The Telegraph, Calcutta Friday 15 February 1985

Music of the third kind

By Anoop Bose

The Max Mueller Bhavan in collaboration with the Calcutta School of Music presented on Monday the avant garde German musician, composer Klaus Runze in a program of highly experimental “futuristic” music entitled “An aural and visual performing art with piano, tape and percussive painting –Concept 1984”.

The first piece, Intonazione, was an attempt at searching for a scale by playing the piano. The music, suspenseful in character, was a novel exercise in non stop hammering on the keys. Occasionally, however, one could detect sounds of bells, restless drones and “oriental” strains emanating from the piano.

In the second piece, Interazione, Runze played the extended scale by playing the piano against external sounds of wood percussion played by a tape recorder. The music was full of knocks and taps and sounded almost like the kind of music played by African witch doctors to ward off evil spirits. The music ended on a fiery note.

In the third piece, Contanti Bordini, the inside of the grand piano was played in dialogue with external sounds provided by the tape recorder. Runze struggled with the piano and at times almost had to grapple with it. By holding the piano strings or by placing weights upon them, Runze produced strange and strangled notes with the result that the music quacked, growled, grunted and suffocated itself. The eerie background music sounded like a couple of bamboos being plucked. At the end of the piece Runze was grasping for breath and beads of perspiration dropped from his brows on the keys of the piano.

In the piece that followed – Sordino Supremo – the piano strings had been specially prepared. The music was an experiment in staccato hammering against a farrago of external sounds provided by the tape recorder. The piece ended with the kind of sound one would associate with a propeller driven aircraft that has developed engine trouble.

In the second half of the program, Runze introduced the audience to a totally new kind of musical experience…the sound of percussive painting. Runze sat on his cushion before a large sheet of paper mounted on a board that looked like an improvised screen. As soon as the background music began, Runze picked up two pieces of brick, one piece in each hand, and began painting on the sheet of paper. Very soon, he was like a man possessed and began banging on the sheet with a swaying motion raising a cloud of brick dust. He then added black notches and white specks onto the sheet with a variety of objects.

The background music gradually assumed an extraterrestrial quality as Runze ceaselessly banged, dusted and brushed on the sheet. What finally emerged was a primitive looking painting, reminiscent of cave paintings. It resembled a spectral, octopus like creature against a bloody background.

At the end of the show, Runze was reduced to an untidy mess with brick dust and color smeared all over his clothes. The concert, nevertheless, was a success, for he managed to transport his audience to a totally new world of music – the unusual, unexpected music of the third kind.