Artwork: Brandstifter & Lasse-Marc Riek


Asphaltbibliotheque | Brandstifter

Gr 045 | Gruen CD-R > [Sold Out]


1. Asphaltbibliotheque (Mainz 1998) | excerpt:



2. Fundzettelbach (Worms 2006)
3. Ein kleines Stück Papier (Hannover 2003)


original by „mutter“


3 Tracks (62’05“)
CD-R (50 copies)


(c) V.E.B. Freie Brandstiftung, Germany

Gruenrekorder / Germany / 2007 / Gr 045 / LC 09488


Is this ‚Music‘? Is this what John Cage was referring to when he claimed, in the 1930s, that every sound one day could be used for musical means? – A survey over the development of music and the fine arts since the start of the 20th century, which marked the arrival of the artistical avant-garde?, reveals that the terminology concerning the fine arts was widened as soon as the Dada-movement emerged. It would take some more decades before the same happened with music. It was only when the Fluxus-movement premiered their musical and anti-musical actions in the 1950s and 1960s that an  emancipation of sounds from traditional notions of composition would be brought about. In the same way in which Duchamps Ready Mades questioned the role of the ‚fine‘ artist as a craftsman these actions challenged traditional notions of the composer.


Branstifters recordings for an „Asphaltbibliotheque“ follow this tradition. They do not claim to be musical compositions in any conventional sense, but rather have to be understood within their performative context. On a visual level the Asphaltsbibliotheque consists of ready-made pieces, which are only altered due to the artist’s choice which pieces to incorporate. In the same way in which retrieved slips of paper from the sidewalks were never supposed to be art, the sounds on this CD do not go beyond anything that has not been collected. They constitute an acoustic process, on which the artist has no direct influence or at least no downright control – even though he may decide which specific sound to play at which specific time and place. But the artistic act of collecting – of slips of papers or of sounds – causes a transformation: what was thrown away, lost or forgotten is restored, mundane pieces are catalogued and thereby often become poetry. Seemingly insignificanct things like postcards, shopping lists or a janitor’s warning sign for tenants acquire a new meaning in the context of the Asphaltbibliotheque – a meaning that surpasses the inherent humorous and grotesque qualities of the written words.


These are acts of communication, which at times seem to be ritual, at times contrived, at other times aggressive and sometimes even a cry for help. Often it is just a stammering which Beckett could not have conceived of more poignant in his plays. You cannot help but think about these people which are unfamiliar to you. You think about their dilemmas and the suffocating order of a world which gave birth to these documents.
The same applies to sound and „field recordings“, which the recordings at hand also are. They prevent the fleeting things from vanishing and force us to listen closely to those sounds which we would usually suppress or try to ignore, because we do not deem them music. Music in its traditional understanding emerges when sound is brought into an order. Yet the seemingly unordered sounds on these recordings reveal that even the alleged chaos is structured: Order is always pre-given, pervading the whole world, since the making of order is the original reason for every kind of communication and the selective mechanisms our senses adhere to. The genuine quality of Brandstifters art is its disclosing of this knowledge. The question if this is music or not becomes obsolete.


Martin Büsser (Translation Benjamin Borgerding)





CD Feature/ Brandstifter: „Asphaltbibliotheque“ | By Fred M. Wheeler and Tobias Fischer
One for the ages: The arsonist succeeds.


Fred: Yes, folks, this one is one for the ages! Dada says ‘hello’ and, of course, good old Johnny Cage has his duties lined out to serve as explanation for this work. For without Johnny, you would just have a very difficult time to come to terms with this. Field recordings are the big headline, field recordings you’ll hear every single day when you go to work, in case you have a job, or go shopping or do anything else outside the confines of your home.


Tobias: And hello to you, Fred! I agree that there’s some namedropping in the booklet included with the CD. But since when is making your influences public a crime? Isn’t there, in fact, a lot to be said for it?
Fred: Okay, let me rephrase that! Imagine this, Brandstifter: You would give this CD to a person who had never heard a word about art. Or music. Or anything about Dadaism or John Cage. Or yourself, as a matter of fact. What do you think a person like that would say upon hearing your work?  I’ll leave the answer to this question open, wide open. But you obviously will sense what I am about to say.


Tobias: Not yet…

Fred: Instead of ranting on, I will, for clarity’s sake, quote from Martin Büsser, an author who obviously enjoys this kind of art and who delivered an explanation for what this CD is all about. Get this: ‘In the same way in which retrieved slips of paper from the sidewalks were never supposed to be art, the sounds on this CD do not go beyond anything that has not been collected.’Well! Isn’t the whole purpose clear right now? I guess so.

Tobias: But aren’t the basic sounds and the composition two completely different things? And,  since we’ve started on the „philosophical“ part of the debate: One needs to take the composer as a further element of influence into consideration as well. The source material is shaped by the composer to form a composition, but what happens, as the composer gradually reduces his influence? That, to me, is the essence of Büsser’s essay and quite an interesting subject to boot…


Fred: I’m not quite as intruiged as you are, but I’ll go so far as to agree that you could approach this work from another angle. You could claim, that these sounds serve as a remarkable act in branding the usual procedures of every days life into your consciousness, thus creating a form of art which stands out simply because it has never been done before…
Never been done before??? Please. This is just a simple rehash of things that have been done already in the last millennium. And as it is in art, music and other endeavours, you have to be the FIRST coming up with ideas like this to really produce art. This is true for all genres of art, even in pop music and rock’n roll, and sure as hell in painting, jazz music, sculpting and, oh yes, and yes again, in experimental music. Or whatever you think art is.


There are many cover groups, who try to imitate their idols. Sometimes with astonishing quality. But in this case, there is not even a noteworthy technical aspect. In this case, you push a button, later cut the tapes and mix together what has already been mixed together by the accidental happenings of daily life.Then, you add the wisdom of some acrobat with words, who paints the wisdom of an intellectual aura around the whole thing, and there you go.


Tobias: You’re right to a certain degree. The introduction certainly has a weak spot. By simultaneously claiming that the question of whether or not this is music is irrelevant and then celebrating the disc as a great piece of art, it both tries to stand outside of the typical terminology, while using it to its own advantage. But on the other hand, I would find it unfair to apply a different standard to „Asphaltbibliotheque“ than to any other kind of musical expression. Art is a form of human expression and can not be repressed. To get back to your initial question of how one would listen to this CD without any kind of musical education: Probably with a look of estrangement – and an urge to find out what this was all about.


Fred: Just let me put it plain and simple: I myself love to do what Brandstifter did right here. It is just a lot of fun to put together a CD like this. It is some act of creating something, regardless of what it is. As I said, I like to do it myself. But it sure isn’t anything of art or value. It’s just fun. And if this was the objective to fabricate this work, great! But I’m afraid, it was not. So here is my recommendation: If you want to indulge in the sounds of our industrial and busy life just go out, walk the roads, go into café’s and pubs, train stations and sit down at bus stops. Have a picnic at a busy highway. And when you come home, listen to a piece of music, that you like. But not to this CD.


Tobias: You are aware of the fact that „Brandstifter“ means „arsonist“ in German and that they have succeeded in that aim admirably, despite your claim that „Asphaltbibliotheque“ offers nothing new?
Fred: I guess you are right on that one…