MASSE is a jointly curated affair by the Berlin State Ballet and Berghain. It consists of three performances written by three choreographers—Nadja Saidakova, Xenia Wiest and Tim Plegge—with each performance scored by well-known producers. The first piece, Balletsuite #1 - Masse, will be accompanied by a six-track suite of guitar, piano and electronics from Henrik Schwarz. Second is a collaboration between Marcel Dettmann and Âme's Frank Wiedemann called Menuett, while Marcel Fengler and Phillip Sollmann (AKA Efdemin) have teamed up as DIN for the first time to produce the third score, entitled EVOLVE. Ostgut Ton label manager Jenus Baumecker said the aim of the project was "to make an overstimulated public take note." All 16 compositions will be released as a single album via Ostgut Ton in June.
The first performance will take place on May 4th at Halle am Berghain, a disused space within the Berghain complex, with stage design taken care of by painter Norbert Bisky. There will be a further ten performances of MASSE at the club throughout May. It's not the first time Berghain has hosted a ballet performance—back in 2007 they worked with the Berlin State Ballet on a show called Shut Up and Dance! Updated. We spoke with Baumecker about the project:
Can you tell us a bit about how the project came about?
It was one of the Berghain owners' idea to do another co-production with the Staatballett Berlin after Shut Up And Dance! Updated, which was performed at Berghain in 2007. Standing inside the huge cube that is the giant hall behind Berghain (a previously derelict space), he imagined the mass (in German: Masse) of people that could fit in there and how it has become more difficult for an artist in our fast-moving age of information overload to really capture the imagination and hearts of an audience. Combining modern electronic music with a visual experience of contemporary ballet in a fine art stage setting (designed by German painter Norbert Bisky), and pairing this with the idea of MASSE as the concept for the choreographies and music compositions should go some way to make an overstimulated public take note. At the same time the project questions its own methods inside the three suites that comprise MASSE.
How did you go about selecting the three choreographers?
After proposing the collaboration to the Staatsballett Berlin they immediately wanted to be part of it. The choreographers were chosen together—all three of them are ambitious individuals who do not shy away from a challenge, and are already building reputations for themselves for opening new frontiers inside the ballet scene and contemporary classical genres. After some meetings, a selection was made as to which choreographers should work with which artists. The pairings kind of happened by themselves.
What was the process of collaboration between the choreographers, producers and dancers like? Were there many rehearsals?
Rehearsals for the three pieces started almost immediately, before the music was fully written. In meetings, ideas were discussed and the musicians and choreographers developed their ideas together; some artists also took part in rehearsals with the dancers and worked directly with them to create their music ideas. Then there was studio time for the musicians and stage time for the choreographers. From the beginning there was the idea to also produce an audio CD which should work independently from the ballet performances, so the musicians had to keep both those aspects in mind. In the end the productions for the CD were almost the same as for the stage production but not completely identical.
Will the producers themselves be performing the scores live at each show?
After having finished the MASSE CD, the musicians are still involved in the production of the ballet which is not completely finished at this point. When the stage and sound system is fully set up in Halle am Berghain, there will be time for the artists to do a final mixdown in the space to achieve the best possible sound quality. To perform the scores live by all producers at every show sadly is not possible and was never an objective for the project, as the events are not concerts as such. However it will be quite a different experience to be in the audience of the ballet compared to enjoying just the music as it manifests on the MASSE CD.
Tracklist Henrik Schwarz - Balletsuite #1 - Masse
01. Unknown Touch
02. Affect Structure
03. I Am Not Responsible For That
04. But Then I’m Different
05. When Things Are Difficult
06. Couple Are Strong Dettmann | Wiedemann - Menuett
07. Part 1 - Accelerando
08. Part 2 - Martellato
09. Part 3 - Spiritoso DIN - EVOLVE