Scrap Cities, Rubber Boats, Sepia Songs

Last saturday was very full. I worked until noon (no pictures of the ColdFusion code that I wrote, that would be too boring), then I headed towards Cologne. On the way, driving towards the S-Bahn station, I realized I would have to wait for quite a while, and I stopped by an unusual exhibition that I had always meant to visit.

Michael Kramer is an artist who lives not far away from my hometown. His studio, I am told, looks like a scrapyard – one thing that he does is creating sculptures from scrap metal. His sculpture „Die Stadt“, the city, is spread out on a large flat roof. Visitors can walk around on the roof and look at many very different kinds of cities made from a million strange looking metal parts. I loved this place so much that I almost forgot that I had planned to take the next S-Bahn station to go to Cologne.

I managed to catch the train in the last second … it took me to Cologne where I met Sabine in a sports museum. Now I don’t care for sports at all and I don’t care for the sports museum even less but today Greenpeace was here on a 30-year-anniversary tour (the German leg of Greenpeace was founded 30 years ago, 10 years after Greenpeace came into existence in Vancouver), and both Sabine and me were curious what it would be like.

(On the way from the Cologne main station to the Greenpeace event I met Dorothee, a friend of Sabine – we talked for a couple of minutes. I wasn’t aware at this point that I was going to have four (4) chance meetings of this kind on this day.)

I met Sabine and my colleague Michaela – I handed her the data CDs that I had worked on this morning – and we had a coffee together. Soon after I ran into my old friend Karla who was also interested in Greenpeace as it turned out.

The Greenpeace event was interesting and moving – we listened to a 1-hour talk about the history of this organization in Germany. I had forgotten so many things and realized that without these people, the world would be in a much worse shape than it is now. They had helped to stop major environmental crimes that would be unimaginable today. I felt moved and very grateful that this organization exists.

One ugly German word that made Greenpeace famous during the eighties was „Dünnsäureverklappung“ – chemical companies got rid of their highly toxical acids by simply dumping them into the North Sea, and Greenpeace successfully stopped them.

On this day, families could take their kids on a ride with one of the famous Greenpeace rubber boats on the Rhine. They went pretty fast. I’m not sure I would dare to do this. I get seasick when I brush my teeth.

Sabine had enough adventures for this day, and drove home. I went to several concerts in the evening. The annual Kölner Musiknacht took place on this day – it offers dozens of concerts at many places throughout the city. One 15€ ticket pays for all concerts.

I had heard the quite wonderful jazz band Sepiasonic one day on the radio, 3 years ago, and my ears got really big. What was this? It sounded like a very poetic crossbred between Canterbury bands such as Hatfield and the North and modern Scandinavian jazz groups such as Hanne Hukkelberg. I loved it. Sepiasonic? They had a website with some music but no CD.

(Update: they have an album on Bandcamp now)

Anyway when I saw that they played in Cologne I was very happy that I could finally see them live, and I was not disappointed.

Swiss master clarinetist Claudio Puntin, jazz singer Insa Rudolph, and jazz guitarist Kim Efert (I loved his compositions and style – a kindred soul!) were accompanied by an amazing band that consisted of drums, bass, and three flutists – a very unusual setup but with everyone being a master of their instrument, very effective in creating interesting improvised soundscapes and highly sophisticated tunes in odd meters. When Insa Rudolph’s voice effortlessly soared above complex harmonic structures, and three flutes played playful and experimental compositions that reminded me of Egg and other Canterbury bands, I was a happy listener.

I talked to Insa after the concert and asked her about the CD. Apparently they are working on it and it might be released at the end of this year. Something to look forward to!

My next concert was two hours later. I walked through cold streets towards the Cologne Cathedral which was illuminated brightly. When I got there I saw that it was full of people for some kind of catholic event which had nothing to do with the Kölner Musiknacht.

Although this cathedral (when empty) can trigger some sort of feeling of presence in me, I’m not at all interested in Catholicism and cheering crowds of young Pope-the-popstar-fans. Actually I think that it is sad that so many kids get conditioned this way instead of learning about their conditionings in order to wake up from them, but I don’t want to go into that here. The cathedral remains a place of power to me regardless of what might go on in the people who come here.

The WDR Funkhaus, the old central building of the largest radio station in Germany, sits right across the cathedral. I have spent many hours of my life in its beautiful concert hall, seeing amazing concerts of many kinds, mostly avantgarde and world music. I hadn’t been here for a while. Coming here on this evening gave me a warm feeling of coming home.

The Iranian concert was scheduled for 10 pm – it was not yet 9 pm and cold outside, so I decided to attend the 9 pm concert with Baroque string music – more precisely, „NeoBarock“ with compositions of Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber. The violins were tuned in unusual ways but coming from the quite stunning performance of Sepiasonic, I found that I couldn’t open to this music.

Although I think of myself as very open to basically all kinds of music, I have problems being interested in some periods of classical music. Although the musicians played with breathtaking virtuosity, I found myself getting bored with the predictability of the compositions.

The 10 pm concert was a different category altogether – classical music, and modern music in the classical style, from Iran. The band played three long compositions that gave the instrumentalists ample space to improvise and show off their quite amazing virtuosity.

One of the percussionists was Peyman Nasehpour. We had met two years ago because he is a friend of Rick Walker. In May 2008, Peyman drove a couple of hours just to meet Rick at the livelooping festival that I had organized in Cologne. On the day after the festival, we all met again in Cologne and had a beer together – a delightful mix of musicians from many countries. I have been a Facebook contact of Peyman since (he even gave a frame drum lesson to me via Skype once), and he had invited me to this delightful concert.

Before the concert began, I noticed my old friend Walter and his wife in the audience. We met afterwards and talked, and then we saw that Kerstin Kilanowski had also been in the audience. Kerstin and me had been colleagues as students working in the department of education … 30 years ago? Our common colleague and Kerstin’s friend Gisela Schinawa also came and greeted me … she wondered where my long hair was … it seems I have changed a bit during 30 years …