‘Today, the organ has played beautifully again’ was written for my solo exhibition ‘Heute hat die Orgel wieder schön gespielt’ at the Kunsthalle Osnabrück. The Kunsthalle Osnabrück itself was once a Dominican monastery, which, in 1713, became home to a pipe organ made by the famous Klausing workshop in Herford. In 1819, after the church had been converted to a storage facility for French troops, the organ was moved to the St. Matthäus Church in Melle, where, after numerous restorations, it continues to be played to the present day.
The air supply for this historic instrument can either be pumped by a motor or by sheer force, literally by stepping or pressing on the large bellows. Together with Stephan Lutermann, the church‘s regular organist, I explored and pushed the sonic boundaries and possibilities of the Klausing organ—from the barely audible to the astonishingly raucous. While Stephan played the console, I served as the so-called calcant, or bellows blower, and in this role could decide the length and force of the air supply. Only four of the twelve pieces are played with the help of the motor.
In ‘49 chords fading,’ I fully compress one bellow every 25 seconds to allow the maximum amount of air in and then I let it release on its own. Stephan holds each chord for the same length of time, but how long we actually hear the sound depends on which notes are being played. The more air the chord needs, the faster it will fade away, and the longer the pause before the next chord. In contrast, in ‘the singing of the angels,’ the tones were produced through an improvisation with air pressure. I vary the tempo by pressing the bellow but I don‘t allow it to fully release. Instead, I hinder its natural movement by holding it, slowing it, pumping it, or only letting a tiny bit of air into the pipes, thereby all but suffocating the sound.
The piece exists in a number of different versions. On October 14th, 2018, it was performed for an audience in the St. Matthäus Church. For the exhibition in the Kunsthalle Osnabrück, which took place from November 4th, 2018 to January 20th, 2019, it was presented as a sound installation played over eight speakers. During our rehearsal on October 10th and the concert on the 14th, we made video recordings that were later compiled into a two-channel work. The fourth iteration is this album, the recording for which was completed in the night of October 18th to the 19th, 2018.