Reflections

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Dominik Susteck: Reflections (included: Glint, distorted mirrors, echo, retrospective,
kabinet). Dominik Susteck, organ.

St. Peter’s Art Station in Cologne

St. Peter’s Art Station was founded by Friedhelm Mennekes in 1987 as a center for contemporary art and music, and since that time, the church has continued to serve this purpose. The renovated sanctuary with its atmosphere of spare serenity fosters interaction between areas of our culture normally separate and specialized: religion, visual arts, and music. Art and music are not treated as extensions of religion here, but are free and independent. St. Peter’s Art Station encourages, with exemplary openness and at a very high standard, an intercultural dialogue between religion, art, and music.

The Organ

The organ at St. Peter’s is considered a landmark of contemporary organ construction. Peter Bares, with his enthusiasm for new music, was the primary influence behind the expansion of the instrument. It was his inspiration to equip the organ with a multitude of unusual registers that can only be compared to the cinema organs of the silent film era. The core of the instrument, however, consists of 70 conventional registers that follow the Neo-Baroque tradition of a large variety of overtone sounds, but the registers are tuned in a manner that results in a rich palette of sound colors. There are actually two instruments: a mechanical choir organ in the northern side aisle of the church and the main organ in the choir loft; both can be played from a four-manual main console. The instrument currently contains a total of 104 registers and sound effects. From the main console, six ranks are available, including the extensive coupling rank and the trompeteria, both of which can be used independently of each other on every manual and pedal. The percussion includes chimes, xylophone, xylodur (xylophone with hard mallets), cymbals, harp, psalterium and crotales. In addition, there are registers not controlled by the manuals: cymbal star, windspiel, howlers, sirens, and rooster calls. Even the bells in the church tower (including St. Peter’s Bell, made in 1393) can be rung from the main console. In addition, there is a flexible air source which permits graduated changes in dynamics and pitch, an electronic system for pre-programming registration changes, coupling from pedal to manual, as well as possibilities for locking keys, and the parallel coupling of a number of intervals ranging from a single pitch to tone clusters.

Improvisations

Dominik Susteck’s music is free and independent. His improvisations are firmly rooted in the present. His thinking is that of a composer, and as such, he has developed a new and individual sense of sound. His improvisations are the expression of direct physical and sensual energy. In the process of developing these improvisations, Susteck discovers numerous points of reference. With a kind of reproductive energy, these refer to things beyond themselves and attain an authentic strength. Susteck must evolve this energy on every organ he plays. As a composer, he explores each instrument’s possibilities to accommodate different concert situations effectively, allowing his programs to use the instrument at hand in a variety of ways, without reference to historical perspectives. The instrument is understood as organum, a tool. Susteck consciously breaks with tradition in favor of a continuing search for authentic expression. The play with each instrument and its space becomes existential. His musical programs open up worlds previously unknown.

Reflections

The improvised concert, Spiegelungen [Reflections], from St. Peter’s Art Station gives an insight into Susteck’s unique mastery of this art, which he celebrates on the first Sunday of every month at St. Peter’s in Cologne. His improvisations are a stimulating fusion of compositional thinking, technical ability, the capabilities of the unusual instrument at St. Peter’s, and musical ideas arising from the titles of the concerts. Each of these titles exerts an influence on the structure and form of the improvisation, mirroring the metaphysical dimension of Susteck’s music. The use of titles is an attempt to name that which cannot be named. They serve to put into words the esthetic ideas of the music and give a spiritual structure to each concert. Not to be confused with merely programmatic description, the titles open a space for compositional and interpretational expression.