"Modular Organ System" (Monheim am Rhein)
Installation adapted for The Sound
Concept: Phillip Sollmann and Jörg Hiller
Super Collider Programming: Max Eilbacher
Technical Assistance: Sebastian Wolf
Assistance Production: Valeria Baudo
Parts of the installation were made possible with the help of Singuhr e.v. as part of the "Modular Music" series (2022) with funding from the Bundeskulturstiftung in cooperation with CTM Festival.
Kulturwerke Parkhaus, Rheinparkallee
Every Saturday and Sunday 12am to 7 pm
For The Sound, Berlin-based artists Phillip Sollmann and Konrad Sprenger have spectacularly adapted their joint project “Modular Organ System” for a floor of a parking garage under construction, which was opened to visitors at regular times.
Arnold Dreyblatt describes the “Modular Organ System” as follows:
The hunger for an automated musical instrument for the production of a larger ensemble sound as activated by a single performer seems as old as music itself. As the oldest musical machine, the organ (first as a water or hydraulic instrument) dates to the ancient Greek and Roman periods – after having been reintroduced into Europe in the Middle Ages. The instrument reached its culmination in the enormous theater and symphonic organs of the late 19th and early 20th century resulting in a kind of “proto-synthesizer” which was then supplanted by digital technology. Yet, the tactile and body experience of mechanically produced acoustic sound waves in architectural spaces is not easily replaceable, and the organ has in recent years been increasingly re-examined by contemporary composers and performers.
As a fixed room installation in which the sound producing elements are at great distance from the receiver and mostly out of view, the organ has long seemed desperately in need of re-invention. During the last fifty years as composers and musicians have been increasingly focusing on the acoustic nature of sound production in architectural space, the experience at close range of the sub-vibrations of a long flue pipe or of the high overtone oscillations of organ reeds can be inspirational. It would only be a matter of time before historical organ technology is reimagined as decentralized and spatially re-distributed.
Phillip Sollmann and Konrad Sprenger are both musically at home in cross-genres from experimental composition, non-western traditions to popular and electronic idioms. It is
no accident that they bring a fresh and open approach in conceptually and physically “exploding” the organ as an immersive spatial experience. Just as the body’s discrete organs function within an organic connective network, Sollmann and Sprenger create an integrated modular system of components composed of air pumps, vibrating elements and resonating tubular chambers which functions both sculpturally as well as acoustically. The musical elements are substantially reduced, permitting the variations in dimensions, materials and overtone content to “speak for themselves”. As a visitor, one is invited to navigate a sonic and sculptural landscape in which subtle differences in subjective aural perception enact
an individual performance on the part of the visitor. The technologies of sound production are here made visible, as the curious public actively moves in examining and listening to the humming motors, air tubes, pipes and horns of varying shapes and often unconventional materials. Most importantly, the visitor has the impression of being inside an organ itself, rather than listening to it externally.
Indeed, Sollmann and Sprenger have understood the Modular Organ System as an ongoing research project, in which new technologies, materials and performance techniques are being continually developed, tested and implemented. They have collaborated with musicians, visual artists, traditional organ builders, computer programmers and designers in re-thinking technological and historical boundaries of traditional organ systems: the computer control of parameters such as air flow and non-tempered fine-tuning; the role and visual impact of the pipes and bell-horn; the use of synthetic materials as well as relative size and movement within the space, the modular design for set-up, transport and re-combination of elements.
The Modular Organ System represents a model for music composition as a project which encompasses the totality of music-making: as composition, performance practice and tool development in acoustic space.
Arnold Dreyblatt, 2022
Phillip Sollmann, born 1974 in Kassel, Germany; lives and works in Berlin. Konrad Sprenger, aka Jörg Hiller, born 1977 in Lahr, Germany; lives and works in Berlin, Germany. The “Modular Organ System” was developed by Sollmann and Sprenger in 2017 and has been shown at the following venues: Kestnergesellschaft, Hanover (2017); Galerie Mathew, Berlin (2017); Studio Dirk Bell, Berlin (2018); Stiftung Ludwig, Aachen (2018); Meakusma Festival, Eupen (2018); Auf AEG, Nuremberg (2019); KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, (2020).
Phillip Sollmann works as an artist and composer; under his pseudonym Efdemin he is a resident DJ at Berghain and has released several albums.
Konrad Sprenger is a Berlin-based artist, composer and music producer. Sprenger has worked for years with Arnold Dreyblatt, Ellen Fullman, Oren Ambarchi as well as with renowned bands such as Ethnostress, Rom, Ei and the art group Honey-Suckle Company.
In early summer 2023, the first documentary of the project will be released on the Choose Records label.