“HOW CAN WE MAKE THE COLOGNE ELECTRONIC AND SOUND ART SCENES HEARD WITHOUT LIVE CONCERTS?“
From 16 to 18 April FUNKT sound art radio will take place, a 53-hour radio programme conceived by Georg Dietzler and his team with a focus on Cologne’s electronic music and sound art scenes. On the one hand, a reaction to the pandemic and an attempt to produce a real festival digitally in radio format, on the other hand also an experiment with the radio format that goes beyond that.
Georg, what does radio mean to you? Do you have a special relationship with the medium?
In my childhood in a village in the Palatinate, radio was a window to the world. My brother and I had turned the radio plays we heard there into our own tape radio plays and Normal 8 films with my maternal grandfather. It was something different from the classical concert visits at my grandfather’s concerts and the stories of his childhood in Brazil. Later in Dortmund (1968-80) I was able to discover a lot of things on the radio that were not available musically or as radio plays in the city, and this continued in every country I lived in. Over the years, due to the countless reforms of radio, becoming mainstream media, I was able to discover less and less, niche formats became rarer and rarer or were discontinued, nowadays I usually only find them on internet stations. I still listen to the radio very often.
The genesis of FUNKT sound art radio is a reaction to the pandemic. Can you explain how the team around you, consisting of Anke Eckardt, Claudia Robles, Dietmar Bonnen, Dirk Specht and Felix Knoblauch, approached the transfer from the real acoustic concert venue to the ether?
The question was how we could make the Cologne electronic and sound art scenes heard without live concerts, so that they would at least be heard by the public. Since Spring 2020, we have been exchanging ideas on this, and FUNKT sound art radio has emerged from this. It can’t replace live concerts, but it’s still a chance to be heard. For me, it’s a voyage of discovery, what possibilities does web radio open up? It’s about more than the question of how we can reach listeners who live far away and can’t travel here at the moment – through my international network we can reach more listeners with FUNKT than through a “live festival event”. The FUNKT sound art radio journey continues, sometimes completely, sometimes only individual parts of the programme are broadcast again. Unfortunately, one idea could not be realised this time due to the pandemic, the originally planned small live concerts from the FUNKT Radio station. In general, I present a mix of regional and international artists, but this time it was important to concentrate on local activities due to the situation.
To what extent do you see similarities / differences between programming for a festival and a radio programme?
For me there’s hardly any difference, in both cases I make music and sound art offers. The starting point is always a concept that I set in exchange with others – a platform for artists. Then it’s clarified which artists I want to/can get for it, how I can offer the listeners a diverse programme. The big, unusual difference for me is that at a festival I meet the listeners, experience their reactions unfiltered, get their feedback directly, whereas on the radio I do not.
The common thread of the programming is the concentration on protagonists and content of the Cologne music scene for electronic music and sound art. What is your personal history with this scene?
I have to elaborate: I came into contact with the Berlin sound art scene in the early 80s, and in 1984 I presented my first international festival for sound performance and sound installations in Münster. Following two very formative years in Paris and many audio-visual presentations that I absorbed at the Centre Georges Pompidou. In 1987 I moved to Cologne. In Cologne I went in search of such programmes, there were occasional points of contact with the Cologne music and sound art scenes, but I was travelling more internationally as a visual artist. Wherever I was, time permitting, I went to see experimental, audio-visual music projects and sound art. For a long time I was only a spectator and listener. It wasn’t until the mid-90s that I started presenting in Cologne, I could go into more detail about who presented interesting programmes for me in the 80s/90s. In the course of time and especially through my curatorial work for the sound art gallery Rachel Haferkamp, which I co-conceived, I became more and more a contact person and someone who worked out sound art projects together with artists – I am always asked about Haferkamp as a meeting place and think tank – but I feel comfortable working “nomadically”. At the beginning of the 2000s, there were several initiatives for experimental music projects and sound art in the Eigelstein and Agnes districts, with whom I was in intensive exchange, although there are off-venues at Ebertplatz with which there is more of an occasional exchange. Joint festival formats initiated by me could not be continued. In addition to the well-known international artists, it was important for me to introduce artists from the region whom I had not known before – and whom I continue to discover in Cologne at the KHM, among other places. – Cologne artists lack the “Berlin” self-image – look at what this city has to offer. In Cologne a lot of electronic music and sound art activities remain small-scale, are little noticed by the public, simply because the corresponding public relations work is neglected. Funkt is trying to change these at least on a moderate scale.
I know the selection is always a difficult process, but I would still be interested to know which three programmes you are personally most looking forward to and why?
First of all, I’m happy that we are able to present 53 hours of non-stop programming of such breadth and quality, broadcast in collaboration with the renowned Resonance Extra WebRadio. It was rather difficult, who can I not present this time, it’s maybe 15-20 % of artists based in Cologne, presented by the FUNKT programme,. – I’m particularly looking forward to projects that surprise me, including artists I’ve invited for the first time, such as the Indian electronic musician Bidisha Das, who has not been living in Cologne for long and with whom there is a very intensive exchange that will lead to further collaborations in 2021. The psychoprovocative radio play by Viktoria Gurtovaj & Bob Humid, no idea what to expect and I’m looking forward to it. But also to the two-hour music review by Frank Dommert on “Pre-Noise of Cologne / In search of traces in 50 years of experimental & electronic music from the Rhineland (1957-2007)” – much of which I will not have consciously heard yet.
You decided to cooperate with the radio festival makers Sarah Washington and Knut Aufermann (Radiorevolten Festival 2016 + Mobile Radio). Why?
Radio is a new field for me and the others, so it was very important for me to have experienced cooperation radio partners like Sarah and Knut. Developing ideas is one of my strengths as an artist-curator, for the technical implementation I always get experienced experts whom I trust. In Cologne there was no one with this experience. Public broadcasting works in other structures, so it had to be someone with experience in alternative radio formats, but also someone who has an understanding of sound art and radio art. I can only realise such extensive projects if I am relieved in parts by people who know exactly what, when and how to do. – I’ve known Sarah & Knut since 2004, when I introduced them with others from resonance.fm in a concert at the Rachel Haferkamp Gallery, and we’ve been in touch ever since. In 2010, I was able to invite them to Cologne again with a neighborhood radio project for art special: Hansa. We meet again and again, occasionally spend time at festivals.
Between May and August you will go on air regularly on 674FM in addition to the April radio weekend. What can you reveal about the narrative of these shows already?
At 674FM there will be two hours of in-depth programmes every 2nd & 4th Tuesday, from 4 – 6 pm, live talks with guests and small concerts from their studio. Two hosts will always take up topics from FUNKT sound art radio, including content that I find less suitable for an international audience, due to language barriers. Topics and conversations that are relevant for discourse beyond Cologne are covered in the 674FM broadcast hours, with correspondingly much music. Things are constantly evolving, since 1 April (no April Fool’s joke) it’s already more than just 674FM, where some Cologne colleagues have permanent programme slots. I continue to develop ideas with Radio On from Berlin. We find it striking that there is usually no continuation after many radio festivals, and we want to change that with FUNKT sound art radio. Both sides, Radio On and I, are open to a monthly or irregular sound report from Cologne, a feature for Radio On. It remains exciting to see what else will come out of FUNKT sound art radio. Stay tuned at https://gerngesehen.de/funkt