From Aural Innovations #22 (January 2003)
It's considerably well known that Mani Neumeier is a musical "legend" of his own. Jazz connoisseurs know about his musical beginnings as a member of the Irene Schweizer Trio, and that he was regarded as one of Europe's biggest rhythmic talents (Joachim E. Behrend) already in the Sixties. Guru Guru made him well known - if not even famous - throughout the world; his side projects Terra Amphipia and Tiere der Nacht are rather for specialists, and with Lover 303 he once again reached the young ones and is appraised enthusiastically. He himself thinks that it's a pity that his solo concerts often don't receive the attention of his other projects. He almost likes them most as they open the chance of a special relationship with the audience. Mani Neumeier on the eve of my birthday, in my town, and Mani himself had given notice of that concert on my telephone answering systemů every reason in the world to go to this concert.
The venue is an art gallery where also writers' readings and concerts take place every now and then. The place gives room for about 80 to 90 people and it was well occupied that evening. Mani approaches the stage through the audience, a small Casio keyboard bound in front of his forehead, that produces a simple rhythm that, together with jungle noises provides the background for the first piece: a collage of noises produced with the help of toys and a multitude of objects, usually not assumed to be parts of a drum set. A small fire in a tin bucket illuminates the scenery and spreads a mild smell of smoke, that additionally supports the jungle atmosphere. Altogether the concert is a blend of solo works for drums and a kaleidoscope of noises that can be produced by almost any source that are tied together to form rhythmic patterns.
The noises are of multiple origins. Metal dishes from India are used as well as mechanical toys, ping pong balls, plastic tubes that produce different tones depending on the intensity with which they are moved, mountainous noises from a tape recorder create a Swiss Alpes' atmosphere. All this is used sensibly and sensually - from the chaos of arbitrary sounds, the clickering of the metal dishes in a rice sack for example, to arranged works. After the metal dishes have rolled out on the floor, Mani sits down at the edge of the stage and uses them as drums. In the tune Toy Party, dedicated to John Cage, the mechanical toys are set to move and are then "directed" with the help of a baton, partly presented as a conjuring trick, as a mechanical dog shows a somersault following the baton's direction. There is a special sort of "drum solo" when Mani gives some of the metal dishes to people in the audience together with ping pong balls that should be "returned" in the direction of the stage. The "piece" would end when one of the balls would hit the Chinese gong of the drum setů
Those who want to see a technically experienced drummer at his instrument come at their expenses as well. Complex beat patterns are developed with seeming easiness, which miraculously are perceived not as beats but as soundscapes. No academic showpiece of a drum work technician, but a total artwork that uses music to evoke delight and well-being. In a non-obstrusive way the concert has almost an air of shamanism, as the "healing" of the audience is one of the declared "objectives" of the concert. And it works: As Neumeier addresses himself especially to the children in the audience this produces an atmosphere of an open-minded childishness also among the adults. The next Monday the local newspaper sees the audience's enthusiasm as the result of their lack of realism. The author of that article embraces a kind of rationalism that excludes a lot from this world, Mani Neumeier's "magical universe" for example, that in the end is nothing else but skillfully used craftsmanship. His way of perceiving and creating "reality" is an art that one might fear to vanish. As he maintains it Mani Neumeier's art is a part of the project to save the world as a home worth living in. This way also the author of these lines - usually an uncurable rationalist as well - could not shut himself from the spiritual charm of that concert, whatever the intellectual gatekeeper of the local paper might think about itů
For more information about Mani Neumeier and Guru Guru:
For more information about the venue: http://www.zeitraumexit.de (this site is in German)
If you read German you might also like to know the mentioned concert review of the local newspaper "Mannheimer Morgen" to be found at: http://www.morgenweb.de/archiv/2002/12/16/kultur/20021216_29_RAF1146011_34902.html