Today is the beginning of my fourth full day in Switzerland. Last night I played a show at a venue called Chäslager in Stans. It went pretty well, I think - scroll down a bit for some videos. As for the journey itself, and the arrival… to be perfectly honest, it began with some unexpected stress.
After walking through the neighborhood and “appreciating the scenery” (mostly trying to stave off jetlag) I decided to plug in my keyboard and play a little before bed. To my total dismay, it wouldn’t turn on. After a few Google searches about this, I realized that the issue was the voltage difference between US and Europe. While all US electronics are made to run on the standard voltage there – 110V – the voltage in Europe is twice that – 220V! It’s especially confusing to learn that it is not enough to buy the plug adaptor. This allows you to plug into the socket itself, but does nothing in the way of reducing the voltage. I thought back to the last time I was in Europe, with an electronic device other than a flip phone – the answer is NEVER!
After reading that “in the best case, you’ve blown the fuse in your keyboard. In the worst case, you’ve killed it completely,” I began to panic – and to feel pretty bummed at the prospect of being here for a month without my main instrument and composition tool. There is a grand piano in the café of Universe 9, but I wouldn’t really be able to ‘work’ on a composition during the day while there are patrons – nobody wants to hear nearly the same thing fifty times in a row as I work out my idea. The issue was indeed a blown fuse – it was blackened in several places. As an alternative, backup keyboards were sought out. In the meantime, I had the help of fellow musician (and manager of Chäslager, the venue where I played my first show) Rene. Together we went to about five different electronics stores with my blown fuse in hand, seeking a replacement.
After a day and a half of searching, we finally found a store that sold them! And… in what felt like a total miracle, opening up the keyboard (to flip a very hidden switch from 110 – 220V) and inserting the new fuse did the trick – it worked! After that miraculous moment, I spent what little time I had left before the show practicing as much as possible, and before I knew it Wednesday night rolled around. I’ve uploaded some videos of that show, including the introduction by Rene, who explains the trials (tragedy!) of the voltage issue. Anyway. Now that this first performance is done and my equipment is functioning, I’m excited to begin working on new material. Here are some videos from the show; first one’s just for fun, it’s my introduction by Rene, who describes what happened to my keyboard.
Now some information about where I’m living.
I’m staying at Universe 9, an affordable housing and co-working space that is equipped with a movement studio, a music room, and a café--among other things. Located in Hergiswil (about 10 miles from Lucerne), it provides a place for university students to ‘sleep, study, and play’. Formerly a series of offices occupied by a technology startup, the building was bought by Amanda & Cornelius Jaeger-Herzog in February 2018 and has since been transformed into Universe 9.
While it holds 95 residents that are mostly students, it’s not your typical college dormitory, primarily because Universe 9 is not affiliated with any university; think affordable housing with an educational and creative bent. The culture here is one of collaboration, communication, and friendliness; about 75 of the residents are members of a group WhatsApp (app that makes for easy and free international texting) that is in daily communication about all sorts of things (performances, equipment sharing, general questions… you name it). Additionally, residents of Universe 9 are granted access to movement and dance classes.
Other amenities include a multipurpose room for theater performances, small concerts, etc., a dance room with a convertible floor (wood/soft mats), multiple co-working lounges, a bike station and weekly bike repair workshop, dojo for Exercise, Aikido, Qi Gong & Yoga, cafe with a small shop, permaculture raised bed for ornamental and edible plants… and more!
My connection to this space is through Shinichi & Dana Iova-Koga of the Bay-Area-based company inkBoat Physical Theater & Dance. (I met Shinichi in 2013 when I was a student in his dance improvisation class; the following summer, I took his and Dana’s dance workshop, Dance on Land. After I graduated from Mills I began collaborating with inkBoat.) and Shinichi are connected to Cornelius through the dance world, and both of them teach classes here. Dana also works in the U9 café.
Even though I’ve only been here for a few days, I can nevertheless tell you that it’s an incredible place to be. If there were something similar in Oakland or the Bay Area (and I think there should be), I would have been thrilled to be a part of it in my first several years here, while I was at Mills.