philip scheffner: a/c

pong 02


by Philip Scheffner

artist: Philip Scheffner
title: a/c
format: CD
7 tracks, the length of the CD is 41:50 min.
mastering: Rashad Becker
500 copies, released on th 10th of october 2002

"We have to switch off the a/c, it's getting cold!" The physical sensation of the cold unsettles the mind and hurls it back from Bombay to Berlin where the temperature is far below zero. a/c is the diary of this state of mind between Berlin and Bombay.
The recording device captures acoustic fragments, the sound of it's own motor, interior perspectives. An atmosphere of restlessness, examining the question of where is here and where is there? The sharp line between one's own base and the surrogate homeland starts blurring. It is always the here where connections to there flare up. The larger part of the recordings have been made during different visits to Bombay between 1996 and 2001. The outside view is focusing, zooming in on an angry monologue in the middle of a traffic jam. The noise of the city sinks constantly into one's ears, a space without silence. As you cannot record silence as long as the machine is running. The voice of an Indian friend, just a glance, blurred by the sound of the fan on the ceiling. Memories of a song, a hymn to Bombay: "It's not your city ­ it's a city you come to, which frightens you, which seduces you ­ but it's not yours." a/c is a journey to a fictional place, where nobody belongs to and which doesn't belong to anybody. A place which is composed out of short, fading and coincidental moments and memories. A place which you cannot store by pressing the "record" button, but which only comes to existence by pressing it.

Expansion of a/c by other means:
The audio project a/c has been the basis for two projects where the material is used as some kind of audio track, expanded by other media and translated to other contexts. for more infos go to:
the a/c bus shuttle
the video a/c

Conceptual Background / artist statement:
As described in the press release, most of the material used for the production of a/c consists of recordings, done on MiniDisk and Mini DV between 1996 and 2002 in Bombay and Berlin. From the extensive material collected, some sequences were selected and modified using standard desktop editing and filter facilites. a/c attempts to describe an abstract, imaginary place. An urban space located somewherein-between and mostly present in memories. A place which is situated between two personal points of contact: Berlin, because that is the place where I live, work and spend time. Bomaby, because I have good friends there, whom I visit regularly and who happen to live in Bombay. Would they live e.g. in Vienna, that would be my second point of contact.The context 'India' with all its (exotic) connotations plays a very limited role to me. Having said this, this subtext was of course crucial for the work with the field recordings and the final composition. If you deal with urban field recordings, your own work - like it or not - is being lined up in a long tradition of soundscape-research, the description of locations, audio tours, etc. If the Western listener is suddenly attracted by the 'exotic' place Bombay, you find yourself right in the middle in a discursive board game of ethnographic stare, exoticising, assumed authenticity and eurocentrism. The question is being raised: who is speaking, who is recording and for what purpose. In my work for a/c I tried to tackle such questions already at the level of selecting from the recorded material as well as throughout theprocess of editing the sequences.

The used material can be divided roughly into four areas:
1.The noise produced by the recording device while attempting to record a situation.
2. An interview recorded in Bombay with a close friend of mine, the Indian script writer Urmi Juvekar on a famous song from the Bollywood movie 'C.I.D'.
3. Sounds from the cities Bombay and Berlin.
4. A concrete situation with the above mentioned script writer while stuck in a car in a traffic jam in Bombay.

Regarding 1: The Recorder
The noise made by the recording device might well be the most important level in the project to me. It illustrates both: the impossible act of trying to record a moment in time as well as the person pressing the record button. Normally such noises are being erased throughout the process of post-production. To the contrary, at a/c these noises areat the core of the project and build the foundation of the entire composition. The relation between the noise of the recording device and the recordedsound is behaving invertedly proportional. The actual and identifiablefield recordings become sound freckles in the audible process of recording.

Regarding 2: The Song
The song 'Bombay Meri Jaan' (from the film C.I.D.) is regarded as the inofficial hymn of the city of Bombay. It is a kind of Indian clichee. If there was any Indian documentary made on Bombay, this song would most probably be used. The Indian script writer Urmi Juvekar tries to remember this song line by line, translates each line from Hindi to English and attempts to explain the meaning in the context of Bombay. Western clichees of Bombay are being mirrored in the Indian clichees of the city.
This song is also a starting point to ponder city in general.

Regarding 3: The City
Most of the city sound recordings used in a/c are impossible to place. They tend to be rather general street sounds / scenes.

Regarding 4: The Traffic Jam
The unedited recording of the traffic jam serves as some kind of impact of reality on the composition. In the apparently free floating oscillation between places we are suddenly stuck. This inertia becomes the origin of some swearing, descriptive observations of the everyday, the destruction of the illusion of boundless mobility. The place Bombay, for the Western ears exotic and full of projections is being put in its place by the perspective given from a woman living in Bombay: 'I don't like anything about Bombay'. Through the dramatic use of such interwoven layers as described above, an abstract, personal space seems to emerge which most probably does not find any resemblance in the real world. One review of a/c described the result as 'anti-documentary' - an understanding which seems attractive to me, especially as most of the material used is documentary.

reviews on pong 02

ReR (UK)
Built around location and soundscape recordings made in Bombay - many of them highly processed and manipulated - this carefully constructed CD creates a distant, virtual, alien landscape from which, however, close, personal experiences emerge. It is a strange but I think stimulating admixture. We are in a cold electronic, full range sonic laboratory one minute and then suddenly sitting next to an irate driver in an overheated and polluted city street the next. An interesting work. (Chris Cutler)

The Sound Projector (UK) 03/04
Like the work of Evidence and Doug Haire, here's another CD made out of visits to a city - in this case, the rather unusual circumstances of making a visit to Bombay from Berlin. If you want 'acoustic and timbral eccentricities' (and who doesn't?), then may I propose this is a better place to start. Right from his opening moments, Scheffner switches freely between mutiple sound samples in a barrage of micro-edits, in such a way as to form fascinating mosaic patterns. These patterned fields are packed with irregular cross-rhythms and generate effective time-lapse, time-travel sensations. Streets, voices, shopping malls – many athmospheres from across time and space, gathered into a digital bottle. Then everything melds into a steady, poignant droning and chiming effect, which pulls you in very successfully. All that on the first track!
Unlike other less pro-active field recorders, who seem content merely to stand open-mouthed in a meadow like a raggedy-ass scarecrow with big ears (not that there's anything wrong with that approach), Scheffner is attempting to make 'a jouney to a fictional place', rather than reveal something about the external world. As such, his continually fading and lapsing sound events seem to correspond nicely with certain human thought processes, such as lapses of memory, odd coincidences, and fleeting connections. This nebulous concept is realised with such lucidity here that it notches this CD higher than just another electronica CD (which in places it may resemble superfically). The second track, with a recording of a person discussing something about what it means to live in Bombay, reveals that Scheffner is asking questions of some sort about the nature of modern urban dwelling. The chance reference to a particular well-known tune in the dialogue has just been echoed, very sympathetically, by the pieced-together melody preceding it. Then, very distant echoesof Bombay itself seem to leak into the gently undulating rhythms. Scheffner's gentle questioning line is backed up by the faintly 'quizzical' tone of his music. In summa, this is a unique dreamy electronic 'fantasy' construct not a million miles away from Alejandra and Aeron territory; a fantasy from which moments of reality emerge, as adjuncts or contextual referents. Whatever the heck that means .. (Ed Pinsent)

ei #2 (US)
Philip Scheffner builds art from field recordings that he makes on his travels. a/c contains a kind of program music, in which the winding narrative that his sounds accompany is the course of his journey: insect noise, traffic, interior hum. Scheffner is no omniscient narrator; much as he is inclined to fracture and layer the recordings, he also intrudes upon them. When a woman yaps into his microphone, you can hear either him or a travelmate - Merle Kröger, co-credited for recording a/c's dialogue - laughing at the absurdity of her hyperbole. 'It's a dead city', the woman says, as car horns blare repeatedly in the foreground. Even the listener is inclined to giggle at the disparity between what she says and what we're experiencing via the proxy of Scheffner's mic. There is as much peace on a/c as there is urban anxiety. The music on the album's third track (there are seven cuts total, ranging in length from a minute to over 11, all untitled) is so patient, the rhythm so seductive, that it girds itself to whatever the listener might be doing. In contrast, track five opens startingly with car horns and other street noise. 'Don't be so naive,' that same woman tells us, an admonishment in English heavily spiced with an Indian accent. She might be critiquing the assumptions of her arty Western visitors, or she might be speaking to the audience, who are accustomed to verses and choruses and who must make peace with the complexity in Scheffner's sounds, which are - despite their familiarity - invasive and often grating. At the end of track five, a digitized harmonica fades in, the melody veering toward what sounds like 'My Country' Tis of Thee' (or perhaps 'God save the queen'), and you can't help but emphasize: home feels very far away. (Marc Weidenbaum)

absurd (Greece)
i discovered philip scheffner & the berlin pong label thanks to the interest of annibale piccici whom i have to thank. it was half a month or so ago that did he send me his "a/c" cd together w/ the pure cd and in the very beginning was really puzzled of what i am to listen. frankly feared it to be just another electronica thing but instead turned out to be a really jolly experience. i assume that the vast majority of us fancy a lot listening to "pictorial" sounds, or situations where the soundscapes will have the potential to make you feel like dreaming of a movie inside you or also speaking of "field recordings" as well have the ability to make you picture a situation or a place upon listening a release. somehow is how this cd is constructed. featuring field recordings done in bombay some years ago and beautifully crafted soundscapes scheffner offers us a soundtrack to an invisible movie whose ambiance manage to capture me and made me feel unbelievably great! I may not dreamt of bombay perhaps but of other situations/places but it was a really gorgeous experiencing listening to it and liked it more each time i listened to it. so allow me to say that I consider his "challenge" truly successful. pretty curious to see what else pong is to offer us though

lucky kitchen 'this land is your land' (E/US)
In travels between Berlin and Bombay (both start with "B") fear elevates or dissapates depending on which side its owner starts. A Bombay native will be afraid of Berlin's pasty white masses. Likewise a Berliner will fear the movement and light of the great Indian metropolis. Soon, even in a displacement such as this, the foreigner settles into the familiar everyday struggle found everywhere on the planet. Philip Scheffner traveled several times to Bombay, and found his audio thread in traffic. A lovely and frustrated female voice expresses contempt at circulation disfunction. A harmonica plays us to the next scene. I travel as a double outsider here, I do not know India, and I do not know Scheffner's tapes. However, I am convinced that he was well moved. The composition says, "wish you were here, but glad I was alone", and we get this 3/4 hour scroll of brush strokes giving incidental highlights. Some computer techniques are here to move the thread more, and mostly I am convinced again. This is a good example of sharp equipment used softly. There are some known moments, but these are ok as well. Somehow, it does not matter where anything was recorded, because everything we know is on this small surface. (a. bergman)

westzeit (D)
Die Fähigkeit sich frei über die Timeline zu bewegen, will als Verweis auf Scheffners Vorleben als Dokumentarfilmer verstanden werden, ebenso wie das Verfahren, Sound als Snippet und nicht als Stream zu behandeln. a/c, ist Scheffners zweites Album, fließt gehaltvoll und warm, poppt gelengentlich die digitale Ummantelung auf, und unterbindet durch konstantes Fading, den, in der Arbeit mit FieldRecordings(in diesem Fall Bombay/Kreuzberg) schnell entstehenden psychotropen Effekt.Nicht ganz unähnlich den FoundSoundAbstraktionen Christophe Charles', formt sich Scheffners blasses Erinnerungsvermögen von einer leichten Fiebrigkeit durchzogen, zu einer sehr persönlichen Deepness.. (Tim Tetzner/6 Punkte)

Jade (F)
Philip Scheffner conçoit sa trajectoire, son parcours professionnel, à la mesure du temps humain, sans impératif de vitesse, sans chercher à faire sa renommée. C'est sans doute pourquoi Pong, son label, n'offre à ce jour que deux sorties, en presque trois ans d'existence. Parce que Scheffner sait qu'il n'est pas bon de se leurrer, que parfois, un bon album nécessite plus de temps, plus d'attention que ce qu'il est habituellement admis d'y consacrer. A/c, en se sens, apparaît comme le deuxième acte d'une pièce dont la finalité n'est pas encore rédigée. Il offre un merveilleux prolongement au préambule qu'était Fon. a/c est un journal de bord, un carnet de voyage d'un périple tracé entre Berlin et Bombay, deux villes multimillionnaires dont Philippe Scheffner a tenté de saisir la vivacité, photographier le dynamisme, fixer la réalité. En récoltant et en reportant dans les pages raturées d'un cahier fragments de vies, éclats de vérité, simplicité du quotidien, comme cette altercation grandiose au milieu d'un embouteillage monstre. A/c n'est pourtant pas a proprement parler le fac-similé de ces deux villes, c'est une troisième ville recréée de toutes pièces, fantasmée et agencée par son auteur qui se livre ici à notre acuité auditive. Un bien beau lieu à même d'enrichir le dictionnaire des lieux imaginaires d'Alberto Manguel.(JJ.)

Vital weekly (NL)
This is the second release by Philip Scheffner on his own Pong label. It marks a breakaway from his first CD, which found himself in a more techno area. He combines cleverly spoken word and music. Basic sounds and talk were recorded in Bombay in 1996 and it's set here as a story in music. It's a journey; a journey to a place that doesn't exist. The music here can be easily classified as ambient, but probably doesn't entirely justify it. The instrumentation is mostly realized by digital means and sound a bit unlike ambient, with it's somewhat harsher high end sounds. Scheffner cleverly processed bells sounds, street sounds and probably some of the spoken word too. A firm take off after his first CD and certainly a much more mature work. (Frans deWaard)

neural (I)
Sono molti i musicisti (e naturalmente anche i registi) che si sono fatti ispirare da paesaggi esotici o viaggi in terre straniere; quel che di solito ne vien fuori è uno strano adattamento dell'artista al modus vivendi del luogo visitato, il quale talvolta influisce in maniera indelebile sulla poetica di persone dalla sensibilità tanto rimarcata. Anche Philip Scheffner è rimasto colpito dalle varie visite alla città di Bombay e quello che presenta in 'a/c' è un diario di viaggio filtrato attraverso il freddo di Berlino, dove il disco è stato composto. Alcune tracce rappresentano le pagine di questo racconto - quasi in forma di ricordo - dove una voce del luogo ci accompagna in un'esperienza seduttiva e quasi didascalica. Le registrazioni effettuate fra il 1996 ed il 2001 si alternano e si intrecciano a tracce di musica minimale dal carattere sacro ed incantato, capace di mostrare quale tipo di fascinazione abbia rappresentato Bombay per Scheffner. Una città che, come una donna, risulta comunque inafferrabile e che, come la musica di 'a/c', può lasciare solo impressioni ed intense emozioni. Talmente vivide che, al termine dell'ascolto, viene voglia di partire ancora per quelle lande. (Michele Casella)

yot (D)
Als vager aktueller Vergleich zu dieser zweiten CD von Philip Scheffner fällt mir sofort das Random_Inc.-Album "Walking In Jerusalem" ein, nur dass sich Scheffner nicht auf eine Reise nach Israel, sondern nach Indien, genauer gesagt Bombay begibt. Basis für "a/c" waren Field Recordings, die dort bei mehreren Aufenthalten zwischen 1996 und 2001 entstanden sind. Diese verwebt Scheffner mittels elektronischer Sounds zu einer dichten, hörspielartigen Collage. Abstrakt bleibt trotz aller O-Töne das Bild von dieser Stadt, der Berliner Musiker spart sich folkloristische Elemente und tiefgreifende Statements. Durch und durch persönlich ist diese Musik, wirkt somit schon fast anti-dokumentarisch, da das subjektiv Erlebte im Mittelpunkt steht. So entsteht eine Hörwelt, die vielleicht gar nichts mit der Realität zu tun hat - und dadurch noch faszinierender wird. tbl

beam me up (D)
Der Zustand der Umgebung.
Bereits seit anderthalb Jahrzenhnten schraubt Philip Scheffner an den Schnittstellen von Raumkonzeption, visueller Kunst, Musik und Geselligkeit. Konkret heisst das, die Aggregatzustände seiner Arbeiten reichen von Club-Spaces - wie Anfang bis Mitte der 90er als Mitbetreiber des "Friseur" in Berlin-Mitte -über klassisches Ausstellungskünstlertum, bis zur Videomacherexistenz bei arte und 3sat, oder seit neuestem sogar Soundtüftler. Der Take-Off als Musikproduzent ist relativ jung. Erst vor knapp zwei Jahren startete er die eigene Medienproduktionsplattform "pong", wo er auch im Mai letzten Jahres seinen ersten Output "fon" in die Welt warf. Eine CD, die sogar das britische Magazin "The Wire" glatt über den grünen Klee lobte. Der aktuelle Nachfolger "a/c" (Pong/A-Musik) trägt das amerikanische Kürzel für "Air Condition" im Titel. Assoziationen wie Reisen, Flüchtigkeit, Zirkulation, Rauschen stellen sich ein. Oder - wenn man es wörtlich nimmt - den Zustand der Luft und der Umgebung. Der Titel ist mit gutem Grund gewählt: es geht um die stetigem Wandel ausgesetzte Wahrnehmung von Stadt als Lebensraum aber auch um die Wahrnehmung der Orte zwischen den Städten, den Hybridzuständen der Transit-Orte. Räumlich, psychologisch, auch epistemologisch. Philip Scheffner gefällt es nunmal, mit der Darstellung von Ortswechseln zu spielen. Akustisch, visuell und in Echtzeit. Zur Release-Party von "a/c" stellte er einen Bus-Shuttle bereit, der die Gäste auf eine nächtliche Spritztour durch Kreuzberg mitnahm, während der sie sich die Platte per Kopfhörer anhören konnten und nebenbei die Stadt völlig neu aus diesem Zustand des Losgefahrenen - aber-noch-nicht-angekommenen heraus, erleben konnten. Die weitere Ausarbeitung zum schlüssigen Live-Konzept ist in der mache. Obwohl auf "a/c" fast ausschliesslich selbst gemachte Geräusch- und Sprachaufnahmen aus Bombay verwendet wurden, handelt es sich nicht um eine Arbeit über Indien. Anstelle des westlich-ethnografischen Blicks werden durch Filter und behutsame Bearbeitungen aus dem Rohmaterial abstrakte Klangfragmente und Mikro-Rhythmen konstruiert, die in Ermangelung von Bezugspunkten oft für elektronisch generiert gehalten werden, obwohl es sich, so Scheffner, um mehr oder weniger reine Field Recordings handelt. Trotz des Indien-Themas kommt keinerlei billige Exotik auf. Das vielleicht volkstümlichste Element sind die in Bombay stets präsenten, charakteristischen Glocken. Sie wurden im letzten Track isoliert und kaum merklich bearbeitet. "a/c" erzählt einen Film ohne Bilder, in dieser Hinsicht ist sich Scheffner als Videokünstler treu geblieben. Es ist nicht übertrieben von Dramaturgie zu sprechen, von einem sich langsam entfaltenden Spannungsbogen mit mehr als nur einem doppelten Boden. Man verlässt einen Raum der Ruhe und tritt sogleich in den nächsten, wo der Strassenlärm tobt und wieder abebbt. Musik als Spiegel des vergänglichen, als Soundtrack gleitender urbaner Realitäten.Berlin, Bombay, it's all in your Brain. (Annibale Picicci)

bodyspace (P)
As informações disponíveis à volta de Philip Scheffner não são muitas. É alemão e "a/c" é o seu segundo álbum, depois da estreia em 2001 com "Fon". As opiniões relativamente a esse disco de estreia foram de alguma forma divergentes. Se havia quem o apontasse como um grande disco, também havia quem o considerasse um álbum medíocre e já muitas vezes feito. "a/c"deve ter semelhante destino. Este é o segundo disco que a pequena editora alemã Pong edita. O primeiro foi o já falado "Fon" (foi Philip Scheffner em conjunto com Merle Kröger que fundaram a pequena editora Berlinense), e foram feitas apenas 500 cópias deste novo trabalho. A Pong faz parte de um conjunto de novas editoras alemãs que estão a fazer um excelente trabalho em domínios electrónicas. Como esta, também a City Centre Offices, a Ad Noiseam, a Morr Music ou a 2.nd rec se encontram na linha da frente das novas labels alemãs. "a/c" é um disco viajado. Grande parte das gravações surgiram em viajens a Bombaim entre 1996 e 2001. Foi na Índia, sétimo maior país do mundo e onde os Himalaias se cruzam com climas tropicais, que Philip Scheffner recolheu grande parte dos fragmentos que compõem este disco. Depois em Berlim, cidade que viu nascer nos anos 90 uma nova fornada de músicos liderada pelos Jazzanova que impulsionaram de novo a música na cidade, que viriam a ser feitas as ultimas gravações e a transformação dos muitos sons recolhidos em músicas (?). Vozes, campainhas, buzinas, ruídos, o som do seu próprio motor, perspectivas interiores ou o som de uma cidade. Aqui tudo serve para formar os temas que minuto a minuto marcam a pulsação do álbum. E do que é que trata o álbum? Dizer que cada tema é uma música não será o mais apropriado. Encaremos, pois, o disco como a recolha de fragmentos e memórias de Philip Schefnner, que se juntam aqui em temas particularmente longos e sem título (pelo menos não encontrei em lado algum referência a eles). E onde é que falha este disco? Falha na exacta medida de se tornar chato e maçador para os ouvidos. É certo que os fragmentos são bem conjugados e interligados, mas isso não impede que a audição do álbum se torne de alguma forma etediante. Talvez conhecendo a história de cada som se compreenda melhor este tipo de música, talvez a encarasse-mos dessa maneira de forma diferente. A editora apresenta-o como uma viagem para um lugar ficcional onde ninguém pertence a ninguém. Se calhar não anda muito distante disso. Decidam-se por vós, que eu por mim já cheguei a uma conclusão que em pouco me ajuda: estou bastante confuso! (Tiago Gonçalves)

Bad Alchemy (D)
Diskrete, reduzierte Mikrofonie in die Geräusche und Stimmen aus Bombay, speziell einer englisch sprechenden Freundin/Stadtführerin als Spurenelemente abgelagert sind. Die 'City of Dreams" ist meist jedoch betont abwesend. Da ist nur das Sirren, Dröhnen und Zirpen einer ausgeräumten, ausgesucht feinen Klanglandschaft. Die Laptop-Meditationen werden nur einmal unterbrochen von Verkehrstrubel und Rushhourhektik, aus der der Besucher sich schnell wieder zurückzieht in seinen klösterlichen, von Glockenklang beschallten Hinterhof. 'Der Mensch als solcher ist und bleibt Tourist" (indisches Sprichwort)

Black (D)
Fast nur aus Field Recordings aus Bombay und Berlin bestehend, klingt die Platte weie ein einziges grosses Glockenspiel und Windgeläut. Knackende, schmatzende, knisternde Töne werden von glockenhellem Klang begleitet. Dazu Strassenlärm und Aufnahmen einer indischen Freundin, die sich über den Verkehr aufregt. Alles sehr flüchtig, unzusammenhängend, chaotisch, lieblich und zärtlich. Wenn man nicht dort war, wird es einem wohl wenig bieten, als den Klang an sich. Eine sehr besinnliche, unaufgeregte Klangcollage., die als Hintergrundsoundtrack gut funktioniert, aber bei konzenrtriertem Zuhören zu langatmig wird. Dazu passiert zu wenig ausser Umweltgeraeusche, Glockenschleier und hallende Glockenlänge.