A director in flip-flops!

By Peter Krutsch, Leipziger Volkszeitung ….

A dreamer with realism:
Micky Remann

Micky Remann runs a concert hall under water, is the curator of the world bell concert and builds houses from willow branches. A dreamer? Maybe, but one who makes his dreams come true - and while he's at it strengthens the fortunes of the small Thuringian spa town of Bad Sulza.

If relaxation made a noise, maybe it would be like this: hundreds of people stand in a tunnel and hum. Ommm. IN 1981 in San Francisco it happened. The American Bonnie Barnett organised the first tunnel hum. Masses of people turned up. Sceptical journalists too. A reporter asked her, "What would you say if the people found it all rather silly?" Barnett answered, "I'd say we need more silliness."

This answer is just up Micky Remann's street. When he recounts the happening in his book "Der Globaltrottel" you can feel his devilish grin broadly smiling at her answer. " Yes, it is the dreamers who make the world go round not the bean counters." The artist von Frankfurt am Main and the artist from California are not only sibling spirits. Both have been able to make a success out of their apparently silly ideas. The reaction to the tunnel hum was so great that four years later a world summit hum took place, with 20 satellites, two space shuttles and 2 ½ million radios taking part.

Remann's greatest success is somewhat less ephemeral. It resides on a hilltop in the Thuringian spa town of Baud Sulza. The imposing UFO is a bathing temple called the Toskana Therme.


Bathing complex? Don't we have enough fit-for-fun wellness-aqua-centres already draining away the municipalities aching reserves? We do. But the Toskana Therme is quite different to your everyday fun bath. It attracts up to 1000 guests a day to Bad Sulza, provides 80 jobs and gives the fortunes of the 3500 inhabitant strong Bad Sulza one almighty boost. "The town and surroundings have profited appreciably from it", enthuses mayor Johannes Hertwig.

What makes the Therme so successful is an unusual idea of body-culture: Bathing in music. The "Keep Quiet!" signs are not the brainchild of an aggravated pool attendant but part of a concept. "There is nothing to do except to do nothing…" is what Remann, director of the underwater concert hall, tells his guests before they disappear into the Liquid Sound Temple, a pool covered by an 18m high vaulted mosaic roof.
Supported by the saline water men in bathing shorts and women in bikinis float around with closed eyes as if in the Dead Sea, while the sounds of Bach, Mozart and Händel emanating from underwater speakers conjure a relaxed smile to their lips. Over there two snoozing culture addicts float towards each other, crash into each other, paddle wildly, and apologise. Beginners. And over here two more float towards each other, touch, and float on untroubled. Professionals.
Of course, finding yourself with the help of whale song in body-temperature saline water is for some esoteric claptrap. But you don't have to try, you can simply bathe in the water and enjoy. And before you know it, it works. The water carries you, melodies surround you, and the soul relaxes. Wonderful.
Liquid Sound System is what Remann calls the relaxation interplay of water, sound and light waves. The idea was born more than 20 years ago - in the ocean. After studying German Studies and spending a time as musician with the "Mobilen Einsatzorchester" he became globetrotter and travelled the world between 1980 and 1984. "I heard the most unbelievable stories about whales in New Zealand. I absolutely wanted to know what their whale song sounded like in its original medium."

From this time forth, he could not let go. When he writes for "Geo", "Tempo" and "Kursbuch", publishes prose and fairy tales, he remains true to his vision. He waited 20 days with American musician Jim Nollman on a boat in order to be able to communicate with a whale using a guitar and underwater loudspeaker. Together with Nollman and a theatre organiser he developed the Liquid-Sound technique. He organised underwater concerts, searched for an appropriate room, and for investors. Klaus-Dieter Böhm and Marion Schneider, the owners and operators of the Klinikzentrum in Bad Sulza are enthusiastic. The community of Bad Sulza too.
In 1994, for Remann "the most exciting time", the test pool was built. Visitors come in droves. Eventually with the help of funding from the EU and state the Toskana Therme was built, opening in 1999. Its gracious swooping form fits perfectly in the hilly landscape, as if it could be nowhere else. Remann shakes his head, "had I had a call from Sydney I would have gone there." The now 51 year old Remann lives with his wife in the Thuringian province. Fate.

Psst! Peace and quiet is a must in the Liquid-Sound temple - pure relaxation.


"How was the concert last night?" - "Great. First we got undressed. Then I put my hands over my ears. And in the end I fell asleep." Whenever Micky Remann tells this joke he immediately ensures his guests that this behaviour is not at all embarrassing, it's how it should be. And it's true. Micky Remann's underwater concerts are so relaxing it's hard not to fall asleep in the warm water.
And putting you hands over your ears is something you simply have to try out. "Paradoxically sound transmission in water is less fluid. There's no echo and reverberation. Hearing is whole-body experience, the bones and muscles of the body become a single giant eardrum," says Remann. You can hear just as clearly with your hands over your ears. Sound transmission in water is five times faster and with loudspeakers distributed throughout the pool it is impossible to differentiate between left and right. The body becomes the centre of the concert. It has to be experienced.

The director in flip-flops doesn't just mix classical, jazz or pop together from CD. He arranges events. At weekends or full-moon there are special events such as "Bach under water" or the "Liquid Sound Club". Live events are also a regular occurrence. Over 300 have already taken place. Some of these have been captured on the album "Liquid Sound Volume 1".
Remann wouldn't be Remann if he were to simply rest on his laurels. He has been realising other projects in the region for a long while. One could mention the Auerworld-Palace, a half-way thing between house and garden that was erected in Auerstedt. Up until recently the object, which fascinated the architectural press, was the world's largest natural willow construction. The villagers were initially sceptical, now it is a living part of the village.
The Apolda World Bell Concert is another brainchild of Remann's. Between 1722, when the first bell was cast in Apolda, and 1988, when the last foundry was closed, more than 20000 bells were produced by the town and sent across the world. The largest free-swinging bell in the world, the "dicke Peter" in Cologne Cathedral was made in Apolda. Remann's idea is to bring the bells together for a world bell concert, a worldwide instrument created with the help of modern day telecommunication technology.
It became reality on the 31st July 1999. In Apolda alone 5000 visitors came to hear the concert, 300 gathered in other towns. 30 bells in Buenos Aires town hall played a tango, the south-Australian town of Tanunda sounded a trio and St. Peter boomed out from Cologne whilst a Glockenspiel from an old people's home in Philadelphia played. The premiere was a resounding success. A follow-up concert is promised for the 2nd August 2003 says Remann.


And as if that were not enough, he is now in action in Berlin. In May 2002 the Toskana Therme's little brother opened, the Liquidrom in the Tempodrom Berlin. Is Germany going to be overrun with Liquid-Sound temples following in MacDonald's footsteps? "It's about developing the medium." answers Remann, "Take for example the opera. Each larger city has an opera house. But the Sydney Opera House and the Scala in Milan are two very different things. More places should become aware of the possibilities Liquid-Sound can offer. And of course, the buildings have to be individual. How about an underwater Gewandhaus for Leipzig?"
Blomstedt in a diving suit? Rather improbable. More probable is Remann's plan for the tenth anniversary of Liquid-Sound. "On the 9th November 2003, Liquid-Sound will be ten years old. We have a special treat in mind: Whale-sound live from the oceans and heard in the Toskana Therme." Whale-song live in the hills of Thuringia? Those who have got to know Remann know that he is not joking.


Under the swooping roof of the Toskana Therme - no ordinary fun-bath experience. Bathed in music from underwater loudspeakers the guests float freely carried by the water as if in the Dead Sea.