How can we as humans in this day and age foster a relationship with the Rhine River, without lapsing back into modes of romanticism, when witnessing its remaining beauty in some rare places; without turning away in frustration and disillusionment, when confronted with the irreparable interventions it has undergone?
What is disclosed if we shift the focus from the dominant sense of vision to hearing?
Would you recognize the Rhine by its sound?
What other senses are helpful here?
Do I have enough senses at my command to answer this question?
Do I have to and can I develop further senses?
With these questions as a starting point Thomas M. Siefert and Lasse-Marc Riek have approached the Rhine acoustically and visually on various locations and seasons during the last seven years. This resulted in the close examination of the ambient sound, the soundscape and the “sound entity” of the Rhine.
The “Rhine-soundscape” does not only sound like flowing, gurgling or slowly bobbing water. The soundscape also includes animals and humans who live by the river, who move and rest there.
In addition to the sound of the present, also the sound of the past was sought out: a listening back to what has remained; a listening forward to what could come.
Siefert’s and Riek’s formal approach to the soundscapes demands from the artist to step back behind the recording. In the foreground of their artistic practice stands the unprocessed sound- and visual-recording of a specific situation.
01 vorderrheinquelle (region)
02 rhein bei tschamut
03 rheinschlucht nähe versamer tobel
04 kanalrhein bei balzers
05 rheinbrech bodensee
06 stein am rhein
07 rheinfall bei schaffhausen
08 basel hafen (nähe wiesemündung)
09 petit camarque d´alsace
10 staustufe ottmarsheim
11 restrhein bei fessenheim
12 staustufe und schleusenanlage fessenheim
13 staustufe marckolsheim
14 ile de rhinau
15 staustufe rhinau
16 fähre kappel – rhinau
17 kanufahrt im naturschutzgebiet taubergiessen
18 ile de langgrund
19 staustufe strasbourg
20 staustufe gambsheim
21 karlsruhe hafen
21 Tracks (73′25″)
CD (500 copies)
Would you recognize the Rhine by its sound?
Artwork: Peter Heinz, Headquarter.net
Audio-Mastering: Tomislav Bucalic
Translation: Sebastian Scherer and Angus Carlyle
Thanks to: Peter Heinz, Tomislav Bucalic, Sebastian Scherer, Angus Carlyle, Roland Etzin and Mrs. Siefert!
Field Recording Series by Gruenrekorder
Germany / 2015 / Gruen 163 / LC 09488 / GEMA / EAN: 4050486945995
Rigobert Dittmann | Bad Alchemy Magazin (91)
THOMAS M. SIEFERT & LASSE-MARC RIEK klapperten für von der rheinquelle bis hafen karlsruhe | rhein_strom (Gruen 163) den Vater Rhein ab und ‚verhörten‘ ihn von der Vorderrheinquelle bis Karlsruhe Hafen. Vorbei an Rheinschlucht, Rheinbrech, Rheinstein, Rheinfall, Restrhein und Rheinau, vorbei an 1 Hafen (Basel), 6 Staustufen, 1 Fähre (Kappel – Rhinau). Es ist das nicht mehr der romantische nationale Grenzstrom mit Rheintöchtern und Wacht am Rhein, und das Interesse daher neusachlich ernüchtert. Aber es geht auch nicht nur um eine Klangquelle für ein rauschendes und glucksendes H₂O-Geplätscher mehr. Gezeigt, wenn man den Ohren was zeigen kann, wird vielmehr ein environmentaler und sozialer Komplex, der ein wenig Naturschutzpoesie umfasst und viel Verkehrswegsprosa, das intensiv registrierte Dröhnen der zweiten Natur mitten durch zwitscherndes Auenland und elsässisches Lappland. Endend nach 589 km in einem industrialen Rauschen, das dem Namen Karlsruhe spottet.
Ed Pinsent | The Sound Projector
The field recording record Von Der Rheinquelle Bis Hafen Karlsruhe (GRUENREKORDER Gruen 163) is credited to rhein_strom, but is in fact the work of Lasse-Marc Riek, the label boss Gruenrekorder; he did these field recordings of the Rhine river, while his collaborator Thomas M. Siefert was the “location scout” – a role which sounds not unlike something you’d expect in a move production company – and took the colour photos which appear in the foldout booklet.
Across 21 tracks which segue into each other, we have a detailed sound map of the river, one which is illustrated by a very precise schematic time-line / diagram included in the printed insert, telling us where we are on the stations of this journey; in structure, perhaps, not unlike Annea Lockwood’s Sound Map Of The Hudson River, which she undertook in 1982. Lasse-Marc Riek also adds one or two conceptual layers to the work; one textual inspiration was a book called Rivers Of Central Europe by Joachim von Konigslow, a work which traces the history of mankind’s relationship to rivers. We used to think the river was a God; then we feared the river, when it brought floods and disease. Now we exploit it, harnessing the energy of the river for transport and power generation. “How can we…forge new relationships with the River Rhine?” asks Riek, perhaps intending this release as one potential response to that profound question.
Like Christina Kubisch with her Unter Grund (noted here), he’s worried; concerned about the ecology and the long-term effects of our destructively-interfering with nature. He calls them “irreparable interventions”, suggesting that the damage we do is irreversible. But in seeking out zones of unspoiled pastoral beauty along the river Rhine, he doesn’t want to turn himself into some 19th-century Romantic landscape painter swooning over deserted vistas, nor presumably become a soppy tree-hugging ecology nut who bursts into tears whenever another acre of forest is cleared for a housing development or to create more cattle grazing land for cows which are destined to become McDonalds hamburgers. Von Der Rheinquelle thus might be read as a spare, unsentimental look at the beauty of nature, through sound; and a journey that’s informed by questions and uncertainty, rather than a lecture proceeding from foregone conclusions.
As to that uncertainty, the word-game he plays on one page of the booklet, taking the reader from “rain” to “ryn”, may indicate the multi-layered thinking he’s been doing on this subject. It’s a series of puns, multi-lingual, almost a concrete poem; a rebus that somehow encompasses more than just a river and its names. While this record is gorgeous to listen to (all these Gruenrekorders are pretty much recommended listening), it also communicates a conceptual depth that makes it even more compelling, inviting us to consider our own relationship to nature, to the environment, and what it means.
Roger Batty | Musique Machine
Von Der Rheinquelle Bis Hafen Karlsruhe (Of The Rhine Source To Harbor Karlsruhe for none German speakers) takes us on fascinating field recording journey down one of Europe’s most mighty rivers. Traveling through different season, and stopping off at twenty track one stops along it’s nearing 600 Km length. The Rhein Strom [Rhine River] project brings together respected german field recordist & sound artists Lasse-Marc Riek , & location scout and photographer Thomas M. Siefert.
As you’d expect from the Gruenrekorder label- the packaging is a colourful, well thought-out, visual rewarding. The full colour digi-pak takes in on it’s front cover a photograph from with-in the Rhein’s water looking up into green grass, hills, woodlands & summer blue skies of it’s banks. The inside takes in a close-up picture of the Rhien’s water, and this carries on the disc face too. The release also comes with a fold-out double sided colour inlay, and this features pictures from all along the river showing Lasse-Marc Riek, and general river pictures. As well as line graph following the progression along the river, with each track.
In all we have 21 tracks, and a total album runtime of seventy three minutes. The album opens with the track vorderrheinquelle (front Rhine source); which as it title suggests finds at the waterfall source of the river in wintertime ( according to the picture linked to the line graph). This first track comes in at just over the six minute mark, and is a wonderfully layered & crystal clear recording of rapidly bubbling & rushing water. From here on we move from more distant recordings of the river, with bird song backing. Onto close-up splashing wave recordings, through to lulling trickles & washers. Onto the rushing of the train tracks that run along the river, through to the distant sound of a road & gentle shore washings. Onto the chatter of people as the walk along the rivers mighty banks, through to the crunch of the shoreline. Length wise each track comes in around the one & six minute mark, and as you’d expect with a field recordist of Lasse-Marc Riek calibre, each track is perfectly capture & edited. So you feel like your there, and your mind never wonders, as Lasse knows exactly when to finishing a track to keep you captured by the sounds
One of the questions asked in the linear notes is Would you recognize the Rhine by its sound?, and surprisingly I’d have to say yes to this question. As a few years back we took a weeks river cruise down the Rhine, and I must say quite a few of the sounds here do bring back memories for me. All told this is another very worthy addition to Gruenrekorder Field Recording Series, and well worth checking out if you enjoy more water based field recordings.
Richard Allen | a closer listen
“Would you recognize a river by its sound?” This is the question posed by Lasse-Marc Riek and Thomas M. Siefert (rhein_strom), but the question is much less interesting than the execution. Why? Because the answer is “no.” Not all rivers sound alike, it’s true ~ but we’d wager that if one were to blindfold Riek, Siefert and Annea Lockwood (A Sound Map of the Housatonic River) and play pure river-based recordings, they’d have a tough time identifying their favorite subjects.
Only a few water-based locations possess clearly identifiable sounds, and even these may be confused with others: Niagra Falls, for example, or the cracking ice of Lake Baikal. But Riek and Siefert are not dealing with simple water. In this voluminous recording, they include other hints: local birds, industry, the sounds of local residents. To paraphrase, we can recognize a river by the sounds around it. By following the river from source to harbor, the field recordists offer a secondary entry point as well, in that anyone familiar with the Rhine who walks the entirety of its path may well recognize this as the Rhine, as they will recognize the order of sounds. That is, unless the seven years of recording have blurred such sounds; climactic and seasonal changes may have eradicated certain nuances while introducing others.
It’s possible that a person may say, “this species of bird is found only in this area, a short day’s journey from this crossing bell.” By this we realize that no water-based source exists out of context. Even in the middle of the ocean particular timbres abound, affected by plankton and shipping lanes. But outside sources keep this set interesting; the 73-minute soundscape incorporates the river’s entire sonic field. In one segment we hear snow melt, another a raging torrent. Planes fly overhead; warning horns sound. Some of the transitions are jarring (the sudden stop of the rapids in “rheinfall bei schaffhausen”), but for the most part – pun intended – the album flows smoothly, and the separation of tracks by number is merely a guide.
Does the recording succeed? It’s not meant to trick the listener, nor to challenge global travelers. Instead, the album seeks to philosophize by asking an easy question with complicated implications. Can a soundscape be “pure” in the company of human intrusion? Can an environmental viewer ever be subjective when immersed in a landscape? It’s a modern take on the old question, “If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Yes, of course it does, yet the real question is not that one, but the one we take with us. Like it or not, this is the Rhine, and since we can’t separate the Rhine from ourselves, we can recognize it ~ fair or unfair as this answer may be.
Since its 2003 founding, Gruenrekorder co-managers Lasse-Marc Riek and Roland Etzin have done much to establish the German label as one of the foremost outlets for field recordings-related work, and for that matter have been instrumental in establishing field recordings as a legitimate stand-alone genre. Two new releases, the first by Christina Kubisch and Eckehard Güther and the other by Thomas M. Siefert and Riek (under the rhein_strom name), reflect that ongoing commitment; Riek’s also represented here by Schwarm, an hour-long recording that while issued on ALARM could just as easily have appeared on Gruenrekorder. […]
Siefert and Riek’s rhein_strom release, von der rheinquelle bis hafen karlsruhe (in essence, from the source of the Rhine to the Karlsruhe harbour) is succinctly encapsulated by the question, “Would you recognize the Rhine by its sound?” Working with recordings collected along a 589-kilometre stretch, the two (Riek credited with field recordings and Siefert with location scouting and photos) have assembled a seventy-three-minute ambient portrait of the river that shifts the focus away from the visual to the purely sonic realm. The river gurgles so dynamically it feels close enough to touch, and rushing water isn’t the only sound either: chirping birds, machinery grinding, distant traffic noise, the chatter of people who live by the river as well as other creatures all surface, making for a rich, detailed travelogue; if anything, it’s surprising how plentiful non-water sounds are on the recording. Intensity levels fluctuate throughout, with some episodes aggressive and others peaceful by comparison.
In answer to the original query, I wouldn’t, in truth, be able to identify the river as the Rhine by the sound portrait presented, but that’s no slight against the work’s creators. Without the clarification, I’d be able to identify the recording as a document of a setting teeming with activity, both nature and creature-based, and water-related sounds strongly suggestive of a river locale, but I’d be hard pressed to recognize them as specifically tied to the Rhine as opposed to another. But it’s an engrossing soundscape nevertheless that holds one’s attention as it advances through its multiple changes of scenery and twenty-one indexed stopping-points. […]
Guillermo Escudero | Loop
This is a new installment of German Gruenrekorder Field Recording series. Rhein Strom [Rhine River] are field recordits Thomas M. Siefert [location scout and photos] and Lasse-Marc Riek [field recordings]. This work took place on various locations and seasons during the last seven years and its purpose is the natural state of sound [no processing techniques], soundscape and the “sound identity” of the Rhine. “Von der Rheinquelle Bis Hafen Karlsruhe” [From Rhine’s birth to Karlsruhe port] contains not only falls and streams of water, but also animals and humans who live by the river, who move and rest there. Some of the locations are natural areas, others are pools for water treatment. Conceptually, one of the questions asked for this work, was what relationship we establish with the Rhine River, romantic one, after the ecological damage that have suffered some of its parts? In my interpretation the “sound identity” of the Rhine could be affected by the different interventions that has had, an issue that is not so different from what we have in this part of the world.
Frans de Waard | VITAL WEEKLY
Would you recognize a river by it’s sound? That’s the question poised by Lasse-Marc Riek (field recordings) and Thomas M. Siefert (location scout and pictures) – a proper band then? The river in question originates in Switzerland and ends in the North Sea, near Rotterdam (having split at the Dutch border, becoming two rivers (Nederrijn (which also splits) and Waal, the latter passes the sunny city of Nijmegen). That’s not the entire course this piece of music follows. We start the end spring of Rhine in Switzerland up to the harbour of Karlsruhe, a total length of 589 kilometres, roughly half the total length. To answer their question: no I did not recognize this as the river called Rhine, even when perhaps at various points where Rhein_Strom made their recordings I also passed the river. It’s hard not to think of the ‚Sound Map Of The Hudson River‘ by Annea Lockwood, who does the same thing, albeit with the Hudson River, but I believe she follows the river over greater distance. This is not something one could discuss in terms of music, I think, but rather one can say: yes, I really like to listen to sounds from nature and listening to the sounds of the river, quiet, loud, with or without any human activity, pure water recordings and with animal life around, and these twenty-one pieces are one flow along those 589 kilometres down the river coast line (and according to the pictures also several recordings have been made sitting in a boot). By choosing various points of recording, Riek has an interesting variety of sounds to choose from and makes full use of that when he put together this piece of music. It is quite a fascinating listen this release, exactly the kind of thing this label is known for.
Stephen Fruitman | Avant Music News
“Would you recognize the Rhine by its sound?” asks Lasse-Marc Riek. The river, that ever-flowing, every-changing artery, the thoroughfare of our landscapes, is a popular subject for field recordists. Perhaps because no two sound alike. Each breeds its own flora, fauna and civilization.
Cédric Peyronnet curated a whole series of recordings along the River Taurion by various artists in three-inch format, Flaming Pines its own from artists and rivers around the world. Annea Lockwood´s superb triple CD set A Sound Map of the Danube was painstakingly constructed after previously doing the same thing closer to home, along New York´s Hudson River. And those, excuse the near-pun, are merely a drop in the bucket.
As the title Von der Rheinquelle bis Hafen Karlsruhe makes clear, this stretch begins at 2,052 m elevation, literally at the source of the Rhine, and stops at selected locations scouted out and photographed by Thomas M. Siefert, all the way to Karlsruhe, capturing flow, burble, trickle, bird and machine song, and the chatter of the riverside dwellers and their children. The air grows cool and darkles, The Rhine flows calmly on (Heinrich Heine). The next installment will take us all the way to Rotterdam.
Riek further wonders if we can still foster a creative, indeed mutually beneficial relationship “without lapsing back into modes of romanticism, when witnessing its remaining beauty in some rare places; without turning away in frustration and disillusionment, when confronted with the irreparable interventions it has undergone.” Though your present reviewer does not recognize the Rhine by its sound, he does know a good, mutually beneficial thing when he hears it.
Łukasz Komła | Nowamuzyka.pl
Projekt „von der rheinquelle bis hafen Karlsruhe” powstawał dosyć długo, bo aż siedem lat zajęło artystom zarejestrowanie nagrań terenowych wód Renu. Takie rozciągnięcie w czasie miało na celu odwiedzenie tej rzeki w różnych miejscach i różnych porach roku. A jednym z podstawowych pytań, jakie postawili sobie Siefert i Riek w momencie rozpoczęcia tego przedsięwzięcia, było: czy można rozpoznać Ren po jego dźwiękach? Ci twórcy, podobnie jak Kubisch i Güther, również odnoszą się do problemu ingerencji człowieka w dziedzictwo przyrody, w tym przypadku jest to rzeka Ren.
Płytę „von der rheinquelle bis hafen Karlsruhe” wypełniło ponad 70 minut nagrań przeróżnych dźwięków i nie są to jedynie proste odgłosy przelewającej się wody w strumieniach, potokach etc, choć też i takie mamy, ale pokazano Ren i jego otoczenie w szerszym kontekście (okoliczna infrastruktura oraz mieszkańcy/turyści). Gdzieniegdzie łagodne dźwięki szumu wody przełamują dynamiczne fale wodospadu Rheinfall (największy pod względem przepływu wodospad Europy), a także dronowe echa w szwajcarskim porcie. Nie brakuje też odgłosów owadów („petit camarque d´alsace”), zwierząt i ptaków mieszkających w okolicach Renu. Wydaje się, że tak naprawdę artyści starają się poprzez swoje nagrania usłyszeć/odtworzyć akustyczną przeszłość tej rzeki, a także wskazać nieuchronnie znikające miejsca i ich zdewastowany krajobraz dźwiękowy.