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Internet composition

If one looks at the last 50 million years of our region's geological history and projects this period onto the span of one year, then the last 100 years of lignite mining and the resulting transformation of the landscape have only lasted 63 seconds. In a German-Polish cooperation project, pupils in close collaboration with musicians, composers, and geologists have composed the one-year piece of music geo-sounds in which this process is transformed into sound.
The five principal themes of the composition are

Starting Point
End Point
50 Million years ago
22 May 2013,
19:00 hrs
millions of years
Real Time Present
22 May 2014,
19:00 hrs
Real Time Present
Grafik Komposition

What does coal sound like?

You can find them in the environs of Leipzig, in the Lausitz region as well as in large parts of Silesia: huge pits where man has wrested coal from nature. In the area around Leipzig, it has taken 50 million years, and in the Lausitz region and Silesia, 25 million years, for plant residues to turn into the lignite that we use for heating or electricity generation.

50 young people from Leipzig, Markkleeberg, Görlitz, Dresden, Zgorzelec and Krakow are together composing a piece of music whose main theme is the slow formation of lignite: a journey from primordial times with their deserts of ice and subtropical seas up to today's aquatic landscapes formed by flooded mining pits. Supervised by five composers and three geologists, the German and Polish pupils composed motifs that the Leipzig Mendelssohn Chamber Orchestra recorded together with some of the pupils in the studio and that have been compiled on a website. The internet composition's final three changes of sound

The next two changes of sound will take place on 22 May at 4.00 and 6.57 p.m. Within a very short period of time, they will make audible the beginning of the interglacial warm period and the mining of the coal. The third and last of the altogether 17 changes of sound of the internet composition takes place at 7.00 p.m., when it reaches the present day. At the same time, it not only marks the finale of one of the longest concerts of the world but also announces the future. The first change of sound lasts one hour. Then, the warm period and river motifs can be heard simultaneously. The second change of sound will only last one minute, bringing the motifs of the interglacial warm period to the fore. The third change of sound concludes the internet concert and transitions into the live performance of the world première of geo-sounds future.

15th Change of Sound, 22 May, 4.00 p.m.
The current warm period, the so-called Holocene, began some 10.000 years ago. The forests have returned, landscapes are dominated by slowly meandering rivers as well as numerous lakes, ponds and a wide variety of wildlife. Over the millennia (Paleolithic, Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Age), man gradually evolves into the modern homo sapiens. Flint tools, hunting grounds and worked bones are his first evidence as hunter and collector. When man settled down, he increasingly created rituals and cultures and discovered more and more natural raw materials for use in everyday life.

16th Change of Sound, 22 May, 6.57 p.m.
The age of coal mining begins in the 17th and 18th centuries. Wood is replaced by fossils as the main fuel source. In central Germany, the earliest surface mining of coal can be dated back to 1671. Later, coal is mined deeper into ground. The first small-scale opencast mines are operated at the beginning of the 19th century. The development of the steam engine and the onset of industrialisation around 1830 result in increasing energy consumption and industrial extraction of raw materials. With the advent of large-scale opencast mines in the 20th century, man has irrevocably become a geological factor. Reckless intrusion, exploitation and regulation are until today the consequences for nature and the environment, but also for man and his villages.

17th Change of Sound, 22 May, 7 p.m.
We have reached the present day. In Germany, many large-scale opencast mines have disappeared, and the water level in the huge holes in the earth has risen. Man wants to design new cultural landscapes in harmony with nature. In the former coalfield areas in central Germany, both the lakes and the nature and technology monuments integrated into them testify to the history of landscape and climate. In Poland and other parts of Germany, large-scale lignite mining with all its consequences is still a very topical issue. However, the climate change remains a global message for the future, even though the energy turnaround is well underway: man must change his mind and bethink himself.

We therefore invite you to participate in the German and Polish première of „geo-sounds future“, which takes place on 22 May, at 6.30 p.m., in Dresden and on 24 May, at 7.00 p.m. in Krakow. There, the young composers and artists will present their visions of what life will look like in 25 years. Further information about the concerts is available under „Project“!


Here you can listen to a selection of motifs, i.e. musical components, that have been included in the internet composition. They were composed by five project groups. The long period of 50 million years has been divided into five different sections: the formation of moorlands was taken care of by the Markkleeberg group, that of the seas by Görlitz; Krakow was allotted the period when the rivers carried sediments that formed layers over the coal, the Ice Age was assigned to the Zgorzelan group, and the Leipzig group made a composition focusing on the interglacial period and prehistoric man.

Moorland – Markkleeberg composition group






Sea & Coast – Görlitz/Dresden composition group

Frogfish with violet lantern

Sound of Water_C


Primordial Shark

Sound of the Sea 1

River – Krakow composition group


Large Group of Animals

Cipher 13

Sabre-Tooth Tiger


Inland Ice & Frost – Zgorzelec composition group

Clash of Inland Ice and River





Interglacial Period & Man – Leipzig composition group

Above the Ice

Wind 1

Running water

Waterfall 1


Art and Coal

The pupils involved in the "geo-sounds" project not only learn about geological facts but also deal with the topic of lignite in terms of sonic and visual artistry. They visit open-cast mines to gather impressions and material samples. Under the tutelage of art pedagogues, they create drawings with coal dust, and sculptural works, from sands of the prehistoric North Sea, as well as sound collages and thematic installations. The art works are characterised by individual approaches, by the struggle for colours and shapes and by contemporary art designs to do with young people's roaming thoughts.

Cartography - M. Frey, Bürgerwiese Gymnasium

"Vanished villages" - L. Fink, J. Anbessie, J. Lohse, Bürgerwiese Gymnasium

"Vanished villages" - L. Fink, J. Anbessie, J. Lohse, Bürgerwiese Gymnasium

Lena doing sewing work for the installation, Bürgerwiese Gymnasium

Studies for mixed media "machines" - M. Illhardt, Bürgerwiese Gymnasium

"Stratifications" - C. Szierka, Bürgerwiese Gymnasium

Accumulation "Open-cast mining in the box" - L. Koß, Bürgerwiese Gymnasium

Assemblage "Open-cast mining in the box" - F. Weinhold, Bürgerwiese Gymnasium

The pupils in the workshops

The pupils have weekly meetings in the individual project groups of their respective towns in which they work on the compositions or on the visual works of art. In addition, seven in-depth workshops are held between November 2012 and May 2014, where all pupils meet at one place to learn, compose, make music and to exchange on their art.

Drummer Peter Gotterbarm demonstrates sound effects

Visit to the open-cast mining at Nochten in Nov 2012

Rehearsal of the prologue concert in Leipzig in Feb 2013

Workshop in Görlitz Language lesson in May 2013

Sensitisation exercises at Berzdorfer See in May 2013

Preparing hearing protocols at Berzdorfer See

Making music on natural instruments

Rehearsing with the Leipzig Mendelssohn Chamber Orchestra

How did the project emerge and what is it about?

For many years, geologist Frank W. Junge has been concerned with the question of how to the dimensions of the formation of lignite could be creatively conveyed to other people. Can 50 million years be made a tangible experience? The crucial idea came to him during a classical concert: the change of landscapes can be represented musically! He asked composer Steffen Reinhold and stage director? Anja-Christin Winkler for help, who enthusiastically developed the geo-sounds project idea: pupils from various lignite mining areas would jointly develop a composition on the topic. Since gigantic lignite pits also exist on the other side of the border, in Poland, the idea was born to involve Polish pupils in the project. Steffen Reinhold had already carried out several international pupils' composition projects in collaboration with the Leipzig Mendelssohn Chamber Orchestra, whose musicians realised the pupils' compositions for geo-sounds. But the pupils also have the opportunity to play in this professional orchestra themselves.

Thinking about the future of their regions.

The internet performance of geo-sounds extends over one year. It is ceremonially inaugurated by a public concert in which the pupils are going to present a condensed version of the composition, together with the musicians of the orchestra. During the performance of geo-sounds, the pupils deal with the present and the future of open-cast mining landscapes. The last 63 seconds of the one-year composition represent the era of coal mining. This is the beginning of the future concert, the point at which the historical retrospective reaches the present day and also looks into the future. We are eager to hear what this music will sound like, how these young people see the future, and which direction the discussions between young people from Germany and Poland on dealings with nature, energy and resources will take. On 22 May 2014, the music of the future can be heard in a live concert performed by the pupils in yet another cooperation with the musicians of the Leipzig Mendelssohn Chamber Orchestra.

Skyscrapers, Electric Forest and Fresh Air in the Glass?

Together with the Mendelssohn Chamber Orchestra Leipzig, the young composers present their expedition into the future and the premières of their visions in an extraordinary and variegated SOUND LABORATORY PERFORMANCE.

“geo-sounds future” concert performance
On 22 May 2014, at 6.30 p.m., at OSTRALE Zentrum für zeitgenössische Kunst,
Messering 8, 01067 Dresden Admission is free!
on 24 May 2014, 7 p.m. , at Teatr Łaźnia Nowa, os. Szkolne 25, Krakow
Bilety 20 PLN | 10 PLN (ulgowe)
Mon-Tue 8.30-16.00, Wed-Fri 8.30-19.00, Tel. +48 12 680 23 41,

Visitors are asked to wear white or bright clothes.

The concert tour is realised with the support of the Cultural Foundation of the Free State of Saxony, the Cultural Department of the City of Leipzig, the Commerzbank Foundation, energy2market GmbH, the Foundation for German-Polish Cooperation and the Polish Institute in Leipzig.

Want to learn more?

Here you can read about our concept.
Here you can watch a short video about our project and the prologue concert in February 2013.
Here you can watch a short video about our project and the première in May 2013.
Here you can download the project flyer.

How do plants turn into coal?

The geological process is called coalification: initially, fungi and bacteria degrade carbohydrates and other substances and convert the remains into peat. With partial to complete exclusion of oxygen, increasing amounts of water and carbon are precipitated a process during which, over the course of millions of years, coal is formed: the loose lignite, the denser hard coal and, ultimately, anthracite, which almost completely consists of carbon.

While all this was taking place under the surface of the earth, the area was alternately traversed by rivers, covered by subtropical shallow seas and by layers of ice several kilometres thick. Animals such as giant snakes, crocodiles, or the large flightless bird Diatryma (measuring up to 6.6 ft), fox-sized primordial horses, tapirs, rhinoceroses, etc. moved across the earth, until eventually, in our days, wolves, bears and elk have almost become extinct. Giant redwoods, ferns, great horsetails and many others plants emerged and disappeared in a continuous process of come and go. Time never stood still.

Here you can find out more about the individual epochs in the process of coal formation.


65 to 35 million years ago

The ascent through the pile of strata takes us from the foot of the open-cast mine to the tropical world of the Eocene, the second of five epochs in the Tertiary Period. Oppressive heat and high humidity paralyse the movements and make sweat pour from every pore. Powerful groves of pines and laurel as well as luscious undergrowth vegetation turn the walk through the evergreen tropical forest into an adventure. The sound of flowing and dripping water is everywhere. Expanses of moor and marshland are traversed by broad, sluggish rivers overgrown with ferns and trees that may at times develop into huge torrential streams. On riverbanks and in lakes, animals appear to be living a paradisiacal life. Crocodiles, snakes, turtles, frogs and countless insects inhabit the wetlands.

During the seasonal droughts when water is scarce, many animals from the neighbouring open plateaus are attracted, on their search for food, by the water points of the valley.

The primordial ancestors of horses, tapirs, prosimians and various predators are roaming the area. Bright colours and diversity are the characteristics of tropical forests in the lowlands. Animal life is dominated by an apparent joyfulness. But also death is part of what nature holds in store, the animals are threatened in a variety of ways: they may fall victim to the food chain, they may drown during food intake at the swampy water points or during flight in the moorland, they may fall down one of the numerous landslides of the karst landscape marked by underground leaching or they may be swept away during the rainy season by a torrential river carrying uprooted trees in its stream. Dangers lurk everywhere and yet it all looks like paradise - a world carefully controlled by nature. The climate changes slowly over thousands and millions of years. Noticeable changes in the landscape associated with this climate change. The sea level is rising and almost imperceptibly, the prehistoric North Sea draws closer to the Middle German mainland. The inland tropical forest with its flora and fauna becomes a coastal landscape. The inland tropical swamps and forest moorlands have changed into coastal moorlands. Storm tides drive the water up into the estuaries of the everglades until far into the hinterland. The prehistoric North Sea slowly begins to dominate what until then was landlocked country. The time of the complete flooding of the mainland by sea is already looming on the horizon.

Sea & Coast

30 to 15 million years ago

The time of coal formation is now over. In the pile of strata, the dark coal layers end abruptly, and marine deposits become visible. The dominion of the prehistoric North Sea over Central Germany and Silesia has begun and, with it, the sedimentation of fine marine mud, silt and sand. Layers of coastal sands and shallow water sediments repeatedly alternate with fine-grained deposits from greater depths. Wave ripples are evidence of strong seabed currents, and numerous traces of soil-dwelling organisms testify to the diversity of life in the ocean mud. The pile of strata thus reflects, next to the gradual encroachment of the prehistoric North Sea in the estuaries, the differentiated coastal flooding and the wide-scale flooding of the hinterland up to the foot of the Central German and Silesian mountains. The territories are now under complete marine coverage. In the marine sediments, there are many remains of fish, sponges, turtles, but also of dugongs and whales. They are an expression of the diversity of aquatic life.

The coast is subject to constant transformation. Lagoon-like bays, tree-studded coastlines, spits of land stretching into the sea as well as the wide flood plains of the tributaries to the North Sea are part of the variegated "warzone" of the sea.

Various land mammals of the subtropics such as giant pigs, anthracotheria ("coal beasts"), rhinoceroses, greater one-horned rhinoceroses, tapirs and chevrotains roam sandy beaches surrounded by palm trees and the pine-laurel forests of the hinterland in search for food. Over the course of time, fluctuations of the sea level steadily change both the extension and the form of the coastline as well as the living conditions of its inhabitants. Trees growing on spits of land and coastal dunes are increasingly exposed to stress caused by rising water levels and flooding as well as the associated increased pest infestation. Resin from wounded trees drips onto the sea sand and hardens into amber, the "gold of the coasts". Trapped in sticky resin, the entire diversity and beauty of the small fauna living in the subtropical coastal forests is immortalized here: flies, mosquitoes, bugs, gnats, but also butterflies and spiders and even lizards have lost their struggle for life in the "sticky blood" of the trees. By and by, the sea recedes and slowly uncovers the land. Individual subsurface elevations of solid rock emerge as islands from under sea level. The surf of the waves gnaws at islands and the coast, symbolising of the ongoing struggle for supremacy between mainland and sea. Temporarily, coastal bogs and swamps dominate the scenery, but they are always under the threat of a new attack from the ocean. Due to the cooling of the climate, the ocean eventually loses its might, the mainland returns for good and the sea has returned its power to the rivers again. Central Germany and Silesia are now for a long time part of landlocked country again.


Except for the period of sea floods and inland ice, rivers are the only medium that has left a lasting imprint on landscapes from the beginning of coal formation onwards. Between these two periods, rivers are the major shaping force of the mainland. As the prehistoric North Sea withdrew and the lignite swamps bordering the ocean disappeared, a period of slow and steady decrease of temperature and rainfall began. The scenery changed. The evergreen tropical forests as well as the savannahs with softwood and grass disappeared.

Cold stages with short summers and long frosty winter periods increasingly determine the climate.

But time and again, the long development to the cold climate is interrupted by hopeful periods of warming which result in the spread of deciduous and coniferous forests. The fauna living in river-crossed riparian forests and open country such as sabre-toothed cats, pumas, cheetahs, hippopotamuses, rhinoceroses, cave bears, lynxes and hyenas make their reappearance in the savannah landscapes returning temporarily. However, the steadily yet unremittingly advancing cold eventually prevails. Wind and rivers are the reasons for steady change of the scenery. In the largely treeless steppes and tundras, whose vegetation mainly consists of grasses and shrubs, wide surfaces in the valleys are filled with gravel carried here by the rivers. Huge layers of gravel interspersed with frost structures become visible in the pile of strata. An extensive network of branch streams with highly fluctuating flows and winter floes characterizes the barren landscape.

Inland Ice & Frost

2.5 million to 350,000 years ago

The frost arrives. In long winters it penetrates deep into the ground. The short summers cannot drive it away from there. The gradual cooling that lasts several phases results in progressive ground frost and, eventually, in the final arrival of permanent frost. The subsoil may be frozen several meters deep. Cracks, columns and walls of ice permeate the ground. Banging sounds of frost caused by sudden drops of temperature can be heard in the nights. During the days and the short summer periods, the ground surface thaws.

The permanent frost is then covered in a layer of mud and slush that is dangerous for the survivors of the fauna of the Siberian tundra landscape.

Old mammoths, bisons, reindeers, Saiga antelopes and cave bears roam the barren Siberian tundra that is hit by icy, dusty winds. A shell of inland ice approaches from the north—imperceptibly, unstoppably, stealthily and quietly. Its reign begins with the damming up of rivers that turn into extensive glacial lakes. In winter, the lakes are frozen several meters thick, and in summer, numerous icebergs and floes that have come loose from the ice shield drift on them. Inland ice, mighty and sublime, covers the land. In the midst of the white-grey snowstorm, a bluish-white gleam emanates from the ice shield. Silence has settled in, it is interrupted only by the sounds of streaming meltwater, the whine of the icy winds and thundering ice. The cold has reached its peak. Slowly, it is superseded by continuous warming. Together with the ice-covered landscape, the load of boulders is uncovered that was carried here from Scandinavian countries and frozen in glaciers. Also the diversity of flora and fauna awakens to new life in the scenery from which the ice slowly recedes. And with them, man enters the region for the first time.

Interglacial Period & Man

330,000 to 110,000 million years ago

Warming, ice decay and thawing, flowing and raging rivers of meltwater and waking rivers are immediate signs of the new era after the reign of ice has ended. In the pile of strata that becomes visible in open-cast mines, sediments rich in lime and organic material occur above the alternating layers of ice-age deposits. Forests develop with meandering and gently flowing rivers and numerous lakes, ponds as well as a lush fauna.

Large mammals such as forest elephants, forest rhinoceroses , horses, bisons, aurochs, giant deer, red deer, fallow deer, roe deer and wild boars preside over mixed forests.

Together with them, numerous predators, among them cave lions, leopards, wolves, red foxes, cave bears, brown bears, black bears, spotted hyena, pine martens, badgers and lynxes ramble the land. It is the time when early man makes his appearance as homo erectus; curious and searching, and endowed with a strong will to survive, he encounters initial conditions ideal for his development: a warm and temperate climate, ample food supplies and abundant raw materials of soil and solid rock for his survival. As a part of nature still equal to the animal world, his survival as hunter and gatherer begins with the search for food. Chipping floors located at riverbanks seamed with eroded Nordic flint are used to manufacture flint tools. Numerous skeletal remains preserved in the sediments testify to the habit of hunting game animals. Places where forest elephants and other large mammals were slaughtered are found on the shores of so-called "sky ponds", savannah lakes and ponds that remained during the arid region. With increasing experience and the development of his spirit, man slowly begins to transform from servant into master of nature and life. The use of fire, a sedentary existence, ritual and cultural activities, the development of using raw materials, production of materials and hunting methods are important milestones of man's development from the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods to the modern homo sapiens. In this long period, environment and climate changed about every 100,000 years, from temperate forests to Arctic tundras and back. Man remained, was always present. Adaptation, moderation in keeping with natural conditions is his recipe for success.

Project groups

Johann Baron, Ferdinand Büchner, Friederike Büchner, Benjamin Lechner, Malte Tietz, Leo Zwiebel (until July 2013) Ricarda Kluth, Lena Fink, Paula Preuß, Johanne Petermann, Till Kratzenberg, Josef Villao Crespo (from September 2013) Ion López. Supervision: Carsten Hennig (composer) and Franziska Weise (art pedagogues, set designer).

Pauline Braune, Rosa-Lou Colbow, Annemarie Hoffmann, Ferdinand Krumbügel, Saphire Penquitt, Gregor Reinhold, Ida Siebenhaar, Leandra Neuhoff, Elisa Knaust (from September 2013).
Supervision: Knut Müller (composer)

Tim Frömming, Pia Elisabeth Lorber, Jakob Kellner, Erik-Simon Killenberg, Lina Märtens, Hannah Philipp, Linda Mae Poetsch, Janek Roffler, Ruben Sabel, Johanna Wend.
Supervision: Steffen Reinhold (composer)

Maciej Dereń, Aleksandra Dzioba, Gabriela Fijoł, Wojciech Krupiński, Dominika Murzyn, Bartosz Nieroda, Krzysztof Pala, Alina Prochowska, Wiktoria Śladowska, Rafał Ślusarczyk, Tomasz Wojakowski.
Supervision: Piotr Peszat (composer)

Ada Dworak, Patrycja Jarmuszkiewicz, Juliusz Stępień, Anna Suszek, Aleksandra Wojnarowicz, Adrianna Wołowicz, Kornelia Zienkiewicz.
Supervision:  Dominik Lewicki (composer)


Artistic project management
Anja-Christin Winkler

Musical project management
Steffen Reinhold

Leipzig Mendelssohn Chamber Orchestra
Gregor Nowak (organisational management of the Mendelssohn Chamber Orchestra)
Barbara Rucha (musical director of the Mendelssohn Chamber Orchestra)

Geological supervision
Dr. habil. Frank W. Junge in cooperation with Prof. Dr. Lothar Eissmann and Dr. Martina Dolezych

Sound design internet composition
Johannes Krause, Halle

Art pedagogical supervision of the composition students in Workshops 1 and 2.
Heidi Baudrich, Leipzig

Project coordination | Finance
Yvonne Meyer

Project coordination | PR
Sophie Renz

Artistic consulting
Jörn Peter Hiekel

Project assistant
Carola Dierich
Dorothea Boutin, Görlitz

Verena Mensenkamp (until June 2013)

Jeannine Nowak, Magdalena Anna Sieradz

Sound recordings
Tobias Finke

Socio-educational supervision of the groups
Beate Büchner, Joanna Polewaczyk, Susann Schramm, Magdalena Wiktorczyk-Dzioba



Logo Commerzbank Stiftung

Partner Schools

Kant-Gymnasium Leipzig

84. Mittelschule Leipzig

Rudolf-Hildebrand-Schule Markkleeberg

Joliot-Curie-Gymnasium Görlitz

Bürgerwiese-Gymnasium Dresden

Państwowa Szkoła Muzyczna I i II stopnia Zgorzelec

Zespół Państwowych Szkół Muzycznych im. M. Karłowicza

Project Partners

Leipzig Mendelssohn Chamber Orchestra

Polish Institute Leipzig

Institute for Cultural Infrastructure in Saxony

University of Music and Theatre "Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy" Leipzig

Meetingpoint Music Messian Görlitz

Call for Donations

For the realisation of the project, we must raise 5% of own contributions. And although at first sight this does not seem to be a great deal of money, we're in need of a sum of more than 1.000 EUR for the 20 months of the project period. As a non-commercial association we are highly dependent on donations and would therefore be happy if you were to support geo-sounds. As a non-profit organisation we will be happy to provide a donation receipt upon request.

Bank details: Flügelschlag Werkbühne e.V.
Sparkasse Leipzig
Kto: 1100790647
BLZ: 860 555 92
IBAN: DE 16860555921100790647


Responsibility for these pages in accordance with Section 5 of the German Teleservices Act (TMG)
Flügelschlag Werkbühne e. V.
Office: Kurt Eisner-Str.40, 04275 Leipzig
Phone: +49 / 341 / 46262840
Board: Sophie Renz, Anja-Christin Winkler
Association register number: VR 4742, Leipzig District Court
Tax Nummer: 231/ 140/ 26697, Tax Office II Leipzig

Photos: Flügelschlag Werkbühne e.V.
Geological texts: Dr. Frank W. Junge
Editorial assistance: Pia Elisabeth Lorber, Sophie Renz, Prof. Dr. Matthias Theodor Vogt, Johanna Wend, Anja-Christin Winkler
Polish translation: Kornelia Kurowska
English translation: Christoph Nöthlings

Editing, design, programming: Artkolchose GmbH

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