Notes from the Berliner Philharmoniker

https://instagram.com/p/BjncjKPHm0R/

Since a good couple of weeks, Berlin is bathing in the sun and even though the summer has not even started, people in the city seem to indulge themselves in the warm nights, long days and refreshing water of the surrounding lakes. I am touring as well: I have just returned from a couple of weeks spent in Barcelona and Galicia, where I spoke at a conference and this week I’m heavily involved in the hackdays happening at my company, as well as participating at Tech Open Air – giving some talks in the forthcoming weeks. Thus, with so much happiness and excitement outside, it’s not a perfect season for writing these days. Well, there’s no such things as a perfect setting for writing anyway, so why not just scribble a few notes.

Upon my arrival from travels, I was expecting a great cultural thrill though: seeing Max Richter performing in the magnificent Berliner Philharmoniker. Booking tickets 6 months in advance is a reality if you want to participate, so I was anxiously looking forward to it. After all, I missed the famous performance of the ‘Sleep’ at Kraftwerk two years ago.

Richter performed ‘Infra’ and ‘Blue Notebooks’ this time, inspired by Schumann’s Winterreise and political happenings at the times he wrote these pieces. It sounded very profoundly, illustrated by the special lighting and the venue itself. I’ve been to the Philharmonic several times. Once, me and my friend missed an opening in the neighbouring gallery and simply bought the tickets from a nice elderly couple that were cold and thought inappropriate to participate in a concert coughing.

What is special about this place is not only the architecture, but its philosophy of accessibility, so far away from monumental and baroque design of Philharmonic, that often happens elsewhere. I am proud that I live in the city where art, culture and social participation matters so much. Berlin might be changing, even in these four years I’ve been living here, but its connection to art is special and making other live choices of leaving the city at some point so difficult. Even though my relationship with German language is still far from perfect and I am truly a ‘new Berliner’, I’ve managed to see a lot and try to understand the city much as I can, also through participation.

I love the egalitarian spirit of Berlin. In the warm summer night, I saw a very diverse crowd at the Philharmonic, connected together. Hope that this spirit prevails the hype, raising inequalities and general craziness on various levels.

Piano Salon Christophori

Long live the Piano! Salon Christophori takes this very seriously. Last month I had a chance to finally visit this magic place, to hear Paulo Bonomini on cello and Maria Yulin on piano performing Debussy’s Nocturne & Scherzo L.26 and Sonata for Cello and Piano L.144; Ravel’s Sonate Posthume and Rachmaninov’s Sonata for Cello and Piano, op. 19.

 

Located in the area near Uferstudios and Café Pförtner, Piano Salon Christophori takes care of the old pianos in terms of renovating them, and hosts almost daily concerts with a broad range of classical repertoire.

Since years, it’s organically attracted music lovers and I didn’t have much luck in the past booking my spot in this intimate concert hall. This month, one of the dark, cold and still freezing days I decided that the venue would be perfect to spend one of my weekday evenings enjoying the music. Upon the arrival, I had a seat waiting for me with my name and surname printed, in this very charming, DYI setting. In price of 25 EUR (back in a day it used to a ‘donate or pay-as-you-wish’ model) you not only get to listen to brilliant repertoire, but also taste wine and soft drinks during intermission.

The atmosphere of this Wedding-based venue is truly magical and I already decided to return with a group of friends, to wind down and immerse into sound, awaiting for the spring to really kick off in Berlin this year.

 

Skalar – mirroring light and sound

Let the pictures speak for themselves – this weekend CTM’s 2018 installation Skalar has opened to public for the last time in Kraftwerk, an emblematic venue of Berlin Atonal.

The installation by Christopher Bauder and Kanding Ray is a one hour journey through human perception of light and sound. It has gone viral all over Instagram and social media, and not without a reason. It is simply stunning.

CTM’s theme of 2018 was ‘Turmoil’ and definitely, Skalar was its highlight. Long after leaving Kraftwerk last night, I am covered by goose bumps. Looking forward to the forthcoming The Long Now in one month, as the Berlin sunny, even though freezing days, are here to stay.

Radiohouse

Funkhaus stands for a broadcasting station in German, and is also one of my favourite venue in Berlin. Not surprisingly, this building is a former GDR radio broadcast centre built in the 50s. It’s located far East of the city, overlooking River Spree and it’s already quite a challenge to get in there, especially if you do it for the first time. In 2017, it was a venue for events like TOA, Loop and various concerts labeled as Funkhaus Sessions, such as Francesco Tristano’s, Jan Jelinek’s & Kaithlyn Aurelia Smith’s or Lamb’s 20th anniversary tour.

Since music is one of the primary reasons why I’ve been living in Berlin for over 3 years, both in my professional and in my private life, no wonder I spend a good chunk of my time off at gigs. I’m no longer keen to put long hours in partying, I focus mostly on the concerts these days.

And Funkhaus is one of my top-notch venue for large-scale electronic and experimental music events, live performances and installations. It’s also a house for MONOM, an experimental performance and spatial sound studio, equipped with a high-spec 4DSOUND system, a spatial instrument that enables a physical and interactive sound environment.

What I love the most about concerts at Funkhaus, is the great fusion of 50s architecture taste, great sound acoustics and a special, intimate bond between the artists on stage and the audience.

I am already looking forward to some of the Funkhaus Sessions in 2018, as the line up looks equally exciting as in the past couple of years.

In the summer, especially when the events such as Tech Open Air take place, one can reach Funkhaus by a boat, in the winter, it often means a long ride in the darkness by a tram 21 and a long walk by the misty banks of Spree. The feeling of arriving in the cosy, stylish and wooden House of the Radio Sound is one of it’s kind though.

So even if today I’ll miss Nils Frahm’s concert I was waiting for a long time (sold out 6 months in advance or so), simply because a January flu knocked me off my feet this week, I hope others that can participate in this event, will enjoy it on my behalf!

 

Kosmische Klänge

Exactly 3 years ago I started off writing this blog with a very ambitious plan to describe the most remarkable happenings in my life, starring the city of Berlin as a main hero(ine). Since then my life took various twists, turns and I focused on different things. You could read about the clubbing peculiarities, concerts and music performances, contemporary art and dance, and last but not least: about my getaways within Germany and more distant corners of the planet Earth.

These days I am running behind my backlog of the events, socializing and trying to balance it out with getting away from Berlin at least once per month. To remain ever-changing fresh perspective, look for inspirations and discover the unknown. At the same time, I get older and enjoy living healthy, sleeping a lot and binge reading good books.

 

And there are still places I have not yet discovered! This month’s spotlight goes onto the Planetarium (Zeiss-Grossplanetarium in Prenzlauer Berg). Ever since I saw it’s colourful, illuminated copula I was curious about the events happening inside the eye for the cosmos. Still, I had no expectations, like with most of the new places I visit.

 

For my initial visit, I picked an event which involved not only spatial views, but also cosmic sounds labeled as ‘Contentious Constant‘ by M.E.S.H., Sapphire Slows & Moonwheel.

 

The blend of music, sound and space was breathtaking: I teleported myself on another orbit, and found it difficult to come back. Especially that I developed some light motion sickness while travelling without moving in planetarium.

 

The Zeiss-Gross Planetarium is celebrating over 30 years of existence and offers various events: from typically scientific presentations to concerts and classical music. A mixture of drone music in space was probably the most amazing choice to combine my own tastes.

 

To finalize the food for thought for this month’s highlight I realized that my expectations from art and events have risen greatly for the past couple of years. There are spaces in Berlin which almost always guarantee truly high-quality art experience, and there are some good surprises from the new places too. However, in the jungle of art and music scene events that this city lives and breathes, sometimes it’s difficult to differentiate the truly amazing gems from mediocre stuff. Since I made a conscious decision to only dedicate time to good things in life, art is no exception.

Berlin-Tokyo-connection

It’s been already 4 months since I visited Japan, but I can’t get this place out of my mind. Eating out Japanese food, drinking matcha instead of coffee and listening to Japanese jazz & funk in Berlin can help only partially, as I miss this place so much! And I only scratched the surface. However, in a way I do think that these cities are somewhat connected in the way they bridge 24/7 craziness with awesome and orderly urban planning, let alone big errors in their history and reinventing themselves after all.

So it’s high time to publish at least some of my photos taken during my 15 days travelling around and visiting Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Koya-San, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Nagasaki, Gunkanjima, Yokohama and Nikko. Indeed, scratching the surface but there is so much to see almost everywhere!

When I landed in Tokyo, although jet lagged and overwhelmed by 22nd century inventions (TOTO included), I already felt I will love the place. I’ve chosen a good time to visit: Indian summer felt warm, but not too humid, which can be a problem if you visit Tokyo during summer months. I decided to share my time and energy between the crazy neighbourhoods like Ikebukuro, Akihabara and Shinjuku and peaceful places like Ueno Park, Asakusa or Hamarikyu Gardens.

But usual unusual places like owl shrines, directions to ‘Sunshine’, noisy pachinko spots and cat cafes were stealing my attention continuously. Crowded Tokyo makes anything possible: J-pop merging with dark techno, commercial centres located next to sacred shinto places. And its cities for some reason stay almost sterile.

Not only safety and cleanness impress tourists, also train and subway connections make you feel very small. But not lost – it’s actually very difficult to get lost in Japan, even if you don’t know the language. Everyone is helpful, patient and information is usually available in English… to some extent. For some reason I always felt I was missing out a lot, if not being ‘lost in translation’.

Among the most remarkable things I’ve done in Tokyo I listed: visiting geysha bar with my sexologist friend Masayoshi, trying to fry our own okonomiyaki with Gosia – a friend from Poznan I only managed to meet in Tokyo after years, and visiting onsen in Tokyo Dome with Kyoto-born and Spanish-speaking Yasue followed by a feast of ‘Japanese tapas’. All of that, was shockingly (!) good!

My personal highlight would definitely be digging the vinyl crates around Shibuya and Ebisu and finding some rare gems at Jazzy Sport Music Shop, to start off. And buying XS-sized Issey Miyake clothes that fit me on a ridiculous sale.

For some people the size of Tokyo is overwhelming, but I have to admit, after finding my way throughout the city, I felt pretty comfortable commuting between the neighbourhoods. I guess it’s the proportion between the amount of concrete and the green spaces that makes Tokyo such a healthy living organism. Also, I was told that it never stays the same: due to space limitations, the buildings are rebuilt approximately within 10-20 years, so chances are, that when I visit it next, I won’t recognize some of my pictures.

Day and night differ so much though. Bars between Shibuya and Shinjuku in a weird way remind me those from Berlin, and during my stay even Tresor Festival took place in Tokyo.

It all leads me to a conclusion: the discovery is never complete but there are dots that one can connect easily. It felt impossible to write a single entry about Tokyo, and after reading a few books, I know there is no such thing like a closed chapter that can be written about this city. I feel the same about Berlin, although on a different, everyday scale. Time for my last matcha latte today!

Dancing thru the dark

 

I have to admit that 2016 was very abundant in terms of the art I saw: the exhibitions that made me think and the concerts I’ve attended. I do think a special focus for me is anything surpassing the boundaries in the contemporary art, with a focus on interpreting the classics and referring to the current musical trends.

I am not a professional dancer not an artist myself, but I do love exploring both (if this was not clear by the content of this blog yet). Here in Berlin I make sure to track especially anything by Sascha Waltz und Guests (from ‘Travelogue’, ‘Romeo and Juliet’ to ‘Le Sacre du Printemps’ and ‘Koerper’). This dance company has been showcased this year at Radialsystem V, Berliner Festspiele and Deutsche Oper.

Another highlight of 2016 was definitely the exhibition of Pina Bausch‘s works and deep dive into the history of her dance company, accompanied by the ‘Palermo, Palermo’ show only this month.

What I find special about the dance theater, is not only the physical, but also symbolic expression and freedom it brings. I have already confessed that for me personally letting go through dance is liberating and simply making me stronger, even if these cold and dark months have been exhausting.

Just like in the ‘Seasons’ march’ by Pina Bausch, there is a rhythm, which everyone has to find on its own, and at the end of the day, all the movements may feel similar. The work around repetition and symbols was one of the typical approaches in her Tanztheater, and I think it caries some universal truth. ‘Everything I do, I do as a dancer, everything, everything’ she said once. And I believe that dancing not only through the night/the season/and the darkness but also through the whole live can be a very good idea.

29th Nov

29th Nov is a special day in Berlin, which could probably be added as an extra day off (there are very few Public Holidays in this city anyway!). What happened on that day I have no idea, apart from what I’ve googled now. Apparently Godzilla received its star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but I’m not sure this could be a trigger for creating some of the craziest, quirkiest and most creative label for techno videos.

Last year I was lucky to celebrate 9 years of 29th Nov films on the already legendary Boiler Room party and looking forward to its 10th anniversary.

Maybe it is a coincidence, but it seems there is some strange tradition of throwing 29 hour long parties in this beautiful city. Apart from celebrating 29th Nov, almost each year The Long Now is celebrating the seasons change with a 29 hour show in Kraftwerk.

Since November is the month when the days are getting unbelievably dark, cold and gloomy, having started my 3rd year in Berlin, I fall back into living out of the amazing offer that this city has for music aficionados like me: be it jazz concerts, contemporary dance classes or amazing line ups every week(end).

Or binge-watching Youtube videos, since GEMA has finally allowed most of the content that was out of reach for German IPs for years, due to its famous lawsuit. I can totally recommend randomly choosing 29th Nov videos, and you will not be disappointed. I have consciously chosen some of my favourite ones below, although I could easily start a campaign of posting one video every day for the rest of the month.

Till then, the will be enough reasons this month to celebrate. Commemorating the freedom that brought the fall of the Wall, first snow in the city (apparently next Tuesday already) or Prince Charles (the club, it is) anniversary with some amazing DJs coming up like Theo Parrish or Moodymann. Plus hopefully Donald Trump losing the elections very soon. In any case, happy 29th Nov everyone!

Sound Sculpture in Szczecin

Last month for me was exceptionally full of events in Berlin during the work week, and shorter or longer getaways during the weekends. Similarly like last year around springtime, I felt tempted to explore not only Berlin and Brandenburg, but also the coastline.

Triggered by the concert of one of my favourite Polish electronic music producers in the newly built Philharmonic Hall in Szczecin, together with my friend, we decided to spend a weekend in Szczecin, the biggest Polish city situated next to the North-Eastern frontier.

Typically people would go there on the way to some other locations: like for instance Polish seaside towns or even more popular summer festivals, like Plötzlich am Meer. The train ride to Szczecin would take us less than 2 hours and cost… less than 6 EUR, if you manage to find your ‘Berlin-Brandenburg-Ticket’ group, which is almost a ritual part of this route. Otherwise, if you don’t feel like socializing, you can stick to a special fare, individual ticket for 10 EUR.

Szczecin itself has its specific charm. On one hand, it’s probably one of the most spacious cities in terms of territory: situated by the bay, river and countless lakes, it is indeed huge. Given its difficult, war, post-war and heavily industrialised history, it also seems derelict or unproportionally uncrowded comparing to its size. This has a lot to do with the migrations to other bigger cities or neighbouring Germany. So obviously there are places one shouldn’t visit after the sun goes down.

However, there are some sparkles of creativity in reconstructing the city, and bringing more cultural events. The area surrounding the castle and the promenade is full of interesting street art and the city tries to attract different people by hosting cultural events such as Kontrapunkt, or at least inviting unusual artists like Skalpel for the electronic music showcases in the extraordinary set up in the Philharmonic, which is worth visiting itself.

I enjoyed this visit greatly, given that I was pointed many recommendations by my friends originating from Szczecin and the concert exceeded my expectations.

If you like history, scratching beyond the surface, and discovering the beauty in the atypically interesting architecture, yet you’re bold enough – visiting Szczecin sounds good in combining it with one of its cultural events.

 

 

Techno symphony for Berlin Metropolis

Berlin, the acclaimed city of music, film and creative industry in general, received a very special gift last week.On 8th March 2016, Jeff Mills presented the premiere of his soundtrack for the ‘Symphony of the Great City’ within the Cinemix series. I have to say, that I am still speechless after his performance in a small studio cinema in Hackescher Markt. I am far from being a psychofan, but sitting not even 2 m away from the turntables of the maestro made it for unforgettable experience.

While the original movie is interesting enough to watch anytime, falling under the cinematic Berlin to-dos, the special history and link between Jeff Mills, Underground Resistance, the industrial revolution, and finally the bridge of techno music for Detroit and Berlin, made the Cinemix premiere one of its kind. Legend of the early Tresor years captivated the mood, rhythm and musical landscape of the city, and I bet no one could rewrite the soundtrack better than he did, given his unique connection to Berlin.

Previously we could watch Jeff Mills’ Cinemix production of Fritz Lang’s ‘Metropolis’, as below:

It is incredible, how relevant techno OST can be even after 90 years of the original movie premiere. During the screening of ‘The Symphony of the Great City’ I was stunned, how much the city changed, and at the same time, how much the energy remained the same. Alienation, industrialization, and on the other hand: consumption, excessive and extravagant social/night life describes the early years of 20th Century in Berlin much as the hype these days.

So in case you are curious to check the movie, here is the original footage of the Symphony of the Great City. I can only hope that Jeff Mills’ OST will become one of the most important, timeless masterpieces, universally defining Berlin as a cosmopolitan, dynamic and forward-thinking city.