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Music from water tanks and an empty bridge

In finding spaces with unobvious acoustic properties, the Germans seem to have no equals. I write shortly about three albums, recorded in unusual circumstances.

VARIOUS ARTISTS Vor Der Flut (Hommage An Einen Wasserspeicher), Eigelstein Musikproduktion, 1984.

“Vor Der Flut (Hommage An Einen Wasserspeicher)” from 1984 is a compilation, documenting an unusual event that took place at the Severin reservoir in the south of Cologne. It combined music and dance activities by artists and creators such as Pauline Oliveros, the folk band Lilienthal, the Kölner Saxophon Mafia, Conrad Bauer and Heiner Goebbels, among others, took advantage of the uncommon reverberation of the place, turning it into a unique resonance box. The avant-garde recordings have been captured on a two-part album that documents both the musical interventions and the performative actions – everything sounds surprisingly coherent, even soothing; it attracts attention with its resonance and capital thinking about the place and its site-specific character.

AZEN KERBAJ Walls Will Fall: The 49 Trumpets of Jericho, Bohemian Drips, 2018.

Recorded under the leadership of trumpeter Mazen Kerbaj, the monumental undertaking “Walls Will Fail: The 49 Trumpets of Jericho” documents the playing of 49 trumpeters from more than a dozen countries. They created a piece in Berlin’s Pankow large water reservoir as part of the Speicher festival organised by Bohemian Drips. The circular rings of the reservoir carry the acoustics on several levels, and also allow them to “play” with the walls, both when the musicians play long phrases, carried along but also when they strain out sparse, sonorous plays, tapping on their mouthpieces, which resonate just as successfully in this place. Lasting over half an hour, the composition holds the drama and narrative, showing the symbiotic coexistence of several dozen people and the bravura idea of how so many people are not lost in the noise of sound, but create a selectively sounding composition.

LEA BERTUCCI Acoustic Shadows, SA Recordings, 2020.

The third album is “Acoustic Shadows” by saxophonist and composer Lea Bertucci, who was invited by the Brückenmusik project to create three compositions – for solo saxophone, a brass octet and a percussion ensemble – to be played in the empty interior of the 440-metre-long Deutzer bridge over the river Rhine in Cologne. The album contains only compositions for brass and percussion (the artist could be heard solo on “Metal Aether” album). The unified instrumentation resonates with extraordinary power – the brass is dignified and loud, the percussion resolutely fills the space. The composition was accompanied by a great idea of recording the material: we hear the instruments from afar, in various places; the production purism was replaced by an attempt to render the character of the place and the music created there as faithfully as possible.