A "soundscape" of Hamburg, the city‘s image in sound, composed from two thematic starting points: "diagonal" and "bridges." Hamburg is a port city, a city with/on the water. Hamburg is the city with the most bridges in Europe. These features form the foundation upon which the inevitable choice is made of sound locations and sound events that will be used. In making these choices, my aim was not to create a portrait solely from the specific sounds and acoustic trademarks of Hamburg (from the trumpets on St. Michael to the hawkers for the "sightseeing boats" on the bridges where they dock), but rather to achieve an unencumbered dispersion.
The "bridges" theme was broken down into four areas, along the lines of the four methods of transportation: foot, cars, trains, ships.
- pedestrian bridges (foot traffic bridges, bridges in parks, decorative bridges, like in the Japanese Garden)
- automobile bridges
- train bridges
- shipping bridges (the big port bridges: Koehlbrand, Kattwyk and Rethe; landing bridges, pontoon bridges, berths
For the "diagonal," I chose the course of the Wandse river, which starts as a rivulet in the northeast near Siek at Ahrensburg, flowing through Rahlstedt and Wandsbek, then gathering force as it flows through Schwanenwik and into the Alster. It continues on past City Hall through locks under bridges by way of the Schaartor locks and into the Elbe (the City Port) and finally heads west toward Cuxhaven and the North Sea, beyond Hamburg.
This reality gave me the coordinates for places in the city where the tone and sound material could be "collected." I conceive of these places as starting points from where I can investigate the environment of sound events or sound stories. The material to be found is not predetermined, or limited to traffic or water sounds. Another level of composition is added to the raw noise material, the "original tones" – a reflection of my personal perspective, from the subjectivity of this work. In doing the preliminary research for the piece, I entered the word "bridges" in the computer at the library. From the list of books I received, two were currently available from the stacks:
- Rolf Schneider, "Die Brücken" (The Bridges)
A volume of stories from the war and post-war period, including the story "The Bridges" (A German soldier is supposed to buy cloth in Holland for the army. His papers are stolen in a bar, he gets picked up on the street, assigned to a transport of Jews and is deported.)
- Richard Fester, "Die Eiszeit war ganz anders" (The Ice Age Was Not Like That)
R. Fester, paleolinguist, explains his theory, according to which there was a land bridge between Europe and America during the last ice age that led to the populating of America from north to south. He bases this theory on a comparative examination of the root words of languages on all the continents.
Quotations of direct speech in the Schneider story were extracted, and the complete text was "stretched" along the time axis across the length of the entire piece (see "Compositional Structure" below). These "speech extracts" could then be fit precisely into the composition. From Fester, I used word groups and modulations of the root word for water, "acq," as text material for the two sequences in the piece that were composed exclusively for voices.
An essential element of my work is developing the structure of a composition according to visual or graphic information about the theme.
In this case, there were essentially two graphic elements.
One graphic component was the course of the Wandse river in its first stage, from its source to where it ends on the map, "Topographical Map L 2326 Hamburg-Fuhlsbüttel" (1:50,000).
A second was the pattern of ornamentation on the Schwanenwik Bridge. The prongs of the different segments, broken off over the years, form an interesting rhythmical pattern.
These and other graphic elements provided the basis for the following compositional structure and parameters:
- a total length of about 40 minutes for the sound piece
- 8 thematic groups and 2 intermezzos for voice
- the length of each sequence is fixed exactly.
- the "density," the number of separate sounds or events per sequence, is predetermined
© Heinz Weber, 1997
Translation: Janice Becker