Harbor Town Love at Millenium’s End (1994)

Manfred Stahnke

saxophone, prepared piano, and percussion

To street musicians and street people—and to the street-music researcher Jack Body.

The harbour. Ships from all lands and all times arrive here, and from here they set sail for all lands and times; here as well as there, no specific worldview prevails. The harbour is full of stories. They all flow into a master narrative of connections between people across time and space. The harbour holds tales of love, of dialogue—and of refusal. On many Hamburg street corners are musicians with drums, kalimbas, steel drums and saxophones. Not far from them sit the homeless, sometimes begging for money. I listen to every emotionally charged word, every sound they play that perhaps holds their yearning. I listen to Jack Body’s recordings of street musicians from Indonesia, India, and China. I listen to the kalimba player at Hamburg’s Dammtor, and the steel drums on Spitaler Street. Here I perceive the confused, endangered unity of humans, and their doings. Here I experience a frightening truth, one that doesn’t frighten the African with his kalimba: our so-called “great art” is completely commercialised, an everyday commodity like the automobile. Where is the old yearning from which music once grew? I hear completely different music on the street—it despairingly demands to be heard. So I think of the great music of the medieval troubadors who contributed to our musical tradition by mixing Mediterranean and northern styles. This could only result from a complete openness of thought, a willingness to embrace new ways—and from not fearing that something might be “non-art.” What does the African who plays his kalimba make of our commercialised world? His music stems from a cohesiveness where music connects man and nature perfectly. Unlike in the West, the African musician is not an “individual” who dazzles an audience. Typical is the notion of the Gbaya of West Africa, who call their kalimba music “song for thought”—chamber music par excellence. The player is his own audience.

Manfred Stahnke [ii-07]