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 Nr. 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 Nr. 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 Nr. 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 Nr. 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 Nr. 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.
Incense of Music Nr. 8/ Chisholm, Atzakas, Fotinaki
Incense of Music Nr. 8 took place on 22nd August 2016 in the beautiful village of Agios Lavrentios in the mountains of Pilion, Greece, during the fabulous Music Village Festival. Who has been there, knows what we are talking about: a melting pot of nature, truth and beauty. Thanks to Thimios Atzakas, oud player from Thessaloniki and co-organiser of the festival, we were invited and had the privilege to share the stage of the Arches of Aghios Dimitrios with three incredible artists: Hayden Chisholm from New Zealand (who already appeared in the fourth concert of the series), the above mentioned Thimios Atzakas and Katerina Fotinaki, a Greek singer and songwriter.
The concert occurred in four separate sets, three solos of each musician, finally an improvised trio all together. We started with Elemi, a tropical and subtropical tree in the Burseraceae family. This tree grows across tropical Africa, south and southeast Asia, Indochina, Malesia, Australia and western Pacific Islands. The plant reaches a height of up to 40–50 m . Its resin is a pale yellow substance, of honey-like consistency with a fragrance of pine and lemon-like scents. Hayden Chisholm, his saxophone and his sruti box; contributed the rest.
In the second set Thimios Atzakas and his oud were supported by a super classic of incense burning, Boswellia sacra, commonly known as frankincense, a tree in the Burseraceae family, from which frankincense, a resinous dried sap, is harvested. It is native to the Arabian Peninsula (Oman, Yemen) and northeastern Africa (Somalia). The tree reaches a height of 2 to 8 m, tolerates the most critical situations and is often on rocky slopes and ravines, up to an altitude of 1,200 m, mostly in calcarreous soil. Frankincense is mentioned in the Bible as one of the three types of gifts the wise men gave to the young baby Jesus of Nazareth and has been traded on the Arabian Peninsula and in North Africa for more than 5000 years. This precious resin was monopolised in the Western world for a long period by the church, for this reason it is mainly associated with the religious services of Catholics and Orthodox.
I adore this fragment of Katerina Fotinaki, that evening with her guitar, some electronics and her beautiful voice she was able to create an intimate performance full of beauty. Thank heavens it was recorded and thank heavens it is on Youtube. Luckily I was able to work with Katerina again later on (and with Andrea Voets, Evi Filippou and Chiara Somajni on Xenitia, a documentary-concert on Greek migration). That night we burnt Juniper, for the second time in our series.
At the end the musicians united forces and started to improvise. We did as well and mixed all scents together entering alchemic ambitions: Elemi, Frankincense and Juniper easily coexisted and built a crossing fragrance full of meanings and associations.
Incense of Music Nr. 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 Nr. 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’.
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 original 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 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.
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.
Incense of Music 36/ BassX3
by Maria Flip, from: peopletravelfood.com
The grounded vibrations of the bass instruments carried on what seemed to be the spiritual exploration of three people via music. Combined with the smell of Lavandula had a mesmerizing effect on the audience.
After a glass of wine and an hour of pouring rain it was safe enough to hit the streets again. Walking down Lychenerstrasse, Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin, the heat of the evening had already started to dry the stone pavements. Entering something that had the feeling of a parking lot, but was actually the entrance to a formerly squatted and currently collectively owned house, I had the chance to meet some friends and explore the peculiar yard. We all walked towards the basement that turned out to be an independent venue for music, film, literature, performance and other artistic endeavours.
A spacious studio with tall ceilings, fur walls and approximately 20 seats was welcoming us. The lighting was low and the air was relieved by the humidity of the city. An obfuscated space propagating ceremonial vibe. The people started gathering slowly and the solemn ambience started to intensify. Sitting at the back of the room, I started to observe the stage in its simplicity: three microphones and two double basses.
Everyone was settled in time for the multisensory concert to commence. BassX3, two double basses and one bass clarinet/bass flute, Gebhard Ullmann on the horns, Chris Dahlgren and Christian Weber on the double bass, embarked on “a musical journey on the lower end of the tonal range of improvised chamber music”.
Meanwhile the scent of Lavender had already started to fill the room and since the lights had been limited on the stage the whole experience was starting to feel mystical. The first song of the set “Transatlantic”, a minimal soundscape navigating the psyche through diverse emotions. Somehow the simultaneous occupation of the senses provoked a different kind of concentration. Progressively we were transported to a parallel tonal space.
The grounded vibrations of the bass instruments carried on what seemed to be the spiritual exploration of three people via music. Combined with the smell of Lavandula had a mesmerizing effect on the audience. “The no piece” gradually transferred us half way through the concert and at this point the venue was vibing. The channels were open and through the low-pitched frequencies we followed the music through the second part of “Transantlantic”.
The second part continued in the same modulation intensity tracing the scheme of senses. Moving towards more esoteric explorations of tunes and presenting tracks such as “Berlin is full of lonely people”, a different aroma flooded the underground studio. A “priestess” was passing around a metallic bowl in which the incense were burning and the balsamic effect of Myrrh increasingly transcended the audience inwards.
Blended with the extrusion of the music the stony smell harmonized with the various noises from household items attached to the double basses. A metallic string and a music box were assorted with the instruments to produce a high pitch background. The quest concluded with the third part of “Transantlantic”, letting us explore this musical route between two continents.
An hour and a half later I felt allured. The profound sounds of the instruments created an entity delivered to us by the guts of the tonal range. Somehow an acute strike of melancholy and cosmic balance settled in, as if silent parts of the human brain were awakened by the low-pitched tunes and were now strolling around the room, enjoying the odours of an orthodox church.
I grabbed another glass of wine and stayed in “ausland” for a while, contemplating the experience and talking to acquaintances and strangers. Myrrh was still in the back of my throat and the smooth string tunes were chanting far and wide in my head.
Now it’s already October, the smell of Berlin summer rain is replaced by the Athenian tropical autumn storms and The Incense of Music Festival “Solos and Mixtures” is only three days away, taking place in Pandatheater, Berlin. From the 10th until the12th of October a “multisensorial challenge of highest ambition” is taking place in Prenzlauer Berg. Eight different fragrancies per mixture and twelve different concerts in three days.