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A symphony of smashing windscreens
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The Independent Culture

Most people see a car as a means of getting from one place to another, but not the German performer and music teacher Christian von Richthofen. For the past eight years, he has been transforming cars into veritable symphony orchestras, and now has a repertoire that includes the music of Bach, Tchaikovsky... and Motörhead.

"I can play the rear window like a flute with my wet finger, and use nearly every part of the car in a drum solo," he boasts. "In my opinion, the car is one of the most underestimated instruments in the world."

The car-smashing symphony involves much battering of the car with baseball bats by Von Richthofen, aided and abetted by Rolf Clausen and Kristian Bader. The body of the car provides the sound box, the grille is the rattle, and the windscreen wipers squeak and sing. Von Richthofen explains: "We cover the inside of the car with microphones to create different zones of sound. Then we hit the car with implements such as wooden sticks, axes, two big sledgehammers, and metal sticks. At the end of the show, the car is totally destroyed."

Highlights include the "car doors ballet", in which car doors are opened and smashed shut rhythmically. A piece of metal coming from the car's roof serves as a "violin", played with a special ribbon. For Von Richthofen, the sound of glass broken with his fist is "crisp" and "beautiful like the sound of ice melting". Even rattling tool boxes sound, to him, like a "marching band". However: "We tried to play Amy Winehouse's song 'Rehab' on the car, but it was too difficult," he admits.

As well as the car-smashing symphony, the show involves plenty of car-related comedy sketches.

The whole strange idea came to Von Richthofen as he was trying to lure troubled pupils away from vandalising cars. He offered them an alternative to behaving destructively that involved creating music with scrap car parts, in return for full attendance at his classes.

9 April to 4 May (020-8237 1111)

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