Incense of Music 23/ Forest of Symbols
The first concert in 2018 took place at the Vinogradov Gallery in Berlin Prenzlauer Berg on January 13th. The occasion was the so-called Old Russian New Year and a cooperation with the artist collective “International Cultural Project Butterbrot” with Aleksandra Yurieva-Civjane and Alexandra Goloborodko. It was to be the first concert in the series with a reference to visual art. Arkady Shilkloper performed as a musician with didgeridoo, fluegelhorn and french horn. The two artists from Moscow collected dead Christmas trees found on the street, which were now unadorned and sadly waiting for their disposal, and turned them into a room installation. The unscheduled reuse of the dead plants illustrated the dark side of the glorification of the fir tree: until recently the symbol and aesthetic highlight of the Christmas celebrations, soon afterwards a throw-away article that people left heartlessly on the street because it already fulfilled its temporary function. Together with the remains of the trees, the artists also showed video projections with abstract and less abstract urban visual material and light effects of all kinds. Arkady Shilkloper moved through the gallery, playing and improvising with his various instruments. A very personal, virtuosistic, passionate journey along the threshold of jazz, classical and pop music. The artists wore a mask on their faces and carried our well-tried bowls with the lit incense in their hands, spread the smoke around the room and brought it directly to the audience. Concerning the fragrances, we decided together thematically and conceptually for woods and needles of the Nordmann fir, a plant from the genus Fir (Abies) in the pine family (Pinaceae). It was named in 1842 after the Finnish biologist Alexander von Nordmann (1803-1866) after he discovered it in the Caucasus. This plant can reach a height of 60 meters and can live for 500 years. It is native to the western Caucasus and the Eastern Pontic Mountains in Georgia, Russia, northeastern Turkey and Azerbaijan. The Nordmann fir is tipically used as a Christmas tree.
Incense of Music 24/ Anissegos, Karl – Sweetgrass
On February 23th, 2018, we celebrated the second concert of the year in Natascha Osterkorn’s Salon Dreiklang with with an extraordinary duo: Antonis Anissegos on the piano and Kay Karl on the gongs. Certainly a formation rarely encountered on the concert podiums of the world. Antonis Anissegos, born in Thessaloniki, is an extremely eclectic and open-minded musician. His repertoire ranges from classical European music, experimental, free jazz to electronic music. He feels at home in the world of Rachmaninov as well as that of Cecil Taylor. Antonis also made a name for himself as a composer, his works include chamber music and orchestral works, and he even wrote an opera. Kay Karl has a completely different background. She is a long-time student of Don Conreaux, the Grand Master of the Gongs from the USA, from whom she learned playing techniques, gong yoga, gong pujas and gong baths. The gong is a self-tinting sound body, which consists of a circular metal plate. The first evidence of this musical and signal instrument can be found in ancient Greece, other traces lead to China and Central Asia. When playing, vibrations and oscillations arise, which have a healing and cleansing power. Through the sound exposure, deep trance states are possible, the expansion of one’s own limits is noticeable. The best conditions for us to burn some incense. For this evening we decided for two wonderful plants: Sweet grass (Hierochloe odorata), also known as manna grass, Mary’s grass, vanilla grass and holy grass, is a representative of the sweet grass family (Poaceae) that contains coumarin. It smells fragrant of woodruff and was used in the veneration of the Virgin Mary. The fragrant Sweet grass is widespread throughout Europe, Asia and North America, but it occurs only scattered to rarely.
In the second part of the evening, we burnt wood and resins of the guaiac tree, a plant with very hard, resin-rich wood, which is native to tropical and subtropical America. It has particularly aromatic essential oils that have a deep, intense, balsamic and aphrodisiac effect. A very special evening unfolded in the interplay of the musical and olfactory dimensions. Of course the videos presented here can only help to guess – at least that!
Incense of Music 25/ Bellanova, Flaig
Flutes and the percussion have been used as sound generators for at least 40,000 years. Made from parts of plants, animal skins and bones, they are probably the first musical instruments of mankind that have accompanied or replaced the singing of the voice or the clapping of the hands. On April 21, 2018, Incense of Music No. 25 presented late successors of these two instrument families and offered a program with medieval Italian music, contemporary pieces by Racheal Cogan, songs and dances from Greece, Iran and Turkey. On stage Valentina Bellanova from Florence and Sebastian Flaig from Freiburg, classically trained musicians who maintained since years a broad stylistic spectrum, ranging from oriental music to jazz, from contemporary to early music. Valentina brought a sopranino, a soprano, a tenor and a bass recorder to make music, as well as a ney and a shakuhachi; Sebastian – two different drums, a santur, a large cymbal, a daf, a tombac, meditation bells and singing bowls.
Recorders that could be played with both hands have been documented in Europe since the early Middle Ages. As a whole family of instruments, through all pitches, the recorder established itself until the Renaissance. The Central Asian ney (made from a tube of Arundo donax open on both sides) and the Chinese shakuhachi (made from Madake bamboo) have been in use for much longer. In their respective cultures, they are considered instruments for spiritual purposes. Dafs are frame drums that consist of a flat, circular wooden frame that is covered on one side with goat skin or sheepskin. These instruments are widespread in the Middle East, southern Central Asia, India, the Arab countries, the Maghreb and Southeast Europe. The tombac, a wooden goblet drum, comes from Persia. Also the santur, a trapezoidal instrument, covered with 72 metal strings, to be played with light wooden mallets. It is also used in Iraqi and Indian art music.
The artists transformed the fire and sound power of these instruments into a musical journey that spanned several centuries and continents. The program, cheerful and festive, invited to dance. The whole thing can be emulated through the video documentation of two pieces that we present here: one from the Italian Middle Ages, the other, White Call, composed by Sebastian Flaig.
We intervened with two well-established classic incenses, which we had often presented profitably in our series: frankincense and labdanum. These precious gifts of nature symbolize, as a duo on the fragrance level, the relationship between east and west: the best Boswelia sacra comes from Oman, remember the legendary frankincense road from Dhofar to Gaza; the labdanum, the resin from the rock rose, was already highly appreciated in ancient Greece. It became a rich evening with many different protagonists. It’s all about meeting, and a lot came together that evening.