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Berlin’s techno cathedral opens for new kinds of sounds

BERLIN, Aug 3 – Berghain, Berlin’s most famous night club, is once again throbbing with the sound of stomach-churning deep bass as the cathedral-sized temple of techno defies months of coronavirus lockdown to host “Eleven Songs”, a one-off sound installation.

The pandemic and the social distancing rules put in place to contain it have crippled Berlin’s exuberant night life, with dancing banned, though some clubs have experimented with gigs where seated punters wave limbs and heads in time to the music.

For the installation at Berghain, artist duo ‘tamtam’ wired the club’s main hall with speakers that fill the former power station with an hour-long sequence of sounds, from ear-splitting bass to something resembling whale-song.

“The challenge in this room was to make its dimension speak,” said Sam Auinger of tamtam, which creates sound installations that let the visitor experience a room as an instrument. “You can never work against physics in a room like this.”

Berghain, which is known for its long queues and artist-bouncer Sven Marquardt’s seemingly arbitrary decisions on who gets in, broke some of its own rules for the exhibition, including opening windows to let in the sound of the city.

“The city comes in from time to time on quiet spots, with cars, with signal horns,” said curator Carsten Seiffarth.

With only 50 allowed in at one time, the queues are not quite as long as normal. But the visitors linger, lying on the floor and letting the sound wash over them.

“Phenomenal sound installation. You feel like in a cathedral, I was very impressed,” said Michael Altner, who had been trying to get in for days. (Reporting by Reuters TV, writing by Thomas Escritt Editing by Gareth Jones)

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