Monday, July 27, 2009

CGN Weekend, Part I

I'm at the tail end of four days in Cologne. This long layover business is interesting in Almaty, but it's fabulous in a place like CGN--almost like a vacation. Actually, this layover was lengthy enough that I was hoping to take a train somewhere for a bit of sightseeing--Berlin, I was thinking--but the planetary alignment just wasn't there. Ah well, it's hardly as if I know CGN inside and out. So I've done what I always do, spent the days on foot, exploring different parts of the city. Saturday I headed South along the Rhine a few miles and found a floating restaurant made of a converted barge (there are many of these) in an adjacent town, and had a lovely long lunch on the water. Then across the river and back along the other side, taking pictures as I went. The day's tally was about 11.5 miles, almost all of it new territory for me.

(Saturday's lunch: The Alte Liebe in Rodenkirchen.)

(The village of Rodenkirchen, with Alte Liebe in the foreground.)

(Warehouses along the Rhine converted to flats. The crane and control house were left in place.)

Sunday I found a sports bar which was playing the Hungarian Formula One race (ironically, an American "Chammp's" franchise; I hadn't expected that I'd come to Germany and have to go to an American bar to see F1!). There were 15 or 20 of us who showed up to watch the race, which, despite coming from a German broadcast outlet, was easy enough to follow. And the entire race played without commercial interruption. How cool is that? (I end up paying for cable almost exclusively to watch F1, and I STILL have to sit thru commercials... Well, I record everything on the DVR, so I have to fast-forward thru them. Poor baby.)

Afterward, I headed Northward along the Rhine and back for another 12 mile day. The trails and park spaces on both sides of the river were packed with people, campers and bikers and picnickers and dog walkers and people generally getting away from the city for the day. As I came back into town, I found a huge riverfront flea market that was just packing up; I had missed it on my way out. That will be something to remember for the next weekend I'm here. The weather on both days was perfect.

(The K├Âlner Rhein-Seilbahn North of the city.)

(A roving brass band. They drew huge, appreciative crowds.)

(The Rhein is still very much an active commercial waterway. This traffic is constant.)

(I'm sorry. I've taken this picture five times--and posted at least three of them. But I keep hoping to get it right.)

One thing I found especially interesting: on Sunday's walk I came across a little clearing adjacent to the walk path along the Rhine where a car / train bridge was passing over. As I passed, I noticed a ratty old Land Rover parked under the bridge, with people setting up huge speakers which were playing music out into the little clearing. Strollers and bikers had begun to gather. I walked North for a while, and then turned around and retraced my steps. As I approached the bridge again, a couple hours later, I heard the music from quite a distance. By now the clearing was full of mostly young people (my age put me in a distinct minority), sitting on the grass and on blankets in groups smoking and having a beer and listening to the music. A few people had grills going, and others were playing fetch with their dogs. Bicycles were parked everywhere. The guy with the Land Rover, which was painted all black except for prominent Red Bull markings, was acting as DJ, manning a control panel that extended out the tailgate of his truck, headphones on, bobbing to the music.

(The DJ setting things up. A crowd begins to gel.)

And he seemed to be doing something which is no doubt standard practice in a dance club but which was new to me (thus do I learn fresh what is already old hat for people who actually live in the present century). He was making a kind of trance music over a pulsing dance beat, constructed of a series of rhythmic loops of either percussive or rhythmic content that he mixed in and out, morphing the piece into a continuous, slowly changing thing. Very interesting. I always wondered what the hell someone would do with a "DJ station," and this appears to be one answer that isn't entirely theatrics. The beat remained constant, though not always carried or propagated in the same way; but the harmonic content shifted from time to time, and occasionally solo instruments would take a few bars. I couldn't tell whether he was actually playing these solos himself, or whether they were themselves loops that he selected. A bassline would come and go, changing ever so slightly every couple minutes. This is doubtless a known genre of dance music, and I'm curious about it. Perhaps Dzesika, guru of all things dance and popular music, can enlighten me!

I sat and rested for a few minutes and soaked in the scene. As I got up to leave, I took a few pictures, but I felt a bit conspicuous being lone and old and fat and not from 'round hyah. Everybody looked at me as I tried to snap a photo or two, and I got the distinct vibe that this was not an event which was intended to be immortalized. At least not by me. It struck me afterward that perhaps this was something like a company picnic and I was conspicuous because everybody knew everybody and I was clearly not part of the group. I don't know. But it was a cool little happening anyway, a spontaneous (or so I like to think) gathering on a sunny Sunday by the Rhine.

I walked back toward the hotel, stopping at the train station for a bite to eat, and as I sat on the steps by the Dom with my currywurst and Coke Light the church bells were pealing (so far above me, I noted, that you almost couldn't hear them).

That brings me to the Dom. It needs its own post.


Dzesika said...

Not I - I now live somewhere where Nothing Ever Happens! :)
I'm guessing he was playing with a lot of loops. No matter what, it sounds fabulous. Seems like whenever I end up in a real nightclub (as opposed to the dancery places I usually go) I end up far away from the floor just listening appreciatively to the DJ ... maybe that makes me old myself. :)

wunelle said...

You're forgiven! The kids have to have their own thing, I know. We must cede the territory with grace ;-)

I always wish I had a recorder with me. There are so many things that are of sonic interest, and this would have been fun to grab and analyze (even if it wouldn't necessarily have needed a spot on my iTunes).