Selten gehörte Musik

1973–1979

Visual Arts and Music

Visual Arts and Music

»Selten gehörte Musik« (Rarely Heard Music) is a group project by artists from the Wiener Gruppe (Vienna Group), the Vienna Actionists, and their artist friends who gathered together in Berlin in the 1970s after leaving Vienna more or less voluntarily—in part, because of scandals incited by their art.

Gerhard Rühm had already turned his back on the narrow-minded conservative (»stuffy«) Vienna in 1964 and moved to Berlin. Günter Brus fled there in 1969 to avoid the police measures awaiting him through his sentencing in the aftermath of the action Kunst und Revolution (Art and Revolution, 1968). H. C. Artmann and Oswald Wiener had also relocated to Berlin, and Dieter Roth was a frequent guest.

This circle of friends carried out many joint artistic activities. In 1969, for example, Brus founded the magazine Die Schastrommel (The Old Gossip Monger), ironically titled the »organ of the Austrian exile government,« which offered him and his artist colleagues a publication forum that, among other things, documented their activities in the 1960s.

They also met for joint literary work (Berliner Dichterworkshops [Berlin Poets’ Workshops]). This was the framework in which they put music—which also included voice articulations such as singing, laughing, whistling, and other such sounds—in the foreground for the first time on July 12–13, 1973. This led to the »Selten gehörte Musik« project as a spontaneous form of musical interaction that intentionally did not follow any style. Initially, it was just recorded on audiotape but then, in 1974, they decided to make public appearances.

The first concert was at the Lenbachhaus in Munich in May 1974 (with Brus, Nitsch, Roth, Rühm, and Wiener), which was followed by another at the Kirche zum Heiligen Kreuz in Berlin-Kreuzberg in September of the same year, in which Christian Ludwig Attersee, Dominik Steiger, and Arnulf Rainer participated. Rainer’s contribution consisted of physical poses which he improvised to the music by his friends. Two days later, they appeared as part of an Attersee exhibition at the Kunstverein (arts association) of Kassel with Ingrid Schuppan participating in place of Wiener who was ill at the time.

»Selten gehörte Musik« can be viewed as an early example of the free and in part intentionally dilettantish interplay of visual artists which then became a program for many artists in the 1980s. In the case of »Selten gehörte Musik,« the musical conditions of the protagonists were very different: Rühm was a trained concert pianist who had also studied composition; Wiener was a jazz trumpeter; Attersee had originally wanted to become an opera singer and had been musically active for a long time. In Nitsch’s work, music had always played an important role. Only Brus and Roth as performers were musical amateurs, even if they did have a lot of knowledge.

In the Exhibition

In the Exhibition

Selten gehörte Musik

Concert at Lenbachhaus, Munich, May 1974, 1:57:28 h., with Günter Brus, Hermann Nitsch, Dieter Roth, Gerhard Rühm, Oswald Wiener

Ominous accordion and tuba sounds, along with a violin that is mistreated rather than being played correctly, and finally pizzicati set pointedly into the rugged listening landscape. That is how the »Selten gehörte Musik« concert at Lenbachhaus in Munich began in 1974. The five-person group continued for two hours with a spontaneous and free-spirited flow of communicating and responding, going off alone at some point only to then rejoin the common, heterogeneous group of sounds. Ever new beginnings, with new instruments joining in (flute, organ, saxophone and even a megaphone), the entrances of which repeatedly created laughter among the audience—the five proto-dilettantes thus created an arch of suspense collectively creating a dynamic multi-construct. There was even time for embedded noise bursts that tended to be violently atonal in a fluctuating way before the stream of improvisation glided back to more sustained, harmonious waters. Insistent chiming sounds broke the flow, while even more persistent strikes of a cymbal pushed it back together. And thus it ebbed and flowed on this exuberant evening in the high-principled, White Cube ambience that was captured by photographer Karin Mack in contrasting black-and-white images. At the end, an abrupt, humorous »conference« is held with an agitated audience that thankfully accepts its role in this para-musical action theater.

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Author:

Christian Höller