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Claus Sterneck / Claus in Iceland
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Wolfgang Sterneck
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Wolfgang Sterneck

- John Cage and the Squat /
Benefit for the Culture Center in Hanau (Germany) -

To recognize consciously what surrounds us
is a first essential step on the way to change and development ...

In different countries people try to realize the ideal of a self-determined, noncommercial culture, and a solidarity by squatting houses and creating autonomous culture centers. In Hanau (Germany) the house in Metzgerstrasse 8 was squatted in December 1986. Since that time it has been used as an autonomous culture-center. It provides an environment for different groups, projects, political events, concerts, etc. From the beginning the squat was a thorn in the side of the local city council. They decided in parliament that the center has to be closed and torn down, but did not provide for an alternative. In place of the squat, they planned to build five parking places - a decision that is very symbolic as well as characteristic. Certainly the real aim was to weaken the ideas and the structures this center stands for, but until now they haven’t been able to accomplish this.

Avant-guard musician John Cage (1912-92) composed ’Five Hanau Silence’ in October 1991 to support the squat and the aims and values for which it stands. The original initiative was started by the KomistA-collective, which created several projects in the complex area of ’culture, society and change’. The composition was then realized by KomistA founders Claus Sterneck and Wolfgang Sterneck, in April 1992. In the same year KomistA released a book and record document, ’Silence, Consciousness and Change’ with a realization of the composition and different articles and graphics on subjects like music and silence, free spaces and social rebellion, fantasy and consciousness. The re-release includes new articles and live recordings of concerts in the culture center, which represents the variety of counter-cultural music far away from charts and star-attitudes.

John Cage was one of the most influential composers of the last century. Inspired by a background of anarchist and Zen Buddhist ideas, Cage broke through the rules and barriers of traditional classical music to develop the theory and practice of a new non-hierarchical music. Cage was responsible for the integration of sounds in music. He developed new instruments and open composition forms, and involved a new definition of silence. Moreover, Cage is viewed as the founder of the Happening. The composition ’Five Hanau Silence’ was created in a way that was typical of Cage’s ideas. First a map of Hanau was divided into different areas. Then five locations were chosen according to the principles of the Chinese oracle I-Ching. In these locations recordings were made on particular dates and times, which were then blended into a single recording.

One of the basic ideas of this kind of composition is to make possible a new way of conscious hearing, which is closely related to conscious being. Sounds that are not noticed in everyday life are relieved of their original meaning and put into a new context. In this way, they can become the subject of a new experience. At the same time classical music is called into question. In Cage-like compositions natural sounds, for example, can be heard with the same meaning as tones of different traditional instruments. Regardless of the instrument or the source, no sound has more meaning than another. There’s no hierarchy - all sounds are equal.

At this point the anarchist conception of Cage converges with the goal of the squatters to live a life without domination, the basic ideas of KomistA and the structure of ’Five Hanau Silence’. In this meaning the explicit aim of the project is to support the squat. It forms a document of solidarity, a request to question present ways of hearing, and consequently a change in the social conditions that stand behind them.

To develop free spaces ...

John Cage, Claus Sterneck & Wolfgang Sterneck (Ed.) / Silence, Consciousness and Change.
KomistA; Hanau / Germany -.Book & 7‘-Record, 1992. - ISBN 3–928988-00-X

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