Monday, May 29, 2006

Nantes - Breweries, Old Cookies and the Hub Collective

It all started with a toilet problem. John Morin of the Hub Collective communicated me this little inconvenience via mail. In my imagination I saw a rusty coloured yard full of old bicycles, cartires and the remains of a schoolbus and in a corner the concrete rests of what once was a toilet. The toilet problem got solved. Portable cabins had arrived. But soon another mail revealed another problem.
The door of the Blockhaus had been damaged. And in the same niche of my imagination a 30 centimer thick iron door appeared, blown out of function by thirty kilo's of
dynamite. Also the door problem got solved. But yet another mail arrived: the equipment had been stolen. The courtyard in my imagination remained the same, but
this time it rained and the raindrops looked like stainless steel. John had left. Night fell over my fantasy, but not over the HUB-collective.

When I arrived in Nantes I noticed that I was ahead of springtime. I was struck by a fierce wind, majestic light and huge clouds. I was hosted by Carinne and John in their petite residence, who told me a petite histoire of Nantes, city of shipbuilders and breweries, and once a port to the many who sailed the ocean to find new life and also to the few who sailed out to join in on old cruelties.
They also told me the story of HUB. A collective of local musicians who had rented an WWII sheltering bunker near the river. Not exactly the rusty courtyard I had
thought of, but located in an area with vanishing commercial activities, alongside a railroadtrack, where the hardest work was done by nature. A building site added some temporarily desolation. The good point was that it might help the HUB finding public: what now looked like concrete geometrics, was meant to house students in a
year or so.

I was there two days. Those two days gave a nice illustration of what HUB was capable of: I did an illegal concert in the last shipyard of Nantes. Equipment, recording gear and documentation were provided by John and Carinne. Then I did a concert in the Blockhaus (over John&Carinne's private stereo) with -surprisingly- a
very nice and warm almost pluchelike atmosphere and did one of the most relaxed concerts of the tour; Last, an interview and live radiophonic production for the local JETFM-radio, also this meeting being arranged by John and Carinne.

Again I encountered musicians who were willing to spend time and energy in producing some kind of music, host soundicians, maintain contacts with soundicians abroad,
produce CDr-'s, try to get more visibility. They get some support from the local council, that serves to pay the rent; it's not enough to finance other activities.
Apparently most of the money goes to the Lieu Unique, an organisation that resides in an old cookie factory. Also they do good work. But the artists that they invite don't belong to the margins anymore. And since this blog is all about the ultramargins, and the importance of supporting and stimulating the ultramarginal soundicians in order to keep alive the base where it all comes from, I decided to
write a letter to the people of Lieu Unique.


When I was in Nantes last april, I didn't have the time to visit the old cookie factory. Maybe I will do so another time, because I am very interested to see how a factory got transformed into a centre of the arts. The website gave me some impression of the character of your place: it seems that it aims at making the new and somehow still experimental arts more accessable to a broader public.

I sincerely hope that you succeed in this policy, because it also gives some sense to the activities of people who are way ahead of you. I don't mean that these pioneers are way ahead in taste. They are exploring the very limits of the arts, and can do so, because they don't feel the pressure of a programmer or curator who will judge these activities by their commercial but surely also their artistic value. These judgements define the distance.

I know from first hand information how staalplaat started almost 25 years ago in an Amsterdam squat selling cassettes that were handed to them by the musicians. From that point onwards staalplaat developed itself into a shop with a worldwide network.
It took staalplaatsoundicians 25 years to become what they are, including worthy of being invited to the I.D.E.A.L. festival.

I write to you, because I am part of a sonic world, and as such have been hosted by the HUB collective in your town. They operate in the margins, with marginal help of
the town council. The lack of money puts limits to their activities. Through their network they could be able to attract soundicians from outside France.

And it is in this respect that I write to you. I would like to ask you to study and consider the possibility to host Hub collective at the Lieu Unique every three months. Give them some financial help and artistic freedom and see what kind of programme they can present. It will surely give you a pleasant insight in the activities that take place in the ultramargins of the sonic world.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Bordeaux - The Bicycle Orchestra and Other Stories

Before I knew that Bordeaux was synoniem to wine, it was a town where the Tour de France would pass every year. In Europe this great cycle tour de force is followed by millions. On television its reputation is so massive, that more millions stay two hours or more in front of the television. The nice summerdays can wait for a while. Last century Bordeaux had a name to be a Dutch city. Almost as a tradition it had a Dutch cycler that won the etappe there.

After Bordeaux the Tour would proceed for the Pyrenee mountains. The real heroes were born there. When coming from Bilbao, I expected to cross these mountains. Don't know much about geography, and don't know much about the French I took. But I do know I felt some regret and some faint nostalgia when I saw the traffic sign `France`and realised I had to leave Spain. There were no mountains.

Empty spaces get filled up very fast. My host for the day was Jonathan. He materialised out of a story that Pati told me back in Vigevano. Such are the little mysteries in life. When I walked out of the trainstation a little guy with black sunglasses and a moustache came cycling towards me, leaded me through the inner city to an anarchist's cove, and much later to his house on the Rue de la Croix

The next morning I woke up with a bag full of souveniers. Breakfast was had in the garden, where objects of other times composed a structuralist's dream of a shipwrecked society. Fortunately also the philosopher had gone. The sun was out, birds were singing their springtime melodies, in a nearby house some work was done.

We all know that God lives in France, and not in the machine as some nihilists want to believe. On that spring day God picked me up and swirled me through the days, as if He had decided to do some jeux de boules. I got to know the city by bike and recognised all the streets I had seen in my childhood when watching the Tour de France on TV with my father.

I had have to write a series of poems to honour those days at the house on the Rue de la Croix Blanche, but I am not a master of words.

Dear Chrystèle Palvadeau ,

If I remember right, the bicycle was a French invention. It was a machine that combined the love for circus and poetry. You enter into a state of wonder when you step on a bike and start driving, fearlessly balancing on two thin wheels. On a bicycle you are only twenty centimeters above the earth, but it is enough to hold the promise that one day you might fly. Poetry starts just before the day that your
longings get fullfilled.

On my first day in Bordeaux I was brought to the narrowest street of the city. At the end of it was the Athenée libertaire. In one of their rooms a fundraising festival took place. I was surprised at the great variety in sound and different approaches to music that I encountered.
One of the groups, but here it is better to speak of orchestra, looked like a bicycle repair place. Twelve bicycles stood in a circle, upside down, as if twelve people had run through glass at the same time, puncturing their tires.
This was not so. They were making music. And they used every piece of the bicycle to produce sound. And in every soundbit the love for circus and poetry was expressed. The onlookers smiled. The enthousiasm of the musicians changed the day.

A few days later I was a member of this orchestra, not as a musician, but as a recorder. We went to visit three schools at the other side of the river. There one of us rang the doorbell, spoke to the teacher, explained the scope of the visit, and made a sign that we could walk in.

The bicycles were put in a circle on the playground. The teachers called the kids. Ten minutes later some fifty children aged 8-10 years were listening. Twenty five minutes later those children were laughing, shouting and banging on bikes with spoons. The teachers were surprised and satisfied. The courtyard got cleaned and after forty minutes the whole action was over.

Please, Mademoiselle, consider this. Contact one of the members of the group, and ask for more information. And then, excuse my little attempt to be poetic, consider that a little grant to the group, in return for a visit as the bicycle orchestre to more elementary schools in Bordeaux, would give a great sense of recognition and stimulation to the young musicians in your town, and –not to forget – it would
bring joy and an unforgettable memory to the children.

With upmost respect and kind regards,

Rinus van Alebeek

Chrystèle Palvadeau:

Thursday, May 11, 2006

SpanishTrilogy - Bilbao - An Idea for a Toilet Music Festival

Txema and Josu belong to musica ex machina. The name proves that some time ago they must have encountered the illusionist's trick of the writer, who uses God to save his story. MEM organises concerts all through the year and a festival every december. Txema is involved in organising for twenty years now. Political recognition has brought the organisation yearly grants. Thanks to this support MEM can invite groups and persons from outside the Basque region.

I performed in the Bullit Groove Club, a nice darkshaded bar with a furry seventies touch. The concert was for free. The audience was at the other side of the blinding light, but among the regulars who stayed at the back, or walked out when I got too loud, I could recognize a few rows of attentive listeners.

After the set Txema stormed the stage and put the volume to the maximum. Another short piece he ordered with a wide grin. The reward was overwhelming: grilled fish in a restaurant around midnight, and a few local grappa's in a bar after midnight. One of the things we discussed were toilet music and friends of God out of the machine that recently had come to live with the Bilbaoans: The Guggenheim's.

Dear ,

During one summer I worked in a restaurant as a cleaner. It was a busy restaurant, and one of the things I had to clean were the toilets. You can imagine what I encountered every day. Nonetheless the very doubtfull fame a toilet cleaner has, I took pride from my work. The toilet is one of the key zones of a habitat.

When the Guggenheim Museum came to Bilbao, they, I imagine, had to find some cleaners in the city itself. Other positions were for people with special talents, and those are a bit harder to find. Bilbao is not New York, nor is it Venice; it is just a city in the north of Spain.

Whatever politics are performed in the direction hall, the bathroom remains the most down to earth zone of the museum. In a physical way it is here where the museum is in direct contact with the city of Bilbao. You need some metaphysics to escape from downearthlyness. So why not upgrade the bathroom area?

I would like to suggest to you an all year round toilet music festival. The idea is quite simple. Get a soundartist to compose toilet music. Put up some speakers in the bathroom. Connect them to a stereo. Depose the CD. Set the controls on `replay´. Push `play´.

As an experiment I would like to suggest to engage Txema and Josu as the curators for the toilet area of your museum. They combine two excellent qualities: they are from Bilbao and they have an immense network of soundartists that could fit in into the low-profile territory. Musica ex machina could serve to help transit the gloria
mundi: musica non olet.

If you think a whole year round festival of toilet music is too risky, you could have a try-out coming december by participating with the MEM-festival and ask the MEM – guys to take care of your private parts.

With respect and kind regards, Rinus van Alebeek


Guggenheim Bilbao:

Laptop Variations:

Been There, Done That - First Movement:
Been There, Done That - Second
Been There, Done That - Third Movement:

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Spanish Trilogy - Barcelona - An Idea for an Illegal Festival

In the year 2000 I lived for a period of four months in Barcelona. It were the last months of the year. It also felt as the very last days of the twentieth century. Streets were dark and shiny with rain. Sidewalks changed into urban wasteland every night. There was a smell of othercountryness. Illegal immigrants from African countries slept on the main square, under cardboard, side by side.

Manu Chao was in his height days. An admirable person, who rejected to be called a leader of a subculture, because - in his own words - leaders couldn't stop themselves of becoming assholes. But the kids who lived at the very margins of existence suddenly were filled with pride. The street was their courtyard.

Repression by law was waiting just around the corner. Barkeepers came running after you when you walked out with a beer bottle in your hand; it was not allowed to drink outside. Shortly after midnight street cleaners would appear with a fire hose and chase everyone away.

Luckily it was still allowed to organise concerts in small bars. And that is how I got to know the Lem-festival. It went on for months, and every weekend another small bar would host a show with some kind of music. A chance meeting with one of the artists, resulted in an initiation in the art of sound.

Six years later I'm back. I carry my vintage Walkman cassette players, the fourtrack, a mixer and a box full of cassettes in a little rucksack. Another sack with my clothes, and there is the picture of an artist as a tramp. Whatever! I had two shows in Barcelona coming up. Victor Nubla, one of the team that organises the Lem-festival had been helpful providing addresses.

We meet in his favourite hang-out in Barcelonetta, a cosy old fisherman's bar with a lovely view on the sea. It has a very warm atmosphere. The waiter calls Victor by his first name. We drink some robust red wine from the Rioja area, eat some tapas. The first sunbathers are out. every now and then we stop talking to watch a beautiful girl walk by. It's a wonder that Victor finds time to compose music and help organising a festival as well.

The Lem- festival that I encountered doesn't exist anymore. It's a logical consequence of hard work and the continuous offer of high quality artists. LEM-Festival works closely together with the town council. There is young people working, open minded, ready to respond to and support good ideas. The organisation doesn't occupy itself exclusively with the festival. Other initiatives are under construction or already existing. They point at helping emerging artists or to give a richer flavor the cultural wildlife, in bringing disciplines as diverse as gastronomy, poetry and music together.

Unfortunately also the LEM-festival suffers from the repression of the law. Most acts have to be presented to a larger audience. That`s why only bigger venues can be taken in consideration. LEM 2000 was free. Now you pay. Not too much, but enough to make you realise what you're doing: Pay to listen! I emphasize this, because there are enough soundicians who pay to play.

LEM is still negotiating with the town council to change the law that forbids bars to organise a concert. In dealing with the town council, LEM has to respect any outcome of these negotiations. This is a difficult situation, because the Festival doesn't want to loose their underground character.

Underground has to do with margins. Those who live and act there, and I'm not talking about criminals, explore these margins. Willfullingly, sometimes unconsciously, they try to find out if a bit more tolerance towards outsideristic behaviour wouldn't improve society. It is also a way to define freedom. Lem-festival could encourage this research in accepting smaller and even one-man organisations. The extra concerts can be held, as in 2000, in smaller bars, before a smaller audience, for free.

I don't have to explain what kind of impact it would have on the festival.

Lem Festival :

Monday, April 17, 2006

Spanish Trilogy - Madrid – An Idea for an Invisible Festival

The last-days-of-our-lives atmosphere that I encountered in Madrid could be easily suppressed. Laws are like ghosts that suddenly take possession of people and places. They live in frowns and in future decisions.

Spain is considered one of the loudest countries in the world. I experienced this when living in Malaga. Deep in the night the street cleaners came washing the streets with gallons of water. Early morning the market people came to unload their merchandise.

This has to stop, so says the new law. Bars have to close early. New licenses are hard to get. Concerts are harder to organise. Enrique Vela of tronicdisease, organiser and my host during the days in Madrid, told me, that in Spain everything happened two hours later. I thought this was a very comfortable position.

Maybe some people in E.U. Headquarters think differently.

In those two hours spare time an initiative has come alive and settled in a building. The Caja de Madrid, one of the biggest banks in Spain has set up a cultural centre. It gives space to a wide range of activities, among which there is experimental music.

The very good thing about it is that they book artists from the very obscurity of the marginal world of 'some kind of music' and in this way visualise the peak of an enormous pyramid.

They risk, however, to become the only visible representative to the town council, because other organisations are – almost – forced to go underground and organise 'illegal 'concerts. La Casa Encendida, as the cultural centre is called, cannot be blamed if this will happen.

But maybe they can help in some way. Concerts of some kind of music can be defined lectures in sound, or exhibitions of found sounds put together in a prelinguistic way. I performed in three different places. Legal or illegal, there still are numerous places where performances can be organised. There is no money before the concert, but afterwards thanks to donations or contributions by the public. Most of the time it can cover travel expenses and pay a falafel and a beer.

The invisible festival is a festival that exists only in its non-existence. This sentence is not the result of my ten days stay in France. Festivals are events in time and space that produce a lot of secondary noise like visitors and propaganda. They are like the tents of a peaceful army that occupies the city for a restricted period. They need visibility for reasons that every one can make up for them.

An invisible festival can last a whole year. It can be held in different places indoor or outdoor. It can be held in places that already are organising concerts for soundicians. It can become a kind of ghost, unlike the ghost that occupies bars and forces the owner to lock the doors or close down for ever. It can become a voice that suddenly goes around town. It can become visible and make some noise.

An invisible festival can even be sponsored by the Caja de Madrid. They only need to contact those who are already working in the margins and give them something like 100 euro a month. Money makes the world go around; it also helps the travelling soundician to arive at places.

perfoming in Madrid:

Monday, March 20, 2006

Paying the rent in Arezzo - Save the Waves

Trying to find a possibility to perform in Italy can be rather annoying. Programmers answer. "yes nice, fully booked, contact us again when you're around," and never answer again once you're around. It's a kind of natural selection. Those who answered offered me a warm welcome.

Alessandro in Arezzo belongs to the association Fromscratch. He used to organise concerts in the centre of Arezzo. But then he couldn't afford the rent anymore ( 300 euro a month) and had to move to another place. Though this new concert hall is a cozy 16 square meters in a bookshop, it suffers from a psychological beyond-the-border complex: it is at the other side of the train station, where the new town is built.

Arezzo is one of those towns in Tuscany that offer the architectural wonders of the humanist era. It is well worth visiting. The marvelous view on Tuscan countryside, and the immaculate main square, that looks like a postcard on real life scale offer all the touristic cliche's you can wish for.
In summer it attracts thousands of music fans, who come to visit the Arezzo Wave - festival, one of the most important festivals of alternative mainstream music.

My concert attracted a bit of rain and eight people. One of them had driven 60 kilometers from Florence. I played and after the concert I had a long talk, because my sounds had provoked some curiosity.

But one little question kept singing in my mind. What if fromScratch had the 300 euro to pay the rent. Would a central place offer more possibility to attract people. And could an organisation that organizes concerts with musicians that are so marginalised that they hardly can be defined as musicians, do something to improve the situation if they received a little support?

I decided to write to the town council and to Arezzowave as well:

"Dear Ms Fabrini, Dear Mr. Valenti,

The importance of Arezzowave to music is indisputable. I appreciate very much that Arezzowave recognizes its responsibility, and, as the statutes say, is willing to support other projects.

I would like to present the association fromScratch to you. They organise concerts from the very marginality of experimental music in Arezzo. It is music that you won't hear in the radio, nor read about in the newspaper. Maybe it is no music at all, but a kind of research towards new kinds of expression that uses sound as its main material.

People who come to such concerts are soundicians themselves, or know of it by word of mouth. I wonder if a support from the council and/or Arezzowave can improve the situation. One can think of fringe events during the Arezzowave-days. But I am sure Alessandro of fromscratch can come up with more ideas.

Maybe it is an idea to visit one of the concerts that he organizes at the libreria leggere, viale Cittadini, 21. If you do, the 5 euro entrance will help the performer to cover his travel expenses. From a financial point of view, we are on that level.

Thanks for your attention,

This letter will also be published on my blog,
If you feel like it you can react,
and I will add your words to this letter,
no matter what the content will be like,

yours sincerely,

Rinus van Alebeek"

Association fromScratch:


Friday, March 17, 2006

Help from Above (five) - Help is on its Way / broadcast your podcast

Another month and I will be in Amsterdam. A month is a misleading unity. In this century the biggest revolution will abolish time. Einsteinian notion will become common knowledge: there is only space. Instead of a calendar we will read coordinates. These coordinates will tell us the exact position in the galaxies. These coordinates will change all the time: Everyone on earth will live in the notion that the planet is moving like a giant spaceship.

Anticipating I can state that my kitchen was a control room. The daily messages arrived from a studio in Amsterdam. They communicated that the city was moving into my orbit. Or maybe the other way round.

So far science-fiction, back to radio. On Wednesday Vpro-radio transmits Café Sonore at 23.00. Café Sonore commissions sound artists to compose a radiophonic work. Then they play it life in the studio in what they call a world premiere. Good! One hour of some kind of music out of 168 hours that go into a week. Translate this to night life and start walking.

At the beginning of this month a great friend of mine called from Amsterdam. He tries to find some concerts for me over there. Among a novel full of other stories he also offered me the one that send my bird's eye to the inner city of Amsterdam, in search of that 1 venue in 168 with an untraceable name, where I might end up performing.

A week later, in the same month, a mail by Patrick Murmer reached me. Patrick does sounds, but he also presents Framework on ResonanceFM, the local London radio. He got offered extra time by the Resonance people, and asked his friends and colleagues to help him out. Within a week he got positive reactions. Each one will contribute with 57 minutes of field recording based compositions. The schedule of the framework friends shows reaches way into next year, 2007.

Curiosity is growing. And communication techniques are improving. What Patrick Murmer can do on a local scale, an organisation can do on a larger scale. Which makes me wonder.

EBU stands for European Broadcasting Union. They exist since 1950, go to their website and learn that the main focus is on collaboration. A department of the EBU is the Ars acustica. Radio makers from diverse countries unite and organise events. There doesn't exists something like EBU 1, EBU 2 EBU 3 etcetera. You won't find EBU programmes on your FM- radio.
(This is not a critic to EBU. It is just that with a name like that, one can almost expect that it's only a matter of time and europewide radio will be a fact)

Which makes me wonder. The European Community (E.C) is called Europe, to make thing easier. Europe, though, is a piece of land that stretches from Ireland to Cecenia and from Finland to Portugal.

Radio Europe on your radio. Imagine a call like that one of Patrick that goes out to all the countries of Europe. Radio Europe on your radio. Imagine thousands of contributors a year who submit one hour of 'some kind of music, presented in their language; the kind of music that ars acustica programmes broadcast. Imagine all those programmes on your pocket radio, wherever you are in Europe, no matter what time of day.

Maybe it is not possible technically spoken. Maybe some team is already working on this idea:to be able to listen to the same radio in Sofia or Stockholm, in Tallinn or Porto, in Tbilisi or on Creta, a radio with my kind of music, that now is presented like a sermon on some obscure hour of the day.I send this question out to ars acustica: Do they know if some organisation is already working on this idea. Or, does it already exist, and I missed something?

Let's write something statesman like. In a period of international tensions, curiosity could lead to the understanding of cultures and other people's habits. And such understanding is a first step - but an important one - to peace and maybe it will lead also to getting a bit more then 12 euro after a concert.

A few weeks later I found this mail in my mailbox: it was not send to me in person, but to the mailinglist I'm subscribed to.


"BYP offers podcasters the chance to transmit their podcasts on FM. BYP
units are handmade FM transmitters made by BYP following the circuit
design of micro radio pioneer Tetsuo Kogawa. By connecting a BYP unit
to your computer or mp3 player podcasts can be transmitted on FM to
your neighbourhood.BYP is an idea and a technology. The idea is to
allow people to hear podcasts without the need for expensive equipment
or fast internet connections. The technology is the BYP transmitter. By
using a BYP transmitter podcasts can be broadcast on FM for anyone to
hear using a simple radio tuner. BYPs strategy is to distribute these
units for free to podcasters so they can extend their practice,
reaching beyond the net and into local radio space.

To enable this BYP has designed several self contained transmitting
units that are capable of broadcasting in a radius of about 100 meters.
Transmitting on FM with these is as easy as plugging them into an audio
out of a computer or MP3 player. The units are designed by Amsterdam
artist Lotte Meijer to be robust and portable. Fitting easily in your
pocket and powered by standard batteries BYP can be used at home or as
a mobile broadcast unit"

a project by Lotte Meijer

Ars Acustica:

Café Sonore:

Patrick Murmer and Radio Framework: