36 Years Ago

36 Years Ago, Vienna 1971—A Student Journal

Day 346: Avant-garde 3


Vienna 1971—A Student Journal
A year of music, study, travel, sightseeing & friends.

Day 346 — Avant-garde 3
13-Jul-1972 (Thur.)


Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche
Kaiser Wilhelm Gedachtniskirche


Last night they left a candy bar on my bed. I cannot believe how nice they are.

This morning tried to get a room in a studentenheim. Forget it.

The proprietress came to me and said that I could stay another night for free. We had a nice conversation and I said that I will write about the pension. I can’t believe how nice they are. I will, however, pay them something for this night. She said 5 DM.

Already, the ausstellung [exhibition] is not so good. You have to pay an admission charge. And there is no printed program of what is played. I asked the guy in charge and there is not even an order of when and what will be played. There is also no one here to listen and there are other things going on. So all in all, this will in reality turn out to be a flop, when it could have been better. That means that all of this work for this was for nothing. Even educationally, it will not be good because I wanted to hear the works of the University of Illinois but I won‘t be able to because no one knows when it will be played.

The compositions are played, again here, the same problem. They all sound similar. Even the guy that runs the thing said it’s that way. “It’s private music.”

On a lighter note. These Berliner girls are driving me wild! With my luck, I probably won’t meet any. They’re good looking and chic (whatever that means). Progressive might be a good word. The “bustenhalter” business must be in a slump. I don’t see many around.

More sightseeing

Most impressive thing was the exhibition of the Berlin Wall located near the Berlin Wall. Unreal. Like a nightmare! What freedom really means to some people.

3rd night avant-garde

Group from New York. Steve Reich and musicians. Interesting idea but still doesn’t have it for me. Style: always a very short (3 beats) melodic and rhythmic ostinato, which repeats continuously, every once in a while with a change in rhythm or melodic motive. Interesting textures. These become very tiring. No “movement” to anywhere. All their music is this way.

Laura Dean Dance Company. Interesting choreography. Has some communication of feeling. Sometimes light and humorous. Same style based on repetition. For me, slightly too much. However, the choreography does impart a feeling of having gone somewhere, not bad.


The proprietress and the pension. Every day my landlady is being nicer and nicer, and letting me stay for less money. She says free and I pay 5 DM. I hope that this was a fair rate, beyond their normal charge. A pension is a small boarding house, often in a private home.

Day concert. I am at the exhibition hall for the day version of the avant-garde music festival. Even though I bought tickets, I seem to have to pay again. I ask for a program and am upset that there is none. I wanted to see the group from the University of Illinois. There is no concert program. There is no “order” of when anything occurs. I am upset. Why? It was a “happening,” and “chance” was part of the nature of the event. I mention again that much of the music sounds the same. As always, I’ll attribute it to my youthful passion and I’m certain that I wasn’t storming around yelling at people and being grumpy.

Berlin girls. Berlin appears to be the center of the bra-less universe, at least according to my eyes (probably my bulging eyes). I was young. I had hormones. The girls, as usual, controlled the entire universe. We males are helpless.

Berlin Wall. Went to the museum at the Berlin Wall. Seeing the exhibit and that people lost their lives trying to escape to freedom, once again puts freedom as a precious commodity of life that we shouldn’t take for granted. I remember buying a souvenir book that I have not been able to find. The view of the Berlin Wall below shows a “dead-man” zone where even buildings have been cut off by the wall.

A view of the Berlin Wall
A view of the Berlin Wall

Evening concert. Back at the evening concert I get to see a new-comer to my experience, Steve Reich. Reich is one of the foremost of the young composers of the 20th century. His minimalistic style of small motives (melodic and rhythmic) that repeat and vary create rich textures and tapestries of music. I like Steve Reich. At the time, I remark that there is no “movement” to the music—in the traditional sense of building to climaxes. Still, that is fine. I guess, I was looking for emotion in music. Even my corny and programmatic piece, Fantasy on Broken Glass, had a bit of emotion and drama to it. Today, I have more tolerance in my opinions of music. Ah, youth.

The modern dance group added some interest to the music. Why? Simply adding the “visual” element of dancers in movement adds a dimension to the music. It gives us something visual to track, or focus on, rather than the more difficult audio patterns of avant-garde or chance music.

More photos. The opening photo of the Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche is the bombed-out church ruins from WWII, left as a reminder of the horrors of war. Below are photos from the vast wooded are of West Berlin called the Tiergarten, a series of parks, and outdoor and wooded areas.

West Berlin’s Tiergarten walks
West Berlins Tiergarten walks 01
West Berlins Tiergarten walks 02
West Berlins Tiergarten walks 03
View from the Berlin Wall—”dead man” zone
View from the Berlin Wall 02
Looking into “Checkpoint Charlie”
Checkpoint Charlie at the Berlin Wall
Looking into East Berlin at the Brandenburg Gate
The Brandenburg Gate


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