In our series "And now jazz!" ZEIT reporter Ulrich Stock writes in succession about music on the margins of media attention. Any text can be read as part of an endless research into jazz thinking, jazz making and jazz life.
... and the question is, what do we actually hear and see beyond our domestic screens with the droplets of information from the global network? I was in Gütersloh a few weeks ago as a jazz reporter, as a two-day guest, and if I write it down a little bit, it almost makes me shudder, it sounds like a risky expedition, but I can reassure you: That was before Corona! There you could go wherever you wanted, unmasked on the train and breathe freely for three or four hours on the road.
Yes, it was the expedition into a present that was still perceived as indefinitely continuous at the moment of the journey and is only now identified as thoroughly past. Cultural life has imploded everywhere, including in Gütersloh, and in the textual reconstruction the question arises whether it will be the way it was, soon, soon or sometime.
Arrival in the station hall: "Welcome to Gütersloh!" You know such a hello brushed on the wall, you can find it in places where time is money, nobody has time for personal things and people who have traveled should still be addressed somehow. "Thank you, Gütersloh," I would like to write as soon as I look at the huge word that is emblazoned behind the lettering: Miele .
Isn't that Italian? Doesn't that mean honey? Is Gütersloh the city where milk and honey flow? A nice thought if you want to visit the city's cultural office. Where the business tax is bubbling, there will be no need to gnaw on the hunger. Gütersloh, 100,000-inhabitant home of washing machines and the global Bertelsmann, you have to have art in it!
And is too. In the spacious city hall, located at the end of a kilometer-long zigzag walk, Lena Jeckel, the boss here, greets me because I came. A jazz musician on the shifters of an urban cultural authority ?! That is the question (with an exclamation mark) that should now be traced here.
What does she have in Gütersloh: concerts in the evening, festivals on weekends, often a crowded house, also in the chic white city theater, most recently the WDR Jazz Award, a two-day music festival with a tombola. And she: a casual woman in her late thirties, bassist, mother of a fourth grader, manager with subtle rigor. She leads me to her office, casually furnished, the digital clock stopped, the coffee cream expired, but not yet flocculating, a duty room as uncomfortable as backstage. She was on tour for years.
Ambition instead of representation. Lena Jeckel has a budget of millions and knows "that I don't make culture for myself, but for those who live here". In everyday life, she balances on the delicate line between claim and encouragement, not allowed to fall to either side, and this in view of "the great retreat home to the digital media", this mega trend of the present.
(At this point, the report by the jazz reporter hesitates: The head of culture chats easily from the big retreat back home that hasn't happened yet. Good feeling in Gütersloh? Or is the virus clearly showing what started in silence, which started long ago had: the isolated setting up in front of private devices, preferably with canned beer and delivered food?)
Lena Jeckel trusts in personal address. She is present at the concerts that she organizes and seeks proximity to the musicians and the audience. This way she gets a feeling for the mood, for the views. "I also find this analogue way quite good to counteract sensory overload." What is also good in this city: "It is not just about selling out halls, but also about giving impulses." This way, only 150 people could come to an event without pressure from above, there should be more.
Provincial audience with open ears
You never know how many people will come anyway, she says. In Gütersloh's always remarkable jazz offer, the number of subscribers grows year after year, "even though they don't know what's coming". Because Lena Jeckel also brings music to the city that has never been heard here.
A provincial audience with open ears - this is Germany as international musicians know and love it. Jeckel reports on concerts, after which a band sells 40 CDs, although hardly anyone in the hall had known them before.
(And again the jazz reporter has to interrupt the writing. A band that sells 40 CDs after the performance is something. But now, in the confusion of viruses, it all seems so huge: a band that arrives and plays, an audience, that gathers, puts their heads together, has albums signed with pens that go through many hands, which are also shaken; selfies of enthusiastic fans with their musicians, side by side.)
Until two years ago, Lena Jeckel worked next door in Bielefeld, her hometown, as managing director of the bunker Ulmenwall. What sounds martial was martial. The underground club, modeled from the bottom of a stairway into a subway station, had served as air raid shelter during the Second World War. Women and children huddled between the walls to avoid the Allied attacks, while their as yet unpopular men devastated the country. Jazz has been in the bunker since 1956, a record breaker. Carla Bley, Chick Corea, Archie Shepp, Chet Baker, Michael Wollny played here.