Sunday, 15 June 2008

How many times can one write yesterday? I wrote yesterday, and today I write yesterday. Still, past days are gone and it does no harm to remind oneself of exactly what passed, if only to ensure that I do not do exactly the same things today.

Yesterday, we walked through Gorlitzer Park, full of its dusty grass circles, manmade inclines, drug-dealers and drunks and made our way east towards Treptower Park along the abandoned railway line. We skirted the park’s large meadow and walked, by virtue of my hazy memories, to the Sowjetisches Ehrenmal, site of previous writings, previous memories and previous relations. There is more to be written of this extraordinary place, but not here and not now.

After spending some time at the memorial, we headed toward the Spree, walked alongside it and boarded the ring-route S-Bahn, bearing North to Friedrichshain. Cara and I wandered up and down the alleys adjacent to Frankfurter Allee, stopping for yet more fine Turkish food and ending up in a bookshop where I bought a beautiful copy of Italo Calvino’s If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller, and Cara bought two books which I am desperate to re-read; Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5, and B.S. Johnson’s Christie Malry’s Own Double Entry.

In the heat of the late afternoon, Cara tried to travel towards Tiergarten for some relaxation in the park, but there was a problem with the underground trains, so we set out on foot overland to Musuemsinsel, the island of museums, and lay on the banks of the river on damp grass reading the first chapters of our respective novels. I am burrowing through Sebald’s Austerlitz and finding him as compelling as always. Perhaps it is just my mood, but I prefer his travelogue chapters, those passages about trains and sleepy towns, than his histories. Of course, however, the two cannot be separated.

Calvino’s presence on the kitchen table urges me to rush through Austerlitz, but I am determined to give it the full, attentive reading that I did not perhaps give Velocity. Cara and I read passages to each other just before we sleep and there is nothing like hearing the words spoken aloud to give one a sense of space within the sentences. He is a master of sentences, endless sub-clauses that string ideas out for seemingly pages, but one never forgets where he began.

Our evening was eventful and ran into most of the morning too. Making our way to southern Kreuzberg we visited daskleinefieldrecordingsfestival in a simple white space at the back of some huge apartment blocks just off Urbanstra╬▓e. I was entirely and instantly at home.

The first of three acts was a collagist from New York and of Dutch parentage dealing in surround-sound reverbed choirs, spatial acoustic and water trickles. The second was a veteran of the festival, who has recently been resident in Brooklyn and performed a reworking of recordings from five of the city’s bridges in startling clarity, filling the room with the climbing pitches of rails screaming and engines shutting down, as well as the gentler sounds of crowded platforms and overheard voices. The third act was a man from Seoul demonstrating his computerised sound sculptures which ‘read’ panoramas of the city at night, setting off tones for each light that scrolls past – the higher the light source (be it neon sign, window, streetlamp), the higher the pitch.

After this, and following much conversation about dictaphonic recording and mixing, the crowd made its way to a concrete-lined bar run by a French artists collective where we drank lagers and caiprinhas and tried not to smoke. Smoking inside is banned here, but in every bar I have been into, the legislation is totally ignored. I am not smoking as I am unwell, but this is too tempting. The bar was very busy and sociable and we drank till it was light outside before walking through the waking dawn to get food at Kottbusserbrucke.

The walk home was a slow one, caught in a twilight. With so many people on the streets it was hard to tell the time, or indeed whether people were rising to work or falling to sleep.