In an era so taken with recycling whatever it can lay its hands on – ideas, objects, aesthetics, … – notions of historical lineage, or true, "original" forms are lost, or almost instantly forgotten as soon as they appear. But this seemingly endless cycle may also generate a certain yearning for knowledge of the past, for notions of roots and timelines, which can lead to amazing discoveries; one of which is featured here.
Presented at the Funkhaus Nalepastrasse, home of the GDR National Broadcasting Corporation until 1990, "The Child of the Golden Age" tells the story of an old GDR synthesizer, the Subharchord, and weaves it into the present day, intermingling electronic music, cold-war politics, and the experimental music scene in Norway along the way.
Built in the 1960s in East Berlin, the Subharchord was an electronic sound generator ahead of its time, of which only 7 instruments were ever built. Based on the Mixturtrautonium, an instrument developed in the West by Oskar Sala, the Subharchord differs from conventional synthesizers in that it produces subharmonic sounds, or "undertones" of a given note, which, unlike the more familiar "overtones", do not exist in nature. As nobody but Salas had mastered or played the Mixturtrautonium before his death, it seemed that the sound world of subharmonics was lost… until the Subharchord resurfaced.
Thanks in part to the tireless work of sound art curator Carsten Seiffarth, who will be moderating the entire afternoon, the Subharchord is slowly coming into the limelight. The programme features performances by artists who have worked or are working with the instrument, including the world premiere of a commissioned piece by Biosphere + The Pitch, as well as a live audiovisual performance of "Kippschwingung" by Frank Bretschneider, and a playback of Frederic Rzewski's 1965 Subharchord magnetic tape piece, "Zoologischer Garten".
The afternoon begins with an exclusive preview and discussion of the upcoming "Subharchord – A Child of the Golden Age" documentary directed by Ina Pillat, who will also be recording the performances for the film. Furthermore, the Funkhaus Nalepastrasse cult studio, Hörspiel 2, will open its doors to the public especially for this event. The work and experimentation which took place in these studios is described in Der Raum ist das Kleid der Musik, a new book published by Gerhard Steinke, who led East Berlin's "Labor für musikalisch-akustische Grenzprobleme" (Laboratory for musical and acoustic boundary issues) during the time the Subharchord was developed and built, and who will also be present to discuss his involvement with the development of this unique instrument. The event is rounded out by a roundtable discussion between Carsten Seiffarth, Frederic Rzewski, and Gerhard Steinke.
Exlusive work in progress preview via realeyz.tv
With the kind support of the Embassy of Norway, Atelier Nord, PNEK, Nordisk Kulturfonds, the Norwegian Arts Council, Hörspiel 2, Stiftung Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin, and Funkhaus Nalepastrasse.
Thank you also to Frau Susanne Graef, Georg Geike, Uwe Förster, Joseph Hoppe, Klaus Bechstein, Gerhard Steinke, Ivar Smedstad, Linda Vage, Bjørnar Habbestad, and Carsten Seiffarth.
Carsten Seiffarth is the founder and artistic director of Berlin sound art gallery singuhr – hoergalerie and, together with Carsten Stabenow, is one of the main driving forces behind DOCK e.V.
Inventor, researcher, author, and sound engineer, Gerhard Steinke was responsible for the introduction of stereophonic broadcasting in East Germany and, in 1962, set up an experimental electronic music studio with the new Subharchord synthesizer.
Frank Bretschneider is a Berlin-based composer known for rhythmic-sine-funk experiments. A veteran of Germany’s electronic music scene, his involvement dates back to pre-unification days with the experimental pop group AG.Geige. He later co-founded influential imprint Raster.
Pianist and composer Rzewski is one the most notable figures in new music to have emerged in the 60s. He is best known for “process pieces” that combine improvisation with notation and instructions, text-based instrumental works, and experiments with serial composition.
Director Ina Pillat is originally from East Germany, now living in Oslo. She was educated at the Burg Giebichenstein in Halle and Art Hochschule für Medien in Cologne, as a fashion and media designer. She produced her first documentary film in 1995, at the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne, and subsequently worked an editor, designer and producer for public and private TV channels and several production companies in Cologne and Berlin for over eight years. She has worked as an independent filmmaker and producer since 2003, focusing on projects taking place on the border regions of Poland, Czechia, and Germany.
Biosphere (Geir Jenssen) from Tromsø, Norway, has been making electronic music since the mid 80s, and is renowned for the style known as “arctic ambient”. The first Biosphere releases appeared in 1991 and he is on the roster of labels such as of Eno’s All Saints Records and UK imprint, Touch.
A quartet of bass, vibraphone, clarinet, and harmonium, that explores the tension between tone, pitch, duration, and interaction, The Pitch use bass patterned structures in prescribed combinations to create “liquid music”.
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