Gekürzter Ausschnitt, 4,5 min   r Gekürzter Ausschnitt, 4,5 min m




Stairs structured by sound

Amongst musicians percussionists display a rather special instinct for games. Every thing is tested for its sound values: everything is music. This motto particularly carries weight with Thomas Witzmann, percussionist and composer in one. In his work zwischen-stufen, which was to be seen and heard at the Festival "Altstadt-Herbst", the staircase did not only serve as a locality, where the instruments were spread out, waiting to be used by and by, but also as an object of sound in itself.

Among the many wooden and metallic instruments for producing sounds the wire-work and the wooden handrail of the banister were included. The staircase's design with its recurring forms of steps and landings acted moreover as formal framework for Witzmann's composition, approaching a large-scale climax with just as clearly recognizable recurring sections.

The performance began, when a plain person (Caroline Jung) set foot on the stairs, while Witzmann and saxophone player Frank Gratkowski were producing rattling noises. The two musicians worked their way downstairs step by step, the one fanatically drumming, the other, not the less agitated, playing notes attached to the banister. From time to time the musical happening was accompanied by the appearance of the plain person, who viewed the event like an indifferent visitor, facing the musicians on the stairs.

When the musicians with sensational sounds had arrived at the bottom of the staircase, Caroline Jung came down the stairs, just as indifferent, but now as a nude, a life model. This was an additional reference to another art, the pictorial arts. Whereas up to this moment table tennis balls had fallen down the stairs only sporadically, now a veritable cascade of balls came down, which ended the performance.

With his performance Thomas Witzmann created the basis for making architectural forms into musical experience. For the audience the dimension of space was linked directly to the music, for they stood in the centre of the hall where they witnessed the happenings first drawing near and then withdrawing again. A stimulating event.

Rheinische Post (Düsseldorf), September 30th, 1994


zwischen-stufen || description | reviews |  Gekürzter Ausschnitt, 4,5 min   r Gekürzter Ausschnitt, 4,5 min m


On the staircase of sounds


What is befitting Cologne, is only suitable for Düsseldorf.

After the première on occasion of the "Musik Triennale" in the Cologne "Museum Ludwig", Thomas Witzmann has now prepared his performance zwischen-stufen for the Düsseldorf "Kunsthalle": an existential opus of awareness which helped to see the familiar rooms under a different aspect.

Programmatically, the work aims at creating interrelations among music, pictorial arts, and architecture.


Grand words for a happening of the length of one hour. Its realization is far more concrete. In the centre of the performance: the stairs within the "Kunsthalle". Witzmann had carefully prepared them and covered them with objects. To the banisters musical notes with precise instructions were glued: "Repeat 5 times", "Stop for 20 seconds", "Look up".

The actress Caroline Jung starts the performance as one of Duane Hanson's statues having come to life: gaping visitor in a museum. Quite at the top of the staircase the two musicians appear. Step by step they slowly decend. The saxophone player Frank Gratkowski plays the given notes on the banister. Witzmann (percussion) treats the objects with drumsticks. On and between each step - this is the message - a world of sounds, rhythms, and spatial relationships is lodged. Strained wires of nylon assist to activate distant spots of the room acoustically.

The happening is composed of three phases. Firstly: pacing off the upper part of the staircase. The performance remains formal because of being bound to the many rules fixed in advance. Interaction does not occur. Witzmann is the domineering centre of the event. He acts like a small boy who, free of surveillance, explores an arts and craft shop. Secondly: release and reversal. Both musicians, with their backs to the staircase, go upstairs, while improvising. Free music for the first time.

The reversal of Camus' myth of Sisyphos: rejecting the world of merchandise, a short moment of relaxation. Thirdly: abandoning liberty. Again immersion in dependance. The adjustment is presented with growing aggression. The descent on the second staircase in the direction of the exit becomes the bitter acceptance of present conditions. As if to comfort, naked Caroline Jung floats downstairs like Gerhard Richter's famous "Eva". Sexuality as last resort? Perhaps the performance should have begun here.

Westdeutsche Zeitung, September 30th, 1994


zwischen-stufen || description | reviews |  Gekürzter Ausschnitt, 4,5 min   r Gekürzter Ausschnitt, 4,5 min m



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