Summer is here and so is the season for open-air concerts. While indoor events may be possible, the universal longing to get out and about in the city must overwhelm the brow-mopping intensity of a four-walled gig. Frische Luft is the theme and, at last, Berlin’s keyed-up, strung-out and outright anxious musicians, promoters and music lovers can breathe deep. Luckily, there has been enough time to prepare for this moment and in July and August all signs point to a truly bounteous harvest.
First up, Heroines of Sound. Every year since 2014, the festival at radialsystem has presented an exhibition dedicated to the pioneering women of past and present shaping the course of electronic sounds. This year’s protagonist is Annea Lockwood, a composer for whom the term avant-garde rings hollow. You’d do better dragging your knuckles across a pebbledash floor, and she would no doubt have approved, for this is the woman who has burned, drowned and planted pianos. In search of what? The sound.
For 2021, there will be a series of world premieres from Georgia Koumará, Ying Wang and Midori Hirano. The programme itself is a mix of live, open-air installations and digital pieces and features works from Mary Ocher, Leah Muir, and Åsa Stjerna, whose ‘Earth Song’ was composed from the sonification of seismic activity from geo-data of various locations in Sweden.
Still, our top pick must be 21 Sunsets at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt. It’s a series of music, art and literary events spread over five weekends at what is surely Berlin’s most splendid terrace. The concerts themselves take place in the evening, but it’s hard not to marvel at the exquisite aesthetic value of a sunbathed concert set beside the magnificent winged roof designed by Hugh Stubbins. The concerts are expertly curated, as you might expect from the HKW. Jens Friebe, Freak de l’Afrique, Kiezsalon and ausland are among a diverse board of selectors who have put together a lineup that matches the singular setting.
Marta De Pascalis and Adi Gelbert are sure to be highlights. The former employs tape loops and synthesisers with rare delicacy, creating layer after layer of almost imperceivable lightness before arriving at a kind of hauntological soundscape. There’s a gentle sense of déjà vu in the liminal zones she crafts, blissfully lost in a place you’re sure you’ve been before. Gelbert, meanwhile, is the puzzle to De Pascalis’ pandora. Both present a locked box, gnawing to be picked and prized ajar.
Alongside the Kammerensemble Neue Musik string quartet, Gelbert finds himself in excellent company for a weirdo mix of jazz, avant-rock and musique concrète, the composition of which comes courtesy of Alpha, a computer that writes poetry. Programmed purposefully to score as low as possible on the infamous Turing test for artificial intelligence, the group will then attempt to interpret the poems musically by plumbing the depths of what it means to be human, to be creative, to live.
If that sounds a little intense, dial it down a notch for Picnic FM. This cutesy affair is about as chill as it gets. The concept is simple: you come to the lovely terrace at Moabiter Stadtgarten, set up your stall and tune in to a specially curated concert. Longwave is the format and you’re encouraged to bring your own portable radio, though there will be some available on site. At its heart, Picnic FM is a communal listening event and, more than anything, a very sweet idea. There will be live DJ sets, radio shows and live performances via a short-range transmitter. Artists such as Khyam Allami and KMRU will be in residence, so take the weight off your feet and enjoy the summer breeze.
Heroines of Sound, July 4-7, radialsystem / 21 Sunsets, July 15 – August 15, HKW / Picnic FM, July 18 and August 15, ZKU.