Sean Williams Research Blog

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Stockhausen Courses

Thanks to a Gwen Clutterbuck scholarship I was able to attend the Stockhausen Courses in Kürten for 10 days at the beginning of August. This was a wonderful experience - parallel seminar and workshop sessions each day followed by a concert of Stockhausen's music every evening.

Intuitive Music
Run by the Ensemble for Intuitive Music, Weimar, who have been playing Stockhausen's Intuitive Music for 25 years, this was a 3 hour seminar every morning, starting with the ensemble playing a piece from Aus Den Sieben Tagen or Für Kommende Zeiten. We would then discuss the interpretation and performance and start to unpick the details in the score. Discussions were often informed by recollections of Stockhausen's comments during sessions he had conducted with the ensemble in past years, and there was a great deal of detail and guidance springing from that, above and beyond what is written in the scores.
Ensemble For Intuitive Music Weimar with class
There was a lot of participation and it quickly became apparent that only through attempting to perform the pieces could a better appreciation of the details, limitations and scope of interpretation be gained.

Sound Projection
Run by Bryan Wolf, this course dealt with how to set up the sound system, how to mic up various instruments and how to organise and plan a Stockhausen performance from the technical perspective.
Sean and the Midas Heritage 3000
The course covered reasons behind selection of particular equipment as well as the specific aims - the most important being the use and positioning of loudspeakers to enhance the acoustic sound without it obviously sounding like it is coming from a PA. The famous Stockhausen track-ID tape was used to balance the system rather than white noise or impulses etc, and by having hands-on experience in this class, it was surprisingly easy to understand the benefits of this method over any others.

Mikrophonie I
The main reason I wanted to come to Kürten this year was to witness the rehearsals and performance of Mikrophonie I, and there were several opportunities to observe rehearsals, as well as a seminar and a lecture on the piece.
Mikrophonie I rehearsals
The most surprising thing for me was the use of a smooth filter with a fiddly interface, differing significantly from the Maihak W49, and the fact that the ensemble consisted of 6 percussionists with no electronic performance specialists. I will write further on this topic elsewhere, but despite this, it was wonderful to witness the piece being performed.

I can honestly say that I had no idea of the range of Stockhausen's work before these 9 days of consecutive performances spanning his music from the 1950s to the 2000s. Since I became interested in his music through Kontakte and Gesang der Jünglinge, the later work was at first quite challenging to appreciate. 9 days later and patterns emerge and connections with early ideas, incorporation of Intuitive Music elements, and other links throughout the body of works, and the later pieces become so much more accessible.

Many questions have arisen as a result of my attendance at the courses, especially with relation to the question of electronic performance practice, so I hope to attend next year when there is a chance of a course devoted to this question which I hope to be able to contribute to.

Performance Practice
I have taken on the challenge of preparing a performance of either Spiral or Pole and will be aiming to get that to a stage where it can be performed next year in Kürten. Watch this space!

One of the most memorable features of the courses was the friendly family atmosphere. I met so many lovely people, organisers, performers, participants and local folk alike, and this really made for a very special 10 days.

Here I am quoted in the local newspaper!

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