June 22nd, 2013 - 1 Comment
and welcome to my blog.
October 25th, 2016 - Comments
There’s a certain Germanness all us foreigners eventually acquire, even in a place as supposedly un-German as Berlin. It’s a subtle kind of exclusivity, a humourous psychic connection that always arises when we the German-or-Germanised all agree that someone has “misbehaved”. And the transgression, too, is normally quite subtle; it’s the slightly too-loud or too-often cry for attention, the teeny-tiny disrespect of everyone’s seperateness, the mis- and non-understanding of the collective cultural attachment to dis-attachment, to interpersonal non-connection, to the Almighty personal bubble, as much energetic as physical.
And we know we have integrated once we find ourselves addicted to this exclusivity, against the will of our very hearts. We know it hurts and yet we cannot get enough of getting our own space, isolation limitless as holy entspannung; we cannot think and feel and taste enough of our carefully sequestered cerebral worlds (“Herzlich Willkommen to the Cosmos, population ONE. Please keep your feet off the seats in front of you and mind the gap on your way out…) and finally we find ourselves attached, in-love-with our lonelyness, less and less willing, and more and more unable to step outside it, and into the connectedness that is everything.
And thus we step AROUND it, with our humourous psychic connections, the quintessentially German smile in our eyes; we find our oneness under the table, out in the Ether, above our lonely brains and underneath our starved hearts — with only the “misbehavers” to remind us of how close we really are (and how German we’ve really become).
July 2nd, 2016 - 1 Comment
(From my journal
Feeling mildly nuts, brain spinning all kinds of insults and then reassurances, back and forth, one always trying to correct one correcting the other. You’re fat, no, you’re thick — a quote comes to mind, “Thick girls think they’re fat, and fat girls think they’re thick” — funny, but unhelpful. Nothing helps today, or ever, there’s no formula, recipe, equation; nothing helps but to ride it out, breathe in, breathe out, take naps when things get too intense, drink a shot of Slivovitz. Micro-dosing, maybe that helps. Or maybe finding the cure is the biggest bullshit of all, maybe there are no cures, there’s nothing to be healed, cause you’ll never stop being flawed, there will always be something that’s off, that’s life, that’s who you are, a dog rolling in piles of shit and dead fishes and rotting flesh to compulsively camoflage your scent.
Among other things, of course.
Playing viola is a wonderful relief these days, I play like a dream, with all the depth of my darkest, finally a way out, is art all I’m good for? Is the rest of my life always bound to a certain level of disaster? Who are these magical, self-assured, wildly successful people I am comparing myself to? Thin and non-nail-biting, finances always in order, always enough work, having the perfect boyfriend, nay, husband, the kind of guy who always returns phone calls, is never absent or complicated or on wild drug binges. Oh, living the dream. Some nasty voice “Oh, but wouldn’t you be bored if you had that life?“, as if being pursued by the same mental illnesses over and over was someone’s idea of interesting. Interesting, yes, but only if you turn it into something. In itself, painful — and the same “interesting” repeated enough times is boring to anyone.
And love, love, LOVE is the solution, but not at all love of another, getting or giving, as summertime opportunities present themselves to me. No, the love is more simple, a self-love, a total acceptance of one’s self, one’s character, in which case flaws turn into advantages, and problems cease to exist, or, at least, your perception of them (which is all that problems are). There are no problems when one is in the flow, following the current, not kicking and screaming but drowning, dying, giving up.
How would I feel if I didn’t know about anything better? If I didn’t have this idea that I would be cured one day in the future, that I will wake up one day and suddenly never feel bad ever again? That some Americanised perfection will one day materialise before me, and I will be one of those upstanding citizens, one of those imaginary people I so idealise, worship, compare myself to?
Someone told me the other day that it is better to aim for self-actualisation than happiness. And it is true, thinking of happiness does nothing but make me miserable. I am more self-actualised than ever, I am who I am and do what I am doing; but I am not happy, no, not today. If I were happy I would have nothing to write, nothing to do, thus, happiness is unavailable to me the artist, the one who wants to feel everything, the problems of the whole world, the problems that are not even my own fault, not even addressed to me specifically.
Maybe happiness is too vague and powerful of a term to be used so thoughtlessly. What the hell am I actually talking about? What exactly am I fighting about? And with whom?
At Bar Babette in Friedrichshain, the drummer Rudi Fischerlehner and guitarist Olaf Ruff about to play in front of me, CD launch concert for their duo project Xenofox.
Stiflingly hot room crowded with salt-and-pepper hairs, strangers, around me the excited gossip about the happenings of the free-jazz world, did you hear, Christian Lillinger this? Oh, Nicola Hein that! Oh, that festival, that duo was terrible, nur aus Höflichkeit bin ich da sitzen geblieben, meine Göte. Oh, Rudi and Olaf. They’re fantastic. I just love what they do!
And they are a great duo. Like a married couple, but the good kind of married couple, the kind of couple that gives hope for marriages everywhere; the music entirely improvised, and the message clear — melting, fusing of two souls, two completely innocuous yet totally psychadelic spirits, cool exactly because they weren’t trying to be, in an honest talk, no holds barred and nothing to prove, swimming deliciously through an atonal world centered around flow, feeling, ooze, texture, not melody or rhythm (or, godforbid, jazz!). Theirs is a pairing of motion, storytelling, but the plot is just music. Music for music about music.
Their passion overwhwelms me, fuses with the alcohol in my blood, and I am unable to write anymore. Their dedication moves me, their unquestioning faith in what they create is more than inspiring, it’s life-giving. Their music about music is a clear transfusion of joy after this confusing, heavy day.
May 4th, 2016 - 6 Comments
“You’re a violinist? How do you like David Garrett?” asked the man in the driver’s seat to the left of me, driving down the A2 at blistering German speed a few early mornings ago.
I had to tell him I didn’t know, though of course I had heard of him, and seen his enormous posters all around town last winter — David Garrett, world’s hunkiest violinist, standing outdoors at reddish sunset in ethereal rain, flowing blonde hair loose and wet on head turned melancholically to the side, tatooed 6-pack under a steamy white T-shirt under a leather jacket, devil-may-care limp arm holding a violin inches from the floor — like some sort of a cross between Fabio Lanzoni and a one-man 90s boy band, advertised as playing the “greatest hits of Violin”, whatever that meant.
I decided that it wasn’t really worth getting into a conversation about the philosophical ramifications of David Garrett, not that early in the morning, not with some complete stranger Mitfahrgelegenheit driver, and not, simply because I didn’t care about David Garrett. Even if he was as terrible as everyone supposed, I thought, somewhat cynically, that he was at least rather intelligent for having put together such a well-selling act. It seemed to me he had found a way to work way less hard than the average classical soloist and earn way more. We all gotta do what we gotta do, right? Who was I to judge the stadiums he filled? Who was I to judge his love of money? It was his life, he could do whatever he wanted. Nobody was forcing anybody to listen.
Sitting there, seatbelt on, with heavy eyelids and a stiff neck, hours of German Autobahn ahead of me, the driver started the album off, a mix of shyness and curiosity winning over any good reason for me to say no.
Little did I know what I was in for.
Though I was determined to listen with an open mind, and had indeed served as devil’s advocate of David Garrett in several conversations in the past, within a few moments I understood clearly why he had been the object of so much ire. The songs ranged in genres from Chinese restaurant pop, to 70′s rock covers that would make Freddie Mercury turn in his grave, to a few songs with singers I can only describe as Opera Eats its own Vomit, to classical “favorites” with the lovely addition of electric guitar, drum machine, and orchestra, complete with David Garrett favorite, (sampled) glockenspiel. The 40 or so tracks, spanning at least 2 and a half hours, were accompanied by what David Garrett tried to make me believe was a small rock band and orchestra, but what I heard was actually expensive samples layered with cuts of David Garrett’s own playing, multiplied and octavised and technology-whipped to the stiff peaks of the decidedly David-Garrett-y sounding string section of a David Garrett click-track karaoke orchestra. I realised there was only David Garrett on this David Garrett album; David Garrett’s trademark touching lyricism plus David Garrett’s ruggedly-handsome-yet-sensitive image played on David Garrett’s expensive Stradivarius mixed with David Garrett’s expensive gear made by David Garrett’s expensive collegues, all to feed David Garrett’s expensive life. It would not have even surprised me if David Garrett had forgone David Garrett’s expensive collegues and done the mastering, editing, and mixing of his David Garrett album all by his David Garrett self.
And the result lies, no, so much worse, it primordially oozes, in some disgusting subterranean crater somewhere in that godawful musical grey area between classical, pop, and soft-rock, and manages to be equally belittling to all three genres — if of course you can condescend to rock any more than putting the word soft in front of it (which David Garrett can. Easily). David Garrett says that classical musicians are prejudiced against the music he creates; but the real fact is, the music he makes is as equally terrible pop and rock and classical as it is way below even the standards of a German grocery store’s taste in music.
But it wasn’t the sheer tackiness of the album that disturbed me. Or even its total unoriginality! From “Hooked on Classics with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in the 80s, to Hans die Geige, the original German rock violinist from the 70s onwards, to even Nigel Kennedy and countless others, this kind of thing has been done again and again.
What really disturbed me, and continues to, was the manner with which he played it. I couldn’t understand for the life of me what he meant. Was he playing from his heart? Was he serious? Was he being ironic? Was he “breaking free of the classical shackles” etc.? I don’t hesitate to say he’s an excellent violinist, and even a pretty good musician. He has a beautiful sound from a magnificent Stradivarius, and fantastically sensitive ears. It would make no sense to complain about David Garrett’s performance, because David Garrett knows EXACTLY what David Garrett is doing.
No, what really perturbed my intellect, what squeezed my feelings through so many hate-filled corridors of the mind, what nauseated my soul — what really got me, was nothing less than the unspeakable shameless evil that vibrated out of every knowing, cunning, insidious moment of this deeply diseased musical by-product. It was an evil so thick it made no sound at all; it was empty, sinister, abysmal; the same quiet hole that overcomes any decent person thinking about world politics, or genital mutilation, or animals in slaughterhouses. It was too sick to think about, too evil to process, too gross to fathom. It was pure anesthety.
David Garrett’s album is, simply, the most mind-numbing, emotionally-paralysing, soul-murdering bullshit I have ever heard in my whole life. And frankly, the question we ought to be asking ourselves is not whether or not we like or approve of David Garrett — but rather, we should strive for deeper examination, and we should ask ourselves whether David Garrett might be the ruler of hell, the musical incarnation of the devil.