The Disappearing Divide

Here's a link to my latest "Rockwell Matters" radio program, about how the barriers between classical and popular music are melting faster than the Arctic ice.
March 24, 2008 10:11 PM | | Comments (1)


Hi John. This is a response to your “Geek” posting on Berlin on the NAJP site, but it didn’t take it, so I’m posting it here.

I've been living in Berlin for six months now, very glad to see you're blogging.

I've been enjoying catching up with stuff I had been eyeing from afar, and discovering previously unknown gems I suspected I would find here, and did. To be honest I haven't really sensed the blood sucking you referred to - for example, if the Pollesch texts I experienced recently at the Volksbuehne indeed draw weightily from Western civilization, the breathless way his actors race through them creates an energy which seems to transcend its subject, and indeed seems to be what the piece is really about. But I shall ponder that one.

Highlights have been:

Rimini Protokoll - imagine the Wooster Group letting their hair down technically (I know, I know...) and doing a “reality show” documentary with non-performers with stories to tell about their area of expertise. Breaks down the fourth wall by having people - not characters - on stage you really could have bumped into on the street before you walked in, and reveals what’s interesting about them in a conceptual art context which at its best does not intrude.

Stifters Dinge, a Heiner Goebbels work for mechanical instruments, recorded music and text and some amazingly animated chemical fog. Out of this world.

Goebbel's Surrogate Cities performed by the Berlin Philharmonic in a vast rock music venue, with dozens of Zukunft@BPhil participants from five year olds to elders choreographed by Mathilde Monnier. As far as I can tell, Rattle is really succeeding in his quest to create the first truly 21st century orchestra. Is anyone else even close? You would know better than I.

The Volksbuehne. I know the critics hate it, and it's in the middle of a generational crisis, and a single trip there can be bewildering, but I don't know any other theatre where you walk through the doors and you immediately enter another world, with its own unique rules of engagement. Once you've accepted those rules, it seems almost churlish to be critical about what happens there, it would just prevent you from immersing yourself in the entire experience, bewildering or verbally pummeling or headache inducing or no. The energy in that building is simply incredible.

A "Festival evening" at the Sophiensaele, where the audience donned animal masks in packs and were led by solo performers through participatory pagan-like activities. Nice frame of ritual, which was unobtrusively built around the proceedings. I was a wolf, and made hummous.

Castelucci - I finally caught up with him at Euroscene in Leipzig, glad to see he's finally doing some serious touring in the States.

An observation - I'm struck by the widespread convention of having actors breaking out into American and English pop songs in the middle of a production. I'm told Castdorf has been doing this for years, but it still feels very fresh to me. Although it's very similar to the way Richard Maxwell stages his own songs, it's got quite a different impact and feel, and taps into quite a different mythology. Maybe some creative blood sucking going on here - if so, the way it leavens the experience with various pinches of irony almost always seems to go down a treat... I suspect it must be the cabaret influence, can't imagine this going down as well in London or New York.

Hope you're enjoying your retirement, can't imagine you're not busy. Look forward to your next blog.

PS I happened to be in town during the last night of Murx den Europaer, but there was a line a mile long and couldn't get in - ah well, I really appreciate you putting us onto it all those years ago.


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