Paintings of fluid voice towers

“The impermanence of sound can reveal the impermanence of forms that appear static to our eyes.

Nothing stays as it is, everything is in movement and transforms steadily. The past, and passed experiences, vibrate into the now. The resonance of the past exists within the present.”
Quote from my notebook from my first visit to Demmin in 2017





During the sharing of the workshop Geschichte(n) (history and stories) were voiced at Haus Demmin.

This map illustrates the sound path at Haus Demmin with its several sound stations. Performed 01.09.2018

This exposition presents transcripts from the performance, sketches from my work
notebook and
of how each
to be.

the blue brush stroke.

There were nine sound stations that the audience was led to during the performance.


The following exposition reflects the sound path.


“Haus Demmin lets the winds stream through the open windows and whistle.
It has accepted its present form and has become a Durchzugsort ('draught space').
Meanwhile the tower's ruin dreams of the princesses who once gave it its name.
For one breath she rises, momentarily frozen in sound in the past, in refreshed beauty.”
Quote from my notebook from my first visit to Demmin in 2017



On one of the first days at Haus Demmin I asked the members of the choir to think of words that they associated with the place. The majority of the words turned out to be compounds - words that are joined to make one longer word. These word compositions lead me to create the 'Sound Passage' as an experiment during the workshop. The similar temporal distance between the two words of a compound and the beginning/end of another compound let new connections arise, new associations and word creations. Sometimes meaning only occurred when the second word was audible. 
Later during the workshop we used the tool of sending words as a chain to each other in order to make communication easier on a site this large. This way the group understood the tool well, and became quite creative with it. One form of the Sound Passage became a part of the sharing. It had fixed words but the singers had space for their own creativity within the frame given to them. In one performance the man first in line for the Sound Passage sent encoded messages to the town mayor - as a surprise to me and his colleagues who willingly passed it on. I do not know if the message was eventually received / understood by the mayor.

1) Klang-Gang ('Sound Passage')

The first position was activated before the audience crossed the small bridge to the ground of Haus Demmin. Having crossed the bridge the visitors were welcomed by a river of words that was flowing towards them as they walked against its stream and up the hill towards the mansion. The performers were sending words connected to the place downhill until the last singer in line sent the words over the bridge and set them free.



audio documentation of performance

List with word compounds used during the performance.

2) Blätter ('Leaves')

When the last word rolled down the hill, clicking sounds could be heard from one side of the former mansion. Singers had assembled in small groups and were whispering "Blätter", separated into parts: Blätt-ätt-ter.



Sound recording from the performance

The sound of leaves in the wind was a steady companion during our workshop in the open air. We walked around the mansion, shared memories and collected knowledge of the former boarding school's structure. Some of the singers shared anecdotes from daily life back then. A big empty area next to the house was described as having been filled with trees at one time. With this knowledge the sound of the trees around us seemed to me like presence that made an absence audible, like a network with an evident gap. When I later made notes on this in German, the word Blätter reminded me of the sound that leaves make in the wind. In order to increase the airy/open/breathy "ä" and the clicking of the "ätt", I arranged three groups per tree. The first group would whisper "Blätt", the second group "ätt" and the third "ter", each with a minimal delay between them and the previous group. Now, I would describe the sound more as the memory of what leaves sound like.

During the sound recording you can hear the church bells from the city. I think this is a beautiful example of how surrounding sound events can co-exist with and even enhance the experience of a site-specific musical performance.



3) Din und Min ('Yours and Mine')

As the sound of leaves died away, the voices of two women could be heard in the distance. The Blätter singers moved quietly towards them, further uphill, towards the tower's ruin. The audience followed.

At the ruin two women were leaning with one shoulder on the same wall, standing 5 meters apart, facing each other. While looking at each other they alternately sang, close to the wall: "Dat hus - is din - und min - Dem - min". 



There is a tale about the tower in which two princesses built it together. In the tale they make a promise to each other: "Dat hus is din und min”. Translated into English this means 'This house is yours and mine'. This is how the city supposedly got the name Demmin.

At the ruins of the tower we experimented with its capacity to support the voices of the singers. One way to give the voices more presence was to sing close to the brick wall. This way the sound could travel along the wall, and was simultaneously reflected away from it. The impression was therefore given that the sound lingered near the wall, which consequently directed attention to the dialogue between the voices and the ruins.

4) Stimmburg 1 ('Voice Tower')

During Din und Min the other singers quietly created three lines parallel to the wall. In order to build the first 'Voice Tower' the bass singers were standing at arms-length from the wall and sang "o" in the range of c2. Two steps behind them were the tenors, who rose after a while from the bass structure with an "a" in the note c4. Another two steps behind stood the soprano singers, directing their sound above the remains of the tower, voicing an "i" one octave higher. A young singer in the choir would, after a while, give the imaginary tower a top with an "i" in c6. The tower was taken down starting from top, ending on a bass "o" that would slowly dissolve.

Audio documentation from a tryout during the workshop


'Burg 2' in this sketch later became 'Voice Tower 1' and 'Burg 3' became 'Voice tower 2'


5) Stimmburg 2 ('Voice Tower 2')

A moment of quietness followed. Then the singers started to build the second variation of the tower. This airy thin tower reached up into the sky. The singers were alternating between a dynamic "e-e" that was sent with their head up into the sky and an "öh" which slowly rose up while getting thinner on its way. After a while the singers on the outside of each line would stop singing until the last sounds came from the centre and fell silent.



The two voice towers respond to the fact that the tower has experienced many forms in its roughly 900 years of existence. In my mind I saw a shape shifter, operating on a different time scale. I had the desire to let it rise up again. In addition, I was fascinated by the thought that we could create a fluid architecture with the human voices of the choir. This architecture could move and breath. When I described this part of the project to Rolf Hughes, the Director of Artistic Research and Experience Design for the Experimental Architecture Group (EAG), he associated this beautifully as a way of "letting traumatised buildings breath again".

The paintings at the beginning of this page are an expression of these thoughts.


6) Explosion


The singers separated and placed themselves around the tower. Some singers went very close to the brick walls, holding their hands around their mouth with an opening to one side, while other singers climbed onto the ruins. 

The singers on top of the ruins whistled (or, in the case of two singers, used a whistle since whistling is no longer possible when wearing false teeth). This started a deep "oh" and "ch" on all sides of the tower. The second high whistle caused the singers by the walls to breath in audibly along the bricks, hold their breath and then release it slowly as an audible breath. They wiped their hands off and clapped their bodies as they left the tower and walked downhill towards the mansion.


In 1648 the Swedish military engineer Erik Jonsson Graf von Dahlberg blew the tower up in order to prove his technical skills. According to cultural scientist Dr. Petra Clemens from the Regional Museum Demmin this was an event that was celebrated by the townspeople.

When we spoke about the explosion in the group we shared our thoughts on the surprising silences when houses are blown up. Memories emerged of the warning signals before an explosion, of the roaring sound of material that is erupted, and the immense amount of dust that is emitted. Therefore, we chose to take a sensual perspective on the idea of the explosion, which also agreed with the vocal range we were working with in the group.

Audio documentation from the performance


8) Wie schön ist es im Freien ('How beautiful it is outside')

Around the mansion the singers would then step onto piles of old bricks in front of the open windows of the mansion and let their voices dance inside the building, singing "Wie schön ist es im Freien".

From the text of
Schatz Haus Demmin

Nach den                       
In den unterirdischen               
Kellern und Gängen                  
von Haus Demmin                   
Ist schon oft                      
wenn die Mitternachtsstunde      

in sich                          

7) Schatz Haus Demmin ('Treasure of House Demmin')

At the back of the mansion the singers formed a circle. In spatially arranged groups they sang different parts of the local saga Schatz Haus Demmin (Eichblatt, 1925), varying in tone, allowing harmonies and disharmonies to appear and fade.



During the workshop, even when the singers were tired from the voice experiments, the song Wie schön ist es im Freien kept on appearing. It carried so much joy for the singers. And it insisted itself upon us.

We were not allowed to enter the decaying mansion for safety reasons but our voices could cross these physical boundaries. We explored where to send the voice inside in order to get as much reflection back outside. Around the building were some areas where one could swear that the voices had their source inside. One could imagine people singing and dancing within.

Literal translation:
Treasure House Demmin

After the
in the subterranean
cellars and paths
of House Demmin
Has already often been
when the midnight hour

in itself



Workshop sketch showing spatial distribution of the three groups. Later, each group received a paper on which the parts that they would sing were underlined.


9) Nachklang ('After-Sound' / 'Resonance')

In the end all the singers gathered by the entrance to the mansion, underneath its overhanging roof. Together they formed a cloud of "oh" and "uh" in different tones which came to rest under the roof. "Ah" was sung downwards, the voices extending onto the ground and below.


I decided to include this part one day before the sharing. We had been playing around with improvisations a few times already, and I felt the need to gather at the entrance of this house which we could not enter but had been in dialogue with for two weeks.

This was our 'Ode to the House Demmin', reaching beyond the visible and in close dialogue with the remaining architecture. The acoustic support of this part of the old mansion was so efficient that the audience could stand several meters away when we sang there.

Audio documentation from the performance