Steve Dix...Comedian?

Raptus Regaliter

A prime example of it all going pear-shaped.

18.04.2005 13:52 - Stockhausen Syndrome

Cologne is famous for being the home of Karl-Heinz Stockhausen, an employee of West Deutscher Rundfunk who did some pioneering experimentation with electronic music. As such, the whole place is filled with people hell-bent on making white noise, pink noise and all shades in-between, which make the soundtrack to "Forbidden Planet" sound positively danceable in comparison.

I once went to an "Avant-Garde Electronic Music Concert" in Bonn, with Her Maj, right at the beginning of our relationship. It was given by an acquaintance and work-colleague named Arthur, and another colleague named Irmin played the Cello in it. Arthur, I was informed, was big mates with Markus Stockhausen, the son of Karl-Heinz.

Anyway, we arrived at the theatre, on the Bonn Museumsmeile, and went in. The place was quite full. I went down to the stage and chatted to Irmin briefly.

The concert then got underway. The "music" was made from recycled data - old files from the bit bucket, reprocessed to give "Exciting New Perspectives In Sound!".

That was the idea, anyway.

The best description I've ever heard (which wasn't originally about this concert) would be that of "Two lathes buggering each other on a lift in a power station.". Arthur, apparently, would buy expensive effects-units from music shops and twiddle with them until he found something particularly ear-splitting. He would then hot-glue the controls in place, and then feed something even more ear-splitting through them. If this wasn't expensive enough, he had hired a "performance artist" from America, for whom he had hired an even-more-expensive motion-capture skeleton, which was wired up to a computer to control an animation that was projected on a screen above the musicians. Why this was done, no-one knew, as the expensive performance artist hardly moved during the concert, except to play some small congas, or to approach the microphone and sing. It was not clear what he was singing, as the microphone was connected to a vocoder, which was connected to something horrible. As a result all vocals were rendered into one single word : "Argle". "ArgleArgleArgle!", he went, "ArgleArgleARGLE!!!".

This performance was deliberately designed to challenge the Audience's traditional perspectives. It certainly challenged their hearing - people were leaving in droves. However, I was made of sterner stuff, having seen a few Motörhead concerts and the like in my time, and together Her Maj and I lasted until the end of the concert.

At the end, we were leaving, when I saw someone I recognised and he said hello to me - the landlord of the place I was working at the time. It turned out to be the ex-bass-player from B.A.P. Her Maj was dead impressed. I didn't even KNOW he'd been in a band....

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