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Repartee with the curator Detlef Diederichsen.

Time and space travel, cyborgs and escapism – how do visions of the future transform into music? The festival Cosmic Awakening, taking place at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, aims to raise questions about the future; about technologies, mankind and the nature of the universe. The curator of the festival, Detlef Diederichsen, holds the door ajar before the opening and lets us eavesdrop on sounds and scenarios before the awakening. 


Sound has always been a powerful vehicle for time traveling. Which was the first sonicscape that introduced you to the idea of the future, and later influenced your curatorial practice at the HKW? 

That would have been the theme to the first German SF TV series Raumpatrouille, by famous soundtrack composer Peter Thomas. I used to watch this as a preteen and it opened up my horizons. On the other hand, the sonic landscape of Planet Earth, with its many alien places, has always been as strange as it is inspiring.

To speculate about the sounds of the future requires some degree of world building. Which future(s) do the participants of Cosmic Awakening aim to evoke? And vice versa, how do visions of the future transform into music?

Cosmic Awakening engages SF critically and theoretically. It does so from two sides: by examining, firstly, the function of SF as a “thinking machine,” as Dietmar Dath put it, and, secondly, how this is interwoven with pop culture, as demonstrated by the artists of Afrofuturism, as well as within visionary film soundtracks or as a substantial ingredient in psychedelia, fusion, and techno. I am sure there’s going to be a wide choice of futures available.

It depends on what kind of vision that is. There are a multitude of paths to take if you want. Take, for example, Adi Gelbart. He doesn’t just bring music to the stage, but pushes open the gate to other worlds. With his 14-piece ensemble, he undertakes a sound experiment with influences from avant-garde jazz, soundtracks of early science fiction films, and works of classical modernism. If another world emerges at the end of the performance, the experiment will have succeeded.

Music is a language strongly enmeshed in the material and technological culture of an epoch. How do you approach creating a sonic alphabet from instruments that do not exist yet and, consequently, an archive for those? 

Most times, music is no longer created on instruments but with the help of different types of software. So, the limitations caused by having to work with musical instruments – and people who are able to deal with them – are finally overcome. I don’t want to endorse any specific product, but: use audio software and you can create your own musical alphabet in a minute.

And music has the quality of the traveler, it trespasses places and epochs and connects dots; it is transmitted by its influence on later artists and the audience. Humans are a powerful archive for music. The film Sisters with Transistors (2020), which we are showing, is a great example for that. It tells the story of pioneering women in electronic music, such as Daphne Oram, Delia Derbyshire, Éliane Radigue, Suzanne Ciani, and Wendy Carlos, whose legacy can still be felt.

In the words of Sun Ra, “The Earth moves in a certain rhythm, a certain sound, a certain note, and when it will stop, the Earth itself will stop and everything upon it will die.” How does Cosmic Awakening’s program encourage us to reattune to our damaged ecosystem?

This, of course, is one of the major topics in the work of Pantha Du Prince, who opens our festival with his new Garden Gaia project. I think his performance will be a direct artistic answer to this question.

What should the visitor listen to before attending Cosmic Awakening?

Nothing in particular. Maybe nothing in general, to keep the channels open. Actually, I still like Bill Drummond’s idea of an annual worldwide No Music Day.

Cosmic Awakening will take place at Haus der Kulturen der Welt on Nov 10–13, 2022



    Sisters With Transistors, Film
    Photo: Peggy Weil



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