topless 10
hans w. koch / Josef Novotny

loewenhertz 028, 2017

Ascension as Reward for Playful Church Music

The tradition of church organ concerts at the Schrattenberg art symposium and residency began in August 1991, with a concert by Wolfgang Mitterer. I recall his Grand Jeu “comprovisation,” which he performed at the parish church in Murau, and which used extended techniques and additional objects to explore the sound possibilities of the local mechanical organ. The result was jouissance to my ears, though I was unsure whether the other listeners shared in this pleasure. Almost 20 years later, in July 2010, hans w. koch and Josef Novotny performed in the nearby Capuchin church with the purpose of entertaining the other participants of the residency program alongside some curious natives of Murau. Their performance was also playful.
This time, the musicians played two mechanical organs – the one built in the church and a portable one – to which they added some live electronics. It seems that the musicians were not satisfied with the sounds alone as they later decided to incorporate moving images to the work: photo portraits by Rona Yefman, a series of photos from the concert, by Christian Egelhaaf, and video imagery by Andreas Reinhardt and Nana Schulz. As if their music would be representationally and aesthetically insufficient without these images; as if it would necessarily lose its power outside the church walls. (I played the video without image and I can attest that the soundtrack alone is worth listening to.) The music evolves slowly, in logical successions typical of long organ tones and reverberations; it is disturbed occasionally by profane, commonplace sounds generated both musically and non-musically, in both acoustic and electronic ways. Quadrophonic communication between the two keyboards culminates twice in loud harsh harmonies able to swing even the heavenly chandelier. The ethereal organ sound, supported visually by the biblical scenes found on the walls and altar of the church, leads our expectations towards a final conclusion and closed form. The photo and video imagery is full of symbols, sacral and also profane ones. We see, for example, a pair of swimming swans, flowing skies and waters, panels with crucifixion scenes, all distanced through an ephemeral veil, a kind of audiovisual palimpsest, which evokes, questions or mocks the celestial harmonies. In her indeterminate, stylized narratives, Yefman presses both musicians into ambiguous roles with bizarre effects. Stripped down to unfashionable bathing trunks, they repeatedly appear as a Gilbert & George-like twosome, and this delusional two-in-oneness is also projected through music – well, two organs in one church is symbolically and also acoustically quite unusual. All this contributes to the ambiguity and bizarreness of the formerly pure musical piece. Though the graceful, snowy swans become lazy, muddy swine toward the end, and the video concludes with the sci-fi Ascension of both musicians, this transmutation and exaltation has nothing to do with religious dogma. The artists’ Way of the Cross has been softened by wit and redeemed by the ritual will to create without compromising on poetics.

Jozef Cseres

hans w. koch / Josef Novotny
composition, organs, electronics, models, sound editing & mastering

recorded at Kapuzinerkirche Murau / Styria, Austria
by Bettina Wenzel on July 25th 2010, as part of hotel pupik 2010

organs by Walter Vonbank-Orgelbau

video by hans w. koch, Josef Novotny and Andreas Reinhardt

source material
- photos by
Rona Yefman (swimsuits, art project hotel pupik 2006)
Christian Egelhaaf (church, concert documentation 2010)
Y. Beletsky (yb big dog paranal cc)
- footage by
Nana Schulz (pigs)
Andreas Reinhardt (all others)

cover by Heimo Wallner

graphic design by Johannes Novohradsky

Blu-ray Disc with stereo & quadrophonic audio
PCM 2.0 / dts-HD Master Audio 4.0

buying the BD gives you access to additional content
- online video on vimeo
- download of the audio track as CD

label / distribution / order:
loewenhertz 028
c+p 2017
all rights reserved
produced by hans w. koch & Josef Novotny