on life, music etc beyond mainstream

2016 3 Sep

The Punkt Lecture 2016

von: Michael Engelbrecht Filed under: Blog | TB | 3 Comments

TEXT ONE- Do you trust your music memories, your musical memories? You may or not want to close your eyes. No worry. These minutes flying by are no rip off from a typically 70’s go-lose-your-self-and-come-to-your-senses-session – this happens anyway, from time to time.

Did you know that Joni Mitchell who painted all her masterpieces in the 70’s (a musical power spot, that era!) once met an infamous spiritual teacher, at the American West Coast, Chögyam Trungpa, and she told him about her confusion with love and life.

And, all of a sudden, Trungpa said one thing, did one thing, and for days young Joni was running through the world without her ego. Asked about it, later, she couldn’t place the experience: Enlightenment? Mini-Sartori? The aftermath of drugs still working her brain after a crazy circus tour with Bob Dylan?

Joni Mitchell then started traveling though the USA, afterwards the created the magic of HEJIRA. Quite at the beginning of 2016, I travelled to the Scotish Northwestern Highlands, only a short time after severe rainstorms.

When I sat at the Düsseldorf Airport, I got an email from a good friend, a jukebox collector: David Bowie has died. WHAT? The cover of his album BLACKSTAR, just released, looked down from a lot of walls, and turned into a death notice. In Glasgow, the headline was the most poetical in years: the stars will all look different tonight. The next day I took the train to Thurso, found me some Bed and Breakfast and had weird dreams…

King Creosote & Jon Hopkins: Diamond Mine

TEXT TWO – I breathe in the sounds of the sea and the cold-starred air. The highways, the dead end roads, the cold dark cliffs on the edge of the Highlands. The remains of endless rain give me a warm welcome.

And it all means: no photos anymore, no diary, just slowly letting in the world without filters, blind habits, but – I do have my cultural survival kit, soul food, my carefully selected 4-cd-collection being the only soundtrack, for four days and nights in a row, on the train, in my hired Land Rover with 8-speakers and a great surround sound.

„Darkstar“ , „Astral Weeks“ , „Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), and, the record you have heard while entering the room, „Lord of the Rings“ (from my teenage „evergreens“), Bo Hansson’s classic.

This was all for days and nights to come – embracing the most lonesome areas, the music a lifeguard. The music a second horizon, and from time to time it would keep my world in a nutshell.

The name of town pubs always have familiar names, like they never escaped old Robert Louis Stevenson novels. „Admiral Dirge Crown Pub“. I start to unfold a map of small paths that might lead to some outlook post. Nowhere Land. Faraway places.

Brian Eno: On Land

TEXT THREE – I had another constant companion on that trip, „Beatlebone“, a profound, lovely and disturbing novel by Kevin Barry – the topic: John Lennon in 1978, and his trip to a desolate Irish island. Far from home. Far from love. Tomorrow never knows. Haunted. He encounters a dog and calls him Brian Wilson. He fights inner demons, he hears tracks for a great unmade album.

„– What ́s on your mind?

Not easy to say.

– Love, blood, fate, death, sex, the void, mother, father, cunt and prick – these are the things on his mind.

How many more timeshare they going to ask me to come to the fucking Muppet Show?

He will spend three days alone on his island. That is all that he asks. That he might scream his fucking lungs out and scream the days into nights and screams to the stars by night – if stars there are and stars come through.“

John Surman: Road To St. Ives

TEXT FOUR – Speaking of screaming your fucking lungs out, Trethevy Quoit, from another record that sends you places, John Surman ́s ROAD TO ST. IVES. Inspired by childhood memories, the history of Cornwall. Produced by Manfred Eicher in April 1990.

By the time I arrived at a really deserted house at a cliff near Dunnet Head, another guy, named Darren Hayman, had just finished his travel project which took him quite long – he was traveling through 54 small Engkish towns and ended up with 54 short stories and 54 pieces of music.

PLEASANT VILLAGES VOL. 1 – the name is coined for those villages where all inhabitants sent to the First World War came back alive. Maybe one-legged, traumatized, but alive. Now far away from local patriotism, Darren Hayman wanted to sink deep in the British hinterland. One story.

„Chesil Beach, Dorset, provides shelter from prevailing winds and rain and often pulls away completely from the coast to produce a neat line through the sea.

Langston Herring stays behind above it amongst small lanes and signs that beg you to go elsewhere. PRIVATE LAND – NO ACCESS TO THE BEACH. The pub was closed, and so was the church. So I took the sign ́s advice and walked out of the village along a high windy lane towards the sea.

My friend Mark found a story on a gravestone about four children who died whilst playing near a lime-kiln in 1830. The fumes overcame the four young boys and they quickly perished. We made a song in two parts, one for the accident and one for the funeral procession of 18 children in white.“

Darren Hayman: Pleasant Villages, Vol. 1


TEXT FIVE – In Stocklinch, I sat on a church bank with a blank mind, doodling with sounds of an Ipad, feeling out of place and lonely.I was exhausted and possibly having my first doubts about the project. Ros Harding walked into the church and looked me up and down. She had a cloud of white hair and bright, wide eyes. „Would you like come to round my house and have ac heese sandwich?“

They were the most beautiful opening words I ́d heard from a stranger, and right then there was nothing I wanted more than a cheese sandwich. Ros was a church warden. I helped her turn on the gas heaters for the evening service before walking back to her home. Ros told me a story about the upper and lower church and a paintng that travelled between them.“

Darren`s album is a fine example how lo-fi recordings, full of mistakes, noises, accidents can have an extra value in terms of audio verite or old school realism – now Darren Hayman is not religious at all, but he made the experience that churches always offered shelter for him. A place of peace.

Now the next music is recorded in a church, and you immediatley hear the difference, another kind of sound. It has always been branded as the „ECM sound“ (such a term simply igores the fact that this sound has a broad spectrum, and is part of another kind of vision… Recorded a the Toyen Kirke, Oslo, one of my three favourite albums with saxophone player Trygve Seim.

Trygve Seim: Purcor

Peter Broderick: Partners

Rolf Lislevand: La Mascarade

TEXT SIX – In Lugano, in the same studio where tonight’s act with Tigran, Arve, Eivind and Jan had come into being, Rolf Lislevand (you just heard him) performed music of two 17th century composers from the court of Louis 14. le quatorzieme. It was interesting to listen to the music before and after reading the charming liner notes of the artist.

The two instruments he is playing, Baroque guitar and theorbe, were special tools in their salad days. Though the artists had the task to delight the ears of the roi du soleil, the old days ́ user ́s manuals for playing or taming these instruments suggest a constant play with disaster. On the small guitar, every note should sound like a dying note. And the theorbe with its many strings (impenetrable is the word here!) seemingly was made for getting lost when trying to play the right notes.

But instead of listenng to the most miserable music of the world – you hear wonderful ornaments, lines, and even Rolf Lislevand seems beeing carried away by the notion he could – modern studio technology involved – create and simulate his own chateau and enter the halles of Versailles – in the big studio in Lugano!

Now, the answer why this music is utterly beautiful and not a way to drive the eccentric king mad – maybe , it ́s in the title: LA MASCARADE. Everything ́s a kind of hide-and-seek, escaping from darkness with improvisation and soft suggestions.

Creative people living in an envoronment where it is so easy to be happy as it is to be bored set the bar higher. They create risks. As if they had pulled out a card from Brian Eno’s OBLIQUE STRATEGIES, with the clear instruction: „Into the impossible!“

It’s in fact a highy evolved play with failure, similar to, for example, the Beach Boys PET SOUNDS, with all its double bottoms – happiness surfing the surfaces, covering the dark sources. Darker things lurking in the back.

Scott Walker: The Childhood of a Leader

TEXT SEVEN – Days unshaved under grey skies. The only talks were the ones with local pub-owners and poor, haunted, fictional John Lennon. Fell in love with ghostlike echoes of loneliness. Strolling around without any good reason.

Near Dunnet Head, the most Northern point of Brittania, I dicovered a house on the cliffs, not far away from a light tower. Climbed out of the car, shaving my criminal beard, ending the 652nd listening of „Taking Tiger Mountain“ in my lifetime, rang the door bell.

No one there. Went around the house – nothing, took place in a big wooden chair looking over to Orkney Islands, nearly invisible behind curtains of fog. Sat there for hours, big coat, pure amazement. Single malt whisky. Stories falling from the mountains. Heaven is a place where nothing really happens.

Months later, I got a record. Didn’t even know the artist`s name. A friend had sent it to me adding a smile with the cute comment: listen, Michael. this is one of your beloved suicidal albums. I listened, and this became one of my beloved life-affirming records – naked, brutal, isolationist, overpowering, fragile, heartwrenching stuff sending me back to the North.

Ian William Craig: Centers

– TEXT EIGHT – Do you trust your music memories, your musical memories. Any nostalgic modus operandi might be at risk now. I had a dream weeks ago about what seemed to be a „happy-go-lucky“-jukebox, placed on a carefully prepared evening area at a beach on the island of Sylt, a rich holiday resort in Germany.

There was the quiet sea, and, with the distance required, a bunch of people were gathering on the sand waiting for a large jukebox to play its oldies, but goldies. Nothing happened at first. They had had their gambas and cocktails and were happy to see the sunset: we all love our sundowners, don`t we?

They started talking with one another about the songs that soundtracked their lifes. Penny Lane, Sunny Afternoon, Happy Together, Winchester Cathedral, the Fitst Time I Ever Saw Your Face, Thank You For Sending Me An Angel, Heaven – an endless list… Suddenly a women came out of the crowd , and she said something like this:

„You remember the first times musical magic came turning your life upside down with a song. Over night. Out of nowhere. Out of an old radio. No experts around.

„Now do you have the faintest idea what comes close to listening to one of your all time favourite songs for the first time in your life!?Well, what comes very close, kind of, is when you know this will be the last time – the stars all look very different then.

The crowd felt silent.

„How come you may have listened to the following song possibly very often, and though the singer is nearly crying his fucking lungs out singing „you’re all right“ again and again, the key word is DEAD.“

The Kinks: Dandy

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  1. Brian Whistler:

    Wonderful writing. These little vignettes are packed with place, feeling and little details that make me feel like I’m there too. And the music, so much music. I don’t understand how some people know so much music! You probably know John Kelman who has curated the Punkt Festival several times? He’s also a reviewer for allabout jazz and has written liners for several ECM reissues, including the Abercrombie does this guy absorb so much music!? I could never do it. T takes me weeks, even months to absorb a new album, much less feel qualified to write about it. There are exceptions, such as Atmospheres, that called immediately to my heart to rite about. It. Anyway, I learned a lot about artists and albums I don’t know from this. And thanks for all the great moody scenes you painted so vividly.

  2. Michael Engelbrecht:


    Well, I know John Kelman from many common years at PUNKT. He didn’t curate that festival, but he has a been constant and creative figure there.

  3. Brian Whistler:

    I thought he did just a couple times before his health got in the way.

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