Datscha Radio Logo

Resumé: The Night Of The Nightingales

There was still light in the sky when we started the broadcast. Earlier, while setting up, the sun shone onto the veranda’s railing, where a little stove had been placed, and bottles of wine, and cheese and ladybugs and maybugs made out of chocolate. Leonie Roessler had arrived the long way from Den Haag carrying her sampler and other gear with her. We chatted… and then, precisely at 20:32 with the sun setting and dusk sneaking out of the darker corners of the garden onto the lawns, the moment came to go on air.

Leonie Roessler setting up

Our opening piece was a 16th century madrigal by the composer Thomas Weelkes, sung by the Berlin choir „Singlust“ and adequately titled „The Nightingale“. Written for soprano, alt and baritone, the three strands of melody hovered and danced in the evening air, and carried the tune along with the scent of the booming lilacs over the garden fence and beyond to the neighboring allotment gardens of the „Kolonie Britzer Wiesen“. Because this time, Datscha Radio’s iterations of Night gardening“ take place each in a different Berlin garden, and Kate Donovan’s „Datscha“ location was already know for its abundant nightingale population.

…with the sun still shining.

From that moment, nine hours of joyous radio making evolved. During and in between the gigs we sipped champagne (in celebration of the recently won prize for the project) and hot tea, and shared what we knew about this famous bird, starting with an introduction by Kate about the first nightingale & music recording ever made in war time London with Beatrice Harrison playing the cello.

Leonie’s contribution was a soundscape she exclusively composed for this evening. „Copper and Song“ was based on her visit to Isfahan in Iran, where she visited the bazar of the copper smiths and found that almost each of them had a cage with a nightingale to accompany his hammering. In our later talk we wondered why as it might not be nice at all for the birds to live with so much noise, and we mused about the accidental content found in field recordings destined to serve an originally very different purpose.

Artists and Guests

Meanwhile, curious garden neighbors visited us, Kassia Justka and Peggy Sylopp surfaced as surprise guests, Rosanne Lovell entered the garden with her laptop and a clarinet, and Walter Schulte appeared with two very impressive looking boxes that revealed their mesmerizingly blinking contents shortly after.

JD Zazie and Matt Pogo

JD Zazie and Mat Pogo materialized out of the dark and began to set up their gear. The original schedule had Niki Matita and Walter Schultze placed at that slot, yet, Schulze’s synth and Niki Matita’s performance reading required preparation time…
„Domestic Nightingale“ by JD Zazie and Mat Pogo was based on samples of nightingale songs that became modified, remixed, accelerated and decelerated. Patterns appeared and disappeared like vortexes in a fast flowing brook: A superb performance!

In it a nightingale is hiding.

Secret-en-plein-aire by Walter Schulze and Niki Matita proved to be a two-part performance. Schulze’s synthesizers kept wildly blinking while processing a set of Berlin nightingale field recordings. As far as I understood from Niki Matita he used just the signal of the envelope curves to modulate the tones… and the machine warbled and twittered and sang, assisted by Niki’s comments and experimental button pressing. For her text „Die Nachtigall vs. der Nachtigall“ she had prepared her own vocal nest, including a soprano nightingale interpretation from the 30s.

tLukatoyboy’s 7″ bird vinyl collection

Lukatoyboy came on spontaneous invitation of Ms Matika after they met in the street a couple of days before or so, and brought a portable turntable and two walkie-talkies with him. As a true surprise guest he was zero surprised about the night’s theme and extracted at least a dozen of 7 inch bird sound and song singles out of his bags. His performance was very versatile: The records were scratched and played while a little dictaphone served as a loop machine. Such adventurous sequences were created – with bird songs and the interspersed voices of naturalists and birdwatchers. After that, Niki Matita took on a role as expedition leader on walkie talkie, directing Lukatoyboy (other walkie talkie) and JD Zazie (mic on a long cable) out into the garden and beyond to chase the sounds of the nightly garden colony.

Rosanna Lovell

As temperatures dropped close to 12 degrees (yet felt below that) we and the artists kept pulling over layer after layer of warm clothes: Tights, jumpers, vests, hats and hoodies (with red ears attached). Radio adrenaline kept us going. Rosanna Lovell was the last artist to perform live, and she brought along with her an exquisitely researched choice of Oliver Messiaen’s compositions that he derived from bird song. Theme of our talk was „Bird Song and Notation, followed by a clarinet interpretation of a nightingale score I had conceived of for a Datscha Radio 14 event (the instrument had to get warmed up by being tucked under her jacket before playing… )
After having listened to so many diverse, field recording based and electronically processed/transformed, nightingale song iterations we found it remarkable how the „essence“ of the bird’s melodic trills, pauses and whistles stayed all through those different interpretations.

Leonie and JD Zazie

Midnight long past, we turned to talks and compositions Kate and I had managed to assemble in the fore field: The interview with the artist David Rothenberg was framed by two of his works where he was playing along to Berlin Nightingales in different parks, and followed by a composition by Felicity Morgan who is scheduled to join him in one of his upcoming presentations from May 8 to May 16 (May 16 with Felicity at the Zabriskie Bookstore in Berlin then). Udo Noll had contributed an „eclectic mix“ of nightingale field recordings drawn from his aporee.org archives that formed part of an extensive listening session to still other field recordings – one of them recorded in despair for want of sleep by a Charlottenburg resident artist.

Herr Schulze and Lukatoyboy

The wee hours of the morning had come, a light rain had settled in and outside in a flowerpot rested a microphone under an umbrella to pick up the surrounding sounds of the Britzer Wiesen garden night. When we turned up a volume distant bird calls mingled with the sound of even more distant traffic and mysterious mumbling noises accompanied by the resonant bouncing of rain drops on the umbrella skin. The garden has gone quite, the artists had left, our press lady Helen had withdrawn to a bed inside. Time for telling stories… and reading poems… and another take of the nightingale choir and more musings on the bird’s music. Who ever was still awake then had a chance to listen to Keats’ „Ode to a nightingale“ (bilingual), the terrible story of Philomela by Ovid, the „Rose and the Nightingale“ by Oscar Wilde, just to name a few.

Umbrella at 4:30 with microphone

…Around 4:30 the garden started to wake up again: the song of the nightingales mixed with the good morning croaks of a flock of crows and the cooing of wood pigeons and the clouds’ grey became lighter. At 5 am we noticed our voices and minds had become really slow…. a good idea to take refuge to one of Niki Matita’s nightingale song collections of which she had several ones prepared. Jazzy tunes, bird tangos and classical interpretations portioned to present another range of lusciana songs in popular (and not so popular) music.
At 5:27 we noticed we’d almost made it! There was just enough time for a quick preview on Datscha Radio’s second iteration of „Night Gardening“ about the „Perfumes of the Night“ and another take of Thomas Weelkes amazing piece sung by the Singlust choir. Snap, crackle and gone was the „Night of the Nightingales“…

Just then, a nightingale landed on a bush next to the veranda and started to warble with all of its voice strength… and we listened on…

Kate Donovan happily enjoying her coffee

Just then, a nightingale landed on a bush next to the veranda and started to warble with all of its voice strength… and we listened on…

(a gallery with more pics will follow, bear with me)

This post is also available in: German