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Dark Skies

Jamie Man, Blixa Bargeld, ft. James McVinnie, Asko|Schönberg, Slagwerk Den Haag


We regret to inform you that the performance Dark Skies has been cancelled. Blixa Bargeld has informed us that he will be unable to perform for medical reasons, and without him, this performance cannot take place.

Together with co-producer Asko|Schönberg and the other performers, we are exploring the possibility of still presenting Dark Skies at a future festival edition. Ticket buyers for Dark Skies will be refunded the purchase price of their tickets. 

Fortunately, as a substitute for Dark Skies, there are other performances you can attend, such as the contemporary concert Call for the Company by Raven Chacon or the multidisciplinary performance in the Gashouder: Indra's Net by Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble.


Young composer Jamie Man and music icon Blixa Bargeld find each other in a joint ode to darkness with a big orchestra in which Bargeld’s voice has a central place.

For this monumental piece of music, composer Jamie Man was inspired by the rise of Dark Sky Reserves and astronomical mystery: with every molecule of understanding we gain, the mystery of our universe increases exponentially. We project our stories, questions and the significance of our existence onto this dark, unknown space. We seek the light in the darkness and sometimes the stars seem to answer.

For Dark Skies, Man is working with a group of forty-five musicians whose instruments and sounds coalesce without pandering to classical orchestration. The orchestra has an extraordinary makeup including seven percussionists of Slagwerk Den Haag and a deconstructed organ providing a heavy focus on the extreme peripheries of the human auditory spectrum. The highest frequencies and the lowest, right down through to infrasound, are distributed electronically throughout the space through speakers, subs and objects. At the heart of this constellation of sound is one exceptional human ‘voice machine’, the legendary Blixa Bargeld, lead singer of the band EINSTÜRZENDE NEUBAUTEN.

The extraordinary setup allows the audience to move freely between the various clusters of musicians and objects arranged throughout the room.

Jamie Man:

‘It is in darkness that nocturnal beasts hunt their prey. The lights that brighten our nights threaten their existence and pollute our own view of the astronomical wonders. It is only through dark skies that we are able to see beyond the confines of our own atmosphere and in turn, broaden the horizon of our existential limits.’


Thu June 15 2023 8:30 PM


  • default including drink from € 32
  • CJP/student/scholar € 12
  • series ticket from € 28,80

language & duration

  • Language no problem

  • Duration of performance unknown

The young Chinese-British composer Jamie Man and Blixa Bargeld, voice artist and frontman of the iconic German industrial band EINSTÜRZENDE NEUBAUTEN, share a fascination with the starry sky and the way we project our human stories onto it. Man composes a lot for voice and makes multimedia work with a prominent place for light and light installations besides the music. In 2020, she was in Portugal to visit a Dark Sky Reserve: a place on earth with minimal light pollution, which ensures optimal visibility of the starry sky. Once, at age ten, Bargeld was the youngest member of Berlin’s Astronomische Gesellschaft. The two have joined forces for the project Dark Skies, ‘an ode to darkness’, for which Man has composed a fugue of music, light and darkness which moves in constant and often indeterminate counterpoint to Bargeld’s text and live vocal performance.


Dark Skies is a large-scale project involving forty-five musicians: music ensemble Asko|Schönberg, Slagwerk Den Haag, students of Conservatorium van Amsterdam and organist James Mc Vinnie, playing an acoustic baroque organ. An especially made deconstructed organ, played by a percussionist, puts a focus on the fringes of the human hearing spectrum. Working with sound artist Tatiana Rosa and sound designer Brecht Beuselinck, all sounds originate from a live acoustic source and range from the highest and lowest frequencies, down to infrasound, are spread throughout the room electronically via loudspeakers. The musicians’ acoustic sound is recycled and multiplied through transducers and bass shakers which percussionists use to activate objects across the room growing a multi-layered ecosystem of sound. From something as simple as two double bass tones meeting in a single speaker cone to form a beat frequency, a tempo is born with the potential for a song. Taking the circular form of ‘orchestra’ from ancient greek theatre, the musicians are distributed throughout the room and the stage, with the audience sitting in between. In the middle of all this is Blixa Bargeld using live looping of his own voice - everything from imperceivable whispers to ear aching screams to create a cosmos of sound.  

Man’s work shows her fascination with the phenomenon of light. The composer, who explores ‘the poetic mystery of what we are as human beings’, has worked with the American light artist Ben Zamora and researched how to forge a world with darkness as a starting point for her second to last work, the chamber opera Zelle, created with the light artist Ezra Veldhuis who also the created the lights for Dark Skies. For her, it was less about the illuminated objects on the stage as such and more about the fact that we all interpret these differently in our imagination. The composer calls the imagination the tool we use to access the immaterial world: in order to understand phenomena far greater than us that, from our limited anthropocentric perspective, remain hidden from us.

And the starry sky has been viewed from an all too human perspective throughout the centuries. Bargeld, with his thorough knowledge of the constellations, knows how the names, meanings and even genders of constellations have changed. How, even today, led by our own personal, contemporary fascinations, we project all kinds of things onto this elusive mystery. He found himself standing beneath a night sky recently, pointing out the constellations to a young thirty-something. Bargeld: ‘Orion was right above us, with the three stars in a row that form Orion’s belt. The young man pointed at it and said: “And that’s Elon Musk’s Starlink.” That was new. This constellation has been all kinds of things throughout mankind’s history. The Egyptian god Osiris, a belt of a hunter in the night sky, and now these stars are seen as a billionaire’s string of satellites.’ 

Man: ‘Indirectly, it says something about how we relate to the stars, perhaps even wanting to claim them. Ridiculous indeed, but is it any more ridiculous than claiming land or water?’ 

  • <p>Jamie Man, musical director</p>

    © M.A.

  • <p>Still from NASA's SDO Capture of Mercury Transit Time-lapse</p>

    © NASA

  • <p>Still from NASA's SDO Capture of Mercury Transit Time-lapse</p>

    © NASA


music Jamie Man musical direction Jamie Man text Blixa Bargeld vocals Blixa Bargeld music performed by Slagwerk Den Haag, Conservatorium van Amsterdam, Asko|Schönberg flute Tom Sargeaunt, Nicola Stevenson, Ned McGowan, Elise Tossens piccolo Tom Sargeaunt, Nicola Stevenson, Ned McGowan, Elise Tossens bass flute Tom Sargeaunt contrabass flute Ned McGowan bassoon Remko Edelaar, Jaap de Vries double bassoon Remko Edelaar, Jaap de Vries trumpet Arthur Kerklaan, Bas Duister trombone Koen Kaptijn, Sebastiaan Kemner, Reinaldo Denoso bass trombone Reinaldo Denoso sousaphone Patrick Votrian, Student Tuba tuba Arjan Stroop, Patrick Votrian, Student Tuba electric guitar Wiek Hijmans bass guitar Mark Haanstra viola Liesbeth Steffens, May Bardsley, Lisa Eggen, Duleen van Gunsteren, Frank Goossens, Yuxin Chen, Ruben Sanderse, Yanna Pelser cello Sebastiaan van Halsema, Shira Pinkerfeld, Wijnand Hulst, Pauline Ngolo, Kalle de Bie, Job Jurre Huiskamp, Diederik Smulders double bass Eva Euwe, Diego Cubillos Rivero, Benjamin de Boer, Frances Inzenhofer, Dominique Chabot, Cody Takacs percussion Joey Marijs, Jaoa Brito, Jonathan Bonny, Gonzalo Martins, Vitaly Medvedev, Porter Ellerman, Frank Wienk organ James McVinnie electronics Tatiana Rosa with the support of Muziekfonds Mauricio Kagel

This performance is made possible by