2011: A Livelooping Weekend

This was the weekend of the 2nd international Livelooping Festival in Cologne – I had organized the first one almost 3 years ago, and for various reasons I felt it was time to do another one.

I wish more liveloopers would organize such a festival. It doesn’t have to be a mammoth, several-days-70-loopers festival such as Rick Walker’s festivals in Santa Cruz (which he now has stopped doing because it kept him busy for months). This Cologne festival presented 10 acts again (this time, 9 soloists and 1 trio) and so was small in comparison. Many people seem to think that it is very difficult or lots of work to do that, but in fact, it is not so much work, but lots of fun, especially if one chooses nice loop musicians and everything turns out to be a success. It helped a lot that the cultural office of Cologne and the culture trust of the Cologne-Bonn Sparkasse bank sponsored me again to an extent that allowed me to hire people who did sound, videotaping, video projection, photography, and other support work.

Cologne Loopfestival 2011
Cologne Loopfestival 2011 / Image (c) Alan Jaras

Some of the loopers stayed in hotels, but Georgina Brett, Per Boysen, and the boys from Darkroom stayed at our house.

The day of the festival was very warm and sunny … good for us at first, so we could hang out on the terrace in the morning … of course in the evening, there were less people in the audience than we had expected because some of them had preferred a lazy evening in a beer garden over hours of difficult music in the darkened hall of the Loft …

Setting up was less chaotic than one could expect with 12 musicians and tons of electronics all squeezed together on a few square meters. Then Thomas Elbern started with his Twilight Worldz guitar drones, followed by Uwe Schumacher (who I knew from two concerts in his church based KlangSpielRaum) and his world music influenced improvisations on bass, percussion, and voice …

Patty Stucki sang, played synths and saxophones, and transported the audience into other worlds …

… before I entered the stage with my guitar and delivered several quite multifaceted pieces of music, some of which were successful (i.e. came out similar to my plans) and some didn’t. Oh well. I am still learning!

Sjaak Overgaauw had been inspired by the first Cologne loopfestival to create his own annual festival in Antwerpen. His Premonition Factory produced beautiful ambient music, and after this, David Cooper Orton played guitar somewhere between folk, rock, jazz, and minimal music. Both Sjaak and David had been among my livelooping colleagues in Santa Cruz in 2009 …

It was a special treat for me to finally see Georgina Brett on stage. I had met her in London in 2007 where she introduced me to her ethereal vocal canon music. This time she sung a complex 30 minute piece based on words by Pythagoras. The video backdrop I had created for her, starring slowly moving psychedelic jellyfish (which I had recorded in an aquarium in Oregon) was a great visual addition to her composition I thought. (Georgina was too concentrated to even notice 🙂 )

Georgina was followed by Stockholm based looper Per Boysen, one of my favorite looping musicians (I remember being in awe watching him on festivals in Zürich and Rome). Instead of guitar, flute, or saxophone, he presented his newest instrument, a Chapman stick. It seems that a good musician can create magic on just about any instrument!

Reyn Ouwehand from Amsterdam was the only livelooper I hadn’t met before. He turned out to be not only fun to spend time with, but also a much more proficient keyboard player than I had expected – jawdropping even. He finished his set with a nice impromptu improvisation with Georgina.

And finally, Darkroom (Andrew Ostler and Michael Bearpark with Andrew Booker on electronic percussion) delivered a beautiful and relaxing piece of electronic music that reminded me of Krautrock psychedelia, probably due to the synth sequences created by Os.

We came home after the gig, exhausted but happy, and stayed up late. On the next morning, Sjaak and Ingrid and Patty came to watch us having breakfast, Georgina and Per did the dishes … some of us stayed until the evening, talking about music, but only Per stayed another night and left on Monday afternoon.

What a great weekend with such nice people! I wish we could all stay together for longer, but of course many of the loopers are parents and have to go back to their families and workplaces … the looper island that Michael Klobuchar dreams of will probably remain a dream …

Here is a very nice 5 minute WDR3 radio feature about the festival, containing short interviews and music snippets by Reyn, Patty, Thomas, Georgina, and Uwe:

(photos taken by Andrew Ostler, Mike Bearpark, Petra Schulten, Mike Gürgens, and myself)

Solid Like Hematite

back at Kloster Schöntal with many old friends … each one a different color

deep in the west, a very thin moon
we’re very lucky to have a large moon like that
it stabilizes the earth rotation,
making regular seasons
and enabling life on earth

a walk under a very blue very wide empty sky
a sparkling sense of joy
little glowing dots seem to surround me
an exuberant lightness

the triangle of desire, self-rejection and hope
keeping us fixated in a prison.
it seems so human, so life-giving to have hope
„the life energy of it“
but then, no animal seems to need hope
and aren’t they the ones who are full of life energy?

the deep seated desire for love and acceptance
(we used to live in tribes without which survival was unlikely)
searching for it on the outside
getting some, losing it, never really safe
all the time unaware of the true love
until it comes to pick us up

sitting at the computer desk, waiting for the show to begin, chewing cardamom …

the conviction that I cannot do anything
the conviction that I have to do it all myself
how can both coexist?

I finally slept ok in the third night
to wake up at 6 out of a dream
in which I remembered myself as a young child
my own early childhood innocence and openness
was so moving that I had to cry.
images of old grown-ups in comparison
they were all distorted, grimacing, and sick of their lives,
sick of madness from having forgotten themselves for too long.

then that woman (not one that I know in real life)
she was like … the archetypal good mother
I embraced her and cried on her shoulder
moved by the beautiful memory of my own
long forgotten innocence,
and I woke up with this feeling. How strange
and completely unexpected

walking through the yard,
a friendly white cat comes to say hello
while the eternal flock of black birds
still circles the spires, shouting
as it will in a thousand years from now

spending much of the day taking care of
a dear friend who is in deep distress
did palpably consume some of my own energy.
I lie in bed after midnight with headphones
carried into sleep on the wings of an angelic lullaby
sung by another dear friend

coming from the toilet at 4am
the sky is full of bright large stars
reminding me of that painting
3 hours later, all is grey and wet from rain
and the birds sing early spring songs

still suffering from the previous day,
something becomes quiet.
What a luxury to be able to read a few Hafiz poems
before getting up.
It sets my mind back on track.
All is happening on its own.
And I know this. What a relief

later, the topic of hatred and the urge for revenge
the being cut off from all of this
(aggressive behaviour was forbidden, unthinkable
so there is something old and unresolved) –
I am unable to access this energy.
A major part of my unconscious seems to still be
mostly unresolved and packed away
while the sense for unicity and the nonconceptual
is already growing, all following its own plan,
bypassing this white spot on the map as it were
„you don’t need more experiences of unity“
i feel like a beginner
deficient and insecure. Why did I come here anyway?

„mindful work“ practice in this group can be anything
from needlework to cleaning up or gardening
to learning a choir piece
(I hear them down the hall, slowly getting there)
I sit alone in the hallway, mastering talk recordings.
The woman with the bell comes by and rings –
stop and be present …
resume work with the second bell signal
(it is so hard to stay present with computer work
at home almost impossible, it works better here)

and being present vs. being lost in the trance of thinking
can be heaven vs. hell – more than that
this goes way beyond what the mind can imagine

„dedicating this work to the awakening of all beings“

she feels stuck, without hope.
he asks her, is there anything you want to do?
she says, „yes there is.
I want to cry so loud that all the windows shatter at once“.
Yes! let us cry together, there are enough windows
for both of us to shatter. This energy
needs to be free.

early morning, the cathedral shrouded in mist
waking up after a good night’s sleep
my heart is still heavy
I can’t feel where this weight comes from
so often, this inner life is inexplicable
and so often, subject to change
on short notice
„stay with your experience“
rule of thumb
and always the wisest thing to do

an hour with a white-bearded man
looking at my heavy heart
doing various breathing exercises on the mattress
nothing spectacular or difficult,
but bright and light new rooms opened easily for a while,
rooms in myself that I had never entered before.
I want my body back.
when the convictions (saying I can’t do it) give way and dissipate
and the stories about deficiency and disconnection cease,
then I’m here, I’m at home, I lack nothing,
and something seems to reunite in love.
So easily!

„fake it till you make it“ I have to remember this advice.
Find a way, do whatever works
until the voices stop and the joyous simplicity
(that was there all the time)
can stabilize

another walk together over the hill
to the sacred spring cave
sitting in the bright February sun, talking, looking at it
and then back to coffee over muddy paths

positions and perspectives
how much they shape what we think we are
what would happen if they were all absent?

my two partners in the triad I worked in,
they both came to feel like newborn babies
one of them looking at her own hands in amazement
moving her feet
feeling insecure and happy

another foggy morning
rows of large trees along the river
populated with mistletoes
their tops fading into grey

the question of existence itself
inquiring into the feeling of existence
(grey and solid – like hematite? hmm)
different flavors of presence
still or exuberant
coming and going
the great joy of discovering together
what being home means

my black desperation when I lost it
my deep joy of finding it again
„hold it both at the same time“
getting beyond that dualism.
Ok, I’ll try that –

spacious presence without thinking or knowing
simplicity and peace
all the different flavors of the transcendent
and there are many more.

I come back from the walk
hiking shoes full of mud underneath

„when we know presence, when we are in touch with, and feeling presence, we are in touch with being“