»Decolonial Frequencies Festival« (2021-2022)

Familiar sounds and terrifying noises. The fleeting fragments of remembered melodies, favorite songs, the noise in our home street. We live in our sound world, it gives us orientation, feeling, and energy. Subjective, intimate – and yet the acoustic perception is the result of history, of the colonial formation. What we understand as “music”, as “beautiful”, “harmonious”, “contemporary”, as “literary”, “relevant” or “true” is formed by a history of appreciation and depreciation of sounds, practices, and bodies. Our hearing, understanding, and sound creation were shaped in long frequencies, but stubbornness creates friction, waves of resistance, and echoes of solidarity. Can these clashing interferences register or yield sonic confrontations? Can changes in hearing, understanding, and appreciation be shaped?

»Decolonial Frequencies« is a series of events over the entire 2021/22 theatre season. More than 20 artists, black perspectives, queer approaches, Asian-diasporic occupations, post-migrant traditions, and voices of color, create numerous performances, lectures, and concerts in their constructed acoustic spaces – with critical amplitude, in gyrating oscillation, and in uncontrollable interference.

Decolonial Frequencies is curated by meLê yamomo at the Theater Ballhaus Naunynstrasse. The autumn edition of Decolonial Frequencies features three premieres:

Festival Opening:
The Sound Of Misunderstanding – Dhvanivala‘s Sonic Explorations

In the early 1960s a young Indian student comes to Darmstadt to do a PhD in physics. Cold War era – atomic physics is popular. It’s the time of post-colonial aspirations for sovereignty. And what’s going on in Darmstadt? After the atrocities of National Socialism there is an effort to regain face internationally. Experimentation with New Music is happening using technical equipment to generate sounds. How does this new electronic music sound in the ears of the Indian physicist?

In The Sound of Misunderstanding – Dhvanivala‘s Sonic Explorations, composer, theatre maker and conductor, Sandeep Bhagwati, is in search of the traces of this student. These instantly lead to the contradictions of that epoch – a conflict-ridden time, oversaturated with repulsive structures and energies. The young man returns to India as a doctor of physics, but also as a sound tinkerer, inspired by his experience in Darmstadt. To be able to live this plural identity requires several names. For Bollywood his name is Dhvanivala, the Sound Supplier.

Dhvanivala as a radio art piece was  realized in 2015  for Deutschlandfunk Kultur.

Decolonial Frequencies is a series of events throughout the season 2021 / 22. More than 20 artists*, Black perspectives, queer approaches, Asian-diasporic settings, post-migrant traditions and voices of color, create their own acoustic spaces for six months with numerous performances, lectures and concerts – with critical amplitude, in dancing inherent vibration, in uncontrollable interference.

Sandeep Bhagwati (composer, conductor, and musician)
Premiere: 19 September 2021.

Gaung – Unpredictable Resonance

Before the first note sounds, the room is already filled. Even the gods expect a special sound. We see an instrument and imagine its sound, we desire the first note, the beginning of the concert. We fill the room with our expectations.
Expectations of what? The gamelan is at the centre of Bilawa Respati und Ariel Orah’s performance.

It is an instrument of power. The tradition is royal and religious. The Indonesian government uses the gamelan as a messenger on festive, national occasions. Numerous musicians in strict costumes create the powerful vibration of a hierarchical society and a national identity. Bilawa Respati and Ariel Orah have grown up with this tradition. They know about the powerful expectations of this spiritual, political and – from the other side – exoticizing style of play. But their own experiences call for a different play. Can sound sequences be found that elude the hegemonic setting? Can one use the complexity of the gamelan, which disperse the European categories of music, to have self-determined effects? Can the community-creating function of the instrument be utilized for a self-chosen gathering?

Bilawa Respati is trained in playing the gamelan. Ariel Orah’s focus is on electronic music. Their own experience of crossing borders and crossing cultural structures allow them to look for a new way of playing, a new approach to their instruments, as part of the Festival Decolonial Frequencies. They experiment with decolonial vibrations, sample the unheard of, produce self-created loops and work on a self-determined GAUNG.

Bilawa Respati (musician)
Ariel William Orah (musician and visual artist)
Premiere: 17 October 2021.

sonus — the sound within us

What is the sound of memory? How do we listen to memory in its multitude – to histories? The sound of history is ephemeral. And yet it persists.

Electronic music, piano, lecture performance: in sonus ‒ the sound within us the performance artist and sound scholar meLê yamomo invites us as an audience to immerse ourselves in the sentimentality of his childhood hometown and the soundtrack of his youth. He links his story with the history of imperialism, post-colonial nationalism and the migration of musicians rendered subaltern. He directs our ears to listen closely to the permeation of individual memory and translocal histories. He invites us to follow the echo of a globalized history and the accompanying migration of sound and its multiple repositionings.

Drawing on some thoughts in his last book, Sounding Modernities, onstage meLê yamomo reflects about the colonized bodies as an archive of sound memory and histories. To this end, he speaks about his journeys, his encounters with post-migrant artists and academics, about the sound that is archived in colonized bodies. And he presents sound. For it is precisely the ephemerality of sound and the transience of vocal expression, the sounding longing of Filipino immigrants in Europe in music and language, that evokes memory and demonstrates the everyday relevance and political, often resistant force of the body archive.

meLê yamomo
Pepe Dayaw,
Ariel Orah
Karlene Moreno Hayworth
Katherine Oliver

Reprise: 22-25 October 2021

Eigenschwingungen – Forces Of Overtones

Die Begegnung: es gibt keinen Klang ohne einen zweiten, dritten, vierten. Irgendetwas schwingt immer mit. Aber was? Die europäische Musikgeschichte präferiert Grundtöne; sie gelten als „harmonisch“. Glocken, Stäbe, Gongs, Flöten … die meisten Klangkörper außerhalb Europas antworten anderen ästhetischen Bedürfnissen.

Am Ballhaus Naunynstraße kommen an diesem Abend der Soundwissenschaftler und Komponist meLê yamomo und der Cellist Eurico Ferreira Mathias zusammen. Das klassische Repertoire der europäischen Musikgeschichte prägte ihre Ausbildung. Die musikalische Landschaft ihres Alltags war von anderen Frequenzen geprägt. Hier nun treffen sie sich, um im Ausprobieren, Denken, Sprechen, Klangerzeugen, die Grenzen der beiden Klangwelten zu bespielen.

Es gibt keinen Klang ohne einen zweiten, dritten, vierten. Irgendetwas schwingt immer mit. Wir wollen etwas sagen, den richtigen Ton treffen, aber schon die Wangenknochen, die Gesichtshaut, ja der ganze Körper schwingen mit. Die Stimme macht uns aus – aber vieles schwingt mit. Und greifen wir zum Instrument, wird die Sache kaum eindeutiger, eintöniger. Denn nicht nur das Instrument und der eigene Körper, sondern auch der Raum und die Körper der Zuhörenden haben Anteil an dem Klang im Raum. Vielfache Eigenschwingungen reiben aneinander und wer in Angst auf­schreit, kann das Glas zum Zerspringen bringen. Einige Kulturen reduzieren den Grundton, um die Diversität der Obertöne zu verstärken.

Die europäische Setzung des „Harmonischen“ ist durchaus lokal. meLê yamomo und Eurico Ferreira Mathias setzen mit Eigenschwingungen – Die Wucht der Obertöne auf eine Erweiterung der Hörgewohnheiten, für eine Erfahrung und Wertschätzung migrierender Klänge, sich affizierender Schwin­gun­gen, für die glückliche Begegnung „disharmonischer“ Töne,  für neue Gleichzeitigkeiten.

meLê yamomo (sound scholar, composer, and performer)
Eurico Ferreira Mathias (cellist)
11 November 2021.

For more information you can visit the Theater Ballhaus Naunynstrasse website.

Many many thanks to the unwavering support of Ballhaus Naunynstrasse artistic director, Wagner Carvalho and head dramaturg, Fabian Larsson.

The poster is fabulously designed by Marcelo Vilela Da Silva .

»Decolonial Frequencies« is funded by the Berlin Senate for Culture and Europe.