Morphine Raum

  • Feature

field notes #32

25 April, 2023 | Lisa Benjes

Rabih Beaini im Morphine Raum
©Tony Elieh

While everything else was moving into the digital realm, and culture was increasingly drifting to the outskirts, Rabih Beaini created a space for encounters, right in the middle of the city. Since the spring of 2020, Morphine Raum (Morphine Room or Space) has become one of the most exciting venues for contemporary music in Berlin. Local artists of Echtzeit and experimental music perform here alongside international musicians, and festivals such as CTM have already long discovered the space for collaborations. 

Morphine Raum, in the backyards of Köpenicker Straße, is simultaneously a studio, stage and sometimes even a workshop for building instruments. Although it has a certain DIY feel, nothing about it seems provisional. The intimate space is lovingly decorated down to the last detail, and reduced to the essentials - the sound. The only striking features are the large sculptural loudspeakers, which are handmade (Farfield coaxial) studio monitors by builder Mo Stern. 

Beaini, who made his living as a producer, DJ and label owner performing all over the world, was already looking for a local structure that would offer him stability for his artistic work before the pandemic. As if on premonition, the founding of Morphine Raum actually coincided with the onset of the pandemic to within two weeks. From that point on, Beaini put a lot of money and definitely all his time and energy into the space, which suddenly became important not only to him, but to an entire community. The place, which was originally only meant to be a production space, offered artists a safe working space that was big enough not to fall under the restrictions. The team started recording and streaming video, and set up a recording studio in the process. Artists can develop their projects from conception to performance under the best sound conditions, and have the opportunity to record live concerts. The recording studio is equipped with high-end analogue equipment, and great importance is placed on quality, from recording to listening. 

Unpretentiously, Morphine describes itself as an »occasional provider of non-restricted creative output from a wide range of artists across the globe«. Beaini is known to deliberately ignore genre boundaries, both in his own work and in the curation of his label Morphine Records, where the Serbian folk-inspired noise-rock of Gordan, the solo trumpet experiments of Mazen Kerbaj, the latest music of gamut inc., as well as advanced music from Indonesia and Lebanon have all found a home. In recent years, the label has brought important (and often overlooked) voices of the electronic avant-garde and international music to the fore. Although the label and the space operate independently, the diversity is also reflected in Mophine Raum's programme. 

For those who want to see for themselves, there is a varied programme this summer: on 4 May Occulto presents the Montreal poetry and electroacoustic duo Cloud Circuit, consisting of Jeremy Young and Deanna Radford, as well as the Berlin-based voice and sound artist Alessandra Eramo. On 24 May, Tigre de Monte - formerly known as Rey Tigre - will be a guest. The artist changed his name after moving to Monteverde, Costa Rica, where he lives in the forest; wild animals like snakes, bats and rats, and life and death exert a direct influence on his music. 

There are also further editions of Beam Splitter's ongoing Dedicated Play concert series, in which the duo of Audrey Chen (voice) and Henrik Munkeby Nørstebø (voice, trombone and electronics) join forces with exceptional guest artists from around the world. In May they invited Blacktop (Pat Thomas) and Orphy Robinson from the UK for two sets. The June edition features Mauricio Takara and Carla Boregas, who have played together so often that the roles between the drummer and the electronic musician are fluid. The two have long been key figures in the experimental music scene in São Paulo, and have recently settled in Berlin.