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A Day at Hambacher Forst

A Day at Hambacher Forst is an electroacoustic musical-storytelling journey which recollects my experiences in the forest together with a group of activists who were trying to save it from destruction.

In August 2020 I spent a day at the Hambach Forest together with a group of activists who were occupying the forest and trying to save it from destruction for the sake of coal mining. At that time I was an active member of Extinction Rebellion in The Netherlands and wanted to witness firsthand the collapse of our natural systems as well as the struggle of the environmental movement in order to prevent that from happening.

As the largest open pit mine in Europe, the forest and its occupation became a symbol of resistance and an inspiration for many activists. When I arrived there it was two years after a German court ruled that the clearance of Hambach Forest by RWE AG had to stop immediately until further evidence could be evaluated. While I expected to find highly motivated activists and “tree hugging hippies” I was totally unprepared to face people whose lives were so utterly different from anything I’ve encountered until then. In retrospect I realized how living in such close proximity to a place of destruction and violent opposition can cause deep scars in the human soul and make a person feel extremely alienated from his fellow men.

While originally I wanted to stay in the forest for one or two weeks, having contracted a nasty food poisoning on the first night from food that was long past its due date, I had to flee right away and seek medical attention. Back in civilisation I wrote a text which tried to capture those 24 hours and put them in a broader context of the environmental movement and of human society. I later recorded that text hoping to one day use it as part of my music.

Two years into the future I moved to live in Germany and, after several years of hiatus from music, I renovated a small garden house and made it into my studio. I revisited the Hambach text and started working on a new composition. Armed by a variety of synthesizers and samples of natural habitats, bird calls and various bell sounds, the text provided a guide to capture the spirit of the forest and its inhabitants in music.

The short excerpt below is part of a 32 minutes electroacoustic composition. It was premiered on January 28, 2023 in Hošek Contemporary as part of the CTM Festival Vorspiel in Berlin. Further performances will take place during the Klanglandschaften and Neu am See festivals.

With the growing consciousness over the climate crisis and environmental collapse it is crucial for the general public to get a glimpse of what lies behind the scenes of modern industrial society. Through music and storytelling these complex topics can find resonance not only among intellectuals but instead touch a human chord that will guide our understanding to pursue alternative and more sustainable paths in the future.

The full piece can be listened to here.

A Day at Hambacher Forst is dedicated to all activists, environmentalists and spiritual warriors who devote their lives to protecting the Hambach Forest.

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