Nightingales in Berlin & IrRational Music

Concert & Book Presentation

Thursday, 6. June 2019, 20 h: concert | 21 h: reading & talk (Saal 1)

David Rothenberg – clarinet, book presentation
Elliott Sharp – e-guitar, book presentation

In this exclusive Berlin event, Elliott Sharp and David Rothenberg first engage in duo improvisations followed by a conversation about their two new books and their philosophies.

IrRational Music

Terra Nova Press, February 2019

A memoir and manifesto by a pivotal figure at the junction of rock, the avant-garde, and an ever-widening spiral of art, theater, film, and dance.

For over five decades, Elliott Sharp has been engaged in a quest at once quixotic and down to earth: to take the music he hears in his inner ear and bring it to life in the real world. In this vivid memoir and manifesto, Sharp takes us along on that quest, through some of the most rugged, anarchically fertile cultural terrain of our time. Sharp, a mainstay of the New York Downtown scene beginning in the 1980s, has been a pivotal figure at the junction of rock, experimental music, and an ever-widening spiral of art, theater, film, and dance. Rooted in blues, rock, jazz, and the twentieth-century avant-garde, Sharp’s innovative music has encompassed fractal geometry, chaos theory, algorithms, genetic metaphors, and new strategies for graphic notation.

In IrRational Music, Sharp dodges fake cowboys’ real bullets by the side of a highway near Colby, Kansas; is called on the carpet by a prickly, pompadoured Morton Feldman (“Improvisation… I don’t buy it”); segues from Zen tea to single malt with an elfin John Cage; conjures an extraterrestrial opera from a group of high-school students in Munich; and—back in his own high-school days—looks up from strumming Van Morrison’s “Gloria” in Manny’s Music on 48th Street to see Jimi Hendrix smiling benignly upon him. A mix of tales from the road with thoughts on music, art, politics, technology, and the process of thinking itself, IrRational Music is a glimpse inside the mind of one of our most exacting, exciting creative artists.

Elliott Sharp is an American multi-instrumentalist, composer, and performer. A central figure in the avant-garde and experimental music scene in New York City for over 30 years, Elliott Sharp has released over eighty-five recordings ranging from orchestral music to blues, jazz, noise, no wave rock, and techno music. He has pioneered ways of applying fractal geometry, chaos theory, and genetic metaphors to musical composition and interaction. His collaborators have included Radio-Sinfonie Frankfurt; pop singer Debbie Harry; Ensemble Modern; Qawwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan; Kronos String Quartet; blues legends Hubert Sumlin and Pops Staples; pipa virtuoso Min-Xiao Feng; jazz greats Jack DeJohnette, Oliver Lake, and Sonny Sharrock; and Bachir Attar, leader of the Master Musicians Of Jajouka. Sharp is a 2014 Guggenheim Fellow, and a 2014 Fellow at Parson’s Center for Transformative Media. He received the 2015 Berlin Prize in Musical Composition from the American Academy in Berlin.

Nightingales in Berlin

University of Chicago Press, April 2019

A celebrated figure in myth, song, and story, the nightingale has captivated the imagination for millennia, its complex song evoking a prism of human emotions, from melancholy to joy, from the fear of death to the immortality of art. 

But have you ever listened closely to a nightingale’s song? It’s a strange and unsettling sort of composition—an eclectic assortment of chirps, whirrs, trills, clicks, whistles, twitters, and gurgles. At times it is mellifluous, at others downright guttural. It is a rhythmic assault, always eluding capture. But what happens if you decide to join in?

As philosopher and musician David Rothenberg shows in this searching and personal new book, the nightingale’s song is so peculiar in part because it reflects our own cacophony back at us. As vocal learners, nightingales acquire their music through the world around them, singing amidst the sounds of humanity in all its contradictions of noise and beauty, hard machinery and soft melody. Rather than try to capture a sound not made for us to understand, Rothenberg seeks these musical creatures out, clarinet in tow, and makes a new sound with them. He takes us to the urban landscape of Berlin—longtime home to nightingale colonies where the birds sing ever louder in order to be heard—and invites us to listen in on their remarkable collaboration as birds and instruments riff off of each other’s sounds. Through dialogue, travel records, sonograms, tours of Berlin’s city parks, and musings on the place animal music occupies in our collective imagination, Rothenberg takes us on a quest for a new sonic alchemy, a music impossible for any one species to make alone. In the tradition of The Hidden Life of Trees and The Invention of Nature, Rothenberg has written a provocative and accessible book to attune us ever closer to the natural environment around us. 

David Rothenberg is distinguished professor of philosophy and music at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. He is the author of many books investigating music in nature, including Why Birds Sing, Survival of the Beautiful, and Bug Music: How Insects Gave Us Rhythm and Noise. His writings have been translated into more than eleven languages and among his twenty-one music CDs is One Dark Night I Left My Silent House, on ECM.

 

In English language

Admission for concert (20 h): 10 / 8 / 5 Euro (normal price / reduced / Berlin-Pass)
Admission for reading (21 h) free

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