Archive for November, 2006

Vienna’s Fifth Gift to the world: New Electronic Music

Some day back in 1991 music programmer Klaus Filip introduced his new music production tool Iloop to his friend Christoph Kurzmann, who installed it on his laptop to use it as a completely new voice in improvisational music. While the rest of the world fell prey to grunge-rock in Vienna the birth of a new musical genre happened: electronic music, or to be more precise: a special kind of electroacustic improvisation. And because Kurzmann was the first to do this, I declare this Viennas gift to the world #5.


And for some years the Viennese electronic music scene became the spearhead of progressive music making (again). Christoph Kurzmann founded Charhizma records, his friend and London ex-pat Peter Rehberg aka Pita co-founded Mego together with Ramon Bauer aka Sluta Leta and they were the first to release music by Fennesz. In 1995 the hugely infulential PhonoTaktik festival drew people and artists from all around the world. The music still is everything a regular music listener doesn’t want: usually slow paced, amorphous and refusing to fall into regular rhythms, minimal to monotony, perusing noise to form atmosphere and harmonies. Moreover usually completely instrumental and with a mania for detail only otherwise found in japanese artist’s work. And it is still the most exciting kind of music for people fanatic about music, aka readers of The Wire.
Then Kruder & Dorfmeister went on to global fame and in their wake Vienna was drowned underneath tons and tons of laid back grooves that became known as the Vienna coffee house sound. But the remains of these more forming years from 1991 to 1995 can still be heard in what has become known as clicks’n’cuts, minimal techno and too many other genre names that are too hard to follow but exciting to discover. If you want to check out history in your local record store, search for names like: Pita, Kurzmann, Fennesz, General Magic, Farmers Manual, Bruckmayr, Thilges3, Sluta Leta, Patrik Pulsinger, Lichtenberg, amo.

Vienna’s Fourth Gift to the World: Fusion cuisine

SchnitzelViennese cuisine – “Die Wiener Küche” – is famous far beyond the borders of this country. Most people can identify at least a few dishes as typically Viennese. But a lot of those people don’t know that we stole borrowed most of what comprises the local cooking.

Take Palatschinken, for example. This typical Viennese dessert originally came from Romania (The name was derived from the latin Placenta, by the way.) Most other sweets, like apple strudel or Buchteln were taken from Bohemia, with the exception of Golatschen, a pastry made from flaky dough, which we got from the Czech.

Goulash is considered quintessentially Viennese, which is partly correct, because at the time we acquired the recipe from the Hungarians, Austria-Hungary was still one country. The same can’t be said for Munich, the city that gave birth to Leberkäse, one of the best things you can put into a bread roll, according to the Viennese.

Well, at least the Wiener Schnitzel is a true Viennese dish – meaning we took the recipe from the Italians.

Now, exchanging recipes between cultures is nothing unheard of – actually, it was quite common throughout the ages. But the Chutzpah of combining all the cuisines of the neighbouring countries and areas into a big stew, sprinkling it with tiny details like Sachertorte and calling it out traditional way of cooking was something rather new and innovative. And it was this cunning that gave way to modern-day culinary adventures like Tex-Mex and California maki. Which, I guess, can be considered a good thing.

Clay? Clay!


Transforming Freedom‘s clay-warming party on 30th of November.

What is Transforming Freedom?
Transforming Freedom is a great project and defines itself as a radar for digital culture. It scans the electronic airwaves for exemplary voices and documents of recent decades and uses the latest technologies to broadcast its own programs. It examines the background of the major cultural transformations of our time from the perspective of the inventors and originators. Transforming Freedom offers audios on its Internet platform and invites the most definitive digital players and communities to prepare their own documentation with the support our team. It lends a voice to those who have lost the browser war, who spoke out effectively against software patents or consider them fair and beneficial for all, who were inspired by the Fluxus movement in the 1970s when they initiated the first net culture server, who introduced the free software approach in multi-million-dollar corporations, or who invented new programming languages. Digital culture was invented for everyone to participate.

What is clay?
Clay is used in over 60 % of the world-wide houses. It is also possible to construct stable and complex architecture with clay. And then to deconstruct it and build up another one without really changing the material foundation. In the cultural memory of mankind, clay has thus gained the imaginary status of a basic material, a commons, somewhat like water or air or languages.

Museumsquartier, Museumsplatz 1 (close to the subway- or tram station Volktheater, U2 / U3 / 48a / 49), quartier21, Electric Avenue, opposite of the quintessenz office.

Drinks, visuals, music, presentations and a clay-floor.

Dog bites man!

So I can’t avoid stumbling over the free copies of “Österreich” at work. Today’s opener of the local news was a stunner: “Wieder Heroin am Karlsplatz gefunden” (“Heroin found at the Karlsplatz again”).


I guess tomorrow’s headline will be “Pope has been found to be catholic”.

I actually thought the Kronenzeitung was the most execrable result of the newsprint technology, but I guess there’s no bottom in that race.

Add Milch

I want to add to Scott’s entry on grocery shopping in Vienna after hours:

Aside from the opening hours being a constant political issue, there are quite a bunch of shops opening on sundays and afterhours. Gas stations, at train stations (Wien Mitte, Westbahnhof, Franz Josefs Bahnhof, Praterstern, …), at the airport, bakery chains, the small stores led by immigrants, and so on. Maybe we have just become too dependent on looking for supermarkets only? Because they are usually still cheaper? In London those famous Indian run shops that are open late are also more expensive than supermarkets and nobody complains.

In tourism areas in the country shops are open on Sundays, though they might close during lunch time. Which is not uncommon in Europe: just try finding an open supermarket around lunch time in Southern France – impossible!

check: for more information. Which boils down to: everybody is complaining, but if you look a little harder, you will find everything you want in Vienna. This is a city that just does not deliver itself so easily to everyone. If you want to become her lover, try a little tenderness…

Vienna’s Third Gift to the World: Waltz

One can trace the origin of waltz to Vienna and it became fashionable during the late 1700s. Soon, the whole Europe and then world caught this dancing fever. Now the world knows many variations of waltz. And to distinguish it, the Viennese call theirs Viennese waltz or the Wiener Walzer. And I don’t know how many can actually dance it. You see I tried and what happened was I got dizzy all right?

Like every dance step/trend, waltz was considered earlier to be vulgar and crude by the society. If this story was true, a newspaper in London commented on its editorial, “We remarked with pain that the indecent foreign dance called the Waltz was introduced (we believe for the first time) at the English court on Friday last … it is quite sufficient to cast one’s eyes on the voluptuous intertwining of the limbs and close compressure on the bodies in their dance, to see that it is indeed far removed from the modest reserve which has hitherto been considered distinctive of English females. So long as this obscene display was confined to prostitutes and adulteresses, we did not think it deserving of notice; but now that it is attempted to be forced on the respectable classes of society by the civil examples of their superiors, we feel it a duty to warn every parent against exposing his daughter to so fatal a contagion.”

The most famous of all waltz songs is “The Blue Danube” or An der schönen blauen Donau composed by Johann Strauss the Younger. You can always hear this one played from the yearly Neujahrskonzert and the Opernball, the highlight of the Austrian carnival season. Next year expect its return on your TV screens.


metroblogging vienna flickr photo from scottpartee

Can you spot what is wrong with this picture?

Try really hard to come up with an idea before you read the answer.

In Mozart’s Backyard, a Fraught Rebirth of an Opera House

The New York Times report about “Theater an der Wien”.
“The question of how to keep Mozart fresh is certainly topical [in Vienna] this year, and at the Theater an der Wien in particular.” The music house, which was recently converted to accommodate full time opera use, would seem to be a superfluous venue in a city chock full of performance spaces. But Theater an der Wien “wants to present cutting-edge directors and interesting productions, to attract a different kind of audience. [The] theater’s three main focuses will be Baroque opera, which has not really had a performance space in Vienna; contemporary opera (he is commissioning three new works for coming seasons); and of course Mozart.”


Vienna’s Second Gift to the World: The Zentralfriedhof


The Zentralfriedhof (Central Cemetery) is the largest and most famous cemetery among Vienna’s nearly 50 cemeteries. Opened in 1874, this enormous cemetery spans 2.4 square kilometres with 3.3 million interred here.

In the late 19th century architects hired by the Viennese city government planned a new cemetery for the growing capital of the huge Austo-Hungarian Empire. Calculations predicted a population of 30-50 million (sic!) Viennese by the end of the 20th century… so the Central Cemetery was designed to fit those giganto-futuristic numbers. A big wall was built around the area.
The Empire collapsed after WWI… two decades later WWII started… and — although Vienna is prospering — today only around 2 million people live in Vienna.
There is a special forest management department for the cemetery. And a big drive hunt takes place from time to time to force deer and other animals out of the cemetery.

Well. We have enough space for all of you, folks, but I’m not sure if we should invite you. That would be morbid. But — actually — “morbidity” could be “Vienna’s Third Gift to the World”.

Not a new story but a nuisance

Two times this week someone approached me on the street asking me for money with a long story about how he (they are all male) is from Hungary, his money got stolen, his family is sick and he needs money to buy a train ticket home (48 Euros) or to telephone home (six or seven euros). I know, this are the real world counterpart to spam that goes “Dear Sir, I have a very interesting and confidential financial matter for you. I am the head of the African Bank of …” you know those.

I always advise them to go to the police or to go to the Hungarian embassy but they insist on money. When I suggest to accompany them to the police or the embassy they look at me as if I am acting strange. Maybe because hustling is such a shitty job after all. Other than that I don’t care. My only advise is to watch your bags and purses.

By the way, no one offered to read my future off my hands in years.

PS: Yes, I also agree to answer market research questionaires only if I can pose one question for every answer I give. You know the deal, “quid pro quo, agent Starling”.

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