Everyone Talks about the Weather

sound installation


Everyone Talks about the Weather is a site-specific installation for pipe organ and weather satellite

Klais Organ

Music for robot-controlled pipe organ and weather satellite
The pipe organ recently constructed and installed in the Aarhus Symphony Hall was built by Klais Orgelbau in Bonn and contains over 3,000 pipes. Before its completion, I received a commission to compose a work for the new organ with symphony orchestra. This organ concerto was premiered in 2012 by the Aarhus Symphony with Ulrik Spang-Hanssen as soloist. The Klais organ is somewhat unique in that it has two identical consoles or keyboards: one stationary console above the stage near the pipes and another mobile console that can be moved around on the stage. I discovered that the two consoles are connected via a built-in computer system.

After a successful premiere of my organ concerto I decided to ”hack” the organ’s computer system and connect it to my own computer. With some help from Klais Orgelbau in Bonn, professor Ulrik Spnag-Hanssen and my son, Gabriel (who is a computer scientist), I managed to get my computer to play the huge musical instrument directly… without an organist!
I then developed a composer robot: a computer program that generates organ music according to musical rules, or algorithms, that I have defined in the program. With assistance from the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI), my computer was then linked to Meteosat-10, a stationary weather satellite above Europe. Changes in cloud formations and wind conditions in Northern Europe affect the music while it is being created live when the program is activated. Essentially, the weather is conducting the music while the computer is composing it.
The compositional rules are set by the composer, but the generative algorithms continuously and endlessly generate and transform the work without human intervention. Data from the weather satellite is fed directly into the computer program and used to control the algorithms. “Everyone Talks about the Weather” is a site-specific installation with no beginning or end. The audience is invited to enter and leave the hall at any time.

(listen to a 5-minute excerpt of this 12-hour piece recorded on the Klais organ in Aarhus Symphony Hall)

Everyone Talks about the Weather
The work was premiered at a a site-specific installation with no beginning or end on Sunday, September 8th, 2013 in the Symphony Hall in Aarhus, Denmark. The audience was invited to enter and leave the hall at any time between 11:00 AM and 11:00 PM to experience how the composition (and the weather) developed in the course of 12 hours. At 11:00 PM came by to turn off my computer and the organ, closing the Aarhus Festival in accordance with the festival theme: “Signs of Life – in a New Reality.”

This project resulted in a new commission by the Hallgrimskirkja in Reykjavik Iceland which has an even larger Klais organ. The new work entitled “Celebration” is also controlled by the Meteosat-10 weather satellite.

I would like to thank the Royal Academy of Music, Aarhus, Professor Ulrik Spang-Hanssen, DMI, Jesper Theilgaard, Klais Orgelbau and Gabriel Siegel.