A Room
Maya Shenfeld

This series manifests the spaces women have created for themselves around the globe to work, create, and develop their ideas. It pays homage to Virginia Woolfs “A Room of Ones Own,” the book that taught us to find a room, enter it, close the door, and become.

Maya Shenfeld, composer and guitarist 

The Macro

Germany, Berlin, Schöneberg. Entering our apartment, my room is the first door in the corridor to the left. It is a small room with a tall window looking out at the backyard, a plane tree that highlights the passing of time as the seasons change, and another residential building with small balconies that have become more lively during the crisis. As we moved into this apartment about a year ago, my partner and I thought it would make sense for me to work in this room, since my work often involves making sounds and noise. A keyboard, random percussion instruments, guitars, speakers, cables, a yoga mat and block, incense, a blue-turquoise shade kilim, as well as composition, meditation, and psychology books, and some novels, make this room unmistakably my own.

The Micro

This porcelain jewelry box was a present from my mother. In it, I keep a silver ring set with turquoise stones and a blue marble. The latter belongs to a glass vessel filled with colourful marbles in my parent’s living room in Jerusalem. My Brazilian cousin forgot the ring in Jerusalem back in the ’90s, and I used to wear it every day as a teenager attributing various notions of fortune or misfortune to the days I remembered to wear the ring vs. the days I forgot. 

I hadn’t consciously noticed the presence of this jewelry box until taking photos for this interview, and in a sense, it always seemed to belong there, despite the fact that it’s not very practical or work related. Its connection to women in my family and its blueness bring about a feeling of warmth. They are bittersweet reminders of me being close––to my mother, sister, and cousins––from a distance. 

The Challenge

At times—with all the various daily responsibilities, practicalities, and academic hierarchies—it’s been somewhat challenging for me to learn to make more space for my thoughts, dreams, projects, and music. This reminds me of Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, which I read during a summer holiday in Andros, right after spending two weeks as a student in the music journalism workshop at the Darmstädter Ferienkurse Für Neue Musik. It was 2016, and gender relations in new music were finally the talk of the town. Despite the fact that the book was published over 80 years ago, and especially after two weeks of heated discussion about gender relations in new music, Woolf’s writing felt as relevant as ever. One of the sentences that struck me in her novel was: “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” Stated as a simple fact or truth, but perhaps meant as a suggestion, this sentence (alongside the discussions at Darmstädter) initiated a process of space making (or room making for our purposes)both physically and mentally.

The Pandemic

I’ve definitely been spending more time than ever before in my room since the quarantine started. Over the course of the day, I move things around in order to accommodate various activities, and so, the room shifts between serving as my music studio, home office, teaching room, a place for meditation, and a yoga studio. I’m grateful for the opportunity to work in a separate space, knowing that I can close the door and acoustic curtain, and hopefully not disturb our neighbours too much. Also, there are some perks of working from home, namely having Alexander the cat around. 

The Acoustics

The rectangular shape of the room and its tall window, make the acoustic environment challenging for precise sound design work; the low-end frequencies in particular (anything below 100 hz) seem to be very resonant here. Additionally, this being a typical Berlin Altbau apartment, I can hear a lot of activity from the apartment above us, and I’m pretty sure that our neighbours below can hear me…That’s why I’ve developed a workflow in which I split my time between composing and practicing in this room, and playing my electric guitar and bass, as well as mixing and recording in a professional acoustically treated studio. Then again, I often just end up using my old school Sony MDR75 headphones.

The View

I’ve placed my desk so that the window is to my right-hand side (and in front of my keyboard) while I work. The window is facing south-west, so the light is soft during the day and if I’m lucky, I might catch some direct sunbeams in the late afternoon. 

Over the past weeks, I’ve become acquainted with the daily routines of my neighbours on the balconies across the courtyard. I’m particularly fond of the deck on the ground floor, the home of a slightly overweight and very sleepy ginger cat, as well as the balcony right across from my window, which cannot be missed with its colourful tipi and two little girls often dressed in costume.

My dedication goes out to any classical performer, “instrumentalist”, who wishes to blur the boundaries and hierarchies between the traditional roles and disciplines within the field  –– composer, conductor, performer –– engaging freely and creatively with music.  

Maya Shenfeld, June 2020

Follow Maya Shenfeld: www.mayashenfeld.com // SoundCloud // Bandcamp