Now that the dust has settled somewhat and I’ve had a few days to get my affairs in order, I’m very excited to reveal some of the results of Camenzind Belgrade‘s first week. Working alongside a team of local architects, students, artists and journalists, my role as a ‘guest expert’ was to help the participants create various radio and sound works concerning the Savamala area of the city. In addition I gave a lecture on radiophonic music as part of Camenzind’s series of salon evenings and made guest appearances on local stations FMK Beograd and the mighty NO-FM, for whom I contributed a live DJ mix that was perhaps a little more energetic than I’d originally intended. Not that anyone complained….
As I think I’ve mentioned before, Camenzind is a Swiss magazine and research platform that deals with architecture from the perspective not only of architects but also musicians, artists, physicists, civil engineers, and any other kind of inhabitant or user of architecture. Or perhaps I forgot to mention this. Either way, you can read more about the magazine’s new Belgrade operation (invited at the behest of the Goethe Institute to take part in the city’s current ‘Urban Incubator‘ project) and have a listen to some of the impressive body of work the team created here. I must say I was consistently impressed by the talent and creativity displayed by my new Serbian friends, there’s some really dynamic and exciting work to be found on the website. And they’re only just getting started!
For my own part I’m currently creating a ‘sound portrait’ using recordings collected around Savamala (an early part of which I unveiled on this site last week) that will hopefully be finished in the coming weeks. But for the moment I’d like to present a couple of short audio-visual portraits made in collaboration with local photographer Milica Nikolić.
The images are culled from Milica’s beautiful shots of the riverside area, while the soundtrack uses percussive and reverberant sounds recorded inside ‘The Spanish House’, a ruined shell of a building perched on the riverbank with a flooded basement that provided one of the most delightfully evocative acoustics I’ve ever had the privilege of balancing precariously in. Perhaps surprisingly there are no electronic effects or artificial reverb used in these recordings, the atmosphere you hear is entirely natural. Milicia and I were assisted in our endeavours by Mirjana Utvić and Anita Knežić, architecture students, radio producers and amatuer percussionists who not only introduced me to this wondrous place, but also embraced our project with what I think we all agreed can be called ‘gusto’.
Here’s part one, recorded on a visit to the famous ‘ship’s graveyard’. I use inverted commas because although far from sea-worthy, at least one local has made a fairly cosy dwelling amongst these rusting hulks, while the others are used by fisherman as a casting point for their rods, despite the huge amount of rubbish and debris that has collected in this bend of the river. And they don’t just throw them back, either…
For part two we move to The Spanish House itself, situated on the banks of the river and with it’s brackish waters lapping in the basement. It was cold, wet and eerie and and also love at first sight:
As you can tell I’m a huge admirer of Milica’s work and hope that we’ll have an opportunity to collaborate again soon. I also hope that next time it won’t take four long hours just to upload two short minutes of video (dammit!). And of course I’m very grateful to Mirjana and Anita for allowing me into their special ‘Temple of Savamala’ and for providing voices and percussion. Here are a couple more photographs of us at work – taken by Milica of course.
Unfortunately this has all been rather a brief summing-up of what was an incredibly exciting and rewarding week, partly as I’m flying off to Berlin first thing in the morning and partly because these videos took far longer to finalise and upload than was strictly proper and necessary. But I do urge you to visit the Camenzind Belgrade site for further listening and hope to be bringing even more exciting new work to your attention in the coming months. Once you start flying to Eastern Europe, breaking into abandoned buildings and banging on the pipes it’s very difficult to stop, as I’m sure you can imagine…