Nice Rain

performance and discussion by Gilles Aubry

May 10 2013, 19h
Errant Bodies project space
Kollwitzstrasse 97, 10435, Berlin.

The project Nice Rain takes the city of Berlin as a pretext for exploring the notion of urban sound document from the perspective of a diversity of recording practices and intentions. Confronted with the difficulties to discover new strong narratives by simply listening to the Berlin public space, I’ve decided to explore instead the narratives embedded within already existing audio documents related to the city. As an alternative to a classic city soundscape like some of my previous works, I will present a collection of Berlin audio recordings from the personal archive of various practitioners who I know personally, some living in Berlin and some elsewhere.

While all of the recordings will be referring to Berlin as their location, each one will represent a specific recording practice corresponding to an intention more or less defined by its author. The live mixing of these files over multiple loudspeakers will thus be an attempt to create something like a soundscape of (documentary) intentions, while at the same time generating an arbitrary sound travel through various public locations of the city. One aim of the project is also to discuss and re-situate the community of field recording practices within a field of intentionality and reflexivity, as possibly opposed to a logic of place.

With announced text and audio contributions by:

Rinus van Alebeek, Mario Asef, Boris Baltschun & Serge Baghdassarians, Alessandro Bosetti, Rob Curgenven, Peter Cusack, Anke Eckardt, Christina Ertl Shirley, Helena Gough, Andy Graydon, Ezgi Kilincaslan, Achim Langerer, Felicity Magan, Israel Martinez, Anders Lauge Meldgaard, Valeria Merlini, Udo Noll, Dave Philips, Stephan Roigk, Jodi Rose, Fritz Schlüter, Tapeman (Helge Neidhardt), Valerio Tricoli, Antje Vowinckel and Kathrin Wildner.
Recording the demolition of the Palast der Republik, Berlin 2008
Recording the demolition of the Palast der Republik, Berlin 2008

(picture by Jodi Rose, 2008)

*I am very happy to be invited to participate in this event, enjoying the discussion via email with Gilles around notions of intention & authorship, composition and place (see questions and my answers to them at the end) JR

Gilles Aubry is a Swiss sound artist living in Berlin since 2002. Trained initially as a sax player and composer, he graduated in 2010 as a Master student in Sound Studies at the University of the Arts (UDK) in Berlin. His artistic practice is based on an auditory approach of the real informed by researches on cultural and historical aspects of sound production and reception. Combining ethnography, critical discourse and formal experiments, Aubry creates installations, performances, compositions, audio essays and radio plays. His sonic images (phonographies) of more or less identified situations stand as an attempt to challenge problematic aspects of visual representation.

Nice Rain is part of THIS IS THE END, a research project curated by Marta Ferretti and Gaia Martino about the relationship between public space and narration in the specific context of Berlin. THIS IS THE END is hosted from April 15th to May 12th at Errant Bodies project space, Berlin.

hi jodi!

bellow is the call..
please send something!
best, gilles

call for the ‘nice rain’ event at errant bodies:

I’m trying to collect field recordings made in the ‘public’ space in berlin by various practitioners which I know personally. The idea is to contemplate these recordings from the perspective of their intentionality, that is the motivations of the author to make this recording. The interpretation of the category ‘public space’ is left open to the definition of each author.

What is the history of this recording?

Of what kind of recording practice is it the result?

Which were your motivations at the origin of this recording?

Why was it necessary to make it?

What does it represent to you?

How does it represent you as its author?

Did you use this recording later for creating a work (which one)?

Is there any special meaning/memories attached to it?…

Demolition worker, Palast der Republik, Berlin 2008 Photo & Sound Recording by Jodi Rose

Demolition worker, Palast der Republik, Berlin 2008 Photo & Sound Recording by Jodi Rose

Palast der Republik – “Workers symphony”

These recordings were made with Sophie Erlund while I was artist in residence at Program, Initiative for Art and Architecture Collaborations in Berlin, 2008. Sophie learned of my work when she had an installation in the gallery there, and asked me to help her make a recording of the Palast der Republik in Berlin while it was undergoing demolition. This was and still is a contested site, being torn down to rebuild the centuries old schloss that used to stand there. I negotiated access to the site, brought my contact microphones and selected locations to make the recordings.

Track 29&30 are the “worker’s symphony”, a delicately evolving soundscape created by the tools cutting apart the concrete floor. I made it at the request of Sophie as an interesting and historic location and I was curious about the sounds of the building, which was different to my usual practice of recording bridges. However I used the same techniques, decisions and equipment as I do to record the vibrations inside the bridge structures.

Sophie had a very poetic frame for the work she intended to make, about the “swan song” of the building. I didn’t know if it had ever been used in a piece by her, and on a quick internet search while writing this have just found the fb event below, in which she makes no mention of my role in the recording of the original piece. In this instance, therefore I am not represented or credited as the co-author or even sound recordist in these permutations of the work. However I did upload this one track (29) to the radio aporee site by Udo Noll as a document of the experience and to share some of the sounds (with an appropriate collaboration credit, naturally).

I like that the ghost of the old structure is still present in the image on google maps which is associated with the location in radio aporee. I feel ambivalent about this process, having given my skills, expertise and creative energy to find that this has been disassociated with the work in its later incarnations. However, I do still love the “raw” sound of the demolition tools, and the swan song of the building is a poetic aural document of the changing face and constantly evolving history of Berlin’s urban landscape. The experience of making the recording was truly incredible as the head engineer asked if we would like to take a ride in the “gondola” (a small metal cage dangling from a 50m high crane), of course we agreed (I had to be persuaded by Sophie as I have a fear of heights, but it was genuinely a “once-in-a-lifetime experience”) the photo from that 360 degree aerial trip of Berlin is attached, along with one from the recording (not sure if they will be used but just for your information).

Thanks and I hope you enjoy working with the sounds


image Sophie Erlund and Jodi Rose listening in to the Palace der Republik, Berlin, 2008

Sophie Erlund

Thanks a lot Jodi, these are beautiful!
i’m looking forward to play them at the event.

while the description of the context of this recording and its ‘object’ is very clear in your comment, i wonder if you could add a few lines regarding the way it also represents you as its author. as a matter of fact this recording indirectly also documents your presence at this very place at this very moment, otherwise it wouldn’t exist…
without necessarily going into very personal memories, how would you describe yourself during the process of recording… where you there as a mere ‘observer’ ( like a scientist)? a composer? did any kind of relationship establish between you and the situation?
what were you trying to achieve via this operation…

i would love to read more about that… if you find the time

So, in regards to the Palast der Republik, it was I guess a private motivation – rather than deliberately making a recording that would become part of my own work – and was partly from a desire to collaborate and expand my experience of Berlin with an interesting artist who I met here, and partly curiosity – as always, which is and was from the start a large part of my motivation in recording bridges… What the hell will this one sound like? And of course, it sounds “Like” itself.

The PDR was also part of a processual recording approach that I was taking during the residency at PROGRAM, where I also made recordings of the collaborative process and various interventions for the Transit Lounge project. Listen in was presented to listen through the windows using contact mikes as speakers, in an eavesdropping kind of format, and the mix was also played on radio in Sydney by the curators.

I haven’t really thought about this piece or the motivation for it since doing it – other than that it was truly a spectacular moment to be part of the deconstruction of this contested and iconic space in Berlin, it absolutely forms a record both of my presence there and that of the now vanished building. I have some other recordings during the printing process of this beautiful soviet printing press in Tallinn, and just made some of the totally abandoned weaving looms here in Arles-sur-Tech, which would be an interesting juxtaposition to hear in the form of echoes from vanished or vanishing technology – the PDR serving as a political technological system, and also memory, the performance of history, and the constant Berlin question about whether to rebuild what was there, or memorialise what is left behind….

Now back to focus on your actual questions – in this particular instance, I felt more like an observer/documentary style presence, being there to help someone else capture the sound for their creative idea rather than my own, meant that I had some distance from the process, it wasn’t so critical to me – although of course I still wanted to find “interesting” sounds and make a useful and textured document of the process during demolition. We only went there once, and I was also a little nervous as the signs about asbestos were all over the site, although the workers assured us it had already been removed, there were some people in those full white overall outfits with masks on, so I also felt a somewhat uneasy relationship with place – that it could effect my health as a long-term side effect of being there.

The recording that I chose to upload to Radio Aporee was to me something like a “workers symphony”, in fact I think that was the title I gave it – the process of naming tracks is always intriguing, I try to capture the acoustic texture in a few words so that I have some basic preparation in relation to the material when I do go to compose with it…. In that was it is perhaps similar to some of my bridge works, as I tend to keep them in a fairly “raw” state and only make drastic compositional choices or changes to the sounds if I am working on a specific idea – in general, I view the “composition” as being both part of the recording process and the selection afterwards, which I tend to do as an editing and rearranging process rather than making changes to pitch, or adding fx (unless for a specific reason).

If anything, I felt that the workers and the building composed the work together, and I happened to be there as an observer and witness to capture a moment during that process – with the John cage idea that the act of focusing on listening creates the “music” or composition through paying attention to the sound or noise around you and therefore finding patterns and relationships within it.

I guess I was trying to achieve a document of a moment in Berlin’s history, and make something useful and interesting that could become part of the work for Sophie, the artist who wanted the recording done in the first place.

The most transformative moment for me in terms of a relationship to the situation was being asked to take that ride on the “gondola”, which brings all my fear of heights to the fore, but it was also something to overcome and step on board, I remember that I spent the first half of the circle in sheer terror, then stopped and looked around to feel a kind of awe that this was a moment in life which would never happen again – I guess you could say that of any moment, but it highlighted the whole enterprise as something that was capturing a moment before it vanished or even while it was vanishing…

OK so I hope some of that is useful or interesting thanks for the opportunity to be part of this work and discussion with you and the other artists, great questions!

all best from the pyrenees
xo jodi

contact microphones recording palast der republik demolition : photo & sound recording by Jodi Rose

contact microphones recording palast der republik demolition : photo & sound recording by Jodi Rose