on life, music etc beyond mainstream

2015 5 Jan

„The Electronic Griot“ – Lecture in Kristiansand (part 3)

von: Michael Engelbrecht Filed under: Blog | TB | 4 Comments



Griot 5 – Last year Armenian pianist Tigran Hamasyan and sample maestro Jan Bang perfomed here at PUNKT: it was fabulous. Tigran used eastern roots and melodies, and – obviously – played with some ECM 70´s record memories, Jan Garbarek, Ralph Towner, Keith Jarrett … Jan provided ghost echoes.

Afterwards I asked Jan to send me a tiny two minute excerpt for my radio review about Punkt No 9. I emailed to the headquarter for ECM Records and Manfred Eicher not to miss the JazzFacts at the Deutschlandfunk. Manfred was impressed. Weeks later, the famous studio in Lugano was booked, for Tigran, Jan, Arve Henriksen and Eivind Aarset. I was invited and became a witness of one of the most stunning ECM productions of the 21st century. No kidding again, no fishing for compliments, I mean it. I think Tigran´s quartet music will be released as a double album at some time in 2015.

Manfred Eicher is experienced with the history of Armenian music, the Armenian blues, so to speak, the still officially denied genocide – and prepared the production, for example, by sending Tigran a copy of the record you´ve just heared: the album Hayren is dedicated to the music of Komitas and Mansurian, and on this short song the Kim Kashkashian´s viola is accompanied by the piano and the untrained voice of Mr. Mansurian. I think they´ve recorded a version of this in Lugano, too. Better said, I know.



At one point in the mixing (Arve was meanwhile on his way home), Jan Bang very kindly said to Manfred something like this: „Manfred, ahem, I think the intro of Arve was a little bit too long, it was beautiful and everything, but there was a bit too much Jon Hassell in it. Can we make it a little shorter?“

Manfred listened, and then something „quite nice“ turned into something breathtaking: they cancelled the opening part of the trumpet solo, and let – after a while – the trumpet appear slowly out of a fog or a bush of the electronic ghosts Eivind Aarset had created with his guitar. The emotional impact was immense. And I think Jan and Arve are still friends :)


(Drinking water)


A day later Evind Aarset and I sat in comfortable chairs im the Senator Lounge of Zürich airport. We were in a quiet mood, may be a bit exhausted or fulfilled, i dunno. We spoke about our favourite TV series: TRUE DETECTIVE SEASON ONE. Deepest noir, great actors, fantastic soundtrack. T Bone Burnett.

Three weeks ago, I received another noirish piece of art. I listened to its 31 minutes, then I listened again, and again, and again. And again. I listened to nothing else for days. Everything`s stripped down. It´s about seduction, rape, deception, murder, dying, suffocating, loneliness.

And then I heared a fucking egghead commenting this album on air: „Oh yeah, she´s the real thing, the unknown daughter of blues man Robert Johnson, It´s dark, yeah, but it´s groovy. A real feel good album.“

The production is crisp. (…) The producer of Mirel Wagner´s album WHEN THE CELLAR CHILDREN SEE THE LIGHT OF DAY is a member of the extended Punkt family, you don´t expect him here, in a purely acoustic world. Sasu Ripatti, known as Vladislav Delay. „The Dirt“


7) Mirel Wagner: The Dirt


Griot 6 – Stone-cold masterpiece. When it comes push to shove and someone asks me for my desert island journey: Mirel Wagner’s „Cellar Kids“-album or Schubert’s „Winterreise“: Mirel’s record would be part of my trip, for sure. I may now see now some raised eyebrows …

In the same way Tom Hardy said near the end of that terrific movie „Locke“: „If i’ve learned one thing tonight, it’s this: Fuck Chicago!“ – I would say after a lifetime of listening to music: „Fuck canonisations!“

April in London. 2014. Five great days. Living in Guy Sigsworth’s house. Discovering a new favourite Indian restaurant in Upper St. Martin’s Street. Sitting on a deckchair in Hyde Park.

Going underground, a station of the Metro, thinking of Ezra Pound´s poem:

„The apparition of these faces in the crowd,

Petals on a wet black bough“.

Preparing an interview with Brian Eno and Karl Hyde. Memories.

8) Eno Hyde: TO US ALL (LAST SONG) STARTS (the first two minutes are instrumental and shall provide a nice background texture for my reading)

In 2006 Simon Jeffes, the proprietor of the Penguin Cafe visited me in my home in Dortmund. I did the first blindfold test of my life with him. One track I played was Eno’s „Alhondiga“ from his album THE SHUTOV ASSEMBLY. He commented on it something like that:

„Oh, I’m not so fond of electronic music, but this piece has a charming atmosphere, even something haunting. And there is this one sound, ting, that sounds like you´re clinging a spoon at a cup of tea. It’s pure electronic music, but, surprise, I love this one. You know, Michael, I’m dreaming of new worlds for the Penguin Music that might even include electronics. I call it „Organic Garden“. Simon Jeffes was full of ideas. One year later he died of brain cancer.

The last song on „Someday World“ from Eno & Hyde is called „To Us All“. You´re listening to it now. Do you hear the smooth sounds, the incredibly warm, embracing texture? Isn´t it something that reminds you of Children TV programms in the Sixties?

And then the vocals … like pop music before pop lost its innocence, think of the whistling tune of „Winchester Cathedral“, think of Flipper and Porter Ricks and the Monkees on TV … Bygmesger Bob, Lukas und der Lokomotivführer, Peter Pan …

But, well, it´s more of a „lullaby for the end of the world“, there´s yearning, there´s sadness, there´s bitterness in it … As Laurie Anderson once told me: „Eno can be an expressionist“, and I may add, sometimes he can hide the expressionism in a quite disturbing way …

„From the blood that we just we couldn’t spill
From the ones that we just couldn’t kill
We spin a world in a dizzying fall
To see the things that will happen to us all.“


8) Eno/Hyde: To Us All (final part with singing)


This entry was posted on Montag, 5. Januar 2015 and is filed under "Blog". You can follow any responses to this entry with RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


  1. Michael Engelbrecht:

  2. Michael Engelbrecht:

    Henning’s comment:

    The seminar program started with Michael Engelbrecht’s „Storytelling for burning songs (Or: how to make radio magic).“ Engelbrecht used the fabulating imagery of „Pacific Radio Fire,“ a short text from Richard Brautigan’s 1971 book The Revenge Of The Lawn as stepping-stone: a running transistor radio is set on fire by one of the two young Weltschmerz-guys lingering on a lonely Monterey beach in mournful company of each other.

    The charged imagery of the burning songs served as an igniting metaphor for the evocation of magical effects: „As the radio gently burned away, the flames began to affect the songs that we were listening to.“

    In a staged radio-show Engelbrecht acted out his way of interconnecting and contouring heterogeneous types of music by his personal imaginative narratives—a demonstration of the art of talking every person of the audience into captivated or preferably even mesmerized listening to a well-weighed sequence of Ensemble Economique, Penguin Café Orchestra, Eric Honoré, Thomas Köner, Kim Kaskashian, Mirel Wagner, Brian Eno/Karl Hyde.

    Along a special associative narrative logic portions of fiction, colportage, polemics, musical background information, literary references, subjective projection of dreams and desires, predictions and prayers unfurled—alluding, provoking, dissing, praising—over the top at times.

    At its core was the suggestive power of the speaking and projected realms anchored in the authority of the narrator. His imagination even carried him far into the future, to a decisive and detailed burning lineup of one of the Punkt Festival days in 2015.

  3. Michael Engelbrecht:

  4. Michael Engelbrecht:

    A song by Mark Hollis (Talk Talk) can be played in a row with a John Cage piano track, an interplanetary Sun Ra excursion, Brian Eno’s “lullaby for the end of the world”, some weirdness from the infamous “Punkt” family, an ECM classic from the 70’s – and a field recording from the Outer Hebrides.

    The question is how to create a unified vison from such different sources without delivering a “high brow” post-modern exercise in “anything goes”. One answer: you have to spend a lot of time on the “sequencing” of the tracks, and the stories you’re telling.

    In fact, the future of non-mainstream radio is in parts connected to old traditions of griot, campfire stories, and very personal contribitions of the “nighthawk” at the microphone.

    Listen to a special “radio perfomance” by Michael Engelbrecht that will combine controversial thoughts on music, with a series of tracks from the broad field of “textural minimalism” – and some late night stories told in the middle of the day!

    Since publishing the above, Michael has written the following on his blog:

    Now this was a special sequencing for my lecture in Kristiansand, a mix of words and sounds. The first idea was: to show people how to “compose” a “thrilling” radio show out of quite different styles; the second idea was a kind of theme running through nearly all the tracks: “structural minimalism”.

    That seemed a little bit too academic for me; I wanted more surprise in it, and an element of shock and disturbance on the side of the listeners. So the third theme has become – dying, simple as that.

    Of course, here I won`t give away the track list. The names of the label might ring a bell as well: DENOVALI (two times), VIRGIN, HUBRO (two times) , ECM, OPAL, SUB POP, and, cause I have only 25 till 30 minutes performance time, I probably have to leave out one of my favorites from RUNE GRAMMOFON.

    Every visitor of the seminar will find a special posting on this blog, on the day of the lecture, with the full playlist, a number of recommendations (so, better don´t miss the vinyl or cd versions of “The Nature of Connections” and “SUPERSILENT 12″ on Rune Kristoffersen´s label!) – and a lot of extras that all make sense for the 10th Punktfestival! After my lecture Jana Winderen (with Mike Harding from the excellent label Touch) and Laurie Anderson will hold their “lessons” – I´m always very grateful for good company.

    Jana, I will see you smiling at one point of my performance, so don´t miss it. And, Mrs. Anderson, we had met twice. Once upon a time deep in the past century we had a fine conversation about the record that has become my favourite album in your broad catalogue: “Bright / Red”. One of the songs there was “Freefall”.

    That´s what my little lecture is about, too, (not only) in a metaphorical sense. if you don`t have the time to join the auditorium, enjoy the fantastic breakfast at our hotel! But, well, then you will just miss a special kind of “pacific radio fire”…

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