Yasen Markov is an architect and musician who always goes by the name TECHNOBETON – it's the name of both company and his music project. He studied architecture in Germany, and continued to work and teach there. He is one of the six Bulgarian electronic artists who are part of the multimedia initiative Altitude Attitude organized by the music media Fonoteka Elektrika.
Yasen Markov is an architect and musician who always goes by the name TECHNOBETON – it's the name of both company and his music project. He studied architecture in Germany, and continued to work and teach there. He is one of the six Bulgarian electronic artists who are part of the multimedia initiative Altitude Attitude organized by the music media Fonoteka Elektrika. Their project will show explore symbolic locations in Plovdiv through one-hour video sets in which each place is transformed by visual artist Petko Tanchev, as well as filmed on land and from above by Plovdiv studio Lyon Visuals. The sets are distributed online by current and future holders of the title European Capital of Culture, and in addition to TECHNOBETON, the Bulgarian DJs in the project are sayulke, BORNE ALOFT, Laylla Dane, denitza, and Julieta Intergalactica. Shortly before the premiere of his set at the Bratska Mogila memorial complex, Yasen talked to us about the connection between techno and concrete, music and architecture, monuments and history.
When and how did your love of concrete meet your love of techno?
My unconscious love of concrete and techno dates back to my childhood. My father used to develop technologies for high-strength concrete and there were all kinds of mysterious ingredients in our garage: different types of cement, ash, sand, etc. We used them all as special "weapons," we threw them at each other and we would turn dark gray. It was a lot of fun, at least for me and my friends. And I first encountered techno at my grandfather's mill in the village of Malo Malovo. It's a dark space, the millstones are rumbling in a monotonous bass, the place fills up with smoke from the ground up grains. I would stand upstairs and be mesmerized by the wheat disappearing into the funnel where it would pass between the two stones. Years later, in Germany, I felt the same thing when I went to parties.
You also teach theory of architecture. How do you want your students to remember you?
Theory of architecture sounds very dry and pretentious, but it really should be fun. So should the projects that are created on the basis of this very FUN theory. Come on, that's enough boring architecture. When I think about how many unnecessary and empty meetings, conversations and emails get exchanged over an architectural project, I shudder. And architecture should inspire you, you should smile when you see a cool detail full of stories, imagination and dreams. That's why I try to convince my students that they shouldn't be the boring architects working inside the mold. Better to feint reality and go into the world of theory, where anything is possible. Over there, it's "time to be less serious," but hard work can turn these fun things into serious architecture.
Do you construct your music as an architectural project and vice versa – is there music in your architectural projects?
I have not yet warmed up to statements such as "music is melted architecture" or, even more so, "architecture is frozen music." Once, for an exhibition, I tried to freeze the arrangement in the software I used, and cast the visual composition of the interface in concrete. It came out somehow, there was a show, the objects sold, but I did not find magic in this process, I even embarrassed myself in some places. Otherwise, whether it is a track, mix, interior or airport, all the things we make in Technobeton must have a concrete theoretical basis on which the techno construction can be built. This is probably what music and architecture have in common for me.
Sahat tepe / Julieta Intergalactica
You split your time between Bulgaria and Germany. What are some of the most absurd and ridiculous music-related events from your life here and there?
I was in the second year of my program and learning to DJ, and I had downloaded a primitive mixing program called Silver DJ. I had gotten addicted and was constantly dragging the giant Pentium 2 crate-like computer with its 17-inch CRT display on buses between Germany and Bulgaria. By the way, I brought this computer to every party I played. I looked like an accountant – there were no controllers at the time, everything happened with a keyboard and mouse. One time the road between Niš and the Serbia-Bulgaria border was all dug up, and the bus was jumping around on it going a hundred kilometers per hour. When we got to Sofia, the computer had disintegrated and the processor was rolling around in the trunk under the suitcases. That's when I decided to start using vinyl records. There are other crazy musical stories, but they are meant for a smaller circle of people.
What was the main challenge of the Attitude Altitude project?
For me, the place where I play music determines what kind of music I will play. I can't do well-rehearsed sets and just play pre-selected tracks. The best feeling is when you achieve synchronicity between the space and the music. This is quite difficult, but it is worth it, because the audience feels it and the pleasure of the party grows exponentially. At Attitude Altitude, the challenge was to find the appropriate music for this special place.
What is the feeling evoked by your set for this project?
At first we wanted to do a whole performance with costumes and choreography, but it wasn't possible because we were not allowed to go inside. I couldn't think of anything, so a friend told me to design the monument in 3D. And that's what I did. While we were modeling the building, we suddenly got teleported to its virtual counterpart, which we had created – and it began to rain melodies, bass lines, beats and effects. When we went live, it felt a bit like we were inside some software, some kind of computer game, and the rain made the whole experience feel completely unreal.
How is DJing in front of a monument different from playing at a regular club?
While working on the project, I found out that this monument is actually a crypt, which contains the remains of a total of 126 participants in the partisan movement during World War II. There are also depictions of scary scenes from the April Uprising, the Shipka Siege, the First World War… It's an intimidating space, an architectural substance imbued with history, you can't just DJ there like it's an "ordinary" club. That's why we created special music for this place. The set, simply put, consists of mystery and energy. Mystery refers to history: depending on the political situation, it gets interpreted as good or evil, but the responsibility to experience it and unveil the mystery is very personal. That's where the energy of the set came from. The building tells the story of people who sacrificed themselves in the name of something greater than their own existence. I may not be right, but this kind of self-sacrifice is not very popular these days. And perhaps the abstract idea of self-negation, regardless of political beliefs, religion and nationality, somehow gave the set an energetic sound.
Nebet tepe / denitza
Did you learn any interesting facts about the Bratska Mogila (Brotherly Mound) monument during the project?
I did. We were not allowed to enter the monument because the directorate of the Historical Museum was worried that our project would go against the ideology of the monument. There was no dialogue, just evasiveness and simulating action through inaction. At the same time, they didn't care that the building was in a horrible state, and was covered in all sorts of graffiti and tags. We were very disappointed and angry. A few days before the set, someone had cleaned the monument and removed most of the scribbles. It was not clear who did it, but we were very happy and thanked our unknown benefactor.
Why is it important to know our monuments?
Because they reflect our history. Yes, history often gets refracted through the mechanisms of propaganda, but like with digital remastering, we can remove the noise and political overtones. It is not very difficult, but many people are afraid or tired of making this effort. They prefer to forget it or leave it to rot. And when we think about who we are, what we believe in, or if someone suddenly asks us the question that Vinnie Jones asked, "What's your mission in life?" we play a worn-out record with rehearsed answers because we never took the time to study our history.
Do monuments have an expiration date and are they subject to new "edits" or "remixes"?
In theory, the shelf life of concrete is unlimited – cement increases its strength for decades after it has hardened. Perhaps a monument would have the same trajectory of development and achieve the status of a timeless classic, if it did not have to undergo the often disastrous states of cultural erosion. And there is cultural erosion when the "heroes of the day" do not have the imagination or desire to do these "edits" and "remixes". Perhaps the clearest example of carelessness and lack of political and cultural maturity (or at least the lack of willpower to show such maturity) was the idiotic decision to dismantle the 1300 Years of Bulgaria monument. When I was studying in Vienna, I once had the chance to talk to Wolf Prix from Coop Himmelb(l)au. When I told him that I am from Bulgaria, he said that at the beginning of their career they were inspired, among other things, by this exact monument for their first projects, which are among the foundations of deconstructivism and parametric architecture. I wonder if he would say the same thing about this ridiculous lion on a pedestal, which is now preening where the old monument used to be. There are many ways to read a monument, but we have to look for them. The current reading of the monument 1300 years of Bulgaria is unfortunately that of a forgotten hit.
Where else would you want to do this kind of DJ set?
The set was very special for me, not just because of the place, but also because the team from Fonoteka Elektrika, along with their partners, did their best to make the event happen in the best possible way. So let them choose the place – I would work anywhere with them.
More about Yasen Markov at: www.technobeton.fun и @technobeton
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