„There are billions of types of silence“

A Symphony Of Noise: Matthew Herbert. Copyright: Rise And Shine Cinema
Foto: Rise and Shine Cinema / Matthew Herbert

Did you ever wonder what an apple sounds like, what noise a fried trumpet makes and how to sample a pig? The documentary „A Symphony of Noise“ invites us to experience the inspiring world of soundartist Matthew Herbert.

Mr. Herbert, how would you describe what you do?

I don`t really know. It changes all the time. About three years ago I decided to call myself an artist. But sounds a little pretentious because music is an invisible art form and it floats above. Last year I`ve finished my PHD so I called myself a composer as well. There is such a revolution happening in music. No one describes it like that. Music used to be a form of impressionism, you wanted to make a piece about a pig and you had to imitate it with an instrument. Now you can record the pig!

In 2005 you released the manifesto “The personal contract for the composition of music (incorporating the manifest of mistakes)“. One of the rules: No pre-existing sound! Why did you release it?

In my life there are two things happening. One is the artistic process and the other part is the everyday logistics of being a professional musician. For example, I am DJing on big saturday night parties and I want to play the sounds of plastic bags, melting icebergs, student protests and cars on fire. The audience isn`t always ready, what it means to suddenly hear new noises. So it becomes a real struggle, on the one hand I`ve been given the keys to the universe, but on the other hand I wasn`t really ready to know how to deal with it. I wrote the manifesto to remember the liberation and not to be pulled back to the status quo. You don`t need to use the drum machine, or synthesizers, that`s not the revolution! You can now make drums out of sounds of the Oktoberfest or a car crushing into a wall. That`s where should be with your focus!

I want to play the sounds of plastic bags, melting icebergs,

student protests and cars on fire

… and you also published the book “the music. A novel through sound”. What is it about and why did you publish it?

It is about the world as I hear it. As if one could remove ears from one’s head and send them around the world to hear oyster being shucked at the same time or every corrupt judge going to bed at night one after another. The end result is a description of a record I’ll never make.

Your research on sounds began years ago. What was the first noise you`ve discovered…

I worry it’s too biblical, but I my first noise was the sound of biting into an apple in 1999. It was a really strange noise. A year ago I recorded an apple again and slowed it down and then I realized: it sounded exactly like the tree falling down, I`ve also recorded! It`s the same thing. The fibers are pulling apart. It feels like looking down an electro microscope. You suddenly hear the world in a complete new way. It’s like you hear time stopping.

What was your most surprising discovery?

It was probably when I tried to record 25 000 chickens hatching on a commercial chicken farm. They are the same breed, the same age and they hatch exactly the same second. I was expecting the incredible sound of little bird beaks inside an egg, but actually all you heard was the sound of a bird multiplied by 25 000 thousand and the fans that kept the room at exactly 99 degrees. An unpleasantly boring sound. I was expecting it to be the sound of life emerging, but of course there is nothing romantic about raising chickens. They are raised in horrible conditions, they have never seen daylight, they live 30 days and then they get killed. I thought I was gonna witness the beginning of time, instead it was unpleasant industrialized farming I`ve heard instead. Initially I was really disappointed, but music is also a form of documentary and I`ve discovered the real story! It was very moving, but it took me three weeks to really understand the implications.

I thought I was gonna witness the beginning of time

The one-pig-album from 2011 is about the life of a pig until its death at the slaughterhouse and the meal afterwards. PETA had critized the cruelty of your act. Was it an act of provocation?

Yes, definitely, but I absolutely reject the idea that what I did was cruel. I was just there to bear witness to this pigs life. I didn’t kill it. This pig was a farmers pig. It didn’t belong to me. It was born to be eaten. If PETA found the idea of witnessing this pigs life cruel then I think it tells you more about them then it tells you about me. One of the things I loved most about this record is that over ten years later we are still talking about this pig! If I hadn’t have done this record nobody would remember the life of this pig. I still feel very positive and strongly about it. I thought, PETA would be pleased, because people can get to hear what it like to be a pig and how short their life might be.

So what does it tell us about PETA?

I have a real problem with PETA anyway, I find that they have a very romantic idea of the natural world which I totally don’t recognize. Their logo is this fluffy bunny in a sort of WHITE vacuum. I live on farm where you see all sort of things like chickens attacking mice. Even the mother of the pig first tried to kill it because she didn’t know what it was. In the natural world is so much friction between life and death. It’s not black and white in the way they represent it. That’s not my experience of it at all.

Is silence also sound?

It is. There are billions of types of silence. The silence, when you are waiting for the light of the traffic lights to go green, the silence in the end of a beautiful concert just before everybody starts clapping and there is also a new silence which is the silence of life which should be there, but isn’t anymore . There are less birds then there were a year ago. Every year swallows fly to South Africa, in spring they come back. Only one third of the swallows came back to my farm. Next to my last house, there was a beautiful tree. All the birds used to sit in the top of the tree. My next door neighbor wanted to build a house on the property, so they chopped the tree down, but it was impossible to build a house there, so the tree could have stayed up. There is horrible silence, where this tree with all this life used to be, but is no longer there.

Why do you live on a farm?

I couldn’t take the sound of the city anymore. When I started to listen properly to all the sirens it became really upsetting and difficult to live with. I don’t like living in England right now. I don’t like the sound of life like everything is going normal in this country, because it is not. We are in a crisis and we have been in a crisis for a while now. I was in Berlin recently and I found it quite sad to be in Berlin. You don`t really have a really awful government like we do, you don’t have Brexit and the place sounded more optimistic too me and it felt like there is more vision. But of course Germany is not an utopian place.

Before Brexit you had formed an international “Big Brexit Band” and produced “the State between us” about what it means to be British. What was the message behind that?

I felt and I still feel European, I`ve been to Berlin a hundred times more than I have been to Birmingham, where my mum was born. I`ve spent my whole adult life in Europe working, sharing ideas, falling in love. How is Brexit making our lives better? It was the wrong question asked at the wrong time in the wrong way and the answer was wrong as well. I wanted to be part of the conversation. I wanted to create some kind of document, I wanted to express solidarity, I wanted to say stand up for the things that I think are important like values of compassion, values of collaboration, love, kindness, openness, creativity and decency. Over two years I had a thousand people playing music and singing in the big band. We all have very different opinions, its not a cult. When we wanna survive as a species we have to work together and if not we don`t gonna die separately. The biggest test to that is climate change, Brexit is just a side show.

As soon as you fry something it becomes British

You`ve also deep fried a trumpet when you recorded this very album. Why did you do that?

First of all it’s a bit ridiculous and I think being British is a bit ridiculous. The English flag with the red cross has a French tradition behind it, our patron saint St. George is actually from turkey, the fish served as fish and chips is often from Iceland , the potatoes are often not grown in the UK. The soon as you scrap the surface, there is almost nothing British! So it was just me showing the absurdity what it means to be British. And there is something about the idea as soon as you fry something it becomes British. So why not frying a trumpet?

On one of your concert you surprised the audience with the sound of your tooth being pulled out of your mouth. Did your dentist know that you will be on tape?

Yes. I asked my dentist to record it. He was both confused and amused. After I had my second child I had a vasectomy. I have a recording of that as well. Maybe that could be on the next record. We will see. That’s what I like about sound. You have this friction. You don’t have this friction when you play the guitar or the piano.

Is there a sound you would never produce?

I thought about it a lot. When I was in Manhattan on the September 11th in 2001, I had a concert that night. I was recording on the roof when one of the towers collapsed. I was a few blocks away, so in the sound there is a moment when a few thousand people died. A lot of people talked about that sound. We have seen videos of that event thousands of times. What’s different about sound? It feels different, but is it appropriate to turn that into music? I really understand that a lot of people were very against it and I am not sure, if I should turn it into music, but I don’t know why it’s different from a video recording. What are the ethics of doing that? If you just gonna put it into a pop song and talk about your love of rabbits then it’s really insulting whereas if you are trying to create memorial of sound as there is more scope to do something sensitive or valuable. In many ways that’s what my PHD was about trying to think about those questions. It’s something that we negotiate together.

More information

„A Symphony of Noise“ about soundartist Matthew Herbert startet on september 2nd in the cinema.
Wanna experience more: Anne La Berge talks about why she uses a flute as a synthesizer

Tanz im August 2021: „You cannot expect the dancer to go wild“

Colette Sadler. Copyright: Mikko Gaestel
Portrait Colette Sadler. Copyright: Mikko Gaestel

How can you make a human artificial? Choreograph Colette Sadler shows the answer in „ARK 1“. She tells the story of a lost cyborg in the dance piece as part of „Tanz im August“.

Colette, what is your personal approach to a a piece?

My choreographic work is conceptionally motivated. Throughout my works there have been two major thematics that I have dealt with in different ways. My earlier works focus on notions of hybridity, identity and otherness in relation to bodies and objects. In more recent works I focus on the relationship between bodies, digitality and virtual space. My approach starts with thinking about an idea then expanding those ideas into different media including (primarily) dance, visual images, text and sound. In this way my work can be understood as interdisciplinary, during the creation process I weaved layers of meaning using different media.

What was your recent research about?

I have been dancing all my life. The core of all my work is movement based. For “ARK 1” and my last two pieces “Learning from the Future” and “Temporary Store” I worked with the performer Leah Marojevic from London. Together we developed movement and choreography centering on understanding movement and its relation to technology. We developed a series of cyborgian figures for whom virtuosity becomes a translation of non human and a new internal “technology” based in dance. By analyzing all the aspects of the physical body, it was almost like a perspective from technology itself. And I used techniques to emphasize the artificiality of the body like speeding up, slowing down, rewinding.

I used techniques to emphasize the artificiality of the body

What inspired you to “ARK 1”?

My interest in sci-fi narrative, visions and different concepts of time was my starting point. The piece references sci-fi-movies such as Stanley Kubricks “Space Odyssey” and Ridley Scotts “Alien”. The costume of the cyborg is inspired by the jumpsuit Sigourney Weavers wears in the movie ”Alien”.  For “ARK 1” I was interested in feminist perspectives and articulating new narratives for women in relation to technology and space travel. The spoken text was written with the aid of artificial intelligence. It’s about cyborgian technology on the verge of obsolence after centuries of space travel.

Cyborg. Videostill „ARK 1“ by Colette Sadler and Mikko Gaestel

What can we expect from the piece?

“ARK 1” is an immersive video installation and performance intended for museum space. The first part is a sci-fi narration film that tells the story of the fictional bio-tech company VESSELS Inc. who launched the ARK as part of the Earths “Great Preservation Project”. The performance is a hallucinatory visual poem danced by Leah Marojevic on a rug. You cannot expect the dancer to go wild.

With “Strange Garden” you release another performance in august. How are they related?

“Strange Garden” is a piece for young audience. It portrays a living landscape made with objects from everyday life that transform to strange organic beings. “ARK 1” has a core fictional project based around the idea of synthetic life systems. So both works consider future nature in the absence of human life. If the earth would be no longer a place where we could live and which forms of life would still be there?

Further information:

„ARK 1“ will be shown on august 13th-16th at Tanz im August (St.Elisabeth-Kirche, Invalidenstr. 3, 10115), „Strange Garden“ will be shown at PURPLE- Internationales Tanzfestival für junges Publikum („Theater an der Parkaue“) on august 21rst, 22nd.

„As a performer you need to be a bit crazy“

Paulien Truijen @Cie.Woest
Fotos: Cie Woest

An Ananas, a present and lot of office chairs are part of the dance performance „Balancing Bodies“ of Cie. Woest. They show the piece on 24th and 25th of january at PURPLE dance festival in Berlin. Dancer Paulien Truijen talks about what happens on stage, how she founded the company and why she likes site-specific performances.

Paulien, you’ve founded Woest with Manon Avermaete. How come and why?

We were in the same class at the Theaterschool/modern dance department in Amsterdam from 2003-2007. We first became friends and travelled together, after that we realized that we also liked to create performances together. This we kept on doing after school and Cie. Woest was born! 

What is very typical for Woest?

Performances on unusual spaces with recognizable movements with touch of humor. As a performer you need to be theatrical, good in partner work and a bit crazy. 

„Outdoors you have a lot of situations you can’t predict“

You’ve founded your company with site-specific performances in the street and in the woods. What is the difference between playing outside and playing inside and what can you learn from it?

Outdoors you have a lot of situations you can’t predict. The weather, the people who come to visit or pass by, dogs barking… The performers have to be sharp and prepared for what’s coming. A performance outdoors is never the same. You learn to open yourselves and be prepared for the unknown. Improvise with the circumstances you’ll get. Our dancers need these qualities as well for “Balancing Bodies“! 

The audience can choose where they want to sit throughout the whole performance. If you want to sit first row, or safely hidden in the back. What can they expect?

We wanted to create a performance space that was off balance. We give responsibility to our audience to co-create the performance. Together we make the balance of the performance, each performance is different and unique. Every time we perform, we search again for the right balance with the audience.


„We give responsibility to our audience“

Balancing Bodies. Copyright: Young Dance Festival.

How do you rehearse a piece like „Balancing Bodies“, which is always different when you perform it?

When we created it, it was a big question mark how our audience would react. Before we premiered it in 2018, we have had several try-outs with test audiences. With these experiences, we made a base of movements and actions where the performers could hold on to, but with every performance we get challenged again and learn from it for the next performance. 

How do you experience the piece as a dancer?

I am a dancer, but also the production leader. So I prepare for every performance again all the props we need to the performance, and trust me: we have a lot of stuff! Our big yellow van was never so full as with “Balancing Bodies”! If something breaks or the audience finishes it, I will make sure it gets fixed or replaced for the next performance! 

“ With every performance we get challenged again“

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More Information

„Balancing Bodies“ of Cie.Woest will be shown at PURPLE – Internationales Tanzfestival für junges Publikum, here is a link to an interview with the curator of the dance festival, Canan Erek

„Wer der Parasit ist, bleibt dem Zuschauer überlassen.“

Regisseur Bong Joon Ho © Koch Films
Foto: Koch Films

Regisseur Bong Joon Ho macht gesellschaftskritische Filme („Okja“, „Snowpiercer“), die sich nicht einfach einem Genre zuordnen lassen. Mit der schwarzhumorigen Satire „Parasite“ besinnt sich Bong nun zurück zu seinen koreanischen Wurzeln. Im Interview spricht er über Schwarz-Weiß-Denken, wer eigentlich der Parasit ist und wie universal „Parasite“ ist.

Ausgehend von zwei Familiengeschichten thematisiert „Parasite“ das Gegeneinander von Arm und Reich. Während eine arme Familie durch eine List versucht, sich nach oben zu arbeiten, wird dem Zuschauer nach und nach bewusst, wie abhängig die reichen Familie von der ärmeren Familie ist. Sie halten in „Parasite“ der Gesellschaft den Spiegel vor. War das von Anfang an Ihre Intention?

Ich wollte schon immer eine satirische Geschichte drehen, bei der zwei  Familien mit polarisierenden Lebensbedingungen im Mittelpunkt stehen. Also zeigte ich den ganz normalen Alltag der reichen Familie Park und Ki-taeks armer Familie und ließ daraus eine Familientragödie entstehen.  Mir war wichtig, dass Anfang und das Ende sehr weit auseinander klaffen. Dass der Film sozialkritisch ist, war nicht zu vermeiden.

Der Titel „Parasite“ (Parasit) ist sehr treffend. Am Schluss wird jeder seine eigene Vision haben…

Wer der Parasit ist, bleibt dem Zuschauer überlassen. Der ursprüngliche Parasit ist derjenige, der in dem Bunker der reichen Familie Park wohnt. Aber dass man ihn Parasit oder Schmarotzer nennt, tut mir in der Brust sehr weh.

Die reiche Familie ist völlig abhängig von den Diensten der armen Familie…

Ja. Sie übernehmen den Haushalt für sie und chauffieren sie durch die Stadt. Die reiche Familie ist völlig ahnungslos, während Ki-taek und seine Schwester etwas aushecken, um von ihrem Reichtum zu profitieren. Es ist eine Geschichte, die zwar komische Momente hat, aber im Grunde ist sie sehr traurig. In einer Szene will einer der Armen gerade sein Brot essen, als ein großer Käfer über den Esstisch krabbelt, schnipst er ihn einfach weg. In einer späteren Szene kriecht er selbst wie ein Insekt über den Boden. Darüber kann man lachen, aber im Grunde ist das eine sehr bittere und traurige Szene.

Der Humor des Films ist manchmal absurd, manchmal satirisch. Woher kommen die Anregungen?

(lacht) Weil ich selbst ein komischer Typ bin. Mein Drehbuch ist eigentlich sehr absurd, ich bin dann skeptisch und denke dann: ist das wirklich noch realistisch, aber dann machen es meine Schauspieler auf der Basis meines Drehbuchs perfekt. Selbst die Idee, dass die Armen anders riechen, haben sie glaubhaft darstellen können. Ich habe auch großen Respekt vor meinem Szenenbildner, der meine Skizzen in die Wirklichkeit umsetzen musste, obwohl ich kein Architekt bin.

„Solche Filme sollte man alleine angucken“

Wie hat das koreanische Publikum auf den Film reagiert?

Sie diskutieren lange darüber und nehmen „Parasite“ als Geschichte ihrer Nachbarn wahr. Es gibt auch Leute, die sich mehrmals meinen Film ankucken, obwohl es wirklich für sie sehr unangenehm war, den Film anzusehen. Ein Mann hat mir erklärt, dass der Film für ihn sehr schmerzhaft war, weil er selbst schon in einer Halbkellerwohnung – einer Wohnung, die sich zwischen Keller und Erdgeschoss befindet – gelebt hat. Als ich gehört habe, dass „Parasit“ sehr erfolgreich ist, wollte ich meinen Eltern was Gutes tun und bin mit Ihnen ins Kino gegangen, aber sie haben nur geschimpft. Solche Filme sollte man alleine angucken.

Der Film hat eine sehr starke Bildsprache. Gab es ein Bild, das Sie als erstes im Kopf hatten, als Sie das Drehbuch geschrieben hatten?

Ja. Die Szene, in der die Haushälterin über die Türe versucht hatte, die Vitrine vor der Türe wegzuschieben, weil etwas dahintersteckt, es aber nicht hinbekommt und deswegen in der Luft hängt. Ich wollte auch unbedingt, dass die Kloschüssel von Ki-taeks Familie erhöht auf einer Stufe im Bad steht. Es gibt in Korea tatsächlich Wohnungen, die ihre Kloschüsseln ganz oben am Fenster haben. Wenn der Wasserdruck nicht stimmt, dann muss man die Kloschüssel hochschaffen und dann steht die Kloschüssel eben ganz oben.

Man kann den Film einerseits als Kritik an der koreanischen Gesellschaft, aber auch als universale Kritik an der westlichen Konsumgesellschaft, verstehen.

Als ich meinen Film in Cannes vorgestellt habe, meinte jemand aus England: Man könnte die Geschichte auch dort so drehen, dann kam jemand aus Taiwan und bestätigte, dass dass auch bei ihm so sei. Ich habe auch von deutschen Journalisten gehört, dass die Mittelschicht  in Deutschland verschwindet und die Kluft immer breiter wird. Parasite ist also wirklich universal.

Weitere Informationen

Das Interview wurde auf dem Filmfest München geführt. Zur Kinokritik von „Parasite“. Kinostart: 17. Oktober 2019