Beelitz Heilstätten – Douglas MacGregor – A Testament to Subsided Days

Douglas MacGregor performs his guitar composition A Testament to Subsided Days at Beelitz Heilstätten – An abandoned sanatorium near Berlin which once had Hitler as a patient.

The night before recording this and the videos from other artists at Beelitz, I decided it would be a great idea to put a knife through the tip of my finger while cooking some food for the day ahead.  There was a lot of blood and swearing and I thought that that would be me out of action for the foreseeable and that after all the organisation effort I had put it, I would not be able to play.

As the morning came however, I noticed that when wrapped in gauze and electrical tape the pain was only marginally unbearable, so, unable to accept defeat, I took my guitar with me anyway.  I worked out that providing I didn’t use the tip of my finger I could just about play the guitar.  All that was left to do was to take a couple of pain killers and hope that I would be able to improvise new fingering using only 3 fingers.  Two takes and a many grimaces later, this was the result.

Beelitz Heilstätten

DSCF3200Hidden romantically in the deutsche Wälder (woods) not far Potsdam, Beelitz Heilstätten
conjures up a uniquely German image, a Zauberberg (Magic Mountain*) without the Berg (mountain). But beneath the decaying beauty, the history of Beelitz has been far from romantic.
In the late 19th Century tuberculosis was rife and in order to stop the spread of the disease, those inflected were encouraged to enter sanatoriums. Beelitz was one of many sanatoriums built to deal with the numbers and the 140 hector wooded site was chosen for it’s clean air, which was considered essential for the treatment of tuberculosis. Construction began in 1898 and the doors were opened to the first patients in 1902.

After the outbreak of World War I, the site was transformed into a military hospital, treating casualties from the trenches. It was during this time that the hospital received it’s most famous patient, one Adolf Hitler, after a grenade exploded a little too far away from him during the Battle of the Somme.
In the interwar period Beelitz became a Sanatorium again before being transformed back into a military hospital during the next World War and then being taken over by the Soviets, who carried on using Beelitz as a military hospital until 1995 when they abandoned it. A couple of the buildings remain still in use today, but the vast majority of the site lies in ruins, frequented by many photographers, film makers (including those that made the Pianist and Valkyrie) , urban explorers and Ramstein.
The Beelitz area is also famous for it’s asparagus and a serial killer.
We recorded this video in the large hall in the Männersanatorium (sanatorium for men).
If you can read German and want to learn more about Beelitz Heilstätten, this site is well worth visiting. Even if you can’t, it has some nice pictures. If not wikipedea or these nice blogs should suffice: Abandoned Berlin, Opacity.

*Zauberberg is a rather big novel written by Thomas Mann about a young German man who visits a sanatorium and, after a 1000 pages, leaves. ….but not before having been extensively lectured to by some weighty intellectuals.

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Douglas MacGregor – Part One of Three – Gesellschaftshaus, at the Riviera Grünau

The Riviera Grünau consists of two once impressive buildings; the Ballhaus and the Gesellschaftshaus, which translates literally as ‘society house’.  Like the Ballhaus, the Gesellschaftshaus is falling to pieces and there are now few signs of it’s former gory apart from this rapidly decaying hall.  Throughout the building the floors are virtually non-existent, the decor is long gone and graffiti, including a worrying abundance of nazi graffiti, pervades the entirety.  The ceiling in the hall, once red, now looks close collapse.1910 As this postcard from 1910 shows, guests could sail down the Spree and arrive by boat.  While the Ballhaus can boast of a cultural significance during the 1920s as a concert venue, the Gesellschaftshaus seems more like a reminder of the opulence in days gone by.

As you will see in the video, in the hall itself there are now two large wall paintings on either side which add yet another layer to this space; an abandoned reminder of a bygone era still visited by both artists and neo-nazis alike and still an excellent space for a performance.

The piece played here is the first part of a group of three pieces.  The name of the piece reflects this.  It also reflects the fact that the themes of the piece are quite diverse and abstract.

For some nice photo’s of the buildings go here

For more music go here or here

Agustin Barrios – Vals No. 3 – recorded at Riviera Grünau, Berlin – Douglas MacGregor

The Ballhaus Riviera was built in 1895 and by the 1920’s was a hotspot during the cultural boom of the Weimar Republic.  For musicians of the time, this was one of ‘the places to play’.  After The Second World War the Ballhaus remained open, although it’s heyday had definitely past.  After the reunification of Germany the building fell into disuse and decay .
Augustin Barrios was a Paraguayan composer who lived from 1885 to 1944.  He is one of the finest guitar composers.Ballhaus Riviera

For more information on the Ballhaus Riviera these two blogs are great and contain many a nice picture: The Ost World (auf Deutsch) and Digital Cosmonaut

https://www.facebook.com/eufieldrecording
www.douglasmacgregormusic.com

The Dictator’s Waltz – Douglas MacGregor – Krampnitz

The Dictator’s Waltz – a concept waltz by Douglas MacGregor

This recording was made at the abandoned Krampnitz military base near Potsdam in Germany.  Krampnitz is a huge abandoned military complex.  It was originally used by the Nazis to train cavalry officers and after the war was taken over and used as a military base by the Soviets.  The camp was abandoned in 1992 after the collapse of the USSR
This recording was made in what appears to be the ballroom of the officers ‘club’.  The room is in remarkably good condition and sounds amazing.
The Dictator’s Waltz is a piece of music directed at dictators and other such people, hence the ballroom of a Nazi military camp seemed like the perfect location for a field recording.   You can even see two crumbling stone eagles in the background.

For more info/photos about/of Krampnitz and other interesting places around Berlin here is a great wee blog: Abandoned Berlin

For more info/music about/by me go here: www.soundcloud.com/dougmacgregor or www.douglasmacgregormusic.com

Anew Named One – Douglas MacGregor – Krampnitz


Krampnitz is an abandoned military base near Potsdam, Germany.  It was originally built by the Nazi’s and used as a training camp for cavalry officers.  The Soviets took over the base after the second World War and used it as a military base throughout the Cold War until it was abandoned after the collapse of the USSR.
In the middle of this camp is an old theatre where this recording was made.  It was a bit of a surprise to find a theatre in the middle of a military camp and you can only imagine what used to go on here, who came and what sort of performances they had.

www.soundcloud.com/dougmacgregor

www.douglasmacgregormusic.com

The Ostensible Walz – Douglas MacGregor – Recorded at Krampnitz

Krampnitz is an abandoned military base near Potsdam, Germany.  It was originally built by the Nazi’s and used as a training camp for cavalry officers.  The Soviets took over the base after the second World War and used it as a military base throughout the Cold War until it was abandoned after the collapse of the USSR.  Click here or here to find some nice blogs where people have written a bit more about Krampnitz and taken some nice pictures.

This recording was made in what appears to be the ballroom of the officers ‘club’.  The room is in remarkably good condition and sounds amazing.
The Ostensible Waltz is a piece of music that is unhappy with the way things seem at first and tries to delve beneath the ‘ostensible’ layers to find out what really lies under the surface.  It inevitably fails and finds itself back where it began, but with the knowledge of where it has been.
From a technical point of view, the left hand fingering in this piece is about as challenging as it gets.

www.soundcloud.com/dougmacgregormusic

www.douglasmacgregormusic.com