Communist from Outer Space
Johannes Bergmark at LAVA, Stockholm, 2003
Communist from Outer Space
for two-channel tape, micro moog, voice and live extra-terrestrial.
This textsound piece, eventually gliding over into the electronic sphere, only to slide back into textsound again, reveals its ancestry right from the beginning; a clear and distinct voice like that of a radio announcer talking about something that sounds scientific or science fiction-like; a tradition founded by, among others on the Swedish 1960s scene, Lars-Gunnar Bodin. Johannes Bergmark continues this quite rewarding tradition with Communists from Outer Space.
The nerve-racking (at least for me) threefold repetition of what is being said (refused to communicate refused to communicate refused to communicate) without the slightest alteration of the repeated, is probably yes, of course it is! intended by Bergmark, but it is too much, it pulls down the artistic value of the piece. You just wait for the voice to say everything trice.
Behind the voice a soft, soaring musical sound bubbles, and that sound is cut too, i.e., it is repeated with the voice; thus not recorded on another channel, which may have sounded unbroken all by itself, if Bergmark would have chosen that. Maybe this too is intended, but it amplifies this peculiar cut-up threefold repetition, which is irritating to me just considering the voice.
For us older farts this notorious repetition brings on early 1960s memories of the pirate ship Bon Jour; i.e. the famous Radio Nord, the first free and commercial radio station on these latitudes (Sweden), and some of the commercials it broadcast: Varför säger du Broddmans tre gånger för, tre gånger för, tre gånger för?
The actual content of the text if you can stand the formidable repetition is that of a creature from space revealing a blessed state of affairs elsewhere in the Universe, a Utopia where there are no wars or ill-will
so the story is a traditional one too. Bergmark really weaves his own pattern out of all these traditional threads. You may even recall the feeling of John Lennons Imagine, which has become sort of the legacy and testament of Mr. Lennon.
The electronic sounds that then appear, are quite more appealing to me, and the text has provided a certain atmosphere in which the listener remains, amplifying the significance of the space music that evolves, slightly reminding me also of panning, fading and recurring shortwave or medium wave static, in which one desperately wishes to find a message of sorts that will explain something or everything.
The voice comes back in a permuted state, diligently achieved by Bergmark in another strand of old Swedish morpheme mangling sound art traditions, and here I listen with full pleasure, for this is my turf! Even though the initial permutations temporarily ease off as the story about the alien is being told, it is still a pleasure to listen, because the story is not served in little threefold repetitions, but instead as is, though inside the veil of soaring, Northern Light-kind of sounds.
A little later vocal and electronic sounds are mixed in an accelerated state of complexity, making listening all the more exciting, in a boiling, steaming brew of human and interstellar urgencies.
Growling and snarling guttural sounds, seemingly from goblins or swarming underworld creatures picture the microbe-like property of evil that rises like a virus from inner space (to misquote Laurie Anderson), as it spreads in the details to fathom the All, is it not forcefully and diligently opposed.
The notorious threefold repetition of utterances reappears at the conclusion of the piece. Aside from that, this is an interesting work, transforming the listener into the certain atmosphere that is architectured by Bergmark.
From Johannes Bergmarks work comments (slightly edited):
During the worst days of the Cold War with its anti-communist scare, a peacefully-minded alien is crash-landing in the world's richest country. Instead of getting any help, he is imprisoned by the American military, which also keep his existence secret to the public. They torment him with questions aiming to strengthen the sweating economy and the repressive machinery of the USA. Not surprisingly, he ignores their talk. When he realizes their single-mindedness, he tries to soften them with some information in the hope of being released. He also tries to inform them about their conception of society being narrow-minded and unpractical by giving examples from his own life. (Maybe he is also exaggerating a bit to provoke them.) But instead of thanking him they put a lid on these utopian visions that are so reminiscent of the communist ideas they have been taught to punish. He remains imprisoned and kept secret and the American state once again displays its racist and falsely "democratic" face.
How could people see themselves if the borders of the nations disappeared? What would people choose to do if they didn't have to earn money? What would people find out if they weren't enslaved by technology but instead liberated by it? How would we relate to each other if we didn't have hierarchic positions or other privileges to win? What would happen if thought was leading instead of duty and force?
It's easy for us to let an alien say such things, but more difficult to say them ourselves. Have you tried?
In this case, I got a blank videotape from my mother to copy something. Later, I discovered my little sister had recorded a TV-program about extraterrestrials visiting Earth. In this, there was an account of an alien vehicle that had crash-landed in the USA. I was stunned by the alien's description of his society, which was so close to early utopian socialist and Marxist descriptions of a future communist society, and even suggested surrealist notions of the "dictation of thought". I recorded the account from the tape to make a piece from it, took some of the most interesting phrases and repeated them 3 times in the beginning and in the end, and also added some spacey Buchla sounds on to it. In the live version the alien comes in (I dressed in a home-made alien suit), screams out his despair while playing intense micro moog. The video clip is also shown.