Music for Diary

An Audio-Visual Journey to Capture an Elusive Composer

Client:

neugerriemschneider

Location:

Ethnologisches Museum Berlin | Germany

Date:

2014

Realized in collaboration with Mario García Torres from avant-garde art gallery neugerriemschneider for the 8th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art, Music for Diary is an immersive museographical essay about Conlon Nancarrow, one of the 20th century’s most visionary composers. It puts Nancarrow’s unusual practice into perspective and communicates it to a broad audience through various media.

Project Phases:

Planning | Design | Realization | Operation

Role:

Interior Design | Content Development | Interactive Media Production | Production Controlling | On-Site Coordination | Maintenance

Conlon Nancarrow, Irene de Groot (1987)

CC BY 3.0

Music for Diary is about rediscovering and reinventing a musical artist ahead of his time – inviting visitors to follow a story that transcends time and space. The challenge of capturing this elusive composer and his artistic universe is met with a carefully curated media landscape that merges a traditional design approach with new exhibition strategies.

The exhibition incorporates Nancarrow’s original papers and reproductions as well as works by other artists that accompanied him, personally or remotely, in his work. Parts of his quirky and innovative composing techniques and instrumental devices, developed in the early 1950s, have been rescued and restored after more than sixty years.

Pianist Nils Frahm rearranged Nancarrow’s previously unheard stock percussion recordings into a composition spanning the entire length of the Biennale: nine weeks. Presented in a spacious sound installation that incorporates several tape players, amplifiers and speakers, it provides an immersive experience in which past and present meet.

This is just one among a number of contemporary gestures – such as recovering “lost” tapes, tuning a piano, writing and re-writing letters – which act as narrative joints to the missing links in Nancarrow’s story.