Music in Traffic – Music in Dresden

Photo: MM

When the Kulturpalast had to close its doors last year due to the pandemic, the Philharmonic wanted it not to shut up completely, Frauke Roth recalls. So, the director of the Philharmonic gave the old (and retired last year) professor of electronic music at the local music academy Franz Martin Olbrich an unusual composition committee: the palace itself was to become an acoustic building.

Olbrich, who had already created similar vocal installations in places such as the New National Gallery in Berlin or at Colditz Castle, listened to himself through a suitcase full of CDs with recordings of the Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra, excavated in the repository of the Saxony State Library – State and University Dresden State Library of Shellac Records The old and also resorted to the data sets already available there in digital form. From this he designed eight separate playing stations, which play their audio tracks through twelve small loudspeakers on the pillars of the Beletage Palace and rain down on the Altmarkt, Schloßstraße and Galeriestraße.

The installation concept is based on various aspects of orchestral sound: sacred music, vocal music, program music, absolute music, etc. Olbrisch treats the corresponding recordings of the Dresden Orchestra in his vocal compositions. Each type can be heard through one of the loudspeakers. The listener often thinks he knows the business, but familiar listening gets angry with transitions, mix-ups, and overlays; Last but not least, the goal is to bring the often overlooked aspects of orchestral sound in coordination to the audible surface. Background is also a consideration in which room music happens at all. If the outer shell of the building itself becomes the source of the music, the acoustic and social space touch in a special way. What emerges is the interaction: between passers-by, the audience, the musicians, the musical instruments, the orchestra, and of course the house itself.

Now that the palace has fortunately reopened, the result is a three-week conscious audio tour, every day from 10am to 7:30pm. The effect caused by accurate sonic rain stations is truly amazing. The discomfort gradually turns to conscious listening, which also includes the noise of the city around Kulturpalast. Snippets of music stand out from the past, sometimes drowned out by street noise, flutes, clarinets, or percussion segments in the eight fifteen to thirty minute episodes, which in turn consist of several dozen snippets of music. Sometimes it feels like the few minutes when the orchestra is already on stage and the musicians quickly move on to select sensitive paragraphs before they get into the mood. Oh how we missed that nervous buzz!

However, Olbrisch’s installation is also intended to attract ordinary pedestrians to take a look inside the building: “The Kulturpalast in Dresden is located practically in the city center, and therefore in a place that also exists while passing by experienced by people who may never go to this building for concerts.” “Many of them may not know the audio material used at all or it is very fragmentary. Getting these people curious about our wonderful musical traditions would be a very special success for me.”

A tip for concerned strollers: The best time to stroll during the install is on Sundays, when the city is quieter. Anyone listening in the lounge chairs of the Children’s and Youth Library on the first floor of the mansion (with a view of the library’s beehives in the southeast corner) hears a listening station with almost no “city background”.

Franz Martin Olbrich (born 1952) studied composition at the University of the Arts Berlin between 1979 and 1985. From 1988 to 2008 he was a lecturer in composition and studio technology at the University of the Arts Berlin and from 1999 to 2008 in composition at the Electronic Studio of the Technical University of Berlin. In 2004 and 2006 he was a lecturer at the Darmstadt International Summer Course for New Music. From 2008 to 2020, he was Professor of Electronic Music at the Karl Maria von Weber University of Music in Dresden. One of his artistic focal points is the compositions that go into acoustic installations in places such as the New National Gallery in Berlin, the Witten Nightingale Mine, and the Colditz Castle prison camp memorial site. Franz Martin Olbrisch’s rooms are discreet wardrobes. Dense structures subtly charged in which the visitor noticeably immerses himself. He himself becomes part of this structure, part of an almost tangible interaction of sound, image and movement, memory and association, projection and reflection. In addition, Olbrisch creates intermediate works (photo and video sequences in connection with acoustic experiments) and compositions for a variety of instruments (including trumpet and tape; vocal and 16 amplifiers; string quartet; flute; kamanilo and drums).

A text version of the article appeared in the Dresdner News Update on October 9. We are grateful to the publisher for his kind permission to reprint it here.

Martin Morgenstern

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