In 1990, German painter and poet from Karlsruhe Wolf Pehlke (born 1955) was living in Paris, Boulevard Diderot in the 11th Arrondissement, from where he sent numerous letters to saxophonist Alfred 23 Harth (born 1949) in Frankfurt, Germany, himself a frequent visitor in Paris. The letters describe the city’s idiosyncrasies, the peculiarities of its inhabitants and Pehlke’s own emotional reaction to Paris. They include factual observations and descriptions, drawings, philosophical concepts, personal memories and Marxist/Anarchist point of views (e.g.: ‘The Metro is the only true Socialist working class Anarchy theater of the world’, tr.#1 Pyramides). All the letters were collected in a book+CD titled ‘Sweet Paris’ (apparently as a joint release between publisher Dirk Herbert Erschienen and FFM Production in 1991 ; later reissued by Engstler, Ostheim/Rhön, 2005, and by Peter Engstler Verlag, 2006).
Setting a selection of these letters to music, Alfred 23 Harth created a large text-sound composition mirroring the letters multifaceted inspiration – past and present, French and German, matter-of-fact and exalted. In this complex sound-diary of sorts, tracks are named after Paris Métro stations and reflects Harth’s own psychogeography of the town. The basic sound material was recorded in Paris and Frankfurt-am-Main in 1990, with texts read by Rebecca Pauli and Peter Bauer, and includes field recordings, interviews with passersby, collage, musique concrète, Harth’s own archive recordings on cassette (including ‘Melancholy blues’, a 1965 Dixieland jazz on tr.#13), etc. Almost an electroacoustic composition, thanks to location recordings and sound collage, Sweet Paris is remarkably close to French avantgarde composer Hélène Sage’s Supposons Le Problème Résolu LP and Place de la Bastille, or Luc Ferrari’s Musique Anecdotique concept, but also from Goebbels/Harth’s legendary Berlin, Q-Damm 12.4.81. Texts and speeches are either in German, English or French, but cross-reading is also used where an English- or French-speaking reader will bravely read through a German text.
In addition to Harth’s varied instrumentation (saxophone, clarinet, Korg synth, sampler, etc), a number of guests add up to the variety of the disc, including bands Populäre Mechanik [+], Gestalt & Jive (A23H w/ Uwe Schmitt, Steve Beresford, Ferdinand Richard) or LA Guardia (A23H w/ Stephan Wittwer, Lars Rudolph, Wietn Wito) ; as well as Nicole and Jean Van den Plas, Peter Kowald, Paul Lovens, Christoph Anders, Winfried Szameitat, Bernd Otto. With its use of multiple sound sources and languages, Sweet Paris draws a parallel between Alfred 23 Harth’s on wanderings during the 1980s-90s, and his multifarious music projects.
Alfred 23 Harth ‘Sweet Paris’
01 Pyramides (13:19)
02 Stille Bars/La Chapelle (2:53)
03 Unberührbarkeit & Vergewaltigung (2:06)
04 Oberkampf (4:24)
05 Stalingrad (3:06)
06 Parrhesia (4:45)
07 Des Fêtes (5:26)
08 Champ-de-Mars (5:08)
09 Crimée Rome (3:07)
10 Mairie des Lilas (3:20)
11 De St. Cloud/Café Montmartre (6:43)
12 Dauphine (3:46)
13 Melancholy Blues/Invalides (6:20)
14 Sweet & Bitter Little Death (2:08)
Total time 66:29
CD released by Free Flow Music Production, ffm0291, Germany, 1991
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