There are these places that you keep coming back to – even though you haven’t visited them for months or years. Places that pop up in your memory, are connected to your own history and never get lost. For me, one of these places is the Makroscope in Mülheim an der Ruhr. Mülheim is a medium-sized city in the Ruhr region, between Essen and Duisburg, characterised by its history as an industrial city. It’s only an hour away from Cologne, but many people from Cologne have never visited it.
Before I moved to Cologne, I lived in Mülheim’s neighbouring city, Essen, for six years. I was seventeen years old when I moved away from my hometown Bonn to study classical music. At that time, I already felt that my place was not in this genre and that I was more interested in improvisation, experimental music and my own compositions, but I needed a few more years to break away from classical music completely. During this time, I feverishly searched for people and places that would show me new music and offer me the freedom to develop my own music.

Pics by Ole-Kristian Heyer

My path to the Makroscope was therefore a necessary, but not a direct one – it took a year before I actually went there. Before that, people kept telling me about this place, but it was hard for me to grasp. Some told me about a label, others about a photocopying museum and left-wing meeting place, others about a venue with a bar where “I believe in you” by Talk talk was played after every concert. The only connection between these pieces of the puzzle was that all the people who told me about this place were interesting artists who made the kind of music I would have liked to play back then. Today, many of them are my friends and good colleagues. When I think back, all these threads come together at Makroscope.
Over time, I realised that the Makroscope as an idea is so diverse and special that it’s impossible to summarise the concept of it in one sentence. And that it is something different for each person, but always held together by the idea of a community, a supportive, non-commercial, political and open place where very different people come and spend time together, with our without an artistic background. This is where the local scene meets with internationally renowned artists and residents of the Ruhr region, where people eat, talk and learn.
2014, a few months after my first visit at Makroscope, I started playing concerts there as well, encouraged by the open and accessible atmosphere. First I played „kottos“ by Iannis Xenakis, a piece for cello solo- back then I was still rooted in written music. Shortly afterwards I became more and more courageous and played with my very first improvising band: „müde“, a drone-band I started with a few friends around that time. And things continued that way- there was always space for me to try out new constellations and by this I became more and more secure with playing my own music. Everytime I had a new project or a new idea for a band I played at Makroscope. There is no other place that has accompanied me so much in my development and it feels very logical that I also released my first album with my own music on Ana Ott.

Pic by Eleni Wittbrodt

Ana Ott, that’s the Makroscope label, on which I have now released three of my own albums, the last one (Ludwig Wittbrodt-Schleifen) only two weeks ago.
There is the photocopying museum with a collection of old photocopiers, with which Felix Möser, together with Dennis Dycks (one of the heads of Ana Ott), creates beautiful posters and album covers that are instantly recognisable as Makroscope designs. There are international residency programmes, exhibitions, a full concert calendar, political and feminist readings and information events, evenings of communal dining and „Abendbrot“ („dinner“) at the bar. For some years now, the Makroscope building has belonged to a group of people who have long been closely associated with the place or even helped to found it and now live there.
For me personally, everyone who has helped shape the Makroscope has created one of the most important and most accessible places in the region, and I’m sure it’s not just my feeling. If you, dear readers, are ever in the neighbourhood – visit the Makroscope. This place has to exist forever! My wish is to still be drinking a beer at the curved bar in thirty years while “I believe in you” ends the evening.

A concert played at Makroscope by Hanna Schörken and Emily Wittbrodt

Pic by Ludwig Kuffer

Emily Wittbrodt, improvising cellist and composer, currently lives in Cologne. The focus of her musical practice lays on experimental music and interdisciplinary collaborations. Emily is a regular guest at international festivals and she has also created music for several dance theater pieces in Germany and abroad. Her numerous releases can be found on Ana Ott, Umland records, boomslang records and Impakt records.