RECIPE for HOUSE CALL á la DEUTSCHES LIEDER ABEND by Burkhard Forstreuter & Christine Fentz
Have at hand:
One flat and it’s inmates
Their friends, not knowing that they’re invited for something special
A heavy downpour of rain, close to being a thunderstorm
One old car with driver
Two artists – one Danish, one German, but living in Denmark, both dressed up (fine evening dress & suit)
A pile of photocopied German songs – children’s songs, different German popular songs
A ‘Lagerfeuer’ – an artificial small fire in a plastic container, created by cloth, light and air
One piece of video art
Video beamer, camera, etc.
A Norwegian traditional longflute
A box of low qualities chocolates
If possible a photographer for documentation
Do the following: Arrive, greet everyone in a very formal way and ignore the astonishment of the surprised guests.
Look around, decide which room to use as well as the use of the adjoining rooms, then ask everyone to leave the chosen room while preparing; set up the video and the lagerfeuer/artificial fire.
Press play for the video art to be projected in a distorted way upon the wall and ask everyone to come into the living room again and introduce them to the Deutsches Lieder Abend that they’re about to be part of.
Let the German artist, who miss his country, who analyse his country clearer from a distance and who got this brilliant idea, tell about the disappearing German song tradition. Smile during this.
Distribute the song compilations, comment on the information given by the fellow artist and begin to sing together with the guests, who will most possibly fall faltering into singing, and who out of astonishment do not find time to question anything. Register how you could have started singing almost anything before they would think about protesting; maybe even an old forgotten song from the war.
During the course of the following songs, leave the room discretely once in a while and in the hallway pick up the long flute and play a bit. Notice the absurd sensation of nothing happening; the singing continuing, as well as on your return no one in the room reacting. This is probably because the fellow artist followed the plan and didn’t comment on the flute, but just ignored it and continued singing.
When needed rewind the video tape.
As the action of absent singing is repeated, notice your own frustration – despite the whole thing being planned like this – of being almost invisible and non-audible despite various singing and playing in the hall way right outside the living room. The German singing falters and sometimes almost comes to a stop, but is then started again. Upon returning into the room a strange sensation of unease is felt; you feel invisible, and they feel insecure as to whether they should react on what just happened.
When some singing has been done, as well as mutual laughing over the well-known songs from the German childhood, give a duet together of Junge, komm zu Haus and a solo of Seemann, lass dass Träumen and later, offer the box of low quality chocolates.
When the evening comes to it’s end, announce this together with the fellow artist and gather the singing compendiums from the few guests who do not wish to keep it for future singing. Press stop on the video, and announce that you can now talk a bit about the experience. Accept that the following talk is documented on video and pack the technical gear while people are getting ready.
The discussion will probably touch upon subjects such as – Forcing the singing tradition upon the youngsters of Germany in a hidden or open way – Why singing is good for the soul, as it touches the emotions and let us be in contact with ourselves – The question of keeping a tradition alive because it is a tradition or because it is alive by itself – How singing became a sign of power during the 30’ties and 40’ties Germany – Whether to update children’s songs with techno rythms or teach them in simple, traditional manner – Gratitude for the experience, the touching of the souls of the guests and the memories of childhood brought forth – The unease of not knowing the rules of the game when the playing and singing was done in the hall way, but meanwhile ignored or not commented in the living room. The unease of not being able to acknowledge the enjoyment and mere existence of the action and presence next door. – How nice the exchange became during the evening, as the singing guest themselves remembered and suggested songs to sing.
Note how this topic brings forth a multitude of associations, amongst others how human kind very quickly can set up rules that makes some kind of people visible & accepted and others invisible & not-wanted. What the others, the majority do become the rule…
When the discussion seems to wear out because of the night growing old, break up, do your inclinations, accept the thanks from all guests and leave hastily.
Recipe by Christine Fentz, 12th of September 2002