Marc Behrens
Architectural Commentaries 4&5
CD (E45)

“An Architectural Commentary is a form of ‘reviewing’
architecture in which functional, symbolic and aesthetic
aspects of a building or a bigger architectural structure
are analysed. Inspiration for this cycle of compositions
is drawn from architectural criticism, structures, buildings,
involuntary cityscapes (‘architecture without architects’)
and technological noise within buildings.
  One special recording session took place at Resonance
FM, the London-based radio station, in June 2004.
Patrick McGinley of Resonance FM and I recorded the
studio equipment itself, the drive noises, ventilation,
vibrations in the machines, the studio’s air conditioning,
doors… This particular array of sound forms the sole
and exclusive basic material for Architectural Commentary
5: Some Models for Resonant Behaviour and links the
cycle to earlier music pieces I constructed with sounds
from computer labs. This part was commissioned by
Resonance FM. In Architectural Commentaries I composed
some structures (mainly in parts 4 and 5) loosely based
on Luigi Nono’s idea of ‘isole musicali’. This means that
encyclopaedic variations of themes are generated and
often highlighted by silent breaks, like islands, between
the individual parts, all different in form and size,
but topologically similar.”

Porto-based Behrens is presently best described as a
sound artist, working across performance, installation
and audio-visual recorded media. He also creates
photographic works, designs record sleeves, and has
even produced a bottle of white wine...

See also
Marc Behrens

Edition of 300 copies

“Wandering from one isolated sound island to the next,
[Behrens] helps to differentiate perception, leaving a
kind of sonic essence”

Marc Behrens (or is it?), 2007
Photo by Sony Ericsson W880i


German artist Behrens is known to us through his very
severe and conceptual audio experiments, but he has
also produced installations, sculptural objects, and gallery-
based events for many years. Even this release is some-
thing of a hybrid, embracing an interest in architecture,
the presentation of his own ideas about that field, very
particular field recordings, and radiophonic composition.
Behrens’s black and white photographs of architectural
details are printed on the insert to illustrate some of his
ideas. Indeed, this CD is but one fragment of the larger
body of investigation he’s been undertaking in this area;
Architectural Commentaries is all about analysing the
meaning of buildings, from the standpoint of function,
symbolic and aesthetic aspects, and reviewing the results
in a very critical way. He’s been building up a library of
architectural field recordings for some 15 years, making
sound recordings of building interiors, doors, equipment,
floorboards, heating systems, activity which has required
standing around in stations, computer labs, and construction
sites. Besides these aural documents, photographs and
line graphs have resulted from his investigations; the line
graphs are copies of screenshots, which he makes when
working with multitracking software as he edits his sound
pieces. All highly integrated and conceptually unified,
I am sure. Behrens likens the process of sound editing
to a form of composition; “small events, short slices,
are isolated and often given elaborated volume curves,”
he reckons. “This comes very close to composing with
  The finished results are of course as esoteric as you
might expect from the above, and these highly elaborate
electro-acoustic constructs produce listening experiences
which are rarely identifiable as anything to do with buildings,
architecture, or indeed anything remotely familiar. This is
all the more surprising to me personally, since one of the
pieces was partially made inside the Resonance FM radio
station in London, a building with which I have had some
familiarity. This was done in 2004 with the help of Patrick
McGinley, and anything in the Denmark Street building
was fair game for their sweeping microphones, including
the ventilation ducts and all the broadcasting equipment.
Behrens has a very singular vision; you get the uneasy
feeling he’s just peeling away layers of assumptions and
certainties with his sharp, x-ray eyes. What he reveals
may involve facing up to uncomfortable truths about
our physical environment. He is not the only artist to
have revealed the secret life of buildings with the help
of microphones, but this work is enriched by his very
incisive critical eyes and ears.

Ed Pinsent in The Sound Projector

The logic surrounding Marc Behrens’ artistic output is
often inflexible, not really open to chance except for
slight and mostly controlled intermissions (or is it?).
But, at the same time, this scarcity of openings results
in a rarely seen coherence which, on a sonic level,
guarantees that each one of his releases sound
absorbingly attractive, placing the listeners in a space
that might appear either like the restricted area of
their interior conflicts or a symbolic representation
of human thought in its most inaccessible corners.
The aural constructions that Behrens is able to
conceptualise, elaborate and, ultimately, exploit are
indeed unique, in this case facilitated by his choice
of presenting successions of events separated by
short silent segments, a concept based on Luigi
Nono’s ‘isole musicali’ (musical islands). The author
writes that he was inspired by ‘architectural criticism,
structures, buildings, involuntary cityscapes (…) and
technological noise within buildings’. The latter point
is expanded in Architectural commentary 5: some
models for resonant behaviour; the segment starting
around minute 13, an awesome humming moan-
cum-oscillating high frequencies, is purely and simply
a thing of beauty. The opener Architectural commentary
4 shows at times a strong conceptual link with Asmus
Tietchens’ work, even if Behrens’ coldness still possesses
a degree of humanity — barely visible in the distance,
yet it is there — that attributes a ’faraway-
light-in-a-thick fog‘ aura to the piece… The album’s
overall quality, excellent in any circumstance anyway,
will be enhanced by your own preference of setting
as this is the kind of music that, while revealing more
details on close listening, yields the most satisfactory
outcome when we let it manifest its grayish blackness
in the rare, precious moments when the world’s asleep.

Massimo Ricci at Touching Extremes

There are sounds like stone on stone, for example,
large stones. To the extent they offer images of city-
scapes, they do so in a de Chirico sense, one of empty
concrete canyons and long shadows. There’s a brief
bustle or two, a sudden flurry of traffic, but then it’s back
to the urban desolation. A short track separates the two
main pieces; though it’s entirely of a piece with them,
its concision serves to orient the listener with regard to
the others. The first half of Commentary 5 is even
emptier than its predecessor, a place of drips, vague,
distant echoes of machinery, the occasional low thrum
of some subterranean engine. Midway through, an eerie,
silvery drone emerges accompanied by quasi-musical
pings, backwards tape swatches and gurgles. It’s kind of
like coming upon a barely functioning outpost in the ruins.
It dissipates after a few minutes, bringing us back into
the ozone-tinged vacuum. Behrens has created some
evocative work, very effective and accomplished of
its kind.

Brian Olewnick at Bagatellen