Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Concerto For Voice & Machinery

Coincidentally, I found this interview with Blixa Bargeld from a year ago with the following as a preface, completely unbeknownst to myself. Almost a year to the day since the event in question.

On January 3rd, 1984, members of the German industrial band Einst├╝rzende Neubauten joined forces with musicians such as Genesis P. Orridge and Frank ‘Fad Gadget’ Tovey to perform a one-off piece entitled ‘Concerto for Voice and Machinery’ at the ICA. The gig, involving pneumatic drills and chainsaws, was chaotic even by Neubauten standards, culminating when someone threw bottles into a cement mixer, which sent broken glass flying all around the room. As the ICA tried to put a stop to the pandemonium a riot broke out in the audience. Accounts of subsequent events are rather muddled but it would appear that power tools were used to drill through the stage, possibly in an attempt to get to the underground tunnels that allegedly run underneath it, connecting Whitehall to Buckingham Palace.

On February 20th, the artist Jo Mitchell will stage a re-enactment of ‘Concerto for Voice and Machinery’ at the ICA. A group of artists playing the band members will attempt to reconstruct the events as they unfolded twenty-three years ago.

From This Source:
Commissioned by Michael Morris, the site programmer, with Mark Chung of Einst├╝rzende Neubauten, the work was scored by Chung and F.M. Einheit for cement mixers, jack hammers, chain saws, angle grinders, breaker drills, banyo hammers, road drills, a metal locker room cabinet, a section of a tree trunk, milk bottles, bricks, loud hailers, a gently quiet upright piano and performers, Frank Tovey, Mark Chung, FM Einheit, Gila Groeger, Stevo, Alex Hacke and a ICA- banned Genesis P.Orridge.

Blixa Bargeld made a last minute appearance to scream ‘sehnsucht’ into a microphone amidst the sawdust, petrol smells, smoke, sparks and chaos as the ICA officials unplugged the power and closed the show.

Varying reports suggest that Einheit jumped from the stage inciting others to drill through to the Royal Family’s nuclear hideaway under the ICA’s dressing rooms, that Stevo was goading the onlookers and that an audience member had called for an attack on the ‘fascist institution’ and attempted to initiate this.

So every account of this post-Punk Dadaism differs - hence the legend and the creative impossibility of Jo’s task despite her incredibly thorough research through bootleg recordings, photographs, witness statements, the availability of Mark’s score and her imaginatively close direction of the event.

Here is a snippet from the reinactment:

And another one with Vocals that was edited for repitition throughout:

Here is a review of the original performance by a journalist in attendance who actually had a hand in putting together the re-enactment, as reviewed Here.

From the 1984 review:

On the stage, things veered from gleeful, precise carnage to an exhilaratingly dangerous chaos. The protagonists jolted and bumped into each other. At times I seriously expected an arm or a leg to be severed, the disembodiment then insanely celebrated by the tossing of the blood-dripping limb into the audience.

From the Re-Enactment:

At the re-enactment, I spent the first five minutes or so hating it, thinking the whole thing had been a waste of time as it had none of the intensity of the original and, apart from anything else, it was remarkably quiet (despite the earplugs being offered at the door). But once I adjusted to the idea that I was watching a re-enactment, not a repeat, the whole thing became enjoyable in a manner which I’ve still not worked out. Blixa Bargeld apparently commented on hearing of the planned re-enactment that he found the idea ‘charming’, and the re-enactment was, for me, actually quite charming, though others would experience it in many different ways.

And as commented by a youtube user:

My dad was there in 1984. The difference between then and now is that, at the original, his friend was almost killed by a piece of flying glass from the cement mixer. And he was part of a group trying to pull down a speaker stack that would most definitely have killed them had it gone...

The obvious can be assumed about it being dumbed down and contrived to stage a reinactment. According to this blog, There were people that reinacted the audience heckling. From what I've read, the energy and raucousness of the crowd in 1984 was what made the night legendary. So the concept of a re-enactment for something of this nature seems silly. However, if people simply performed "Concerto for Voice and Machinery", I would have never heard about it happening. If any of you reading this has a bootleg of the re-enactment (or especially the original for that matter, there were said to have been bootlegs used as source material for the act), or even just a recording of someone destroying a piano with a chainsaw, give me a hollar!

But we would have kept it pretty straightforward if we weren't inspired by the reaction of the audience. There's a famous Walter Benjamin essay about the destructive character, and he says: "The destructive character knows only one watchword: make room. And only one activity: clearing away." And that's how it was. We were thinking, "Actually, it's not us doing anything. The audience are tearing the place apart!" People were fighting over the drills and sledgehammers. Cables and machinery were pulled into the audience. - From an interview with Alexander Hacke

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