Mauerkrankheit (Wall Disease) : A psychological affliction first identified in East Germany among residents living in proximity to the Berlin Wall. With the global proliferation of militarized border walls it is believed Mauerkrankheit has become a perpetual and pandemic condition.
For approximately 20 years I have been bowing, percussing and recording the urban and rural landscapes of the Sonoran Desert borderlands in Southern Arizona, United States / Northern Sonora, Mexico.
As this open land of unbroken horizons grew increasingly militarized so too did my music.
Where once I played cactus bones and simple wire fences, today I am focused upon the amplification and bowing of metal border walls which bifurcate the international landscape.
Sonically the content of my field recordings have changed as well. The songs of birds, insects and wind are now regularly peppered with the drones of drones, generators, helicopters and patrol vehicles.
These physical and sonic impacts of borderland militarization have brought on symptoms of Mauerkrankheit or Wall Disease which now manifests itself in my approach to music.
When I play the cello I find no satisfaction in approaching the instrument as a cello.
Rather I treat the cello as a rusting metal border wall, applying the unique and site-specific bowing techniques I’ve been developing over the past decade for creating music with the US/Mexico border wall.
Whether bowing a border wall or cello, these extended bowing techniques lead to an initial sound which is always unexpected. From there where it leads next is never precisely known.
What is known is an approximation of the tones the extended techniques will create and how those tones can respond to the surrounding sonorous environment.
And now, for the first time this Mauerkrankheit infected music is being formally released as a digital download and a limited edition cd. Mauerkrankheit will also be available over the coming weeks via iTune, Spotify and all of the usual streaming culprits.
Get The Mauerkrankheit Download Here: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/glennweyant7
The field recording heard on Mauerkrankheit is a composition of various locations within the Sonoran Desert borderlands of Southern Arizona, United States / Northern Sonora, Mexico.
The cello composition was performed/written in response to the field recordings, just as border wall music is played in response to the landscape’s natural/unnatural environment.
With the release of Mauerkrankheit it is my hope border wall music can now be performed in venues where more traditional music is played.
However, it should be noted the cello is but a poor substitute for playing border walls themselves.
Unlike cellos, a border wall is only an instrument when someone decides to play it.
And perhaps more importantly, there is always the risk of becoming afflicted with Mauerkrankheit.
But such are the risks when pursuing one’s muse.
Stay tuned and thanks for listening,
On this cd you will hear three main techniques or "Mauerkrankheit styles” of bowing.
Lochiel Barrier Bowing Technique - A percussive style bowing suitable for eliciting tones from the steel train rail vehicle barriers found there.
Nogales Border Wall Bowing Techniques (Old & New) – A style of long bowing calling for a firm grip and ample stick manipulations to produced deep resonate tones which were featured on The Anta Project (2006). The original Nogales Wall --- built from a series of repurposed military helicopter landing pads --- was demolished in 2010. The New Nogales Wall is a taller, “deader” sounding wall constructed from pipes filled with a concrete slurry. Techniques developed for this segment of wall emphasize copious amounts of rosin, manipulations of bow hair, stick, and nut along the surface of the wall and support beam resonators.
Sasabe Border Wall Bowing Technique – This style of bowing emphasizes harmonic overtones and the “bell-like” nuances which can be achieved by manipulating segments of the wall where there is damage or shoddy construction.
Dream Wall On An Infinite Horizon is the second in a series of Mauerkrankheit style cello-based recordings.
Unlike Mauerkrankheit Volume I which was acoustic in nature, Mauerkrankheit Volume II : Dream Wall On An Infinite Horizon explores excessive amplification, feedback, distortion and effects which are regular features of more recent border wall performances.
The combination of Mauerkrnakheit style playing and amplification heard on Dream Wall On An Infinite Horizon creates an evolving and steadily shifting soundscape for exploring the idealized, translayered multi-phonic harmonics and one-of-a-kind tunings which are often a corner stone of live performances in the borderland militarized zone.
During the mixing of the final recordings which were recorded in single, extended takes, it became clear that Dream Wall On An Infinite Horizon sessions bore resemblances to well-worn and much beloved bootleg recordings by The Theatre of Eternal Music and The Dream Syndicate.
It was therefore decided the recording should be titled with due reflection and high acknowledgement to that mighty strand of sonic DNA which was injected into the global subconscious by La Monte Young, John Cale, Angus MacLise, Tony Conrad and Marian Zazeela.
A signal is put forth, returns, is put forth again, and so on infinitum.
Minute changes in pitch or timbre – caused perhaps by a fluctuation in voltage, an ambient variable or an intentional action – lead to new and different signals evolving, never quite the same, reflections of reflections, a seemingly endless ouroboros.
Over the years I’ve been drawn to the correlations between acoustic feedback loops and those which shape cultural, political or religious perceptions.
An idea is broadcast – usually by a group of leaders – which initiates the feedback loop.
If the idea resonates with the collective hive, it becomes absorbed and woven into existing cultural belief systems, ethics and moralities.
Eventually the idea is sent back to the leaders in the form of majority support for political action or religious dogma.
Once received by the leaders, the looped idea is rebroadcast back to the collective majority in the form of laws, edicts and calls to action.
And so the feedback loop goes, gradually shaping and shifting public discourse and policy – for both good or ill depending upon the idea – until the initial idea itself distorts beyond recognition and loops of new forms emerge.
When I first released Mauerkrankheit – a German word roughly translated as “wall disease” which I have also adopted to describe techniques developed to amplify and play militarized borderland landscapes – I received an email from a local cellist / playwright whose work I admire.
He suggested I consider a different German word for a future release: vergangenheitsbewältigung.
I’d no idea what vergangenheitsbewältigung meant, but as I did my research I learned the word was coined at the end of World War II to describe the process by which Germans and Germany came to terms with their past – understanding how Nazism rose and took hold in their country – while simultaneously looking to define a new path for the future.
In other words, vergangenheitsbewältigung described perfectly a moment of alteration in Germany’s collective feedback loop.
Without knowing the word to describe it, I suspect a form of American vergangenheitsbewältigung has been at the heart of every bow stroke, percussion tap and field recording I’ve made in the United States and Mexico borderlands over the past 10 years.
At the time I began this project in 2005/06, hundreds of migrants were dying every year along the southern United States and northern Mexico border.
Local laws were being enacted making skin color a criteria for investigating potential criminal behavior.
Pristine desert was bladed and border walls were erected.
Drones populated unpopulated skies.
Bulk data was collected on everyone as men, women and children were rounded-up at gun point, stored on overloaded buses and shipped to detainment facilities were they were processed and eventually deported, often stranded without such basic personal possessions as cell phones or bank cards.
How to break this vicious feedback loop and develop a more humane future reality was a question many wrestled with.
For myself the answer lay in borderland guerrilla art gestures neither sanctioned by authorities nor blessed by grants, which I hoped when combined with the actions of others – activists, academics, politicians, clergy, students, artists, and more – could create enough momentum to alter the hive's entrenched feedback loop of fear and loathing of migrants which had gradually set in after September 11, 2001.
In some ways the situation has certainly become better over the years, but far too much of the same-old same-old remains.
Every year migrants die by the hundreds in the American borderlands as politicians scapegoat this vulnerable population for votes, walls are still called for, and everyone is suspicious – some more so than others – based simply on the color of their skin.
At the same time international migration and border militarization has become a global pandemic.
No country is immune to mauerkrankheit anymore.
We are all infected.
If history is any judge, it seems to reason vergangenheitsbewältigung will eventually have global resonance as well.
When this latest period of darkness passes – as it always does – at some point we will ask ourselves: How could it have happened here?
And: What did I do – or not do – to make it possible?
Mauerkrankheit Volume III: Vergangenheitsbewältigung is a sonic manifestation of these ruminations and likely the final work in this series of solo cello compositions using only borderland amplification and bowing techniques.
The score for Vergangenheitsbewältigung is relatively simple but offers an infinite number of possible outcomes.
To begin, a feedback loop is created for amplified cello via careful adjustments of the mixer’s settings.
In response to the feedback signal, the cello is played mostly in a “mauerkrankheit style” – using techniques perfected to bow border walls – with the intention of creating unique harmonic anomalies or tones which cancel, enhance or in some significant way alter the steady feedback signal being broadcast.
An acoustic vergangenheitsbewältigung environment between the sound of the past (feedback signal) and the future (cello signal) is recognized and engaged, until a seemingly logical conclusion is reached.
The work is concluded when the volume is lowered and the feedback fades. This is a work of unspecified duration.
Vergangenheitsbewältigung can be streamed for free on Bandcamp and will eventually be available on Spotify, iTunes and all the other commodity distribution nodes.
If you are interested in something more, Bandcamp will be the only site offering an expanded version of Mauerkrankheit Volume III : Vergangenheitsbewältigung (same price as iTunes) featuring four tracks of various outtakes; a 22 page PDF of hand-written production and composition notes; a draft of the final score; and other material not available anywhere else.
As always, thank you for listening and I look forward to hearing your feedback!
Glenn Weyant / soniCanta.com