It was September 15th, 2019, and the historic Kottbusser Tor parking lot was transformed into a resonant body. For 60 minutes, we witnessed a furniture music concert: the concrete framing the space, time and sound. Marc Augé‘s ‘no-places’ were filled with the musique concrète of Eli Keszler as part of the cycle Disappearing Berlin.
“Furniture music is basically industrial. The custom, the usage, is to make music on occasions when music has nothing to do. We want to establish music that meets ‘useful needs.’ Furniture music creates a vibration that has no other purpose; it plays the same role as light and heat in all its forms…”, — Erik Satie in a letter to Jean Cocteau.
The useful need for a Brutalist-style residential building or a parking lot inserted in a city neighbourhood is nothing more than that: functional spaces with a practical reason for their existence. The dissonance and sound deconstruction that Keszler presents in his live shows and, mostly, in his latest album, Stadium (2018), were the perfect sounds to induce us into some sort of collective hypnosis.
The mundane kept moving in time with the mundane. Eli’s minimalist sound —between samples and delicate touches of his drums— was the soundtrack of our afternoon. The drums also became furniture, and the spectators mutated and became resonant bodies. Keszler set his parking-stage to music and filled the lives of the residents of a concrete building with renewed sound.
A brutalist residential space that reminded us of East Germany, with neighbours who looked out curiously through its windows or who walked between the corridors-veins of that enormous mass of concrete. It was an ordinary Sunday that was differentiated from others thanks to a delicate grinding, a sharp melody in the background that resembled the sound of keys when opening the door or cutlery when they collide while we eat. The everyday experience turned into an artistic excuse, an opportunity to enjoy the virtuosity of Keszler.
“Percussion music is revolution,” said John Cage in an essay published in 1939. And for the purposes of this Sunday afternoon, percussion became the clamour of non-places, of uncomfortable silences, of faceless furniture. On this occasion, it served as a hymn for the symbolic spaces of the city, reclaiming its value and its history.
That Sunday, Kottbusser Tor stopped being a parking lot, just as its great neighbour stopped being concrete, and both became more than utility spaces. They were sources of music, light, warmth and comfort in all its forms. We witnessed Eli Keszler performing furniture music and were happy for a time frame that felt endless.
About Disappearing Berlin
Berlin is a city that is continuously changing. It is an entity that feeds on its history to reinvent itself –and avoids being defined by its past, present or future–. Although its identity is not about a mask but the unquestionable character of the German capital. Since its reconstruction and separation after World War II, the city has given way to an architectural and ideological dichotomy.
Disappearing Berlin faces the loss of history and the face that is currently transforming the German capital. The project has selected some of the most unique urban and architectural spaces in Berlin – and which are presently at risk of disappearing – to frame its program of concerts and live performances.
“An old GDR swimming pool, a parking lot, a club from yesteryear, office towers from the 70s and 80s, a power plant, brutalist buildings – places where the different eras and ideologies that Berlin has lived through in recent years they have signed up and manifested. ‘Disappearing Berlin’ faces the loss of history, but looks forward to doing so, as Einstürzende Neubauten warned at the time: ‘The new temples already have cracks (…) They are only future ruins, material for the next layer. ”
Disappearing Berlin is a project that will last one year. It is presented by the Schinkel Pavillon and is supported by the Hauptstadtkulturfonds (Capital Culture Fund) and Spartenoffene Förderung of the city of Berlin.