Incense of Music is an olfactory concert series developed in 2015 where we burn exquisite incense simultaneously with the music. Sounds and smells penetrate synaesthetically and interact in a way that enhances the sensual focus of the listeners and musicians and supports the common spiritual awareness. For at the moment of its extinction the plant passes on something to us. Her essence is brought into the somato-spiritual being of man like played over into a different field. Invisible like the sounds, the fragrance molecules pour in on us. They share with us by changing our minds. Perceptual identity and cultural background of the fragrances correspond to the provenances of our musicians as well as to the history of their instruments and sounds. Intuitionally there develops polyphonic interaction among plants, music and fragrance, in between mind and space.
Incense of Music 2/ Hilaneh
The second concert in the series happened on 4th July of 2015 at Circle 1, platform for art and culture in Berlin Kreuzberg with the Syrian Oud player Nabil Hilaneh who presented a solo program.
That evening we burnt Sandarac from Morocco, a delicate yellow resin obtained from the small cypress-like tree Tetraclinis articulata. This plant is native to the northwest of Africa with a notable presence in the Southern Morocco, part of the Atlas mountains. Sandarac has a fresh, warm, light, resinous, balsamic, slightly fruity, frankincense-like aroma, a little bit like the sound of the oud.
In the second set we used Cedrus Deodara from Nepal, a species of cedar native to the western Himalayas in eastern Afghanistan, northern Pakistan and northern India, Tibet and western Nepal, occurring at 1,500–3,200 m altitude. This evergreen coniferous tree can reach up to 40–50 m. It’s botanical name, which is also the English common name, derives from the Sanskrit term devadāru, which means “wood of the gods”. The visual artists exhibiting in the gallery were Ofir Dor and Michelle Jezierski.
Incense of Music Nr. 3/ Flores, Marin
After European and Arabic classical music, for the third concert at Circle 1 in Kreuzberg we decided to switch to electronics, inviting the two Spanish artists Daniel Flores and Mateo Marin, who on 15th September 2015 presented two of their projects, Max de Winter and Iamblichi, melting them into one. The trance space feeling was increased by two wonderful scents: first we burnt the leaves of an Italian Laurel nobilis, an aromatic evergreen native to the Mediterranean region and well known in many culinary traditions. In ancient Greece (Daphne is the Greek name for the tree) and Roman culture it was a symbol of victory and highest status, in the Bible laurel is often an emblem of prosperity and fame, in Christian tradition, it symbolizes the resurrection of Christ.
The second set was dedicated to one of the greatest and precious woods in the world of incense burning: oud, also known as agarwood, aloewood or jinko, a resin that forms in Aquilaria trees, large evergreens native to southeast Asia when they become infected with a type of mould. The tree produces a dark aromatic resin in response to the attack, which results in a very dense, dark resin embedded in the heartwood. First-grade oud is one of the most expensive natural raw materials in the world. The visual artists exhibiting in the gallery were Aharon Ozery, Roland Stratmann and Christine de la Garenne.
Incense of Music 4/ Chisholm, Filippou
On 15th October 2015 we had the pleasure to present Hayden Chisholm, saxophone player from New Zealand and musical head of the evening. The concert took again place in Circle 1 – platform for art and culture, in Berlin Kreuzberg, in the context of the same exhibition as in the concert before, and had a remarkable success in terms of audience. In the first set Hayden played pieces from his project The Well Tempered Sruti Box, we contributed with Dammar, a resin obtained from the Dipterocarpaceae family in India and East Asia. A warm and shiny fragrance, always producing a good mood.
In the second set I had my first artistic cooperation with the Greek percussionist Evi Filippou . And thanks Zeus it was just the beginning. For this special occasion, inspired and supported by Hayden Chisholm, a couple of months earlier little cypress branches were stolen from the ground field of the Temple of Delphi, Phocis, Greece, 38°28′56″N 22°30′05″E, and brought to Germany in order to be burnt for the exhalation of their precious essences. Who was present at the concert, experienced the call from Greece, the great philosophers, the ancient disputes, the secular wisdom, pure nature. In classical antiquity Cypress was the symbol of the underworld.
Incense of Music 5/ Anitra Trio
In Incense of Music we always wanted to avoid the dangers of esotericism and the shadows of spirituality. Just listening to good music, burning some plants, trusting to nature: e.g. lavender from Cremeno, Italy, for the first set of Incense of Music Nr. 5 at Circle 1 (always thanks to Aharon Ozery) in Berlin on November 14th, 2015 Just to start in a relaxed mode, because lavender is better than Valium.
The music was offered by Anitra Trio, a German-Swiss-Norwegian combo, Moritz Köther on saxophone, Anatole Buccella on fender bass VI, Felix Tvedegaard Heim on drums, which took the vibes and surfed the wave producing a kind and soft set. The exhibition in the gallery presented works by the visual artists Yinon Avior, Alexandra Baumgartner, benandsebastian, Matti Isan Blind, Noa Gur, Ella Littwitz, Ronit Porat, J&K / Janne Schäfer and Kristine Agergaard, Johannes Vogl and Ulrich Vogl resulting to be the scenery for the last three concerts at Circle 1.
The second essence of the evening was frankincense (Boswellia sacra), known from the Old Trades, Ancient Egypt, the Bible, the church and a couple of boring services. The plant itself grows in Oman, Yemen, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia and probably Saudi Arabia in poor water conditions and desert landscapes. It is a lonely tree, and at a certain point; it is full of a wonderful and finest resin. Boswellia rivae is a strain from Ethiopia, we imported it directly from Addis Ababa. That evening it smelled a little bit like vanilla.
Incense of Music 6/ Aletchko Duo
Incense of Music Nr. 6 atCircle 1 in Berlin Kreuzberg on December 4th, 2015 presented the Russian Chilean Duo Aletchko with Alexey Kochetkov on violin and Christian Varas on guitar. In the first set we burnt Copal. The Mayas called this resin pom, the brain of the heaven. In the second set labdanum came into play. This semisolid resin, obtained from the shrubs of Cistus ladanifer (western Mediterranean) or from Cistus creticus (eastern Mediterranean) was collected since antiquity by combing the beards and thighs of goats and sheep that had grazed on the cistus shrubs. The Book of Genesis contains two mentions of labdanum being carried to Egypt from Palestine. In the video Kochetchkov and Varas are presenting an own version of Misirlou, a folk song about an Egyptian woman that became popular in the 1920s thanks to Arabic, Greek and Jewish musicians.
Incense of Music 7/ Shilkloper
Auch das Feuer hat Hunger. The last concert of Incense of Music (Nr. 7) at Circle 1 in Berlin Kreuzberg had a precise Russian connotation. Arkady Shilkloper, musician from Moscow, played on 16th December 2015 flugelhorn, French horn, didgeridoo, alphorn and supported himself with some electronics. Not enough: in the first set we additionally burnt leaves, resins, barks and fruits of the birch tree, a thin-leaved deciduous hardwood tree of the genus Betula, widespread in the Northern Hemisphere, not just an aesthetic highlight in the plant family, which btw has as well an incredible flavour and is used in teas and juices, and also in Russian saunas. Surprisingly, this plant remains a mystery. Like the musician. Do you know the taste of birch?
In the second set we burnt some wood, bears and needles of Juniperus communis, a species of the Cupressaceae family. It has the largest range of any woody plant, throughout the cool temperate Northern Hemisphere from the Arctic south in mountains to around 30°N latitude in North America, Europe and Asia. Juniperus communis is a shrub or small coniferous evergreen tree, very variable and often a low spreading shrub, but occasionally reaching a height of 10 m. Here in the Russian version with a cobra.