Rune Lindblad; Die stille Liebe (1/2)


Cover: Rune Lindblad: Ortodoxi (collage 1990)

Rune Lindblad Die stille Liebe
Elektron Records EM1006/7
Durations: CD 1: 73:01, CD 2: 74:15


(PART 1 of 2)

To part 2 of the review




Rune Lindblad
(Photo: unknown. Fix-up: Ingvar Loco Nordin)

Die Stille Liebe… I recall a TV program in Sweden back in 1989, broadcast on 22nd October. A tremendous noise; frenzied, overwhelming, relentless… filled the homes of the eventual TV watchers… and then the composer, the enfant terrible of electronics, Rune Lindblad (1923 – 1991), was interviewed, much, it seemed, to his own dismay. He seemed shy but stubborn, to simplify it. I suppose he had become so accustomed, all the way from the early 1950s up to the date of the interview in the fall of 1989, to be met with such a stonewalling distrust and perhaps even worse; ignorance, that he sort of didn’t care to have his art explained on television this late in his life, or even have it broadcast, for that matter.
As the reporter triggered Lindblad, he finally got him talking about the piece they had just crashed down hard in the midst of the Swedish homes through the Trojan horses television sets;
Die stille Liebe (1972). Rune Lindblad’s voice was the voice of a young man, despite his age. He said (a little edited, many of the reporter’s questions omitted, some retained, translated by me from the Swedish):


Lindblad:
I have used, as sound generators, synthesizers; these old ones. I might be wrong to call them synthesizers, but they’re something in that direction. I also used a male voice talking in German. Then this has been shredded, and the sounds utilized have been fast events, splintering, contrasting. I don’t know…
Die stille Liebe… well, it’s maybe parodic, or something…
They first called this kind of music organized sound and concrete music. It began in France in 1948; Pierre Schaeffer, Pierre Henry. Now it’s more often called electroacoustic music. This stems from the Germans getting going in the 1950s with something they called electronic music. Finally they arrived with synthesizers that approached the nature of electronic sounds. It became hard to distinguish between the purely electronic music and concrete music. The term concrete music refers to the fact that the original sound came from a concrete object, like something like this (Lindblad hitting a chair), or you’re opening a door or something. The term electronic music, on the other hand, refers to generators producing sounds. Then they mixed these concepts, and to get a common term, it was called electroacoustic music; sounds that you could record concretely, to manipulate further in different ways. From the beginning, however, it was divided into two sections; electronic versus concrete.


[This was the Swedish pioneer of electronic music still trying to explain something to the uninterested crowd on television late in his life]

Reporter:
So what is it one wants to achieve, people have been asking for forty years now…

Lindblad:
They have!?

Reporter:
Well, some have. Why can’t you use common instruments…

Lindblad:
Sure you can! |I hear him getting upset] You can use regular instruments too, but this was a possibility to be able to extend the sounds, to be able to arrive at sounds that you could not produce with traditional instruments, to seek out new sound worlds, which still could express something.

Reporter:
How did you yourself enter this?

Lindblad:
Oh dear, must we go into that now? Ok, it started when I had been to a studio party [a painters’ party] – I went to art school too… - and I was walking back home late at night, through Slottsskogen [a park area in Gothenburg, Sweden]. I got tired and sleepy, which you tend to get when you’ve been sipping alcoholic beverages, so I lay down under some bushes close to Björngårdsvillan [a restaurant establishment]. The time was about 4 or 5 AM or something, and I drowsed off into sleep. I woke up slowly at about 8 or 9 AM from hearing the rattling of dishes and the steps of servant maids running about. It might have been a little later in the morning. I also heard dogs barking some ways off and children screaming and so forth. That is the time and the place where I got an acoustic image of a reality, which one perhaps had not considered, at least not I, and I got the sudden idea of trying to retain this moment. That is where it began.
Then I got hold of a tape recorder… no, it was an iron wire recorder, a strange machine I had at the beginning, but I don’t think it’s still around… and from there I started to work with sounds in different ways. Sometimes I had instruments, changing the sounds of them around, but most of the time I went to Chalmers University of Technology to borrow their tone generators, filters and so forth. I also used their echo chamber sometimes. That’s how it began, and it has continued all along.
I don’t know what else to say about it. I think it speaks for itself. There’s been so much gossip about this that I get angry with the lot! It seems that it’s so totally, completely impossible to acknowledge it, as music or something, as a way to experience… That’s what it’s about! Then if you want to brand it one way or another, as you want to do with everything in this country, dividing everything into parts, parts, parts, that is meaningless! The crucial thing is your experience! If you have an experience from it, then why not accept it!? It’s not always the case when you hear a piece of poetry, or a short story, or you experience a painting or something, that you have these demands on it, but you do on this, and you always have, as far as I can remember. Perhaps not now, because now, suddenly, such machines have been constructed that you are forced to accept these sound worlds, more or less. We have synthesizers, we do sample! Now we have computer music, simply, so all these machines [gesturing out into his room with all the reel-to-reels, tone generators etcetera] are museum pieces, artifacts… just like myself!
However, it was great fun once upon a time when I worked with it! The fact, then, that it has not been accepted or acknowledged, is nothing to do about. Anyway, what is accepted when it is truly new? Given enough time, it will be acknowledged.
I did a piece after Foscolo, an 18th century poet [1778 – 1827], and I did a multi-slide projection [bildspel] after another Italian;
A la Luna – but that consists of pictures and sound together, where I started from poetry; the piece A la Luna, how one observed the moon before man walked on it, and how one observes it after one had been there, planting flags and all what one did. Earlier the moon was a strange phenomenon, something distant, dreamy, poetic… but since you’ve been there raising flags it didn’t retain its same character… That is an example.


Rune Lindblad called me on the telephone to inform me about the TV program. We had become acquainted a year or so earlier. I had just acquired the double CD Electroacoustic Music in Sweden on the Phono Suecia label (PSCD 41) in 1988; one of the best compilations of Swedish electroacoustics to this day. Rune Lindblad participated with a short work; Attack III. It is an amazing piece, full of frenzy, of rhythms and patterns – and of glorious noise! I was immediately attracted to the lack of politeness, the lack of polish, and to the presence of ill-witted rage. This was very different. He had utilized the beating of bumblebee wings inside contacted-miked glass jars! I regret to have to admit that this was my first encounter with Rune Lindblad. I had never heard of him before… However, after this spellbinding Attack III I managed to get hold of a vinyl on the predominantly Christian label Proprius (PROP 7749), entitled Predestination, embellished with a Lindblad woodcut covering the front of the LP case. This LP had been published in 1975, and all the way up to this Elektron double CD of 2003 it has remained the most representative of the few Lindblad releases, though Gothenburg-based label Radium 226.05 Records released an interesting double vinyl in 1988, simply called Rune Lindblad. The contents of that Radium double vinyl and the New York label Pogus Productions’ 1989 vinyl Death of the Moon (Pogus Productions 201-3) was later released on two CDs from Pogus Productions; P21011-2 and P21014-2 (1997 and 1998).

After these first treks into Lindblad Land I decided to convey my heartfelt interest in his art to himself, so I looked him up in the phone directory and wrote him a letter. He called me on the phone as soon as he received it, apparently very happy about this new conscript. I could understand from his undisguised joy that he wasn’t particularly spoiled by serious interest. I suppose he felt that now, finally, at an old age, he was beginning to get a well-deserved attention, since my approach as well as others’ approach and the new interest to release his material (albeit on underground labels), were good signs of that.

I had the opportunity to replay his
Attack III on radio when I was invited by Folke Rabe to co-produce a Nya Timmen show on the Swedish Broadcasting Corporation (a radio show hosted by the composer, musician and producer Folke Rabe in the 1980s and 1990s, fulfilling art music requests from listeners).


Rune Lindblad: Vandring i regn (Walk Through Rain)
(erasure 1962)

Apparently things were going Lindblad’s way more than ever before. However, he was also getting sicker and sicker. He suffered from a ghastly case of arthritis, which was slowly but surely eating him from inside, and he was in such pain that he had to be treated with cytotoxic drugs.
A few quotes from a few of Rune Lindblad’s letters may put his situation during his last years into some perspective. First one from the earlier months of our correspondence:


Hi Ingvar,

And thank you for your letter, which made me very happy since you, had such a high regard for the record [the
Proprius LP Predestination].
Concerning
Kontorslandskap [Office Landscapes], I have a continuation of it, which I will send you as soon as I can. It was a lot of fuzz during the time when that LP was to be recorded, because people in charge were very hesitant and had appointed a group of so-called specialists who were to make artistic judgments concerning the works at hand. Kontorslandskap consists of three parts, but only the first section was considered worthy of release.
When I began the work on
Kontorslandskap I studied personnel as well as the environment as thoroughly as I could. I interviewed the personnel about how they perceived working in an office landscape versus in a traditional office, i.e. an office where the personnel is divided into different separate rooms, and where the chief clerk and the senior accountant and a few others had their own rooms with their names at the doors and also their titles.
In an office landscape all employees were to be treated equally, but eventually it showed that the senior accountant and some others in a managerial position maybe had a slightly larger table, a more comfortable chair etcetera.
Then I studied all office machines and all other equipment to get some idea of how it all fit together.
The employees were both positive and negative. The younger thought that the office landscape was simply great, while the older employees thought that it had been better before.
I concentrated so much on my studies that I wasn’t aware of being locked into an office landscape for the night…
When the personnel arrived the next morning, they wondered who I was. I told them that I had come a bit early to get some insight into office landscapes. I kept silent about being tired, hungry and pissed of. Of course I could have set the alarm off, but what would have happened then? I wasn’t sure about how to set it off either. Further more, I was sort of caught inside a big glass box; there was glass wherever I looked; doors of glass, walls of glass, and the whole landscape was sort of illuminated with a bleak, blue light.
The glass in doors and walls – the half high walls that were there – was completely crush proof, the chief clerk informed me. I suppose he was right.
The whole experience was eerie, especially at night with the faint buzzing of fans (?) and this ghostly blue light. That’s how it happened that time, but I survived…

I’m sending you some material that might be of interest; a 60-point essay written by an Australian guy – Bruce Kendale-Green, supervised by Zoltan Gaal - who studied at Musical Sciences [Gothenburg University] a few years ago. It was his own idea to write about my electroacoustic music produced between 1953 and 1972. It is to be continued with a second part, which he will commence shortly. He went back to Australia in 1983, but is here in Sweden again now, starting little by little with the second part.
The other booklet I’m sending you is an investigation I made in 1967 – 68, dealing with attitudes and reactions of people who listened to electroacoustic music. It’s just a short investigation, and I don’t claim anything else, but it might be of some interest.
Other documents I’m submitting, which may be the funniest in the lot today, are reviews of the first concert with electroacoustic music in Gothenburg. Since then it has gotten a bit better, but I’m still looked upon as a slightly insane figure who simply can’t give up these stupidities…

Greetings,

Rune


On 24th May 1989 Rune Lindblad wrote me the following letter, which tells the story very plainly about the kind of life he was forced to lead:


Dear Ingvar,

Heartfelt thanks for flowers and letter. I was at the hospital about a week, but got no treatment, because of the numerous tests that have to be conducted first. Perhaps I will get information about the treatment tomorrow, and if not, at least later this week – I hope…
Recently I have been – thank God! – in some measure liberated from pain, but instead I’ve been tremendously tired; a sort of total tiredness which I haven’t experienced before.
Although I experience a strange head murmur (a constant hiss in my head), I have been able to accomplish a few boring but necessary chores; I don’t know really how…
It has been completely impossible to deal with any artistic activities. I have been experiencing a kind of paralysis, impossible to fend off. A slight improvement has been detected, but for how long…?
The fatigue comes creeping on me with its slow ignorance… and I don’t give a shit about anything… That is how I feel sometimes. I hope I will get some information about my treatment soon.

I’m sorry that this letter only deals with my condition right now… but I’m still alive.

Live well, many greetings



Rune Lindblad: Sorg (Sorrow) (woodcut 1959)

The third and last example was sent to me on 18th September 1989:


Hi Ingvar,

And thanks for your letter, which arrived a few days ago. I deeply regret not writing to you for a while – but unfortunately I’ve been very ill, and recently I’ve been hospitalized at Sahlgrenska [the Sahlgren hospital in Gothenburg]. I received both cortisone and cytotoxic drugs for something that may be an inflammation of kidneys as well as joints. It started with drop injections of the aforementioned, in what the doctors called substantial dosages. It worked in the sense that the pain lifted in the joints, and perhaps the kidneys will get better too, but the treatment is going to be extended, over a year. After the drop injections I was put on cortisone pills in a slightly lowered dosage, which will be cut down gradually over time, as far as possible.
Cytotoxic drugs will probably be administered again. It all depends on how the body reacts and what later tests reveal. The treatment has deprived me of all the strength I used to have. I’m completely out of it.
In the middle of this I’ve been told to move from my apartment five stories up without an elevator to a flat lower down, which has also drained me of strength.
I may, perhaps, slowly return to life once again – but nothing is certain. Now I’m back home again with my cortisone and I am at the late stages of my moving, which has been an utter nightmare.
These are the reasons that I haven’t been writing, but better late than never, which I hope you think too.

Bye for now, live well!

Greetings,

Rune


Still during these hard times Lindblad saw to it that the tapes with his music kept coming from the Department of Musical Sciences, and since he was too ill to copy the reel-to-reels himself, he had asked Gert Bosshardt at Musical Sciences to do the tedious work. Mr. Bosshardt wrote me sometimes. This is part of one of the letters:


Dear Loco,

I submit six more tapes with Rune Lindblad’s music. Since Rune has a few physical problems with his rheumatism, I have done the copying (which also means that I have a legitimate reason to listen through everything he’s done).
According to his instructions I have omitted multi-slide projections [bildspel], which must be seen with the pictures.
I also submit a work list, so don’t hesitate to send me a request for further pieces. Eventual flaws [in the copying process] are consequently mine; not Rune’s. […] Please contact me for further questions. Unfortunately Rune is being admitted to hospital on 8th May, and he doesn’t know for how long. […]

Best wishes,

Gert Bosshardt


Rune Lindblad sent me some press clippings from newspapers in Gothenburg back in 1957, like he said in one of the letters above. The clippings contained newspaper reviews, published 15th February 1957, of the first electroacoustic concert in Sweden, conducted 14th February of that year. I think a few quotes from them may explain the degree of stubbornness that Lindblad had to conjure up to be able to continue his artistic work.
This piece was written by a Carl Tillius in Göteborgsposten, a main Gothenburg paper:


A whole lot of musical terms were tossed about in the B-hall of Folkets Hus (The People’s House) last night when the so-called concrete music was discussed. The gentlemen Bruno Epstein and Rune Lindblad demonstrated something they considered a continuation of musical evolution in our time on their tape recording machines. It is evident that they acted in good faith and with good intentions. However, when they tried to explain their activities with a musical terminology, their verbalism became a soothing smoke screen over the noise, at which you didn’t know if you should laugh or cry…
Is it really possible that one, with various noises and percussive effects, plus a metronome and aluminum sheets, could be able to persuade a larger crowd of listeners outside of a small circle of friends that this is something that could become the music of the future?
It sounded like a recording from a carpenter’s workshop in full swing. It was called
Fragment 1. You didn’t get much wiser from Epstein’s explanations either. It was said that the concrete music appeared in 1948. At that time a symphony for the lone man was written. Yes, alone he must remain, if this noise shall satisfy him and become an expression of the state of his soul. This is truly bizarre! Such manifestations will want to be avoided by most regular, normal people. They have enough noise from streets and squares.
Guido Vecchi called the concrete music a perfect kind of torture, which becomes unbearable in ten or fifteen minutes. He thought that the originator of this music strived to be seen as tough guys; a kind of leather-jacketed motorcyclists of music. It was an unconventional way of making the distinction between artistic music and the noise mentioned above.
The concluding discussion resulted in further talk about what was considered music and not. Each one defended his own viewpoint. To each his own. Those who are naïve enough to believe in noise as a means of artistic expression will continue to think that they are contributing to the betterment of humanity. Thereby they negate the most important aspect of art, as they have exchanged the human for the technical. May they dwell in their on spheres, and leave old-fashioned, traditional music be.


Another reviewer, Åke Engfeldt, wrote the following in another big Gothenburg paper (Göteborgs-Tidningen) on the same day, 15th February 1957:


Concrete music was scratched, scraped, howled and banged in Folkets Hus (The People’s House) last night, to a crowd of about forty people, of which a few attended voluntarily.
The so-called composers – the gentlemen Epstein and Lindblad - sat at the tape recording machines like two bartenders of the machine age, serving the finicky job of their hands in the luxurious packaging of shameless self-promotion. The so-called artworks were afterwards scrutinized structurally by Mr. Epstein in his analysis. He indicated interesting phenomena like ritardandi and staccaticizing, from various ways of simulating a woodpecker on a piece of sheet iron. Towards the end of his colleague Lindblad’s
Satellite 60 he deciphered an increasing intensity which demanded extraordinary means of sonic expression; two aluminum staves.
That particular piece of information released a certain unwarranted merriness in the auditorium. One should consider under what harsh conditions these martyrs of the arts work, reduced, as they are, to the concrete imperfection out of reach of the true means of expression of electronic music, only attainable in the well-supplied noise-studios of Paris, Cologne and Milan. Like a consoler in dire straits Hilding Hallnäs appeared through a letter of blessings that he’d sent to the youngest generation of composers. Hallnäs’ letter contained a warning against hampering taboo conceptions, with which we westerners are at least as infested as our man-eating antipodes. Hilding Hallnäs also issued a generous plea to the powers of state and especially to Chalmers University of Technology to supply ample means for the deserving object of allowing these leather-jacketed motorcyclists of music (to quote the moderator of the discussion; Guido Vecchi) to practice their art.
This may all be in vain. One the one hand, we had heard enough already when the letter was recited, to find Hallnäs’ benevolence somewhat misguided, and on the other hand, one had failed to invite such key figures as the state auditors (and it is uncertain whether two aluminum staves would soften such hardened professionals…). […]
Sven-Eric Johansson [modern composer] had at the beginning, with customary clarity of speech, if not necessarily of thought, delivered the essential history. He drew the line between concrete music, wherein the composer starts from existing sources of sound, and electronic sounds, where he makes his sounds himself through oscillators. Our time is the inspiration, no doubt, but one does not want programmatic music, but inner expression… Here one could sense something fishy, but Sven-Eric Johansson swept this notion aside, saying that one wanted something new… […]
The came the stages; Satie’s ballet with typewriters, Honneger’s concrete etudes in
Pacific 231, Varèse’s Deserts, and the lecturer even referred to Bartók’s Sonata for Piano and Percussion as a link in the chain, which really is like spreading a smoke screen….
Folk music from India was played as an example of percussion music in intricate rhythms, whatever that was supposed to prove, and then we arrived at Pierre Schaeffer’s and Pierre Henry’s
Symphony for the Lone Man [Symphonie pour un homme seul].
After having overheard
Teatersvit nr 1 (Theatre Suite no 1) – a completely uninteresting concert number but probably infernal enough as a theater sound curtain – and Essay 3 by Epstein, and after having witnessed the Lindbladian satellite take of, one was grateful to the little indian vignette with two oboes, which opened the set. There was a need for expression that was genuine, not forced. Even though it showed points of contact it made clear where the line is drawn between real and concrete music.
As the undersigned disappeared from the hall, the brown-bearded with
Satellite 60 had just declared Vecchi with daughter maladjusted. He was unable to find any other reason for their repugnance against concrete music. However, he admitted to being neither a musician nor musically interested. He just fought for the freedom of art (from knowledge…).


Those were the forces dominant in the cultural climate of the day, in 1957, but it stayed that way for quite a while, except within a tight crew of experimentalists and pioneers.
At least Åke Engfeldt was quite funny in his mangling review, whereas Carl Tillius was just a bore and nothing else. It seemed that even Rune Lindblad kind of enjoyed the witty sarcasms of Åke Engfeldt, even though the reasoning content went against him.

With this double-CD from
Elektron an important step has been taken in the proclamation of Rune Lindblad’s artistic work. This does not constrain itself solely to his musical activities, but also embraces the visual arts, with woodcuts, collages, etchings and so forth, of which reproductions are printed in the booklet and on the beautiful CD cover.
The selection of the musical works has been executed by Mattias Petersson, Kent Tankred and Berndt Berndtsson, and I can certify that the selection is a good and representative one. It contains purely electronic works as well as textsound pieces and various intermediary forms.
This variety is the more startling, since the producers have had to restrain themselves to the archives of EMS and Fylkingen in Stockholm, leaving out all the fantastic material stored at the Department of Musical Sciences in Gothenburg, of which I have a good deal in copies. I hope fate, the powers and chance will find it possible to release the best stuff of the Gothenburg collection as times goes by.

The CD booklet contains an interesting and balanced essay on Lindblad by Daniel Rozenhall, and two conversations about Rune Lindblad. One talk is held between Daniel Rozenhall and Carl-Michael von Hausswolff; the other one between Daniel Rozenhall and Sten Hanson.
I think they, in the best sense, present an honest and thought-through view of Rune Lindblad and his significance, and I also believe this is the first time this has been done, without any exaggerations in any direction. Especially Sten Hanson’s description of Lindblad’s method’s, or perhaps even lack of methods, resulting in an often monolithic expression, casts a lot of light on Lindblad’s precarious situation as an artistic outcast, in the view of much of the compositional cadre of Sweden. It is not so hard to understand this reaction from the formal composers (I mean formal composers also in the field of electroacoustics) to the crude, monolithic and perhaps often completely spontaneous creations of Lindblad, but the cultural establishment made the mistake of not showing some generosity towards Lindblad, not acknowledging his spiritual example, which was worth as much, or really, even much more, than his actual sounding results.

The careful considerations of Mattias Petersson, Kent Tankred and Berndt Berndtsson has nonetheless resulted in such a varied assortment of works that the statement about monolithic composition (which, however, is correct, with the bulk of pieces considered together) ever so often is contradicted by Lindblad’s art itself. This makes me happy, since I really do want to see Rune Lindblad’s oeuvre displayed in the most positive manner possible, honesty withstanding.

Nota bene, I’m also happy to see a flawless English text in the booklet, the translation from Swedish diligently executed by Paul Pignon. This release, all in all, is a magnificent one; the first really serious and qualified go at a Lindblad CD retrospective.


To part 2 of the review


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