river spree: far side / near side

Andrea Parkins: "Sonic Spaces for the Stray”: (Dif)Fusing Dis-location in Sound Installation and Performance


far side

Police Officer (PO) : Sprechen Sie Deutsch?

Person: Nein.

PO: Spricht hier jemand Deutsch? Sprechen Sie Deutsch?

Andrea: Ja, ein bisschen.

PO: Wir kennen uns noch nicht…

PO: Ist da oben jemand, der Deutsch spricht?

Person: Ich kann es probieren…

Person: Hallo…

PO: Hallo…

Person 1: Was ist das Problem?

PO: Hallo, würden Sie da bitte runterkommen, damit wir uns kurz unterhalten können?

Person 1: OK.


Person 2: Hat jemand angerufen……?

PO: …

Person 2: Ist das zu laut?

PO: Ein Tuck zu laut.

Person: Wir haben vor 8 Wochen…

PO: …wir haben jemand dahinten, der hat es gehört, da haben sie es bis zwei gemacht.

PO: Das schallt hier

Person: Ja ja, ich weiss…


Person 2: Können wir noch machen aber leiser?

PO: Ja, können Sie machen, aber spätestens 22 Uhr (Handgeste: ) ist Ruhe.

Person 2: 22 Uhr, jaja… Da ist noch eine Stunde, na…

Weitermachen, aber leiser.

PO 2: Nee, zwei Stunden, noch zwei Stunden.

Person 2: Noch zwei Stunden, aber leiser.

PO: Ist ja schön, jetzt können Sie noch machen, jetzt ist noch in Ordnung… Aber ab 22 Uhr…

Person 2: …ja, kein Problem. ……

Person 2: …haben Sie das hinten gehört? … – haben Sie eine Pause?

PO 2: Nö, wir müssen arbeiten, immer arbeiten, aber…

Person 2: …nicht Abendessen?

PO: Nee… Ah, da kommt ja jemand…

Person 2: Nico (?)

wir müssen aber natürlich die Leute ein bisschen…



PO: …wir müssen Sie darauf hinweisen…

Person 2: Haben Sie uns gehört? …aber das war OK?

PO: …unser Boot ist immer weit weg aber…

PO 2: (to someone new who has arrived on the scene) Sind Sie der Verantwortlicher?

Person 3: Naja, Sprecher…… Wie kann ich Ihnen helfen, was ist das Problem?

PO: Wir haben kein Problem mit der Musik, mit der Veranstaltung, aber… die Grenzen mit den Uhrzeiten… Die Ruhestörung beginnt ab 22 Uhr.

Person 3: OK.

PO: Wir müssen Sie darauf hinweisen…

People: laughter

Person: Aah!

PO: ………… es ist eine schöne Sache, aber wir müssen die Menschen… Wir haben es schon bis um drei gehabt…

Person: Hier draußen?

PO: Hier draußen.

Person 3: Gibt es Beschwerden oder nicht?


PO: …… dann machen Sie noch ein bisschen. Es werden sich viele freuen. Wir werden noch ein bisschen zuschauen und Sie zuhören…

Person: Ja!

PO:  Machen Sie es gut … und ich wünsche Ihnen einen schönen Abend.

People: Wir Ihnen auch!

PO: Alles klar! Tschüss!

Everyone: Tschüss!

……general chatter……

Boat’s motor revs up.

Audience claps as the police boat leaves the scene.


Person 2: Das Konzert geht weiter wie vorher! Huhu!!

Person 3: So whenever you’re ready, Andrea!

German/English translation by Matthew Partridge.

These materials document a performance and also a situation, one in which the performance, which was improvised, was not fully realized as a compositional shape. I had planned a piece that was about 35 minutes long. However, about 25 minutes into the performance, the police arrived, pulling up to the dock on their boat, and the concert was thus effectively ended.

The two recordings of this concert—taken together and perhaps moving between them—already begin to engage with distance and difficulty (as my instrumental sound recedes from the siting of its immersive and forefronted presence on one side of the river into the middle/background sound world of the other side of the river).The sound moves from one mode of experience and presence into another: a receding and (almost) a disappearance. And there is certainly a separation: a rift between my original gestures as a performer generating sound along with the sonic affect that those gestures created, and what results on the other side of the river: a trace of my sonic intention (as composer/improviser), subsumed into the acoustic ecology of a public space where life is going on, and where my performance may or may not have meaning or importance for those who are in or who move through that space. 


I am intrigued by the possibility in composition of moving back and forth between two such modes, and of thinking about how to indicate such a gap or rift or change. In this case, the most significant rift comes at the awkward (and, for me, vulnerable) moment when the police arrive. I also note how their departure seems to be understood by listeners as the ending of the piece, while for me the piece ended with their arrival—the moment when the flow of (my) improvisational intention, performative gesture and engagement with sonic sensation was interrupted. I had intended these three elements—intention, gesture, engagement—to come together, crystallizing in a coherent compositional shape. This was not possible under the circumstances. Of course, I was aware beforehand of the risks that performing in this site and situation would offer; in fact, I chose this context with the expectation that I would not have full control of what happens, and also welcomed this possibility. This enlarges upon what I have been exploring with other aspects of my research: consciously working with my instruments in conditions in which the outcome of the work engages with artist Robert Irwin's concepts about art that is contingent or conditional upon site, time and circumstance.10


It is important to add that even if this documentation/gallery installation model addresses site and situation, I do not intend for it to stand as a narrative of the events that took place, rather, simply, as a “trace” of those events, as well as a means of addressing states of sonic proximity and distance through the (uneasy) relinquishment of control and intention on the part of the performer. 


© Andrea Parkins / Norwegian Academy of Music

This project documentationincluding video, audio recordings, and text transcriptionis a model for a gallery installation that engages with materials and language addressing distance, proximity, and saturation (that idea of leakiness), and the notion of a sound's “trace." 


I performed a solo concert on the river Spree in Berlin on 8 August 2020, at a moment when the Covid-19 lockdown in the city had relaxed to the extent that outdoor and socially-distanced concerts were permitted. The concert was presented by the performance venue Petersburg Art Space in the Moabit neighborhood. I performed on the dock situated directly below the venue's windows, which face the river. The audience was seated at an outdoor ampitheater, which, while directly across the river from the concert location, was at a considerable distance from it. 


The Spree at this location is a river with a fair bit of boat traffic—  large motorized tour boats, motorized recreational boats, and, significantly, as will be seen, police patrol boats.  


The audience sat in the small amphitheatre on the other side of the river, spilling onto the grass on either side of the listening area.


On this video, you will not see any images, but you will hear people speaking in the background and in the nearer field, as well as some other ambient sound, including the water lapping against the dockside. After I finish playing, the recording continues for some time, with the sound of boats, people talking, bicycles passing by, footsteps, and more water sounds. Then there is applause. That is when the police boat leaves the scene. 

The music on the "far side"  video is sometimes faint or soft in comparison to the sound on the "near side" video.  However, I think it begins to capture that sense of distance that I'm interested in and which I’m finding connections to in my reading.

I played on the dock that is directly below the window, two floors down.


For the performance, two large PA speakers were set up in the window.  Additionally, on the dock I had an amp for my accordion, the sound of which was also going through the PA, plus a pair of small Genelec loudspeakers for monitoring my electronics.  


To the right of where I performed, the river takes a large bend and becomes wider. To the left, there is also a small bend in the river. The bends in the river seemed to play a role in the way the sound reflected off the buildings and the water, and then dissipated.


In the video, you’ll see people moving around in the background while I am playing, and afterwards. It’s important to remember that the actual audience for the performance is situated across the river from where I am performing. 

near side

Police Officer: Do you speak German?

Person: No.

PO: Does anyone here speak German? Do you speak German?

AP: Yes, a bit.

PO: We’ve not yet been introduced…

PO: Is there anyone up there who speaks German?

Person: I can try…

Person: Hallo…

Off: Hallo…

Person 1: What’s the problem?

Off: Hallo, could you come down from there so we can talk more easily?

Person 1: OK.

Off: OK.

Person 2: Did someone call you……?

PO: …

Person 2: Is it too loud?

PO: A bit too loud.

Person: 8 weeks ago we had…

PO: …There’s someone back there who heard it. It went on till two in the morning. +

PO: It echoes here.

Person: Yeah, I know…


Person 2: Can we continue, but just less loud?

PO: Yes, you can do that, but only until 10 pm, then (gestures with the hand) it’s peace and quiet.

Person 2: 10 pm, yeah. So we’ve got another hour… well… Continue, but quieter.

PO 2: No, two hours, another two hours.

Person 2: Two more hours, then quieter.

PO: Everything’s fine, you can carry on, it’s all right for now… but after 10 pm…

Person 2: …OK, no problem…

Person 2: …Could you hear it back there? … Are you having a break now?

PO 2: No, we have to work. Always working, but…

Person 2: …no supper?

PO: No… Look, someone is coming…

Person 2: Nico (?)

PO: Of course we have to make sure people…



PO: …We have to officially notify you…

Person 2: Could you hear us? … But that was OK?

PO: …our boat is always at quite far away but …

PO 2: (to someone new who has arrived on the scene) Are you in charge here?

Person 3: Well, more the spokesman … How can I be of help, what’s the problem?

PO: We don’t have a problem with the music or the event as such, but… there are certain time limits at night … disturbance of the peace starts at 10 pm.

Person 3: OK.

PO: We have to inform you of this …

People: laughter

Person: Aah!

PO: ………… What you’re doing here is great, but we have to keep people… We’ve experienced it going on till 3 in the morning

Person: Out here?

PO: Out here.

Person 3: Have there been any complaints?


PO: … Well, you carry on for a bit. That will make lots of people happy. We’ll stay and watch for a while, and listen…

Person: Yeah!

PO: Have a good time … we wish you a pleasant evening!

People: You too!

PO: Will do! Bye-ee!

Everyone: Bye-ee!

……general chatter……

Boat’s motor revs up.

Audience claps as the police boat leaves the scene.


Person 2: The concert can resume where we left off! Hooray!!

Person 3: So, whenever you’re ready, Andrea!