Morse: decoding and wire-tapping

Two or three stone’s throws from the Magma festival venues, one can find manifestations of a piece of recent German history. The word archaeology is given strange and contemporary-historical connotations as one peruses the recently excavated ruins of the Third Reich headquarters of the Gestapo – an object of terror. From these locations, suppressive orders were transmitted to the occupying forces in Norway through Morse code says MIC/Ballade's Magma reporter Nicholas H. Møllerhaug who returns with another dispatch from the German capital.

Eivind Buene:

Last night saw Oslo Sinfonietta performing just those two or three stone’s throws away from the objects of terror. The ensemble presented a strong programme with rich content, featuring compositions of among others Karsten Fundal, Hans Abrahamsen, Jon Øivind Ness and Eivind Buene. Buene in particular utilised the sentiment of the recently excavated ruins. His work Objects of Desire, which has gained near classical status, featured a reverberating Fender Rhodes reminiscent of intense Morse code. Christian Wallumrød’s sonorous keyboard work adorned by the tasteful playing of the Oslo Sinfonietta appeared to such an auto-programmatic listener as yours truly as being hollow Morse Codes.

Morse Code, decoding and wire-tapping stand out as symbols of last century’s regime’s holy language. Not only was it a part of the Gestapo regime’s infrastructure, Morse was also a part of the cold-war elegy that was synonymous with Berlin. During the forty, cold past-W.W.II years, Morse was an important means of communication. Berlin lacked phone lines linking East and West until the Seventies, when a measly five lines were installed – that’s not much considering the size of the city.

The East/West parting put a massive strain on the bonds between the people of Berlin. A symbol of those human bonds defiance of dictatorship is the Tränenpalast. This is the venue where the late evening Magma concerts are being held, and last night’s location for Sidsel Endresen’s performance of Rolf Wallin’s piece for electro-acoustics and voice: Lautleben. Without my German dictionary on my desk I have to settle with my own hopefully correct translation of Tränenpalast: The House of Tears. Tränenpalast was one of the very few locations where people from the east could meet the Wessies; thus leading to the name of tears.

Last night Eivind Buene’s piece Objects of Desire became a symbol of these remnants of Berlin’s history. The composer and performers might feel that this is a careless and lightweight programmatic analysis, and even if it’s not my intention, the work’s emotional content could be commented in this way. After having seen the Gestapo HQ and the Stasi-relics just before, the concert for Fender Rhodes and sinfonietta appeared as a touching symbol of the Berlin history. For yours truly, it was as much as a concert for Morse transmitter with pathos supported by a brilliant ensemble as it was a concert with soloist and orchestra. If one is to highlight a passage it must be the variable-speed, single-tone drones that stand out as pointillist frameworks. When these passages are let loose in the Tränenpalast, it’s as if Buene transmits messages that past East-German dictator Erich Honecher would have a hard time to accept. For us attendees in the concert hall it did nothing but good though.

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