Friday, October 26, 2007

A moment in the spotlight

Last night I gave a lecture at the Academy. All of the Fellows are required to do this once during our stay, and it is the main event of our time here. It was certainly quite an event for me. Many people are invited: in my case, about 70 were in attendance overall. They included journalists, musicologists and other academics from German universities, the other Fellows, and several musicians whom I have interviewed during the course of my research.

The evening began at 6 p.m., with drinks followed by a 3-course dinner. Then, I was introduced by the moderator, a musicologist from the University of Leipzig. My talk lasted about 50 minutes, and then there was a Q&A that wented until well after 10 p.m.! The questions were really excellent, very thought-provoking. A real highlight was when Robert Henke (Monolake, a musician and creator of the software Live), chimed in in response to one of the questions and spoke very eloquently from his own knowledge about EDM performance.

Afterward, another Fellow hosted an after-party for me here. Today, of course, I am absolutely exhausted--which is why I am home updating my blog tonight instead of going out!!

In other news, I was featured this week in Tip, a bi-weekly news magazine comparable to Philadelphia Weekly or something like that. They are supposed to interview me for a longer piece on Thursday.

True dedication

means that you don't let international travel slow you down. So, after returning last Saturday night from Oslo, I stowed my stuff and promptly headed out. I had heard about a cool venue, only open for a couple of weeks, in Neukölln, a slightly outlying eastern neighborhood that until recently was considered very unhip. Now everything is pushing ever outwards and eastward. Soon the Berlin hipsters will be going out in Poland...

As it turns out, it was part of a play, yes, a *play* about club culture. I did not see the play myself, as I didn't get back to my apartment until 11.30, but anyway, it apparently went straight into a club night.

The club was in a former brewery. Walking toward it, one only saw a squat one-story building. Upon entering, however, one saw the entire first floor--the space of an entire warehouse--open, and filled only with the light of a single, swaying disco ball:

This was not the actual club, however, but only the entryway. In fact, people were riding their bicycles through it! After going through the door, one descended *five* floors to the club space proper. The ceiling was very high, and featured large holes in the wall, through which the beer pipes had once gone! Here you can see light shining through one of them:

Some of the holes were at ground level, and one had to walk through them to get from the main club space to a secondary area. I went over there, where I saw a sign reading "Creperie." "How kitsch!", I thought. Except then I realized they were actually serving crepes, made to order. I had one with lemon and sugar.

There was also a sofa suspended on the wall of the main dance area, at least 12 feet up. I assumed this was some kind of postmodern decoration (well, it was, after all). But later, some people piggy-backed their way up and were actually sitting there!

There are much better pictures of the place than I could have taken here:

After leaving this place after 4 I was, improbably, quite awake, so I went to Berghain. This was kind of a mistake--it took me almost an hour to get in due to the line. There was some sort of circuit party going on that weekend and it was more packed than I've seen it anytime during this visit. Going beyond the usual shirtlessness, many people were walking about in jockstraps, etc., and one guy was completely naked except for his boots...

Oslo 2007

Last week I again attended and presented a paper at the workshop on "Rhythm in the Age of Digital Reproduction" at the University of Oslo. Here is the program:

As was the case last year, the actual conference was held in this ski-lodge type place on a mountain overlooking Oslo. I took some nice photos.

The sky was very clear when we arrived, so we could look down on Oslo fjord:

Here is the evening star (Venus?) coming out, and then the moon:

Und was noch?

Lest you think that all I *ever* do is go to clubs, here are some pics from other things I've done recently. Such as: the Amy Winehouse show on October 15 (she didn't vomit or even fall down!)

Here she is singing "You Know I'm No Good":

On a quite unrelated note, I went for a walk in the Grünewald, a very large forest in the general area of Wannsee, on Sunday the 14th. This picture I found rather interesting and alarming:

It says "Dogs must be on a leash!" The dog in question is being catapulted into the air by a wild boar--yes, a wild boar. These creatures roam Berlin wooded areas quite freely. A week or so I actually heard some after coming back from a club. Creeepy! Perhaps the non-vegetarians will appreciate the fact that they frequently serve them for dinner at the American Academy.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Jeff Mills

On October 7 I attended a 3-hour DJ set by Jeff Mills at the new Tresor club. I saw the whole thing except for the last 5 minutes or so. Because of knowing nice people from the label, I got to view much of the performance from on stage. (I also got to see the unopened parts of the club, which are these weird empty former factory parts. The building is unbelievably huge...)

He played with 3 turntables, 2 CDJs, and a 909. In general he would use these in chunks, rather than mixing them all up--i.e., maybe 10 minutes w/ the tables, then 10 with the CDJs, and so on.

When he played the 909 he was really “playing” it. It was quite incredible. One could see him turning the knobs and hear the sound being very immediately affected.

Quite a few of the top Tresor producers from Berlin were there. I was impressed to see that these serious DJs had all come out to hear him—it speaks to his reputation/respect.

I tried to pay attention to his record digging behavior. As always it was extremely fast. In general, he seemed to be very much in the zone. He smiled several times, as if he were happy to be playing for a home crowd. The crowd was 2/3 male (big surprise there). Lots of shirts showing techno allegiances: Underground Resistance, "Berlin-Detroit: A Techno Alliance." The place was packed the whole time.

At 5 I went to Berghain, where I achieved a new personal best by staying until 8.15 a.m. :)

Sunday, October 7, 2007


I have been berating myself on a daily basis for getting behind on my blogging again ... Oy. Last week I was sick, although that only covers one week. Oh well ... here is a start at catching up, at least.

From September 19-23 was PopKomm, a conference/tradeshow kind of thing for various kinds of rock, pop, and dance music. Lots of shows were happening all over town.

In the interest of comparative musicology, I attended two different shows by Henrik Schwarz, a musician whom I have interviewed in the past.

The first was on Thursday the 20th, at Club 103 in Kreuzberg. It's more or less next door to Watergate. Here is the flyer:

The second was, I had been told, at Panoramabar on Sunday night. I was really wondering what sort of freaks would be left around there at 8 p.m. on a Sunday! Keep in mind, of course, that
8 p.m. Sunday counts as really late Saturday night here...

As it turns out, the 2nd gig wasn't really in Panoramabar, but next door. Berghain has a "Kantine" next door called Rudersdorf. It is rather pleasant: there is an outdoor area with tables, a restaurant, a fountain (!), and swings. Inside is a decent-size club space.

The audience, as it turns out, looked like they had slept and bathed at some point, so the vibe was actually more Sunday-night-ish. It was quite mellow and pleasant. They were quite into the music, and Henrik played very well.

I had been curious to see how similar or different the two performances would be musically. They turned out to be very different: I recognized only 5-6 tracks shared among them, and they occurred in different places, for the most part.

All of the pics are from the 103 club. I didn't take pictures at Rudow/Panoramabar/whatever. Although they didn't take my camera, considering the ban on pictures at Berghain, I decided it would be like the curse of the Pharaoh or something to take pictures there...