Mikrophonie I

       In the early 1960s, Karlheinz Stockhausen began to explore the idea of using the microphone as a musical instrument by altering its position in order to manipulate amplified sounds. This idea, combined with many experiments on the tam-tam hung in the composer’s garden, culminated in the 1964 composition Mikrophonie I for six players, tam-tam and electronics. The work organizes players into two groups of three, wherein each of the three players shares a role in shaping the resulting sounds. Two players produce various sounds on the surface of each side of the tam-tam; two additional players use microphones to pick up sounds while manipulating the microphones; and two players located in the center of the hall control the volume and frequency of the sounds as they are distributed to four loudspeakers. This process was described by Stockhausen as “three mutually dependent, mutually interacting and simultaneously autonomous processes of sound-structuring”.

This extensive work can be difficult for modern performers to approach as the original electronics are rare and difficult to source. As a result, methods have evolved for reconstructing the original electronics using modern technology and software. This research project, initiated and led by Research Assistant Timothy Roth, is an attempt to create an accessible and easily disseminated reconstruction of Mikrophonie I. By creating a software patch in Max/MSP and playing it using 3D-printing custom fader caps, this interpretation remains faithful to the architecture of the original electronics while also allowing for the patch and 3D print plans to be shared to any ensemble hoping to perform this piece in the future.

In 2022, this piece was recorded by TaPIR lab at the University of Toronto and performed at the Transplanted Roots Percussion Research Symposium at the University of California, San Diego. For recordings of these performances, see below. For access to resources made to assist with this piece’s preparation process, please follow this link.

University of Toronto New Music Festival 2022

Transplanted Roots 2022