Lucy Railton renders a sublimely haunting impression of Berlin made in early Spring 2020 for our Documenting Sound series of sonic postcards from all corners of the globe.
Essentially a recording of a world-renowned cellist duetting with the S-Bahn outside her apartment in Prenzlauer Berg, ‘5 S-Bahn’ utterly steals our hearts in the simplest, most evocative way. Playing with, thru, and against the atmosphere of Berlin in spring during lockdown, Railton captures scenes that feel timelessly nostalgic but also uncannily eerie, taking a reading of the city’s pulse that may feel at once familiar yet surreal and latent, pregnant with an unresolved and restless quietude.
Across the 41 minute work Railton describes the slow daily arc of life under lockdown in a usually bustling Berlin slowed to stasis. Quite brilliantly, her voice and her musical gestures become fleeting ephemeral presences as much as the birdsong, passing trains, planes overheard, and the gorgeous church bells of P’Berg, which all unfold and recede in languorous turns. It reminds us of the exquisite, seemingly effortless location recordings used in Hitchcock’s ‘Rear Window’ - ambient sound in the truest sense of the word; suggestive of life just outside our field of view; close - and out of reach.
Lucy’s esteemed ear for ghostly haptics serves to search out an underlying poetry in the ubiquitous and everyday, highlighting the serene yet dread-filled uncanniness of a usually bustling Berlin awakening from winter into the torpor of lockdown.