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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Message from Jail - Social Sound Part II

So there I was, somewhat before eight in the evening, in the back wing of the former jail of Leeuwarden, now pop stage Asteriks, where the Social Sound Night connected to the Social Sound exposition was to be held. Live radio by Zeilsteen Radio, a Complaints Choir, the band Zinkzand and more, all for just a small entrance fee.

I was asked to be the guest of the live radio programme so I was received by the production woman, who wore fabulous glasses and made a very business-like appearance. She explained that I was programmed at 20.17 hrs. to be interviewed during 12 minutes and had to be present 10 minutes before in the little room serving as the studio. The guy owning the radio station was there too - he explained this was internet radio and that Zeilsteen radio was listened to in the US, especially. Alternative rock music, 24/7 - about a hundred listeners each day. I silently wondered what those hundred American guys would think of my voice entering their heads. Probably they would think of it as vĂ©ry alternative?


I met my colleague Jaap, who composed for and conducted the Leeuwarden Complaints Choir. All members had handed in their complaints, Jaap had made a piece out of it, and they had sung it during the day at several places in Leeuwarden. The best sound, Jaap said, was in the hall of the train station - but there the words were incomprehensible for the audience because of the echoing acoustics. In other places, he said, the words were much more comprehensible but there was much less audience to comprehend. We talked a bit and looked around - not too busy yet, audience members looking distinctly like the ones I remember from the times I used to go to pop venues like Asteriks. (Anyone remembering Hippo in Leeuwarden?)

My turn to be interviewed. The interviewer had prepared questions, I answered them. I had some trouble hearing what he said, but luckily it was not as bad as on an earlier occasion somewhere else, where I hadn't a clue about the questions the interviewer asked me, which gave me the liberty to say whatever came to mind. I tried to be coherent this time but did not express myself very clearly, I am afraid; too outspoken on some questions, and some mistakes too when I commented on the exposition. But I soothed my mind with the idea of my American audience, listening to sounds rather than words.

Back to Jaap, but soon Zinkzand started to play, so to maintain a conversation became hard and I turned my attention to the band. It took me a bit of time to get accustomed to them but gradually I started to like them, especially when I found out that their songs (or at least some of them) were in Dutch and quite funny. Eventually I started to really like them, and at the end I was sorry they stopped. It was nice standing there, watching them, watching some people dance, watching the place fill with more and more people.

It soon turned out who many of those people were - members of the complaints choir and their fans. They took the stage, Jaap counted to four and off they went, singing their complaints about silk stockings and any other kind of thing they could think of apart from the weather. They sang fine. Jaap said they were supposed to sing multi-part "but after the first bar the basses simply started to sing along with the sopranos"; I must say  I liked the result in unisono already a lot.

Not soon after all this I sat in the train back to Groningen, thinking about what I liked best about the evening.  It did not take long before I knew: the people present. The mixture of rock fans, artists and the members of the complaints choir, the presence of live radio: it all made sure there was a bunch of people who were all in their own way figuring out what the hell was supposed to be going on in this old jail here tonight. Including me.

So thank you, organizers (and Judith in particular), for yet another experience of that messy thing called music.

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