Random Courtyard, 2010
Aria C. Jalali and his friends, who accompany him on his European tour, are having a late breakfast, when we meet them the morning after the Vienna show. Railcars is the solo work of San Francisco-based Jalali, who tends to involve friends for live performances. With electric guitar and various gadgets as loop pedals, drum boxes, feedback loops, noise pedals, synths, and an old Nintendo console Railcars create an uplifting air in an abrasively rattling and chattering universe. Out of a vociferous setting, Aria gets to tear the subtlest notes. So stepping out in the courtyard of their Vienna accommodation, the young musician performs the atrabilious and inspiring song “There is ice; it is blue” in an environment with rundown charm. The old lady that has been grumbling from her window, the boy with a smile passing over his face when he crosses the scenery, they are finally all absorbed into a haunting and lasting sound impression.
In urban residential buildings courtyards serve as an interspace between public and private. It is a space open (to the sky) and enclosed (by the building walls) at once, where a lodger steps into the semi-public eye of the fellow lodgers. What is nowadays mainly used as a compound site to park bicycles, keep outdoor plants and collect waste, has historically been serving much more and much diversified purposes. Some of the earliest known courtyard houses have been built in China and Iran in 3000BC and people used them for cooking, working, sleeping, gardening or for keeping animals. However, the mix of natural light, intimacy and good acoustics makes the average courtyard a good spot for a semi-outdoor session. Kvetching residents are a possible drawback.