The sound project CORONA CONCRÈTE is based on the experiences of sound artist Lasse-Marc Riek during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this time, he created an extensive sound archive that forms the basis and source for the elaboration of the material into various artistic formats.
Riek recorded his immediate surroundings with the help of various microphones and sensors in the period between March 28, 2020 and March 28, 2021. Individual situations were often recorded from different perspectives and at different times. Underwater, stereo, directional, and contact microphones were used. The result was 1100 hours (1 month, 15 days, 20 hours) of unedited footage recorded at 13 locations that Riek visited repeatedly at different times. Due to the lockdown-induced decrease in anthropogenic sounds, vocalizations of various bird, insect, and mammal species became much more audible.
Seismic studies by various researchers found that man-made noise decreased by as much as 50 percent during the period between March and May 2020 due to the sharp decline in human activities such as industrial production or passenger and freight traffic. Global quieting of high-frequency seismic noise due to COVID-19 pandemic lockdown measures / ScienceMag.org
The development of the CORONA CONCRÈTE project was accompanied by two guiding questions:
- How does the sound sphere change when an entire society stays at home and backyards, gardens, and near-city natural spaces become the center of life?
- How do soundscapes change in the approach corridor of Frankfurt Airport in which 95 percent of air traffic have disappeared?
In Phase 1 of the project, during the first lockdown in Germany from March 28 to April 15, 2020, Riek focused on the sound changes in his own backyard. During the first lockdowns between April 15 and June 5, 2020, in Phase 2, he engaged in recording the changes in the soundscapes surrounding him. In Phase 3, from June 5 to July 30, 2020, during which additional lockdown ease took place, Riek documented further situations and locations in different time periods.
The majority of the recordings were edited in Phase 4, between August 1 and October 31, 2020, adding information such as the location, time, and date of the recordings, as well as accompanying photographs. In the following months, in Phase 5 between November 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021, the collected material was used to create a sound map that geographically locates a selection of recordings by making them visually accessible. Riek also developed various concepts for sound installations and a series of radiophonic compositions based on the sound material. CORONA CONCRÈTE is an open project and will continue to expand with ideas, formats and performances in the future.
Many thanks to Tobias Schmitt, Verena Freyschmidt and Stefan Militzer.
The eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull in March 2010 brought air traffic in Europe to a complete standstill for several days. Even then, the soundscape in Europe changed significantly during this period.
Almost ten years later, the federal and state governments in Germany decided on a first lockdown to contain the new type of coronavirus on March 22, 2020. Again, air travel in Europe and the rest of the world was severely reduced. In addition, there were contact and exit restrictions that also affected the immediate sound environment.
The center of sound artist Lasse-Marc Riek's life is located in Hanau-Steinheim, directly in one of the approach zones of Germany's largest airport. This location proved to be a favorable acoustic research environment because its sounds were greatly altered by the pandemic lockdown. Starting from his own place of residence, the artist was thus able to focus on acoustic events that would otherwise be lost in the noise of everyday life: the movements of the smallest insects under water, the entry of raccoons into the home fireplace, the arrival of the oriole from its wintering grounds, and the song of a frozen lake.
The sound map shows a selection of the sound recordings made between March 28, 2020 and March 28, 2021. The backyard in Steinheim became the acoustic center, a kind of resonant space and amplifier for the changes and shifts in the pandemic-related sound situations. Starting from this place, Riek's acoustic journeys into the adjacent forest and lake areas between Hanau and Mühlheim are documented geographically and sonically by the soundmap.
The sound material for the work "Hinterhof" consists of 60 recordings, each 60 minutes long. It comes from the convolute of sound material recorded and edited between March 28, 2020 and March 28, 2021.
Through a dynamic programming and allocation strategy, the installation presents various extracts from the timelines of the respective individual recordings and distributes them to six loudspeakers. In this way, Lasse-Marc Riek makes tangible the acoustic compression and dissolution that has characterized the first year since the onset of the Corona pandemic at his residence.
An excerpt from the installation:
Programming and support: Tobias Schmitt
The multi-channel installation will first be heard in an exhibition at the Frankfurt Kunstraum ORBIT24 over the next few months.
Soundscapes form another format into which Riek has transferred the sound material of his sound project CORONA CONCRÈTE. Each soundscape tells its own story about the sound location where its material was recorded, and fuses it compositionally with Riek's own experiences at these locations.
The Dietesheim quarries were created by extensive basalt mining in a section of forest parallel to the Main River between Mühlheim and Hanau. After they were flooded in 1982 and extensively reforested along their banks, parts are now protected as nature reserves. Although swimming is officially prohibited, the scenically beautiful lakes enjoy great popularity, and not only among young people. The pandemic has not changed this - on the contrary.
The recordings Riek used for his composition of BEETLE UNDERWORLD document life under water. The sounds of water beetles and bugs are captured by the artist's hydrophones. The swaying of plants under the pressure of flowing water can also be heard. The buzzing and rustling of insects is interrupted by waterfowl sticking their heads below the surface to feed. Even divers can be heard, who were out in the lake at the moment the record was taken. In contrast to the time before the lockdown, there are no airplanes in the approach corridor of Frankfurt Airport. Instead, the underwater microphones pick up the shouts of young people partying and swimming in the lake.
Thanks to its open vegetation and orchards, the Gailenberg is a refuge for birds. Situated on the remains of lava flows that have coagulated into basalt, the mountain is covered only by a thin layer of humus. For a long time, the barren soils were used for growing grapes. Even though wine has since given way to apple trees, the soils remain poor in nutrients.
Riek walks through the open landscape of the Gailenberg on his piece SECOND NATURE. In the process, he documents bird calls, as well as grasshoppers, ants and sheep that inhabit the area. In addition to starlings or? orioles we hear woodpeckers and numerous other songbirds. Riek's composition documents without transfiguring. For seconds, the thought arises of hearing life in a natural landscape here. Riek's own footsteps on the crunching paths, the bleating of the sheep, voices and again and again short noises of far-away machines remind us, however, that the landscape is furnished and maintained by humans. Even the noise of airplanes that the pandemic has made disappear does not change this. To the city dwellers, whose social life has collapsed under the pandemic restrictions, the Gailenberg bears that they share their world not only with humans, but with millions of other living beings that live just behind their houses.
Freezing temperatures and snowfall in February 2021 often caused headaches for health authorities because many families wanted to enjoy winter by skiing and sledding to escape their domestic solitude. Fear of close social contact on the sledding hill led to the closure of many access roads to the low mountain ranges. The winter joy that Riek shows us in his work ICE ICE BABY did not have to deal with this problem. The composition lets us discover tiny sounds, barely audible without microphones, produced by movements of ice. The unusually strong frost had deeply frozen the lakes in the Dietesheim quarries. What we hear are therefore not ice floes, but the results of subtle pressure changes and temperature fluctuations, which show that even hard-frozen ice is anything but rigid.
Contact microphones pressed onto the ice reveal the cracking and hissing, the emergence of fine cracks and the pressing of water from below against the ice sheet. Like laser flashes, pressure discharges explode through structures of crystallized water molecules. But here again, Riek avoids presenting us with a seemingly pristine world. Instead, we hear stones being thrown onto the ice. Finally, even the ice cover is chopped open and loud splashing under water shows people getting into the icy water to bathe.
After Riek repeatedly saw a raccoon climbing out of the chimney of his studio during the pandemic calm in May 2020, he set out in the following days to find her exact place of residence. For a sound artist, it made sense to attach a microphone to the chimney. After succeeding in doing so through a small hole in a hatch, instead of a single animal he was surprised to hear the sounds of an entire family of raccoons. Completely astonished, Riek found himself acoustically immersed in the middle of a nursery of freshly born raccoons, suckling, playing with each other and impatiently waiting for their mother to return when she had gone out to forage for food at dusk.
Many hours of sound recordings were made and Riek was able to witness the mother carrying her cubs for the first time out of the shelter of the chimney, onto the roof and into the branches of the hazelnut standing next to the studio. The composition RACOON CLUB also documents this excursion. The little ones call and scream frightened, while we hear them fall from the branches, on which their mother pushed them, to the grass and onto a small hut that Riek's children had built in the garden. The neighbors' dog barks and one of the raccoon cups accidentally bumps into a bell that is in the garden. In the evening after this exhausting and certainly difficult excursion, the raccoon brought her little ones out of the chimney one by one and disappeared to another place, without returning once more to the artist's studio roof.
Hanau's Hellental Bridge carries the B43 across the Main River between the districts of Klein-Auheim and Groß-Auheim. Although air traffic had largely come to a standstill due to the pandemic restrictions, the same was not true for car traffic. Riek reports that at the time of his recording in June 2020, the federal highway was in some cases even busier than usual. What we hear through the sound artist's contact microphones, however, is not the hum of tires and the roar of engines. Instead of a wild roar, the microphones picked up vibrations of steel girders and doors generated by vibrations in which the traffic puts the bridge.
What is referred to in music by the term drone, Riek transfers in his composition TRAVEL DRONE into an almost mystical auditory event. He adds floating overtones to the deep, low-frequency vibrations. The initially gentle noise increases to a shimmering sound carpet that transforms the weight of the huge bridge construction and the dirt of the rolling traffic into an unreal dream world. Riek elicits fascinatingly floating harmonies from the noise pollution caused by ubiquitous combustion engines, thus creating a similar change in reality as our busy everyday life has experienced in an irritating and sometimes also delightful way as a result of the pandemic lockdown.