App Recreates Historical Concert at Berlin's Holocaust Memorial

Berlin Chamber Orchestra musicians were positioned throughout the monument's 2,711 cement blocks when the concert was performed in 2008.

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Visitors to Berlin's Holocaust Memorial can now listen to a virtual concert - a recording of German composer Harald Weiss' much-lauded 2008 work "Vor dem Verstummen" (Before the Silencing) – on their iPhones while at the site.

Weiss wrote the piece, marked by technical refinement and oppressive sounds, for a performance in the middle of the memorial.

"We wanted take a new acoustics look at the space," says Daniel-Jan Girl, the project's initiator and app developer.

Twenty-four wind and string musicians from the Berlin Chamber Orchestra were positioned throughout the monument's 2,711 cement blocks when the concert was performed in 2008. Miniature monitors connected the musicians to the conductor.

The concert was performed before a crowd of 3,000, each of whom was situated in a different part of the memorial and experienced it differently. Depending on where they stood, the sound of certain instruments was softer or louder - a metaphor for the separation of individuals during the Holocaust.

The smartphone's GPS locates the visitor's exact coordinates within the memorial and plays the sounds of only those instruments that he or she would have been able to hear from that standpoint on the night of the original performance. As the visitor walks toward where the cellist was playing and away from the trumpeter, for example, the intensity of the trumpet fades and the intensity of the cello picks up.

"We are now in the second generation [after the Holocaust,]" says Girl. "For us, the question is how do you deal with historical responsibility? When you think about the Holocaust, you feel this crushing weight. With music and technology we've tried to find a universal approach to the subject."

Girl was able to raise enough funding through donations and crowd-funding to develop an app that would allow the recording of the concert to be presented in a way that is faithful to its original performance.

Twenty-three stones with QR codes have been placed throughout the memorial. The app is launched by waving an iPhone over one of the stones, which resemble the Stolpertsteine, or stumbling stones, that are scattered throughout cities across Germany, marking the spot where individuals murdered by the Nazis had once lived.

The app is only available for iPhones currently, though an Android version is in the works. A version of the performance is also available online.

A photo from the original performance of the concert.Credit: DPA

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