Black Metal 1: How it Started and Some Notes about Music

All this began a couple of months ago, when Isabelle Schad said, “looks like I won’t have time in April to get in the studio with you, so here’s a week for you, call it a mini-residency.” Her studio, Wiesenburg Halle in Wedding, is in a 150 year-old, abandoned former homeless people’s asylum on the Panke canal that was built on funds from the Berlin Jewish community, then appropriated by the Nazis, used as a factory for manufacturing insignia, then munitions, then bombed and shot to all crap, then quietly returning to forest while the original owner’s descendants live in the front apartment building (an entire story in itself) – and a few years ago, Isabelle and the Wiesen 55 e.V. got funds to turn one of the decrepit halls (well, mostly its walls) and neighbouring areas into a rehearsal space surrounded by gardens. Huge and airy, and with a full lighting and sound rig, plus a kitchen, mezzanine, garden full of birds and life, a lot like being in the forest and not in a big city.

So I arrived on Monday with bike (cos I was taking full advantage of being in Wedding to go morning cyclocross-ing in the forest), two bags of stuff, and one “I have no idea what I’m doing.” It’s been a long time since I was in a studio making art, and a solo … that’s something I’ve not really ever done. Solos are the present currency of performance makers of all stripes, in large part because they’re cheap to stage and tour, in part also because of the ongoing fixation on autobiographical authenticity, but I’ve always preferred the intermediary of dancers (even if I performed in my own work). Doing a solo has always been a mix of “I have nothing to say,” and “I have no idea what to do,” and inflicting one on myself … maybe now I’m capable of it cos I don’t really give a shit anymore.

Black Metal is a lot about that last bit, doing stupid stuff in my bedroom to amuse myself, not caring about potential audience (or lack of) or all the usual games of funding, producing, venue-ing. Of course watching the video of the showing it has to be ‘good’ in the sense of I myself as my own audience have to get a kick out of it and go, “fukkenyeeeaah!” which means I have to go all spectacle on my own arse – to put it another way, in choreographing and performing myself, I have to be convincing to my other self as audience, I have to be good (competent, artistic, compelling) at what I do.

Lucky I had some ideas. Not big ones, not many, only four – really only one but call it four – not very ambitious, not wanting to make something big or complicated or involved. I’ve been trying on and off for a few years to get a solo out, and kept falling into the trench of unrealisable ideas, paralysed by too bigness, things that require budget and support and all, and seeing Germany is consistently uninterested in what I do, the likelihood of making a big work with several dancers and all the rest is highly improbable, which left a solo, which kept failing when my thinking modality banged up against incommensurability with budget. So, basically bedroom stupidity. With metal.

Things I love: Heavy metal. Hoonage. Swearing.

When I was a student in Australia, SBS used to have Top Fuel drag racing on a Friday night. Fukken heaven. This isn’t a piece about that or swearing, but there’s something of the cultural displeasure at both in it, what’s acceptable and what’s not. Heavy metal – in any of its derivatives, death, speed, thrash, hair, black, folk, doom, power, and on and on – is only really palatable to an outside audience if it’s made ironic. Metal might be many things but it’s never ironic. The commitment to the theatre of the act never lets up, never gives a knowing wink at the audience, no matter how ridiculous and embarrassing it might look – listen and look at Lost Horizon, or Gorgoroth’s Kraków, brilliance all round.

There’s a close relationship between punk, goth, and metal; I’ve been all three and can say, Metal Rulez!!! In seriousness and partisanship here, I think there is a larger possibility for creativity in metal than the other two which comes in part from the—wait, must headbang to Sword in the Metal Wind for a bit—ok, back … comes in part from the theatricality (not to confuse that with playing pretend, theatricality here is the performance of image), and part from the joy of music. Listen to Sword in the Metal Wind or Gorgoroth’s Antichrist, constantly changing time signatures, rhythms, melodies, keys, even Slayer’s Raining Blood goes all over the place. It draws on the history of western classical and folk music (or for Taiwan’s Chthonic, traditional Taiwanese music), and for me there’s a lineage I can hear with say, Trelldom or Sunn O))) and Hildegard von Bingen across a thousand years. Which is maybe to say there’s a greater intellectualism (as differentiated from politicalism in punk) in metal that its theatricality doesn’t always make apparent.

Metal, yeah, I could go on about it all day. I’ve used metal music in pretty much every work I’ve made, it’s probably one of those things I should deny myself in the interests of getting over my habits and devices. This piece I wanted to go into the least-liked of subgenres, the one of church burnings, murder, neo-Nazis, Norway, corpse paint, that inadvertently made some incredible and influential music. And as I went along, Gaahl, the lead singer of Gorgoroth, and with his own project Trelldom (and others), tall Gaahl from a fjord village north of Bergen with the haunted eyes and penchant for burning churches and torturing people who cross his line, gay Gaahl, became central. I’d planned to only use music from him or in which he sung, but that didn’t work out during the residency, limited to what I had on my laptop. So, Sunn O))) which I’ve used so many times it’s a cliché, Gorgoroth from immediately before Gaahl joined (the incredible eponymous track from the Antichrist album), fucking Nazi Burzum – going to go into why I’m using Burzum and why it doesn’t seem like a bad idea right now: maybe it’s possible to appropriate his music, and maybe within the context of black metal and the history of the last millennia of northern Europe it’s apt, maybe also it elucidates without nuance the arrogant misogyny, nationalism, hetero-bro-ing, racism of black metal, and by extension all metal and most contemporary music genres.

And then there’s Hildegard von Bingen,  who you should really read about cos she was well awesome. I wanted to use some mediæval music, and obviously my proclivities and interests meant the composer should be a woman, and best if it was from 12th century-ish northern Europe. This doesn’t leave so many possibilities, but lucky my ongoing enjoyment of Mechthild von Magdeburg led to her, though they likely never met and were on opposites of Thüringen. I was trying to find some non-folk music that was instrumental, but seems like gaping yaws is the default, so her O Tu Suavissima Virga swings between too beautiful, too easy, too overbearing, too saccharine, quite a few other toos, but also might be the piece. After the showing we had plenty of talking about music, about Hildegard and soaring mediæval sacral music, and how the showing was a one-to-one relationship of music to dance. A proper sound design is one possibility, though I wonder if that might become too complicated and not crap enough. For the moment I’m not sure. Same goes for lighting, though I’d love to have Giacomo Gorini along. Either way whatever I do needs to be convincing even without sound or lights.

Inadvertently I’ve jumped from a general what I was doing and how it came about to a long blab about music. Which means I’ll have to save writing about what I was doing for next time.

Video

Black Metal 1: Wiesenburg Halle Residency Showing Video

And here’s the video from the showing of Black Metal at Wiesenburg Halle on Sunday, April 24th. 33 minutes of bedroom metal idiocy plus mediæval chick music (that’d be Hildegard von Bingen).

I haven’t actually watched this all yet, just a quick cleanup edit (it was a showing, a bit of start-stop) – and thank you Dasniya Sommer for pointing camera very nicely at my highjinks. I tend to video most of what I do when I’m working, so I can be my own choreographer / director, and in the context of my residency in Wiesenburg Halle, this was just another day and first attempt at stringing everything together plus having a few people watching. Some of it I like; some of it I’m ambivalent about – writing through the whole thing is for another post.

Music-wise, yes, that’s Burzum; yes, he’s a white shit fucking Nazi. Other music was Gorgoroth, curiously not with Gaahl on vocals, as he is somewhat a primary part of this piece and his solo work, Trelldom has been fully thrashed while I was in Wiesenburg. More Gaahl; less Varg. And yeah, a conversation about black metal and Nazi fuckery is one I am both having with myself and putting aside. Also Sunn O))). And at the end, Hildegard von Bingen, who is metal as hell. Which is to say, the audio is a semi-placeholder.

Anyway, enough bollocks. Here’s the video of me, black metal bedroom. (It’s  462mb, so prolly not a good idea to slay it on your mobile phone or crap internet.)

Also: Again thanks to Dasniya Sommer for video and a huge number of other things; Sarah-Jane Norman for metalicity; Charlotte Pistorius for make-up, costume, and other assistance; David Young for art & theatre discussions; and Isabelle Schad & Wiesen 55 e.V. for providing my residency in Wiesenburg Hallen.

Gallery

Black Metal 1: Some More Images

Lunch on Friday with the glorious Charlotte Pistorius, who send me a bunch of pictures (and she has more!) from my showing of Black Metal 1 last Sunday. Much talking this week with friends who came along, clarifying somewhat where it needs to go next (sound and light design, thankyouvrrymuch). Next for me is the enjoyable task of watching the video and next week continuing bedroom rehearsals.

Gallery

Black Metal 1: Some Images from the Showing

Before I get to watching the video from yesterday’s showing, and writing the crap out of my residency at Isabelle Schad‘s Wiesenburg Halle in Wedding, at least I can throw up some photos of what I got up to, thanks to Dasniya Sommer (who also filmed it, and gave some valuable coaching on ballet port de bras on Friday, as well as years of shibari and being a good friend). Also thanks to Charlotte Pistorius for costume and makeup help, Sarah-Jane Norman for general metal-icity, and David Young, Melanie Lane, and Georg Hobmeier.

Image

Black Metal Cloning

Now my residency at Isabelle Schad’s Wiesenburg Halle is finished (a place with more or less no internet), I can blog a bit of what I’ve been up to in rehearsing Black Metal 1. Firstly, I cloned myself.

Black Metal Cloning
Black Metal Cloning

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Costume Tryouts (“None More Black.”)

This week, I am in Wiesenburg, the workspace hall of my good friend, choreographer Isabelle Schad. She asked if I’d like to have a short residency here while she’s away – yet again – on tour in France and the US. I said, “Yes!” and thought, “Oh dear, what am I going to do?” Well, ideas that have been percolating on and off for a couple of years and bashed out in bedroom rehearsals earlier this year get to run rampant in the huge hall. There are many things here, a kitchen, courtyard, garden that becomes almost a forest, all in a 150 year old former homeless people’s asylum that’s been growing into a said forest for 60 years. One thing there isn’t much of is internet, so I’m slipping this out while it functions: some costume tryouts from today and Monday … “None more black.” (And while we’re talking about music, I discovered one of my favourite mediæval chicks, Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) was also a prolific composer; I’ve been using her O tu suavissima virga, recorded by Sequentia, and sung by Barbara Thornton.)

Dasniya Sommer’s April Shibari Workshops, Classes, & Performances

When it comes to blogging, Dasniya‘s putting me to shame. Shame! And performing! Last night I saw her in Das Helmi’s Sündenstadt (for the 4th time, I think. Almost a different work from the first); tonight she performs with 4RUDE‘s Crime and Punishment I at Tatwerk, and next week, her new morning shibari technique class, and Yoga & Shibari. Brilliant!

And because I can copy-paste, here’s her monthly newsletter. You want to sign up for it, I swear.

Dear Friends, Bondagisti, Theateristi and Dancers,

Spring is awakening! This month, with three workshops for pure technicians, yogis and the creative spirits.
Performancewise I break new soil with Butoh, and guest perform with Das Helmi.

As always, you can read all about this on my blog. In the meantime:

  1. Shibari Technique Workshop Tuesday, April 12th
  2. Yoga & Shibari Workshop. Wednesday, April 20th (new time!)
  3. Staging Shibari/Bondage Workshop. Friday, April 29th
  4. Private & Group Lessons
  5. Sündenstadt — Das Helmi
  6. Crime and Punishment  — 4Rude
  7. Blog!
  8. Workshop & Class info

Have a good week & enjoy the sun!

Dasniya

1. Shibari Technique. Tuesday, April 12th

Tuesday 19 & 26 April; 3, 10, 17, 24, 31 May; 7 & 14 June
Costs: 20 Euro per person, 10 class card 160 €

The workshop focusses on traditional Shibari technique. Inspired by my teachers Osada Steve, Kamijoo Saki, Arisue Go, Hourai Kasumi or Lun Ario. We start with the basics and security principles. Learning initial knots and floor work  patterns with a partner. When these principles are set, we approach complex figures and suspension technique step by step. More info.

2. Yoga & Shibari Workshop. Wednesday, April 20th

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016 at 6pm – 10pm
Costs: 40 Euro per person (social price 30 Euro)
General Description: in English and German.
Information and additional news on my blog: Zur Zeit.

3. Workshop: Staging Shibari/Bondage. Friday, April 29th

Friday, April 29th, 2016, 7pm-11pm
Costs: 40 Euro per person (social price 30 Euro)

Following on from the ever-popular Yoga+Shibari workshops, we’ll be seeing where rope, shibari, bondage can go, how it can become performance, whether just for each other, on the stage, or anywhere in-between.

Read about our first Staging Shibari/Bondage workshop from January. Information and additional news on my blog: Zur Zeit.

4. Private & Group Lessons

Of course it’s always possible to arrange another time for private and group workshops, sessions, choreographing ropes for performances, and other long-planned or spontaneous ideas. Drop me a line!

5. Sündenstadt — Das Helmi

Das Helmi’s puppet theatre mayhem of Frank Miller’s Sin City returns to Berlin this month. Join me at Ballhaus Ost!
Sündenstadt 1
19h, Fri 15th & Sat 16th, April
Ballhaus Ost
Pappelallee 15,
Prenzlauer Berg

6. Performance: Crime and Punishment

A Butoh performance by 4RUDE and workshop participants
(including me :)
On April 17th, at 8pm
Tatwerk Berlin
Hasenheide 9
Gewerbehof – 2. Hinterhof, Aufgang 1, 3. OG
U7 & U8 Hermannplatz

7. Blog!

Some recent adventures:
Photos and the the story behind the second Staging Shibari.
Working with Rita Stelling and Veit Sprenger in Enter the Hydra

8. Where am I Going?

All workshops and classes are at Teatris/Alte Kantine or in our ‘Mini- Dojo’ in:
Staircase b/c, Uferhallen Kulturwerkstatt
Uferstraße 8-11, 13357 Berlin-Wedding
U8 Pankstr/U9 Osloerstr

Please register beforehand, then we’ll send you the details.
Please call when you are in the court yard (by the bus café), in case you don’t find it, or the door is locked: + 49 174 393 70 49.

Dasniya Sommer — Staging Shibari Workshop #2
Dasniya Sommer — Staging Shibari Workshop #2
Das Helmi: Sündenstadt. Felix Loycke, Dasniya Sommer, Brian Morrow
Das Helmi: Sündenstadt. Felix Loycke, Dasniya Sommer, Brian Morrow

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Staging Shibari

Last month Dasniya returned to teaching Yoga + Shibari in Berlin. And a new workshop / experiment: Staging Shibari. Dasniya’s been working a lot in theatre and on the edges of performance / installation art (works coming regularly from dancers) in the last couple of years, with Das Helmi, Angela Schubot & Jared Gradinger,  Markus Öhrn, Veit Springer, I forget who else – as well as working on her own. All this has percolated around shibari and rope, ballet, performance on stage, that’s unfolded ideas present in her earliest work (both the ridiculously famous MA, and not well-known at all but so what, G4), and seeing there’s been a steady stream of dancers and theatre people banging at her door, she decided to start a workshop / experiment thing called Staging Shibari.

The first one was a month ago, the second, later this week (7pm Thursday, March 31st in Uferhallen Wedding if you wanna know), and I’ve had photos from that first one on my laptop waiting to be blogged for weeks now. So here they are!

As with Yoga + Shibari, it’s a 4-ish hour process, starting with some light yoga warmup for an hour and a bit, as a group all in Dasniya’s studio (which now has a forest of hanging points drilled into the ceiling). Then some talking, what ideas we’d like to mess around with, who wants to do what (tying, being tied, hanging/not-hanging, outside doing lights or sound, photographing), what happens where and when, what we’re wearing (rubber dog hoods! – if you’re lucky…), what needs to be prepped, generally a structure and plan to keep an eye on, so we can individually pay attention to each other and impel things along. Basically we’re rehearsing. Not everyone has worked in theatre, though many if not most have performed in some context or another, from playing in bands to bondage/shibari performance, so the actual thinking and planning through as a group is as much a part of the thing as the doing, and takes a while before we’re all up and ready and the go button is pushed.

And then there’s this (in no particular order). Much fun. Certainly theatre.