Incense of Music  9/ DOHA

With Incense of Music Nr. 9  on 30th January 2017we entered for the first time the prestigious halls of the Volksbuehne Theatre (thanks to Marc Weiser). From this moment on Dominik Breider become an official member of the organising team increasing the possibilities. Claudio Bohórquez (cello), Gareth Lubbe (viola) and Hayden Chisholm (sax and sruti box) played (and sung) a reedition of their project DOHA, which took place ten years before in a buddhistic monastery in Colorado, USA. In Berlin, in the first set, we proudly burnt Palo Santo, directly imported from Peru by the visual artist Antonio Paucar. This precious wood, with the scientific name of Bursera graveolens, is a wild plant native to Yucatán Peninsula  throughout Peru, Venezuela, northern Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia and the Brazilian Mato Grosso. The tree belongs to the same family (Burseraceae) as frankincense and myrrh.


From Peru we moved to California with our three highly talented friends and found some White sage, also a classic in the family of the incenses. It’s charisma is shaped by the desert, It’s latin name is Salvia apiana. White sage is an evergreen perennial shrub that is native to the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico, found mainly in the coastal sage scrub habitat of Southern California and Baja California, on the western edges of the Mojave and the Sonoran deserts. Names for white sage in local Native American languages include qaashil (Luiseño), shlhtaay or pilhtaay (Kumeyaay), kasiile (Tongva), we’wey (Chumash), qas’ily (Cahuilla), shaltai (Paipai), and lhtaay (Cochimí).


Incense of Music 10/ Berlin Damaskus Duo

The second concert of Incense of Music at Volksbuehne – Roter Salon, the tenth of the series, featured a celebration. Maria Wiesmaier, who played solo in the first concert in June 2015, and Nabil Hilaneh, who played solo in the second one on July 2015,  on 24th February 2017 presented the Duo Damaskus Berlin, a project between classical Arabic and classical European music.

Inspired by this combination that evening we decided to burn some Tilia from Germany and some Lebanon Cedar from Syria, two extremely interesting and elegant scents. Tilia is a genus of about 30 species of trees or bushes, native to most of the temperate Northern Hemisphere  and typically reaching a height of 20 to 40 meters and, sometimes, 2000 years of age. In the summer months, when Tilia is flowering, around the tree a very subtle, sweet and aphrodisiac fragrance is perceived having deep and pleasant effects on human beings. Cedrus libani, commonly known as the cedar of Lebanon or Lebanon cedar, is a species of cedar native to the mountains of the Eastern Mediterranean basin. It is an evergreen conifer that can reach 40 m in height. This tree, mentioned in the Bible as a symbol of the righteous, has a warm and balsamic, soothing and relaxing fragrance. Maria and Nabil, in this video, are playing the piece Sada (echo).


Incense of Music 12/ Pena, Chisholm

In March 2017 we had surely one of the greatest highlights of the series: concert nr. 12 with Lula Pena and Hayden Chisholm at the Volksbuehne, Berlin. We were all delighted to have the chance to organise this concert. Lula arrived just two hours before the event from Portugal, appeared on stage and met Hayden again, two years after their last encounter. What followed was an incredible improvised musical voyage enriched by a mosaic of stories sung in Italian, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Greek, which flow seamlessly into one another, creating a unique trancelike atmosphere. The musicians became one with their instruments and the audience.

That evening we burnt first some Lavender from Italy (very relaxing) and afterwards a good amount of Labdanum, a sticky brown resin obtained from the shrubs of Cistus ladanifer, a plant growing in the western Mediterranean. In the first part of the concert Hayden played saxophone and a sruti box solo, enjoy this gem!

The mysterious is a crucial element not only in art, the unknowable and the not understood are fertile resources for inspiration and perception in every situation. When we listen to Lula Pena, to her fantastic, orchestral guitar playing, to her deep, soft, broken and at the same time soothing voice, we know it and: we don’t know it. We understand it and: we don’t understand it. The first part of the concert lasted approx. 35 minutes, in which several songs, in different languages, fluently in the transition, were performed: Lula jumped from story to story, without inhibitions regarding psychological, social or poetic force, in a musical flow including Portuguese, Mediterranean and South – North American sounds, while colleague Chisholm, a listener among musicians, provided the decisive accompaniment. What should be added when the tone and the image already say everything?

Actually (another paradox!), words can create a world bigger than any image and any music. But, again, not always. The third part of the concert begun with a positioning between sadness and going further. And: it was just the beginning. With an Italian song by Claudio Villa from the 60s’.

Vieni, c’è una strada nel bosco,
il suo nome conosco,
vuoi conoscerlo tu?
Come, there is a road in the woods,
I know the name,
You wanna know it as well?


Measuring is not a guarantee for security, data might be incomplete. The forth part of the performance offered a brief essence of what might be and already happens.


Incense of Music 13/ Shilkloper, Neselovskyi

Our journey continued with an astonishing duo from Russia and Ukraine, Arkady Shilkloper on horns and Vadim Neselovskyi on piano. It was the 2nd of April 2017 and the audience at Volksbuehne Berlin experienced an evening full of jazz, classical, folklore and experimental sounds – Music, just Music. The piece of the video is Get up and Go by Vadim Neselovskyi.

In this first part of the concert we burnt barks, leaves, fruits and resin of the Birch tree, the well known black and white plant from the Betula family (see also concert 7). The birch is a very important element in Russian culture and represents the grace, strength, tenderness and natural beauty of Russian women as well as the closeness to nature of the Russians. It’s associated with marriage and love. In the second set we had some amber, a fossilised tree resin, hundreds of millions of years old, but still able, while burning and changing its form, to offer an incredible scent with multiple colours and flavours. Like smelling a drop of the soul of the very past.


Incense of Music 14/ SUGAR and Yes Soeur!

The idea for the fourteenth concert of the series was born in an indoor football hall on a Sunday in early 2017 among a group of soccer enthusiasts. Grégoire Simon, classical violinist and violist from France with a wide experience in high class solo/ chamber and orchestral performances, suggested an acoustic – electronic experiment, combining two of his own projects on stage: Yes Soeur! (a duo with Alexandre Bouvier, electronic compositions for stage productions) and SUGAR (a hybrid between chamber and pop music with originals creations).

The concert took place on 17th April of the same year at Volksbuehne Berlin and exceeded our wildest expectations. On stage Grégoire and Alexandre managed keyboards, little flutes and computers, while Boram Lie played cello and David Eggert viola da gamba. In the first set we burnt some Galbanum, an aromatic gum resin and a product of certain umbelliferous Persian plant species in the genus Ferula, that grows plentifully on the slopes of the mountain ranges of northern Iran. It has a deep, powerful bitter taste, a sharp, peculiar, dirty, balsamic, fresh musky odour and an intense green, piny, woody, peppery, elemi-like balsamic scent. Mentioned in the Hebrew Bible , commented by Rashi in the 12th century, known by Hippocrates and Pliny as a powerful medicine, Galbanum is also used in modern parfumerie. Not the worse references for a hypnotic, groovy evening, a mixture of antique and contemporary elements, a ritual with energy and fire, with electronic devices and two instruments developed in the 16th Century.


In the second set we burnt the dried peels of some grapefruits, a subtropical citrus hybrid originated in Barbados as an accidental cross between two introduced species – sweet orange (C. sinensis) and pomelo (C. maxima) – both of which were imported from Asia in the seventeenth century. The name “grapefruit” seems to originate from the way that, unlike normal citrus, the fruits of this tree grow in “clusters”, vaguely reminiscent of bunches of grapes. Its essential oil has a fruity and spry flavor and provides an invigorating and energizing aroma, invokes a sense of clarity and can help to uplift mood. Coming back to football, another assist for SUGAR and Yes Soeur!, another celebration of music, art and life.


Incense of Music 15/ YEK – Mortazavi, Feldman

In our announcement for the world premiere of the combo Yek by Burnt Friedman and Mohammad Reza Mortazavi on 14th May 2017 at Volksbuehne, we wrote:

Yek, in Persian means “one”.

Damaskios (born around 462, died around 538 AD), the last head of the Neoplatonic school in Athens, taught the unspeakable, the one-all and the unified as the three basic concepts of his philosophy. However, he came into conflict with the expanding Christian teaching in the Eastern Roman Empire and had to flee to Persia.

It’s not an ordinary composition to combine a tombak, the principal percussion instrument of Persian music, together with synthesizers, sequencers and samplers. Mohammad Reza Mortazavi, currently one of the greatest tombak virtuoso worldwide, and Burnt Friedman, electronic musician active since 1978 in countless projects and different styles, did it. Continuously evolving patterns created a trance like atmosphere that night, the concert developed on the edge between chamber music and dance floor, offering complex rhythms, precise structures and great spontaneous improvisations.

Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus) is a herb deeply connected into Mediterranean culture as a symbol of love and death. As an incense, it produces a very intense, aromatic smell and a stimulating, refreshing effect. On the contrary, opoponax, the second essence chosen for the evening, a gum resin already cited by Pliny (Historia Naturalis) and Dioscorides (De Materia Medica) as a powerful medicine, impresses with its soothing and sensual note. A good combination to enjoy Yek.

Incense of Music 16/ Elemi Saxophone Quartet

It was a great pleasure to perform at the German Evangelical Church Day 2017 in the St. Elisabeth Church in Berlin Mitte, with one concert each on three consecutive days. The church, inaugurated in 1835 and built after plans of Karl Friedrich Schinkel, was badly damaged in the second world war and only renovated after 1989. It offers space for 1200 people and has high walls. Optimal conditions for incense burning.

Our small festival entitled Face to Face opened on May 25, 2017 with a concert of superlatives: Christian Weidner, Philipp Gerschlauer, Moritz Köther and Bastian Duncker were the Elemi Saxophone Quartet specially formed for the occasion. The four celebrated soloists played the works of the New Zealand composer Hayden Chisholm, who has long worked intensively on overtones and Fibonacci. Overtones are the sounds within the sounds, the harmonic ladder which extends upwards infinitely in perfect whole number ratios. The Fibonacci series is the additive growth series found throughout nature. Monochrome, the first piece, was the first meditation of the afternoon, followed by Inside C, Love in Numbers and Density movements. A beautiful, endlessly extending spiral of purity.

Actress Betty-Despoina Athanasiadou and singer Christian Baier brought the incense bowl with the smoke from Indonesian Elemi to the audience, a substance that has an encouraging and refreshing effect and that Hayden already selected at previous Incense of Music concerts. The transition to myrrh was therefore fluid. This resin, which is obtained from a series of small, thorny tree species of the Commiphora genus, has played an extraordinary role in history as a perfume, incense and medicine. The scent of myrrh is feminine and has a slightly spicy-sweet scent of balsamic delicacy.

Incense of Music 17/ Lubbe, Filippou

The Greek percussionist Evi Filippou and the South African all-rounder Gareth Lubbe were the protagonists of the second concert of the Face to Face festival in the Elisabethkirche as part of the German Evangelical Church Day 2017. The two artists were inspired by Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Tierkreis op. 41. The piece, originally composed for music boxes in 1974-75, consists of 12 melodies, each dedicated to a zodiac sign. Versions for further instruments and ensembles were added later, whereby Stockhausen asked the interpreters to add their own improvisations to the piece. An ideal scenario for Gareth Lubbe and Evi Filippou, who delivered an almost perfect concert in the virtuoso interplay of different instruments – viola, marimba, piano, voice and hand drums. In terms of incense we burnt initially some laurel, laurus nobilis the Latin name, a shrub or tree, up to 10 meters high. It is the plant of Daphne, the oracle of Delphi, the academics, the winners. In a seamless connection white sage followed, a herbaceous plant that has been used by priests, shamans and the common people for centuries, especially in North and Central America, on spiritual and profane occasions. Anyone who has already tried the fragrance and the effect knows why.


Incense of Music 18/ Damaskus-Berlin Duo, Ugarit Trio


The third and last concert of the festival “Face to Face” at the Evangelical Church Day in the Elisabeth Church in Berlin was a celebration of European and Arabic classical music. Maria Magdalena Wiesmaier on cello opened the performance with the Prelude in C major from the 3rd Suite (BWV 1009) by Johann Sebastian Bach.

The Ugarit Trio (Nabil Hilaneh, Oud; Mevan Younes, Buzuq; Mohamad Fityan, Nay, Kawala) played afterwards an own arrangement of an ancient melody, dedicated to the Kingdom of Ugarit (namesake for the group itself), a city-state that existed and flourished more than 5000 years ago in the north of today’s Syria as an important commercial and cultural center until its destruction by the sea peoples in the 12th century BC.

This was followed by “Hijaz Kar”, a maqam composed and performed by the Berlin Damascus Duo (Wiesmaier, Hilaneh), “Devil’s dance” by Muhammad Abdul Kareem (Ugarit Trio with George Saade at the percussions), a ney solo by Mohamad Fityan, “Nawa Ather” (another Maqam composed and performed by the Berlin Damascus Duo), “Ghazala”, a Kurdish, traditional song (Ugarit Trio with George Saade), an Oud Solo by Nabil Hilaneh and, as a crowning conclusion, “Tahmil Hijaz” with the participation of all musicians on the stage. The concert was enthusiastically received by the large audience, also due to the incense offered in parallel, which this time included two classics already introduced in this presentation: juniper and frankincense.


Incense of Music 19/ Gustavo Beytelmann, Claudio and Oscar Bohórquez

What a cast and what a program at the 19th concert in the series Incense of Music in the Roten Salon of the Volksbuehne Berlin. With musicians Gustavo Beytelmann- the legendary tango pianist and composer from Argentina and long-time concert companion of Astor Piazzolla, who since 1976 because of political reasons is residing and working in Europe- paired together with the Bohórquez brothers Claudio and Oscar, both gifted soloists of Classical music with Uruguian-Peruvian roots. Works by Duke Ellington, Astor Piazzolla and Gustavo Beytelmann were performed. “Caravan”, by Duke Ellington (and trombonist Juan Tizol) in 1937 arranged of Beytelmann for piano, violin and cello, was played at the beginning. This was followed by two trio pieces by Beytelmann, “Queridas Memorias” (originally for bass clarinet, violin and piano) and “Ofrenda” (bandoneon and string quartet), the latter composed and dedicated to Astor Piazzolla after his death. The next two works performed, also by Beytelmann, were duos for piano and violin: “Ausencia”, “Absence” in English, and “Bethsabée”, a composition inspired by the famous painting by Peter Paul Rubens. In it, a young, black servant, at a fountain, presents a love letter from King David to the already married and scantily clad Bathsheba, who eagerly watches the scene from a balcony. The crowning glory of the first part of the evening was by Astor Piazzola with his “Le Grand Tango”, a duo for cello and piano, created in 1982 on behalf of Mstislav Rostropovich. The warm, resinous scent of Copal Oro, the tropical, fossil amber of South America, called “brain of the sky” by the Mayas, accompanied this first, rich half with its clarifying and uplifting note.

In the second, the sweet and aromatic woods of a Peruvian Palo Santos were ignited. A perfect, ambiental basis for the next pieces performed: “Ayeres”, a piano solo piece by Beytelamann, and the “Las Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas”, in English: “The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires”, a composition by Astor Piazzolla in a version of his Cellist-friend José Bragato arranged for piano trio. As Latin American counterpart to Vivaldi’s baroque masterpiece, these works symbolize the soul of the big city of Buenos Aires, which is staged in the four movements with passion, slowness, rhythm, impermanence, longing, loneliness, coldness and seduction. Finally, as an encore the conclusion of a memorable evening: “Muerte del Angel”, also Piazzolla, composed in 1962.


Incense of Music 20/ Atzakas

Incense of Music celebrated its second foreign guest appearance in Belgrade on June 29, 2017. The occasion was the participation at the Dortjol Festival founded by Hayden Chisholm, an internationally oriented meeting of excellent artists from all over the world, who had a musical rendezvous in the Serbian capital on the Sawa and Danube celebrating the beginning of summer. As Incense of Music we were lucky enough to be able to work again with the Greek oud player Thimios Atzakas. His solo concert was supposed to take place as the first act of the evening in the jazz club “Mihailo Misa Blam” in Kralja Petra, a very elegant and airy place with great tradition and not hidden elegance. Before the concert, we were even interviewed by Serbian television. In addition, some opera singers contacted us in advance and wanted to know exactly what and how much incense we would gonna burn since they were worried about their voices. The temperature that evening was noticeable: it was 40 degrees, brutally hot, people moved slowly, leisurely, fanning themselves, nobody seemed particularly energetic. Thimios joined with his oud and played for about 40 minutes, a concert with many different faces, rhythms and melodies from Asia and Europe, sounds that stimulate the heart and mind equally. The Arabic lute has a warm, spiritual tone that evokes exotic worlds and intimate wisdom. The Greek artist, a classically trained guitarist who has chosen the oud as his main instrument since long time, is a serious master of his craft. For the incense, we clearly opted for White Sage, a very easy-to-use herb with an excellent range of effects.


Incense of Music 21/ Filippou, People of the Wind

After the Serbian intermezzo, Incense of Music returned to Berlin, in a temporary domicile, where a single concert was to take place: the Jockel. Perfectly located in Kreuzberg, where three canals meet, the location offered a cozy atmosphere, a glowing fireplace and psychedelic lights. The evening program consisted of a double concerto with a vibraphone solo and a Greek-New Zealand-Italian group with two alto saxophones and a drum. Evi Filippou, already on her fourth appearance on the series, played her mallets on the instrument developed in the United States in 1921 and improvised for almost 20 minutes. The tremolo of the vibraphone, an interplay of beating, rotating metal disks on an electric motor, sound bars and resonance tubes, grazed and revealed Greek melodies, a children’s song, contemporary music, jazz and a little Bach. The video shows the full concert of this young and extremely talented artist. She was accompanied by the warm, sensual and elegant fragrance of sandalwood flour, a coveted and valuable product of the sandalwood tree (Santalum album). This small, evergreen plant grows and thrives in tropical areas, mostly in India, it has been used as medicine and in religious practice for more than 2000 years and is listed as an endangered species as a result of overexploitation. We only used a little bit but it had a huge impact.

In the second part of the evening, the band People of the Wind took over. The trio, consisting of James Wylie, Fausto Sierakowski and Alexandros Rizopoulos, was formed in Greece in 2016. James and Fausto share an unusual biography: both saxophonists (one born in New Zealand, the other coming from an Italian-French family in Rome) initially lived in Berlin, then moved to the Aegean to study and deepen the rich and diverse traditions of Greek and Oriental music. People of the Wind undertakes a daring experiment combining the ancient with the contemporary. The artists, fascinated by the extensive literature composed for the duo Daouli (percussion) and Zurna (funnel oboe), celebrate a musical journey through Egypt, Armenia, Greece and Iran. They rework old melodies with modern instrumentation, but also present original compositions. The saxophone, the instrument of their choice, renews and enriches the musical heritage in a new light. Added to this is Alexandros’ drum, a rhythmic section that focuses on the essentials. In this second set, wood from California incense cedar was burnt. The natural range of this plant includes the US states of California and Oregon and the Mexican state of Baja California. It can grow up to 70 meters tall and live up to 1000 years. When burnt, it exudes a warm and balsamic fragrance.

Incense of Music 22/ Dahlgren, Filippou, Puntin

On December 15th, 2017, we celebrated the last concert of the year in the cozy rooms of pianist and singer Natascha Osterkorn. Multi-instrumentalist Chris Dahlgren made his debut with his project Dhalgren at Incense of Music in Salon Dreiklang in Prenzlauer Berg and brought two extraordinary guests with him: Evi Filippou (percussion) and Claudio Puntin (clarinet). Chris was born in New York and has lived in Berlin since 2004. In his long career, he can look back on countless concerts, records and collaborations with a wide variety of artists.

His double bass playing touches and enriches all facets of jazz from swing to free, from avant-garde to experimental. Chris has been playing viola da gamba since 2006, and in 2017 he released his first album as a singer and songwriter ‚Dhalgren’ on Boomslang Records. This highly eclectic musician never stops surprising, a fact he confirms again on this December evening. Claudio Puntin is a Swiss clarinetist, composer, music producer and goldsmith with Italian origins. He, too, can already boast a rich career as a full-blooded artist, peppered with worldwide appearances, prizes and records. In addition to masterly skill, his play is characterized by a natural intellectual openness. And last but not least, we again admired the Greek percussionist Evi Filippou, known to the followers of Incense of Music through several great performances.

That evening the artists played songs by Chris as well as improvisations in duo and trio formations. For the very first time, no resins, woods, leaves or flowers were burnt at one of our concerts, but essential oils were evaporated. This enabled us to use other, more delicate, less heat-resistant substances. The protagonists of the evening were two different “fruits” of the citrus family. “Petitgrain” was used in the first half, an oil obtained from the leaves, branches and unripe green fruits of bitter orange. It has an earthy, fresh and herbaceous note and has a vitalizing effect. In the second section, the unequally elegant and much more expensive neroli oil, an oil that is distilled from the flowers of the bitter orange Citrus aurantium, more rarely from the orange Citrus sinensis. According to legend, it got its name from the Sicilian princess Nerola. About a kilogram of neroli essential oil is obtained from a ton of flowers. It’s scent was sensual and aphrodisiac.