P16.D4 - Box, Interview, Texte
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Der britische (inzwischen in Paris lebende) Geiger, Pianist, Komponist, Jazzmusiker und Autor DAN WARBURTON besuchte RALF WEHOWSKY im Jahr 2005 in dessen Studio in Eggenstein in Süddeutschland. Er führte ein langes Interview mit ihm (welches hier nachgelesen werden kann) und verfasste auf dieser Grundlage einen ausführlichen Artikel über WEHOWSKY und P16.D4 mit dem schönen Titel "War On Stupidity". Das britische Avantgarde-Magazin THE WIRE (Neue Musik, Postrock, elektronische Musik etc.) veröffentlichte ihn im September 2005. Wir dürfen diesen Artikel mit freundlicher Genehmigung von TONY HERRINGTON, Herausgeber von THE WIRE, und DAN WARBURTON im Original abdrucken.
WAR ON STUPIDITY (DAN WARBURTON)
“Making music for me is about going beyond a certain simplicity,” says Ralf Wehowsky from his home in Eggenstein, near the Black Forest in south western Germany. “It’s nonsense to criticise improvised or other challenging music as being ‘unstructured’. The problem lies in human memory capacity, which isn’t enough to cope with complex structures for more than a short period of time – but one only has to listen often enough to be able to remember more and make out complicated and irregular structures. Everything new finds its place. Many of my pieces only reveal themselves upon repeated listening, but I don’t try to ‘hide’ things; there are often texts with explanatory notes. There’s certainly no intention to make things sound ‘difficult’. My music simply sounds right to me in the way that Helmut Lachenmann’s opera Das Mädchen Mit Den Schwefelhölzern sounds absolutely right, and everything I’ve heard by Madonna simply sounds wrong.
If pushed, Wehowsky will describe himself as “a composer: someone who organises sound purposefully without reproducing an existing piece of music, or significant parts of it. But that definition is very basic, and could include free improvisation as well as Muzak.” And Muzak is about as far from Wehowsky’s work as it’s possible to get. He’s created some of the most challenging and complex electronic music of the past two decades, but remains best known as the éminence grise behind P16.D4, a group who broke away from the fringes of German post-punk to release a handful of influential albums during the 1980s. Describing P16.D4 music as ‘post-punk’ is, however, about as misleading as calling Nurse With Wound ‘Industrial’. By 1984, when the first P16.D4 album Kühe In 1/2 Trauer was released, categories had already strained, cracked and broken, and Wehowsky and his crew had stepped out of conventional song structures into a landscape scarred by noise and the strictures of contemporary composition, drawing influences from the whole corpus of electronic music, from Stockhausen to Merzbow. Since P16.D4 disbanded at the end of the 1980s, Wehowsky has continued on his own, releasing projects, often under the name RLW, on key experimental music imprints including trente oiseaux, Table Of The Elements, Corpus Hermeticum and Anomalous as well as the Selektion label he curates with sound artist Achim Wollscheid, among others.
“My music extends a tradition that criticises the world as it is and uses art to explore the way we perceive reality,” he elaborates. “A fine early example of this is dada sound poetry, which didn’t just attack social and political nuisances, but language itself.” Though he describes that ‘tradition’ as breaking into both pop and high culture, it’s clear Wehowsky’s own aesthetic is closer to Boulez than Bo Diddley: “There’s no interest in functional music – music to dance to, march to or go shopping to, which is the function of 99 per cent of pop music – nor in respecting conventions that evolved to please the clergy and the aristocracy. Many forms have worn out; chord progressions express nothing any more. They’ve degenerated into cliches. And basing a track on steady 4/4 time indicates stupidity as sure as death.”
To paraphrase the musicologist Harry Halbreich, all unlistenable music becomes listenable after a while. P16.D4's explosive cocktail of distorted guitars, drum machines and hardcore elektronische Musik has exerted a strong influence over younger explorers in the field of electronic music. Otomo Yoshihide, DJ Olive and eRikm were recently described glowingly by Luc Ferrari as “nouveaux concrets”, but the investigations of P16.D4 predated the avant turntablists by well over a decade. “Half Cut Cows”, on 1989’s acRID acME OF P16.D4, featured two turntablists working with the Kühe LP following a rough compositional structure combined with spontaneous improvisation. In 1991's shortlived follow-up project, SLP, four turntablists were provided with scores and stopwatches and invited to rework side four of P16.D4’s 1986 double album Nichts Niemand Nirgends Nie, the results mixed by a computer program specially written by Selektion’s Joachim Pense, also a professional software designer. Not that Nichts Niemand Nirgends Nie wasn’t complexto start with, consisting of recyclings by P16.D4 and Achim Wollscheid of each other’s material. “Our music wouldn’t sound the way it does if electronic music and musique concrète hadn’t existed,” Wehowsky admits, “but we used concrete sounds in a non-illustrative way that left room for listeners to construct their own meanings. Unlike pop music, where you hear a motorbike in a song about motorbikes. How dumb!”
The working methods of P16.D4 included improvisation (not only for the joy of the moment, but as raw material for subsequent transformation), composition (“we used classical Western principles of structuring pieces, but with slices of tape instead of notes”) and intensive and ferociously perfectionist mixing. “Extase Des Sozialismus” (from Kühe In 1/2 Trauer) started as a ten-minute improvisation for saxophone and electronics, which was subsequently chopped up, reordered, edited down, combined with looped choral music and heavily processed, but “remaining at the threshold of perception. That took some mixing,” Wehowsky deadpans.
In performance, the group explored what he calls “musique concrète improvisée”, and the gritty complexity of acRID acME OF P16.D4 can be heard as a clear precursor of today’s more austere electronica on imprints such as Mego, Antifrost and Intransitive. The album (not surprisingly, given its title, the group’s last) runs the gamut from “early rock recordings reconfigured in a non-nostalgic way” to “Zur Genese Der Halbbildung”, a mindbending 20 minute collaboration with Merzbow (the venerable pipe organ will never sound the same again). Jim O’Rourke and David Grubbs remain enthusiastic champions of Wehowsky’s music – Grubbs wrote characteristically elliptical liner notes for RLW’s When freezing air stings like ice I shall breathe again – and Métamkine’s Jérôme Noetinger has described P16.D4 as a formative influence on his own work, acknowledging his gratitude by releasing Wehowsky’s Nameless Victims as part of his Cinéma Pour L’Oreille series in 1996. Noetinger also contributed two substantial pieces to Wehowsky’s large scale Tulpas remix project with Lionel Marchetti, whom Wehowsky later collaborated with on Vier Vorspiele (Selektion 1998). Wehowsky’s fondness for “driving cheap everyday instruments over the edge” resonates in the trashed analogue world of Howard Stelzer, and the ebullient noise of France’s Dust Breeders, who, along with Domenico Sciajno, Stephen Vitiello and others, are currently working with Wehowsky on a collaborative project based on recordings of a Christmas carol sung by his daughter Sonja.
Michael We. für nonpop.de
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