New York - Berlin with little flaws in weaving
a radio project by Harald Brandt and Marcia Pally
"New York - Berlin with little flaws in the weaving" is a radio documentary (50min ) commissioned by DeutschlandRadio ( German national radio, based in Berlin and Köln ) with possible co-production from Südwestrundfunk (Baden-Baden ) and additional funding sources. Other forms of presentation (public readings or sound installations , etc.) based on the documentary are possible.
The purpose is to explore parallels between the Jewish-German poetess Mascha Kaléko (1907 - 1975 ), who emigrated in 1938 from Berlin to New York, and Professor Marcia Pally, who teaches at New York University and at Humboldt University in Berlin, and is also Jewish. In 1938, Kaléko lost her city forever. In 2012, Pally sat in the Berliner Dom (the Lutheran Cathedral in Berlin) for a concert of Jewish and Christian music performed jointly by the Cathedral choir and a visiting choir of cantors from the US.
In the 1930s, Mascha Kaleko experienced the loss of a world and, in New York, found in her poetry simple but highly accurate words to express the fact that the "broken soul of her homeland" could never be completely healed.
In her scientific studies and her writings for German and American media, Marcia Pally shows that the flaws--misperceptions, misunderstandings--that sometimes occur in the dialogue between the two sides of the Atlantic are deeply rooted in the period that Mascha Kaleko described and in the histories of the two countries that led to the twentieth century.
When the German author Horst Krüger met Mascha Kaléko in September, 1974, when they both were giving lectures at the Amerika-Memorial-Library in Berlin, he remarked on his impression of her: "She was something floating, incalculable, something you cannot hold, like a poem. Such a thing you only can seize - passing by." ¹
This motif of "passing by" through different urban soundscapes will be used as an acoustical guide for the broadcast.
Mascha and Marcia have covered the same ground - literally in New York and Berlin, living just streets from each other. They are two Jewish women deeply attached to two cities, writing passionately about them, about living in two worlds, and the view of life which this duality brings. In the sounds of Marcia Pally's steps in present-day New York and Berlin you can hear the sound of Mascha Kaléko's steps from a lost epoch. In many ways, the similarities and differences in the paths of these two women is a document of the critically important last century.
Historical sound recordings from German and American archives will complete the parallel between the historical moment and contemporary life experience.
Professor (Dr.) Marcia Pally teaches at New York University in Multilingual Multicultural Studies and is a permanent Fellow of the New York Institute for the Humanities. She spoke at the World Economic Forum in 2010 and has been awarded the prestigious DFG [German Research Foundation*] gMercatorh Guest Professorship for Humboldt University, Berlin. Additionally, she is the co-recipient of a DFG research grant (2009-2012) and has been a Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin (Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin) in 2007 and 2010. In addition to her academic work, Prof. Pally has been a columnist in the U.S. and Europe for the past 24 years. Among her many books is Liebeserklärungen aus Kreuzberg und Manhattan (Berlin University Press, 2009) - [Loveletters from Kreuzberg and Manhattan: Notes on politics and plumbing in Europe and America since 1989].
*The DFG/German Research Foundation is roughly equivalent of the National Endowment for the Humanities
Harald Brandt (1958) studied philosophy and French literature in Hamburg, and holds a degree in Drama Theory from the University of Provence, Aix- Marseille . After working as an actor and playwright for several years, he became a journalist and radio producer in 1986, working for both French and German public radio. His documentary work investigates various fields, including investigative reporting (on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, for instance), political features and cultural topics.
¹ Horst Krüger, "Meine Tage mit Mascha Kaléko" in "Mascha Kaléko: Der Gott der kleinen Webefehler", dtv 1985
© Harald Brandt / Marcia Pally 2012
The Madagascar Soundscape Project
from Harald Brandt
© auditorium mundi 2012