Category: personal news


Bay Area Disrupted

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Last summer, I visited San Francisco Bay Area to produce a radio feature plus web reportage for German broadcaster WDR. My question was: how does the Silicon Valley boom affect artists in the Bay Area? The question is not only about gentrification, Google Bus protests and soaring rent prices in San Francisco. The beatniks of the 50s and the counter-culture of the 60s played a crucial part in shaping San Francisco’s unique atmosphere of liberal openness, creativity and individualism. Many of the early hackers and inventors of Silicon Valley were inspired by the drug and music culture of the hippies. The overlap of counter-culture and computer engineering led to new forms of corporate organization, which are typical for todays Silicon Valley startups as well as billion-dollar companies like Apple or Google. Every year thousands of Silicon Valley employees and their CEOs worship to the Black Rock Desert in Nevada for Burning Man, along with thousands of artists from the Bay Area to collaborate and celebrate individualism and creativity. The technopaganism of Burning Man, originally started on a beach in San Francisco and later moved to the Nevada desert, is a modern resurrection of the LSD-fueled concerts and parties of 60s, where the hippies already tried to dissolve borders between musicians and audiences in a Dionysian revel.

But the overlap between music scene and technorati wasn’t always peaceful. The Bay Area was also the location of a Pyrrhic victory that later turned out to be the beginning of a long downfall for the music industry when in 2000 Lars Ulrich, drummer of the local band Metallica, pulled up in a SUV in front of Napster’s office in San Mateo to deliver 13 boxes with names of countless fans who downloaded Metallica songs for free. After 2 years of legal battles Napster closed shop, but the music industry was bound to never really recover from illegal filesharing as well as a disastrous loss of reputation. In fact, another Silicon Valley firm by the name of Apple was at the forefront to reinvent the distribution and consumption of music with its iPod and iTunes Store. Still, for musicians beyond super star popularity it was ever getting harder to survive, especially after Silicon Valley tech companies started to offer their wealthy employees the lush life in culture-rich San Francisco enabled by bus shuttles commuting between the hip districts of the city and the tedious headquarters down the bay. Other tech firms like Twitter took root directly in San Francisco and transformed their neighborhoods. Median rent climbed up to New Yorkian levels and drove an army of artists out of San Francisco and over the bay to Oakland.

Oakland today is where most of the creative edge of the Bay Area resides. But Oakland is also ridden by a lot of social tension. The campus of University of California, Berkeley, north of Oakland is only a few miles away from the so-called “killing fields” of East Oakland, but both areas are worlds apart in every other aspect. The Bay Area is home of two of the world’s three most famous universities – Stanford and Berkeley – but public schools are in dire state. Once California ranked second among all US public schools, but after a change of the taxation system in California in 1978, spending in public education dropped. Today public schools in California rank 48th among all US states in relation to student achievements. And Oakland is at the core of the problem. The sharing economy is ment to balance some of the existing inequalities. But Airbnb or Uber are only options for the ones who already have a flat or who already have a car. Nowhere else in the US social stratification is as extreme as in the Bay Area.

There are no easy answers. I spoke to a handful of artists and writers. About their lifes, their art and their perspective of the Bay. At the center of the radio documentary are singer Candace Roberts, rap and spoken poetry artist Duke the Bossman of Color Me Black, electronic producer Nowa Lusion and the band Wizard Fist. I also spoke to Fred Turner of Stanford University, music writer Joel Selvin, producer Count, musician and studio owner John Vanderslice, Hip Hop historian Davey D and latin rap artist El Kool Kyle. All together they paint a diverse picture of the creative and relentless spirit of the San Francisco Bay Area.

The collected links:

Webpage (the central page for the project)

Web Reportage (interactive online story, mostly in German)

Vimeo Channel (all interviews and music videos)

Radio Feature (WDR page with MP3 download, in German)

My long essay on the future of acoustic storytelling has finally been translated into English. You can read and download the full text on my website. Here is the tl;dr version:

Radio plays, features, radio art, reportages and literary readings are acoustic storytelling. Acoustic storytelling is the art of radio. With its production of acoustic narratives, radio generates cultural assets whose lasting value is expressed in the currency of attention. In a changing media landscape, linear broadcasting models become the enemy of attentive listening. The only place listeners can choose when to listen is online. The internet is not a supplementary medium to accompany radio programming. It is becoming the medium and the technical infrastructure through which radio is received. Media convergence has rendered the concept of broadcasting obsolete. In response to changing listening habits, acoustic narratives must be made available via the internet: on demand and forever. This requires a central online portal for acoustic storytelling. Radio becomes a platform for creating contexts where listeners can put together their own programme. Content producers must be properly remunerated. The networked radio play is a form of acoustic storytelling that has yet to be invented, but which might be a timely response to the changing media world.

IMG_0518The text discusses the German radio landscape, where the federal structure of public-service broadcasting is in contrast to the anglo-american system. But nonetheless, my deliberations might pose some general questions about the challenges radio plays are confronted with in the digital age. The translation was accomplished by Nicholas Grindell. The text was also the basis for some sort of manifesto I developed together with Heiko Martens and presented at Berlin’s Akademie der Künste in March of this year. The “digital manifesto” can be listened to at this site, but only in German.

On Bandcamp now!

03052008535Hey, I’m on Bandcamp now! The first album available there is called “Chronostasis Revised” and is based on a composition from 2009 for Studio Akustische Kunst of German broadcaster WDR. All is entirely made from clock sounds. There are two “Songs” for free download that were taken from the two longer pieces “Chronostasis Revised Part One and Two”. I have chosen the symbolic price of 1 € for the album. All revenues from these sales will go straight into my next recording with the London Symphony Orchestra – I hope you don’t let me wait too long for that…

chronostasisThe entire piece will be played on Monday next week, 1st of April, in Mannheim at the Jetztmusik-Festival. The location is quite special: it is the entrance hall of the Mannheim airport, from where you can look over the runway. Heidelberg’s visual artist Pong aka Dominik Rinnhofer is providing live visuals handtailored for the location and event. Come if you can! For all being at the show I’ll have download codes to get the tracks from my new bandcamp page for free.

Eolo on Galaverna

My first audio-visual work: Eolo originated in a lot of time lapse video recordings I did in 2010 on La Palma, one of the Canary Islands. There, steady winds drive fields of clouds over the volcanic mountains forcing them into movements of sometimes opposite directions. Together with the sparse vegetation of pine-trees and the dark lava ground, the fast moving wisps of clouds generate a fascinating visual display. For the italian netlabel Galaverna, I set the video to a canon sung by German vocalist Almut Kühne. Her voice is subtly warped with wind like effects that lead to a haunting atmosphere. The song is available as a free download at the Galaverna website. You can also download the video at my site on Vimeo.

Eolo from Andreas Bick on Vimeo.

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Baby break is over – time to revive my blog. What you can expect: some German blog posts in the near future. But no worries: I will still post the occasional english ramblings here and share field recordings. The thing is: writing in English is exhausting and time-comsuming, and it is hard to reach a level of reflection I’m happy with outside of my own linguistic homeland. And after I spend most of last years time following the debate in Germany revolving around copyright and transformative works for a feature I finished some months ago, I feel urged to put my 2 cents in German language in from time to time. So from now on, this will be a bi-lingual blog, as are my tweets and Facebook updates. If you follow silent listening through a feed reader: you can always visit this site directly and check the menus above to filter English and German content – personal news, field recordings, reflections and acoustic flotsam are as always English entries, “deutsch” stands for all the German stuff I will post and “lately / neulich” is a chronological news feed with all posts.

What has happened over the last year? Watching my little boy growing. Writing music for two radio plays. But mainly I was reading and thinking about the German copyright debate. Because the subject is so complex and it is very hard to cover all aspects of the debate without loosing substance, I focussed on one particular field of interest, namely musical mashups and remixes. Thinking about those so called transformative works, one easily arrives at questions about the origin of ideas, authorship and whether there are still any new ideas in the music world at all. Other tricky questions are touched as well: what does the digital revolution do to media, what is the role of extremely monopolistic global players like Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon, how is the cultural landscape shaped and changed through digitization? All this musing and reflecting led to the radio feature “Pasted! Wir sind die Zukunft der Musik” which was premiered in October 2012 on German public service broadcaster Deutschlandradio Kultur. But the work on this subject didn’t end there: I’m preparing an interactive web player for the radio feature with a lot of additional content. The website will be launched in March on a congress about the future of radio. Also upcoming are some unorthodox thoughts on the future of the “Hörspiel” (the German radio play) in the new online media landscape. Maybe it will progress into some sort of manifesto, we will see. All this will be in German and you will be learning about it here first. Also on the horizon: a new release on the netlabel Galaverna. Some of my older pieces will be digitally available through some familiar channels. And other things… Stay tuned. English and German.

Good Reasons…

I have been silent for some time, but for a good reason: I became a father last year and I spent most of the last months with my newborn son. What a wonderful experience! And how irrelevant the digital world turns…

But there is another good reason, which has to do with a project I’m contemplating for more than a year now. It has to do with the future of music in a digital world, with copyright problems, the sources of innovation and creation and with musical algorithms. It will eventually cumulate on a German web platform and condense in a radio feature. I can’t say so much about the project in the moment but you might get an idea when you find time watching the documentary below which I stumbled upon recently. Think of all the questions left open at the end of this beautiful film, that is where I intend to start off. There is a tremendous amount of work to do, so don’t expect too many posts here over the next half year, but I might drop in with some updates from time to time. The documentary is called “Press Pause Play” and was produced by House of Radon:

I’ve been working on the soundtrack for a documentary about German dramatist Heinrich von Kleist recently. An excerpt can be heard on my Soundcloud page or here:

Update:

Here is the trailer for the documentary:

The Film can be seen at:
Goethe-Institut Paris, 16th March 2011
Buchmesse Leipzig, 20th March 2011
Kleistforum – Frankfurt/Oder, 24th March 2011
on French-German broadcaster Arte at 28th March 2011, 21:55

Fire and Frost Pattern” is now available in CD and digital download format at the German label Gruenrekorder. The booklet contains extensive liner notes and background information on the sounds presented in both pieces. The download version is coming with a PDF booklet of the same content. The “famous” recording of the dispersion of sound waves in ice sheets is part of the composition “Frost Pattern” of which you can hear exerpts on the Gruenrekorder site along with my volcano recordings at Mt. Yasur on Vanuatu. The pieces have been awarded the Phonurgia Nova Prize in 2008 and “Frost Pattern” received an honorary mention at the 35th Bourges International Competition for Electroacoustic Music and Sound Art. Support came from the Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven, the company of Fielax, Hanna Hartman, Kain Karawahn, Bastiaan Maris and Andreas Oldörp, who gave me some of their ice or fire related sounds or helped me to record them. The photos on the cover and backside of the CD were kindly provided by Murray Fredericks. Deutschlandradio Kultur was the original producer of the twin pieces, the editor Götz Naleppa wrote an introduction for the booklet. To all of them I’m very grateful, not to forget Lasse and Roland at Gruenrekorder and Daniel for his meticulous art work. Thanks a lot! Buy the CD or the download here.

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