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Interview: Dirk Reith on the Kesselhaus Suite


Why do you think a song of the New Music is ideal to music the work of a design museum in the midst of old industrial architecture?
Contemporary music has closeness to modern design, as it develops in our time. It is not the music of previous centuries which is re-interpreted again and again. The Kesselhaus Suite bears a special relation to the place, since I have used materials in this composition which have a direct link to the former energy center of Zollverein: sounds from the working environment; tones which are long gone in the Ruhr region. And I have used natural sounds from the rain forests, which are the reason for having coal in this area. I have combined all these sounds for this room.

The Design Zentrum Nordrhein Westfalen has engaged you to compose the Kesselhaus Suite. What has inspired you?
I was fascinated by this place: the entire Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex as a high-tech facility built in the 1920s to extract and process coal. I’m living in the Ruhr area for more than 40 years now. Thus, I’m interested in the region as well as in the confrontation of the industry respectively living in the industry and the change, which was made in this area, especially during the last 20 years. All this together made the request for writing a composition for this building fascinating.

In your opinion, what makes the Kesselhaus Suite so unique?
There is only this one.

Are there special emotions that you wanted to generate with the Kesselhaus Suite?
It seems that music is the most emotional art form; it thrills people directly. Music is not a language, like many people insist. In some aspects music can be compared to a language, but music is a cross-linguistic way of affecting people. Also people with different cultural backgrounds. You can play Beethoven’s Ninth in Beijing, Moscow or New York – it will always reach the people, although they have different cultures and languages.

How did you experience the opening of the former boiler house, which was rebuilt by Lord Norman Foster, and the premiere of your work?
At that time, I was fascinated by the house which was rebuilt by Lord Norman Foster – the mix of modern design and the old function of the building. The former Minister-President of North-Rhine-Westphalia, Johannes Rau, and many others attended the event. It was a very special act since the Kesselhaus Suite was played with live-flute by Lesley Olson and an annunciator, which I got from colliery Zeche Hugo in Gelsenkirchen before it was closed down. The bell gave a sign for the machinist, who brought the materials to the coal mine. I have used this special bell-code as a material for my composition.

What does the track mean to you?
Much. For me, it is still a very important composition. This can be read off the different versions I have composed. The most imposing one is probably the version for fireworks, but also the ouverture of the Kesselhaus Suite which is played in the Red Dot Design Museum every day.

Photo: Gerno Michalke
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