Blixa Bargeld, Vienna Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, 6 September 2013

Highly enjoyable evening of solo vocal performance from the irrepressible and multi-talented Blixa Bargeld. For those of us who first became aware of Bargeld as the emaciated, hollow-cheeked frontman of Einstürzende Neubauten in the early 1980s (see here for my own bit of backstory), it’s a surreal sight to see him onstage in an expensive three-piece suit, exchanging banter with his young daughter and some other children in a leafy Vienna park, but that was just one of the many memorable aspects of this show. The charming Anna skipped happily on and off the stage throughout the evening, frequently hugging her daddy’s legs and scattering grass at his feet, and at one point singing a sweet little song of her own.

As for Bargeld’s performance, it was not at all the kind of spoken word reading I had expected, but a far more creative and interesting animal. Bargeld’s lyrics for Neubauten have always been a key part of the group’s appeal for me. Steeped in multi-lingual wordplay and erudition, the texts revel in language for its own sake and situate Neubauten squarely within the European avant-garde tradition. In the solo vocal context Bargeld seems to use more of a Sprechstimme technique to highlight the words themselves, which are given a strong performative element through heavy use of effects pedals. There’s a certain amount of wordless vocalizing, which is then looped to form drone or rhythm tracks over which Bargeld recites in his distinctive, precisely enunciated tones.

If this description makes the show sound like some kind of dry performance art piece, nothing could be further from the truth. Bargeld is a genial and engaging performer, at pains to emphasize the humour in his work – although the vast majority of the material was in German and therefore completely passed me by. Of particular note was an extended routine that had something to do with the position of the planets within the solar system, for which Bargeld divided the audience into two halves in order to provide appropriate sound effects. It wasn’t all played for laughs, though. In one shocking and unexpected section Bargeld unleashed his legendary and fearsome scream, while elsewhere he reached far back into Neubauten history with a devastating rendition of “Negativ Nein”. Contrasting vividly with the innate good humour of much of the show, these raw moments acted as necessary reminders of the anguished and confrontational aspects of Bargeld’s work.

3 thoughts on “Blixa Bargeld, Vienna Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, 6 September 2013

  1. OT but this just came to me via Mica and I thought you’d be interested:

    I don’t see it listed on Aural Chance Meetings yet but assume it will appear in due course. I remember you writing about a Nitsch organ event in Wien but I didn’t make it to that. He was supposed to play the organ last year at Hotel Pupik (new music commune-like thing that takes place every August near Murau), but was banned from performing in Styrian churches by the local bishop. Instead Klaus Lang gave an organ concert which was excellent, and dedicated as a hommage to Nitsch and Pussy Riot (then in the headlines).

    • Thanks for writing again. Yes, I was already aware of this event and will certainly try and be there. He’s also doing a short painting action at the Nitsch Foundation the previous evening at the opening of a new exhibition of photographs.

      The previous recital was a bit disappointing because the Donaucitykirche’s organ was so puny. Hopefully the one at the Jesuitenkirche will have a bit more welly to it. It’s one of my favourite churches in Vienna so should be a great evening.

      • Thanks for the tip about the Nitsch Foundation Aktion, I’ve just sent an Anmeldung request.

        Was at the Jesuitenkirche for a contemporary programme the other night, part of the ÖGZM Orgelherbst. It’s a recently built instrument styled after the French Romantic school, has some beautiful sounds. Plenty of welly too.

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