peripheries | Katharina Klement


peripheries | Katharina Klement
Sound portrait Belgrade 2014 – 2016
Gruen 173 | Audio CD > [order]


In 2014, I spent nine weeks in Belgrade, focusing on the questions, “What does this city sound like? Is it possible to portray it using sounds?”
In numerous excursions to different areas of the city, I collected sounds and noises. In addition, I conducted several interviews about the soundscape of Belgrade with people of different ages and backgrounds. The resulting comprehensive acoustic archive, or memory, became the basis of my compositional approach.


One characteristic of Belgrade is its numerous peripheries: Even within the historic city center, you may quickly and unexpectedly find yourself in fringe areas. The transitions are sudden – when it comes to sounds, you abruptly move from loud and noisy areas into others that are delicate and subtle. Also, I discovered circles in various contexts: in architecture, in ornaments, in traffic regulations; even time seems to be perceived as circular rather than clocked and linear as it is commonly understood in central Europe.


I designed a score by using my city map: The location of my apartment was the center, around which I drew eight concentric circles. During the compositional process, all the recordings from each of these rings were combined into one layer, resulting in eight musical layers.


The piece was then composed with eight channels, for a setting that uses eight speakers. On this CD, you will hear a stereo version of the piece.
Like in an “acoustic blender,” selected field recordings (some raw and some processed) create a sustained moment of density: a musical likeness of Belgrade. While the components of this sound portrait are taken from the acoustic reality of the city, the compositional process transforms them, giving them a new quality. Belgrade’s highly expressive and captivating character was extracted and abstracted through music.


The entire structure is divided into smaller sequences which, however, merge seamlessly.



Track List:


1. entrée | 4:23 min.
I enter the city, slowly approaching its background noise. I take the elevator to my apartment on the sixth floor. If you listen from my balcony, you can make out some of the city’s ambiance.


2. induction | 6:00 min.
Part of the raw material for this piece is a recording of a model of Nikola Tesla’s induction motor with an egg-shaped rotor, found in Tesla Museum, Belgrade. The rotating motor and the magnetic field it creates lead to the “egg” spinning on its major axis and standing on end.
The other part of the material for this piece comes from the two fountains in front of Belgrade’s Tesla and Tito Museums. The sounds of the rotating “egg” merge with the polyphonic song of the rushing water.


3. nijemo kolo (mute dance) | 4:02 min.
This piece functions entirely without pitch, using only noise-like material. It was created in memory of the great number of dead who are buried in this city and no longer have a voice but are etched into the city nevertheless. The piece is fashioned of sound particles such as the sound of the countless flames of slender candles in Orthodox churches as they are snuffed out in water; of the popcorn stands that dominate the city; of nuts, of fireworks, and of the recording of a “njemo kolo,” a silent dance during which only the rhythm of steps and jumps can be heard.


4. zeleni venac (green wreath) | 6:34 min.
The urban neighborhood of “zeleni venac” is a hub of people and goods; located right next to Brankova Street, it represents a link to both Novi Beograd and Zemun, a neighboring suburb. The area consists of a major bus terminal with a large-scale underpass alongside an open market. The former restaurant “To the green wreath” has been turned into a McDonald’s. You will encounter Romany selling their goods or playing music amid the masses of passers-by who are on their way from the periphery to the center of the city. Even the soccer players, a common sight all across the city, take center-stage acoustically in this piece.


5. escalator | 4:41 min.
Beginning with the recording of an escalator at the “Sava Centar,” this piece takes you on a journey through a number of Belgrade’s neighborhoods. Moving virtually on this escalator, acoustic windows open intermittently to present the atmosphere of one or another of several locations: a concrete mixer on the Ada Ciganlija, birds in the zoo, frogs on the Great War Island, rattling racks at the marketplace of Zemun, and much more.


6. Karaburma (black ring) | 8:32 min.
The Northeastern neighborhood of Karaburma is where the oldest (Celtic and Roman) settlements of Belgrade were located. Originally situated right next to the Danube, the area was partially a swamp with hot springs that created a constant mist. It was under Turkish rule that the district was first called Karaburma (“black ring”), referring to a forbidden place that people should avoid. In the 19th century, under Prince Milos Obrenovic, executions were carried out there, which only added to the area’s notoriety. Today it is one of Belgrade’s most densely populated neighborhoods, with large apartment blocks. Bordering Karaburma is a sizeable locality settled exclusively by Romany, who live according to their own culture. This historic background, as well as recordings that were made during multiple visits to the area, are what fuels this piece.


7. Tito’s Rondo | 3:18 min.
Historic recordings of several speeches by Tito that reveal much about his political thought served as the basic material for this piece. Even in the 21st century, Tito still occupies a central place within the collective memory of Serbia and all other countries of the formerly united Yugoslavia.


8. Interviews | 5:22 min.
Several people I interviewed talk about acoustic features of Belgrade. An electronically generated pitch reinforces the natural pitch of each person’s voice.


9. turn | 8:48 min.
Immediately following the interviews, the listener is taken on one more acoustic tour through the city. Embedded in rapid glissandos derived from the interview partners’ voices, characteristic sounds of Belgrade emerge: the bells of the Temple of Saint Sava, crowds from the countless local pubs, animal sounds from the zoo, polyphonic sacred songs, a streetcar. All the previous pieces appear once more in a compressed, miniature version.


9 Tracks (52′00″)
CD (500 copies)



thanks to Land Steiermark / Austria for supporting the residency in Belgrade
many thanks to Bojana Gruvečič, Miloš Tomić, Milenko Vasič, Danijela Mršulja Vasić, Selman Trtovac and Milan Blanuša,
who kindly agreed to be interviewed for this project.
thanks to Valentina Brković, my guide and translator in Belgrade
all tracks composed by Katharina Klement (AKM)
mastering: Martin Siewert | translation: Lea Rennert
photos: Katharina Klement |
artwork: Sebastian Ristow |


Sound Art Series by Gruenrekorder
Germany / 2017 / Gruen 173 / LC 09488 / AKM / EAN 4050486988459