Jürgen Palmtag

12 Lichtenberg Songs ——- Berlin, 2 – 7 February 2013

Over the course of six days, between 2 and 7 February, I walked and cycled through the streets and paths of the Berlin district of Lichtenberg – from the bottom edge of the map of the district (starting point: Lichtenberg Studios in Türrschmidstrasse) to the top edge, right at the boundary with the rural district of Barnim outside of Berlin.
In general, I did not have definite goals in mind – instead, I moved rather intuitively through the urban environment; I only used a map as a secondary aid when I had lost my bearings or gone further than my destination, the district boundary.
“Field recordings” were my main “catch” here, and I also documented the locations where I made my recordings with casually taken photos. I visited pubs, cafés, train stations, disused sites, nature reserves, and shopping and wholesale centres – I tried unsuccessfully to make sound recordings in sports centres and kindergartens (“protected, private environments”).
All of the sound recordings were made using a small hard-disk recorder – sometimes in a concealed manner, sometimes more openly. For example, I placed the device in front of me on the table or behind me on a bench, or I held it in my hand while walking or standing outdoors; in this case, I was always aware that I was running the risk of picking up “background noises” of various types on my recordings.
These noises included humming ventilation systems, the sound of the wind – which was almost always present! and there was the noise from aircraft too… These “background noises” and artefacts were not removed from the recordings, but instead became an element that shapes the overall sound: they are the atmospheric background scenery that brings the recordings to life and – for example, in a pub when hardly anybody is talking – which create an acoustic space in combination with background music.
There were two cases – at the small shelter close to the so-called “Barnim villages walking path” and the rest platform at “Gehrensee” lake – where I had to and wanted to become an active participant myself, as nothing could be heard apart from the calls of birds in the distance and the continuous ebbing and flowing of the noise of airplanes. In these cases, I ran and stamped around and scratched on walls etc.
I have added grooves or distant melodic loops of varying levels of audibility to almost all of the 12 “songs”; these were generated from recording errors, background music or snippets of speech; after all, I didn’t simply want to make sound documents, but instead wanted to create short Lichtenberg Songs by making music out of noises and employing a careful, harmonious dramaturgy. These songs, along with the relevant site photos, could and should be attached to e-mails from the district council office, for example, as documentation of the atmosphere in Lichtenberg in February 2013!

February, 2013