If you want to understand the music of the Austrian contemporary-folk duo Ramsch & Rosen, start by contemplating that alliterative moniker. In German, “Ramsch & Rosen” means “junk and roses.”
The phrase, said trumpet and zither player Simon Zöchbauer, conveys “a little bit of the philosophy behind our music. What we are trying to do is take what some people see as junk — old music [that] is useless for some people. But if you have the eyes to see the beauty inside, you can build roses from that. It is an alchemical philosophy.”
That alchemy will be on view when Zöchbauer and his Ramsch & Rosen collaborator, violinist Julia Lacherstorfer, perform at the Austrian Cultural Forum on Monday. Zöchbauer said by Skype from New York, where he recently began studying improvisation, that he expected the concert to include two pieces by Béla Bartók, as well as a rendition of “Little Sunflower” by American jazz trumpeter Freddie Hubbard.
But Ramsch & Rosen also are known for reinventing Austrian folk music — taking traditional tunes and rebuilding them so they don’t sound, Zöchbauer said, “like old music. It sounds like contemporary music of our days.”
Sometimes that process involves nontraditional instrumentation. For instance, the duo has been known to play the shruti box, an Indian drone instrument. The sound, Zöchbauer said, “leads you for one second or 10 seconds into a completely other world.” When he and Lacherstorfer perform traditional tunes from their homeland with the shruti box, he said, “you are back in Austria, but with a completely new sound you would not expect at all.”
At the same time, incorporating the shruti box is not completely incongruous. Two other instruments with drone sounds — the hurdy-gurdy and a version of the bagpipes — are used in traditional Austrian music, Zöchbauer said.
Zöchbauer and Lacherstorfer perform original compositions as well, and their music isn’t just instrumental — they also sing. (Outside of Ramsch & Rosen, both perform with larger ensembles.)
Zöchbauer said he and Lacherstorfer don’t see themselves as musical conservationists. “We make this music because we really love it,” he said. Nor does he view the international-music scene as survival of the fittest, where folk music and other genres duke it out for audiences.
“Every music stands for itself,” he said.
Brush up on your ancient mythology: The Embassy of Chile is hosting the poetically titled “Glimmerings Matter Consistency,” an exhibition of work by Chilean artist María Inés Rivera, who uses techniques like etching, dry point, aquatint and gravure.
The art on view here — mysterious, semi-abstract fields of white and color — bear the names of Greek and Roman mythological gods. In many of the images, the deities seem to be staring out from behind landscapes of streaks, blotches, drips and fine scratched lines.
In the blue “Apollo,” a round moon looms over a trumpet and a hand posed on a lyre. In “Neptune,” lines spider out from a face sunk deep in a pool of blue; the lines evoke ocean currents, or perhaps radiating streams of divine power.
In “Hades,” an enigmatic figure peers out over what might be the reddish-brown hills of the underworld; a hand also is visible, apparently pulling the hills downward, as if he or she were adjusting a curtain. “Demeter” presents not a face, but a body — a female shape, hovering amid rust-colored scratches and mottlings that suggest a plowed field.
In a snippet of video on her Web site, the Santiago-based Rivera observes that her work “is not based on the Greek canon of classical beauty; it is the result of my own psyche alone.” No doubt that many of us could see glimmerings of Hera, Dionysus and other Olympian presences if we really looked within.
Ramsch & Rosen Monday at 7:30 p.m. at the Austrian Cultural Forum, 3524 International Ct. NW. Free; registration required. Visit www.acfdc.org/upcoming-events for more information and to register.
Glimmerings Matter Consistency Through Jan. 30 at the Embassy of Chile, 1732 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Free. Hours: Weekdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Wren is a freelance writer.