A shaky business – Epiphany Story 2024

This year’s epiphany story is about a shaky business

The trip

It was the first Thursday in November; I was driving through the storm with my wife. What should have been a one-hour cruise with our silent electric car was a shaky business accompanied by abrupt, more or less heavy blasts of wind. Our metal sculpture with four wheels was blowing in the wind, and we wobbled and shook our way toward Düsseldorf.

We went to the opening of a special exhibition at Kunstakademie Düsseldorf – one of the oldest and most famous art schools in Germany with teachers like Paul Klee, Joseph Beuys, Gerhard Richter, Günther Uecker, Markus Lüpperts and Tony Cragg, to name a few.

The exhibition

The exhibition at the Akademie-Galerie titled GENERATIONEN had a Duo concept of a teacher and a student exhibiting together, connecting different generations in the same space, where knowledge and experiences met new perspectives in a trusted environment for co-creation. 

My long-time friend Axel Kreiser, the initiator of the exhibition and head of the metalworking workshop, created two stainless steel sculptures in reaction to a video by one of the students in which a jelly is ridden through the countryside on the bicycle carrier. The pudding wobbles, its mass trembles, rocks and swings. And the beautiful sculptures were lying peacefully on the floor. 

Axel mentioned they are called “Wackelige Angelegenheit” – Shaky business. And when pushed a little, they started wobbling for a specific time. Because I had my alto saxophone to play at the opening between the speeches, I came up with the idea to play an improvised intervention at the end of the opening. 

The performance

The performance began without any announcement. When I started pushing the bigger sculpture, it rocked and swung back and forth. I realised there was a more or less steady beat of metal scratching on the stone floor. Plus two different accents at every turning point, like a shaky metronome that was dying away over time. The smaller sculpture did the same in a quicker rhythm and a higher sound, creating a steady polyrhythm when played together. This gave me a lot of freedom to jump in with the saxophone. 

So, I listened to the sculptures, tuned in with rhythm, pitch, and tone quality, and played with the beats of metal pushed with my feet while windy sounds blew through the metal tube in my mouth. Performing jointly in a whacky rhythm of sonic movements. Listen, tune, play and perform all together.

The epiphany

Suddenly, I realised that I was not the one playing the sculptures, but that the rhythm of the sculptures was giving accents. That the saxophone was moving the sculptures, and that the sculptures were influencing the sound of the bent metal tube stuck in my mouth. It seemed that I received sonic information through the saxophone while blowing it. 

The sounds were moving in a steady tempo, with unexpected blasts of changing beats, with me performing like a driver who moves his vehicle through a storm.

Wishing you all meaningful epiphanies in 2024

Christof Zürn

The T-shirt

If you want to support Listening, tuning, playing and performing, you can show it while wearing a T-shirt. You can get the Music Thinking Mantra T-shirt here: https://musicthinking.teemill.com/

What is Epiphany?

A collection of different meanings of Epiphany – what does Epiphany mean?

“Western churches generally celebrate the Visit of the Magi as the revelation of the Incarnation of the infant Christ, and commemorate the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6″. (wikipedia)

But there are more meanings of epiphany; here a selection” :

  • EPIPHANY is the sudden realisation or comprehension of the (larger) essence or meaning of something.
  • PHILOSOPHICAL meaning: having found the last piece of the puzzle and suddenly seeing the whole picture.
  • ARCHIMEDES Eureka! I found it!
  • EINSTEIN was struck as a young child by being given a compass, and realising that some unseen force in space was making it move.
  • DARWIN An example of a flash of holistic understanding in a prepared mind was Charles Darwin’s “hunch” (about natural selection) during The Voyage of the Beagle.
  • JAMES JOYCE Referring to those times in his life when something became manifest, a deep realisation, he would then attempt to write this epiphanic realisation in a fragment. Joyce also used epiphany as a literary device within each short story of his collection Dubliners (1914) as his protagonists came to sudden recognitions that changed their view of themselves or their social condition and often sparking a reversal or change of heart.
  • In RELIGION it is used when a person realises their faith or when they are convinced that an event or happening was really caused by a deity or being of their faith.
  • WESTERN CHRISTIAN Religion: The adoration of the magi, represented as kings, having found Jesus by following a star 12 days after christmas.
  • HINDUISM epiphany might refer to the realisation of Arjuna that Krishna (a God serving as his charioteer in the “Bhagavad Gita”) is indeed representing the universe.
  • In ZEN kensho describes the moment, referring to the feeling attendant on realising the answer to a koan.
  • BUDDHISM Buddha finally realising the nature of the universe, and thus attaining nirvana.
  • WILLIAM BURROUGHS is talking about a drug-influenced state, a frozen moment when everyone sees what is at the end of the fork (naked lunch).
  • EPIPHANIES is the thirteenth episode of the second season of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica television series.
  • EPIPHANY is a web browser for the GNOME graphical computing desktop.
  • HIERONYMUS BOSCH painted the adoration of the magi around 1495.
  • HOMER SIMPSON has an epiphany, after visiting a strange Inuit shaman, and realises he has to save the town from Russ Cargill’s plans to destroy Springfield.
  • The last page of THE WIRE magazine with surprising sonic stories about music is called EPIPHANIES.
  • Interesting: if you search for Epiphanies or Epiphany on TWITTER many people talk about that they (just) had an epiphany, but don’t exactly say what it was.

Since 2011 CREATIVE COMPANION is sending out epiphany greetings on the 6th of January.