In 1998, I had attend zwischen,[i] a two-hour live installation by Marcus Kaiser at the Wuppertal Main Train Station. I had taken the seventy-minute train ride from Düsseldorf, where I was staying at the time. When I got off the train, the performance was already in progress, though I didn’t know it. I walked around the platforms and the station in the nervous pace that had become my norm at train stations. I looked for Marcus and the performers among the other anxious travelers. Not being able to find them, I stopped. As the click-clack of wheels and the sound of the electric engine of a train pulled away from the station, I could hear a quiet, sustained tone. Then I saw a violinist bowing a long tone standing next to a singer. As I looked around, I noticed four more string players, each paired with a singer, stationed at various platforms, also performing long tones. I slowed down and listened, taking it all in. I stayed for more than an hour, strolling to different parts of the station and listening to different pairs of musicians. By the end of the hour, I began to hear the noises of the station differently: the rumbling of the steel cars, the metallic squawk on the intercom, the digital bells announcing the closing doors, the chatter of passersby, the clicking of high heels on concrete—against this quiet tone, these sounds became melody, rhythm, and harmony. Now when I go to a train station, I listen for the song—I can almost hear Marcus’ quiet, sustained tones. Marcus had transformed all train stations for me.

At first, I thought that the experience with Marcus’ music would transform all spaces I was in. While my listening has improved as a result, and I enjoy more city sounds than I had previously, I don’t experience every space the same way that I experience train stations. The experience cannot be extrapolated; the credits don’t transfer. It is not enough to understand it intellectually. I have to live each space. Over the years, I’ve done a number of projects outdoors, and each one has transformed the space.

[i]. Marcus Kaiser, zwischen (Düsseldorf: documentation published by the artist, 1998).

AuthorCraig Shepard