Home

This evening, the tracks are from Germany, or else about that country. To begin with, a set of “Vier Erloschene Bilder” by a young experimental-minded composer in Berlin, John Strieder – a quadripartite work for solo guitar. These “pictures” (I do hesitate to agree with the composer that the best English equivalent for the key word in his title is “extinct,” and should prefer instead to translate it as “dampened”) were performed last year by the guitarist Carlos Bojarski in Buenos Aires; that city was evidently not entirely fortuitous as a locale, for throughout these four works themselves, and not only in the second of them, where its presence seems most audible, one may hear a number of the expressions of the Argentine capital in music, or perhaps even, more particularly, some of the moods correlate to its various genii locorum.

(In addition to his activity as a composer, Strieder also collaborates with the German band War from a Harlot’s Mouth. And apart from his musical pursuits, he is a painter.)

On his own behalf, Strieder says of his work that it only “depicts inner processes, being an expression of emotional, intellectual and philosophical content, conveyed just through the music itself” – hence those are all that his pieces represent. This disclaimer, of course, ought to be heeded and respected; nonetheless the whole external world will also be registered within them, in one way or another, and, in general terms, the existence of this influence no one could reasonably deny. (How does it imprint itself there: that is the question.)

The second of tonight’s tracks is about Germany: “Leipzig 1989,” the work of the London composer Keith Gifford. “Nihilist music for a broken world” is what he writes, in his own words, and so it is not von ungefähr that Gifford should have dedicated – so it seems, to judge both by his title and the character of this music – a piece to the events that occasioned German reunification, already a quarter-century ago, a development which has certainly played a considerable role in re-arranging the state of the world into its current shape. The nihilism one can indeed hear in his music, therefore, may be not Gifford’s own and instead that of our “broken world” itself, reflecting itself acoustically in his dissonances and jarring juxtapositions. And thus the intellectual attitude discernible behind this music, itself non-nihilist in character, in other words, would simply be a retrospective skepticism which, as time goes by, has better and better reasons for its distrust.

German conditions are also one of the topics addressed, although in quite a different way and less directly, in a response by the Berlin rapper Roni 87 to another rapper, recorded around a year ago but just as relevant now. This number, “Frieden ohne Freiheit,” rejects emphatically his adversary’s vocal advocacy of the old “deutsche Ideologie” in the version presently making the rounds, both in that country and elsewhere, broadly embraced in the streets as in the salons. In this song his denunciation is both instructive and pleasing – and also an expression of significant courage, given that he is taking aim at something which often purports to be nearly the general consensus.

For those who have trouble even imagining such a thing as German rap, Roni 87’s music – he recently released an album – demonstrates conclusively that the two need not exclude one another.

(On his side, Roni 87 evidently participates in a numerically small but quite outspoken current of opinion in Germany and Austria, the “antideutsche” scene whose positions are articulated in periodicals such as Bahamas in Berlin or Konkret in Hamburg, and put into practice by the activities of groups such as Café Critique in Vienna, to name some of the most prominent.)