15.09.2023 | Richard Siedhoff live scores on the Welte-Orgel: BEGOTTEN & SCHENEC-TADY III

Live score | Richard Siedhoff

GRASSI Museum Leipzig is home to the museum of musical instruments of the university. There, behind the screen of the big hall, a rarity of cinema history is towering: a cinema organ made by M. Welte & Söhne in 1929. The so-called Welte-organs were developed as accompanying instruments for silent films. With its multifarious pipe work, a whole orchestra can be imitated. Thus, sounds of oboes, kettledrums, trumpets and castanets can be heard, but also – and this is the actual spectacle: telephones ringing, funfair noises, ship sirens, locomotives and much more. A register of effects enables the musicians to accompany phenomena on screen with sounds that the audience knew from their everyday life that had become modern.

Composed of more than a thousand pieces, the cinema organ of Leipzig was elaborately restored in 2006. Today, only few of the often discarded or war-damaged organs exist – most likely still in film museum contexts, unfortunately only used seldom. In cooperation with GRASSI Museum, GEGENkino wants to revive this venerable as well as impressive cultural technique and at the same time, interlock it with a film culture with which it was originally not connected in any way: the transgressive US underground cinema of the 1980ies.


US 1989, D: E. Elias Merhige, A: Brian Salzberg, Donna Dempsey, Stephen Charles Barry, 72’, without dialog and projected, 16mm

E. Elias Merhige’s (*1959 at New York) low budget film BEGOTTEN is a key work of the post-classic, semi-narrative experimental cinema. In grainy black and white pictures – they seem like they were found on a blurred VHS tape – a fever dream rolls by in front of our eyes. Without verbal intervention, we are catapulted into a shadowy world, in which figures with (depending on interpretation) ancient or otherworldly costumes shuffle through crater landscapes, practice rituals and mutually hurt one another. The sound level of the film is strongly withdrawn compared to the stunning visuality – it consists of a tapestry of drone and other sounds that loosely search for analogies to the things shown. Therefore: obvious to dare a tonal reinterpretation! Doing this with the cinema organ, every button can be pressed: from romantically orchestral support of the pictorial mysticism up to alienating use of the effect registers, everything is possible – and welcome. Director Merhige on our concept: “The combination of the historical cinema organ, a renowned artist like Richard Siedhoff, and my film has the potential to create a unique and profound experience for the audience. (…) It’s truly fascinating and I applaud their innovative spirit.”


DE 1976, D: Heinz Emigholz, 20’, silent, 16mm

Concerning the opening film, we also break new grounds: Heinz Emigholz’s (*1948 at Achim) SCHENEC-TADY III is usually allocated to structuralist films – a conception of film that attends to the cinematic nitty gritty time and space with a mathematical rigour. The way Emigholz’s film arranges silent black and white pictures of a clearing and intervenes in them is not a dry experiment but little short of expressionism on screen.

The pianist and organist Richard Siedhoff accompanies silent films with his own compositions and improvisations in renowned film institutions like International Silent Filmfestival Bonn, Weimar Silentfilm Retrospective and Zeughauskino Berlin. Actually specialised in historical performance practices, he will now divert the cinema organ and push the boundaries of its tonal varieties. Not enough: the analogue-savvy musician will put up his two 16mm-projectors – a pure analogue evening!

Fri 15. SeptGrassi Museum
8 PM€ 12 presale / € 14 box office