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Monday, 26 June 2006

Phillip's Concert

I came to Germany to see Phillip Schulze's diplome at the HFG in Karlsruhe.. He gave a concert and then his thesis committee met immediately afterwards and decided if he could graduate.

So in the morning after I arrived in Germany, I took a hike in the Black Forest, attracted a creature which I had not yet discovered, and then in the evening went to see his concert. It started with a five minute film loop. People went in small batched to see the film. This is a good way to start an event like this because it means you can start on time and still accomodate latecomers. Plus people who go first to see the film can discuss it afterwards. There were many people from the previous evening's art opening that I recognized and so we spoke for a bit about the film.

It started in the woods, with busts of flashlight on trees. A little bit like the Blair Witch Project, with a music designed to create a certain amount of tension, but not too much. Then it moved to more domestic surroundings, but always at night and always lit by flashlight. It was very well done, something that you might expect to find in a museum.

Then he had a string quartet. It was a video score on four screens, surrounding the audience. the string players did glissandos on two strings, from a very low note to a very high note. As they progressed, they became out of synch with each other and in between the two strings they each played. The video score was a very slow motion image of a man being lifted up this scaffolding structure. Two people on an upper level would grab and pull, while two people on a lower structure would push upwards. As the movies went on, they got out of synch with each other and out of synch with themselves so that the image was doubled. This, of course, went with the glissando, always upwards and more and more out of synch. As the images doubled, the expressions of the people in films became obscured. what may originally have been an expression of joy became a grimace or a pained look. Was he in rapture? In agony? the piece was very very good.

Then, after the string piece finished, , while we were all still sitting in the performance studio, a couple of people got up and started moving the wall structures aside. The way that they did it seemed choreographed and performative, but I don't know if this was a feature of the way the space was designed or something more deliberate. As the last few pieces of wall were pushed aside, a large door to the street was opened. The sounds of revving engines echoed. Three pimped out cars drove into the school and parked just outside where the studio wall had been.

They opened their trunks and their passenger doors. The one on the right was parked with it's trunk to me. Inside was fuzzy lining, a glowing mask from the film Scream, a playstation and a small laser light show, which played on the school's cement floor.

In the driver's seat of each was the car's owner. On the passenger side was a musician with a laptop. All of the engines were still running. The car's sound systems and lights were attached to the laptop. The laptop guys started to play sounds through the incredibly loud car sound systems. Phillip later said they were doing a feedback piece. The car that he was in revved it's engine loudly (no small feat to make a TDI roar like that) and for a few moments, the sound of the engine and the sound fo the computer merged. Then the physical presence of the sound died away, but the computer echos remained, getting gradually pixelated. the space was large enough that pollution did not become a problem.

Phillip said later that he was thinking about small acoustical spaces and started wondering about cars. The idea worked wonderfully and while completely surprising, was not at all gimmicky.

After the car piece, one of Phillip's friends carried in several cases of beer. The most outrageous car (not the one with the laser light show) stayed behind, stopped it's engine and turned up some pop music for a small party while the thesis committee met. Two gave speeches about how great a student Phillip was. The party continued. The lights were low. I was exhausted from walking all day. And my blood was slowly being siphoned away (unbeknownst to me). I fell asleep leaning against a pillar.

I was woken up by the party moving. We had to leave the space. I was staying with Phillip, so I had to go with them. Walking outside in the cold air woke me up. We went to a bar, but the bar wanted to close, since it was like 2:00 am. Nicole and Phillip's brother went home, as did many others. The rest went on to another bar which threw us out (much less friendly/ exasperated than the previous one) at 4:00 am. We stood around for a while and decided what to do. Everyone but me and one other guy was on a bicycle. They leaned on their bikes and talked about where to go. Two guys went to a kebab called "Viva la Mexico." The Kebab was closing because of the late hour. The sky was lightening from the approaching sunrise. There were maybe 5 of us left. I couldn't think straight anymore. We went home, finally. I was exhausted, but I thought, "when is the next time I'll stay out all night partying in Baden?

Somebody told me that Phillip found the pimped cars by hanging out at a gas station. I asked him about it later and he said it was true. "this gas station is the best place to hang out in Karlsruhe" he said seriously. He told a story about staying out so late drinking with friends that they had been thrown out of every bar, even a Thai Karaoke bar. The sun was coming up, so they went to the gas station and bought beer in the mini-mart. Then they sat outside of the gas station and drank beer, until finally it got so very very late that they retreated to Phillip's flat where they listened to a long composition by Anthony Braxton played on two saxophones and a bagpipe. One of the members of the group passed out.

Apparently, the opportunity to stay all out all night partying in Baden might come sooner that I would have thought.

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