This beautiful little sand building on one of Bandol’s beaches was signed and probably built by another Charlotte:

 
I love Crème de Marrons – something you don’t get often in Germany.

 
a French beauty on the beach … but wait, isn’t this …

 
The coastline is breathtaking!

















 
Why haven’t I been to France for so long? maybe because my knowledge of the French language is more or less limited to “café au lait”. But we found that being here is not difficult even if you don’t speak any French. Looking forward to the next time!

Antares, Polaris, Deneb

what is it that makes me
lie in the dark on a warm summer night
looking up with binoculars?

why do I feel happy when I see
a satellite, and another one, moving fast across the
stars, eternally falling through the night all alone?

occasional fast movements,
a falling star, glowing specks of dust
or a bright Iridium flare

when it gets even darker,
the black dotted canvas becomes
huge and deep and full of white dots

each one a star, all different,
some small, some huge, some old, some young,
citizens of a city of another kind

simple dots just at first glance.
places! clusters! brilliant clouds of light
different colors, not just white

I find that this one over there is actually
Saturn, sister world, rings, dozens of moons
and over there, Mars: close companions

what about that one? the larger stars have names,
Latin, Greek, Arabic, mysterious names,
some of which are familiar, and they are all out tonight

what is it that makes me
feel home among these places
that are so far away, further than we can imagine?

Arcturus, Wega, Spica,
Procyon, Sirius, Aldebaran,
Antares, Polaris, Deneb

and in some nights that are dark and clear
I find, southeast of Cassiopeia, the faint glow
of Andromeda, sister galaxy

Picking up the Leaves


this morning, the large bamboo in the attic
taught me a lesson, not for the first time:
it has taught for years, but I did not listen.

this morning, in a slightly pensive mood
(years whizzing by faster than ever, and not many left)
picking up the dried leaves from the carpet

suddenly remembered “only this”,
stopped trying to get the job done
and started doing it without going away, and of course

“only this” then becomes obvious,
infinitely meaningful
an act of love


A Moon to Hug






 
depths of feelings,
a joy, a lightness, unfathomed landscapes,
a deciphering of messages,
maybe disappointment, sadness, hopes,
but what is really here?
some depth of an unknown quality, no doubt

plus some movie,
and if the movie doesn’t work, another movie
and a wondering – if the movies stop, what is here?
do we really need movies?
what if the movie that we love so much
is actually a prison? each movie another prison?

“what? I can’t let go of this,
without the movie life is cold and bleak,
disappointing, boring, a dark hole”
but is this true?
what if all of this is allowed to stop
and the wind blows right through?

Stepping out of the forest, long shadows
far horizon, clean and open sky
looking up into nothingness for no reason
finding my heart leap with joy,
at this unexpected sight. The moon!
An explosion of love. Oh to be able to jump high and hug it!

The moon and my heart are suddenly one,
and then the depth and the love spreads
and is suddenly everywhere,
the trees, the wind, the little blades of grass.
Outside of movies, everything is simple and infinitely deep
and true, and so real, so real.

Contemplating the Planet Venus

stopping the car on top of the hill
midnight, black velvet sky,
and just over the western horizon
the brightly radiating jewel,
just about to follow sun & moon into the night

beyond this world of petty primate concerns,
suchness is easy to spot, purity, an immaculate beauty
that is laser focused, piercing directly through the heart
and so immense that there are no words.
to die for a beauty like that!

this touch left me shattered, unable to sleep
not knowing what to do with this
unexpected kiss of the beloved
that music, that prayer, that vision, of what?
how many multitudes do I contain?

 


Georgina Brett from London is my favorite livelooping singer


Image Credit:
Earthshine and Venus Over Sierra de Guadarrama

Daniel Fernández

In The Air Tonight

 
and then, after the first warm day with naked feet
and purring cats and coffees
beside the little pond inhabited by
toads madly in love,
it suddenly feels too cold to stay outside.

sun sets behind the hill, nightfall,
first bat flies through the empty dark blue
under a beautiful conjunction of
Venus and Jupiter, worlds
whirling out there in the eternal night

Scent of Mud



 

The ice cold wind bites. The mud is deep and soft
as I walk uphill.

Did I hear that familiar sound? Looking around in the vast
grey cloudscape, I finally find the V formation up high,
and while I watch, they suddenly start to loosen the form,
circling for a while.

I pass by my favorite oak, ears hurting from the cold wind
while thinking of the forest of sequoias inside my soul,
huge ancient beings, soft-barked,
holding and protecting me in difficult times
while I curl up underneath them.

The image vanishes, I look up again
the formation has disappeared somewhere in the vast grey.

Minutes later, more calls from above
and I find, looking around, more and more formations,
flying with the strong wind towards their
northern homes. Why does this sound speak to me
so strongly?

Later, back in car
drive home, heating up.
Mud underneath hiking shoes
slowly heats up. The scent of soil.





A Forgotten Place

On this ice cold February day, I found myself alone on a remote hill near Berlichingen (a small Southern German town), visiting an old Jewish cemetery while taking a walk. I had been here before some years ago and wanted to feel that atmosphere again.


 
The cemetery (used from the 17th century until the early 20th century) has a very special feel to it, something very old and forgotten (although it certainly isn’t – the cemetery is simply no longer used because there aren’t many jews living in Germany nowadays, for reasons that I don’t have to explain). I walked around on the dry leaves and except for that sound, it was utterly quiet.



 
I certainly didn’t have any morbid or even eerie feelings, it was rather peaceful here. There were actually just trees and stones here; the distant history of many lives existed only in thoughts. But there was something here that I can’t quite put into words.








 
In the far corner of the cemetery, this stone said, ‘in this area tender children lie’. I was happy that there weren’t any Nazi victims lying here, that would really have been creepy. The last funeral was 1932. All the jews buried on this cemetery were respected citizens living in times when this madness hadn’t begun yet.






 

I eventually had to leave as the sun was setting and it was getting really cold. The light rays were almost horizontal, lighting up the beautiful lichen patterns on the stones.









Ecstasy Trilogy

Here are three ambient movies that I put online recently, each of them about 30 minutes long: “Mouse Pointer Feedback Ecstasy”, “Arboreal Ecstasy”, “Symmetric Jellyfish Ecstasy”. Wow, 90 minutes of ecstasy?

Ecstasy is not something we usually encounter in our daily lives, and different people have very different ideas about what it is. I just saw that Wikipedia has three different definitions!

The effect of the videos on the observer will vary, but all of them slow down time like the motion of liquid in lava lamps, or like Marian Zazeela’s extremely slow ornamental videos to La Monte Young’s drone music.

For the MTV generation that is used to very fast and hectic cuts, this will be unbearable to watch 🙂

1. Mouse Pointer Feedback Ecstasy


I used a toy microscope and filmed the microscope output on the screen – I pointed the microscope to its own images. This creates a video feedback loop, resulting in all sorts of effects. Because nothing much happens when filming an empty screen, resulting in more of nothing, I chose to film the mouse pointer from very close. Some postprocessing was applied (mainly, slowing down). The music is ambient music that I played on synthesizers and tape delays, back in the mid-eighties.

2. Arboreal Ecstasy


This was the first video designed to use as a backdrop for Georgina Brett‘s set on my livelooping festival from last April. I filmed these trees out of my car while driving through forests in Washington and Northern California (usually, Sabine was driving and I held the camera). Postprocessing: Slowing down and some motion blur, and a mirror effect at the bottom of the video, to take out the street that was visible in the original. The mirror creates a nice effect that looks like a reflection on water.

I chose Georgina’s piece Leanate as soundtrack for this, and I slowed it down considerably using Paulstretch. Then two weeks before the festival it turned out that someone else had also planned to use trees for a backdrop video, so I dropped this, and created something new for Georgina:

3. Symmetrical Jellyfish Ecstasy


I had filmed these amazing creatures in an aquarium in Oregon. Postprocessing included slowing down, changing the colors, and introducing symmetry. The music I chose for this imagery consisted of a loop I had created a while ago (I have forgotten in the meantime how I did it); during the piece, several instances of this loop, running at different speeds, get superimposed.

Georgina’s gorgeous set with the jellyfish video behind her can be watched here.