Karlheinz Stockhausen

Mikrophonie I and II (Microphony I and Ii)

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Currently out-of-print vinyl. These two compositions from 1964 and 1965 are Stockhausen's initial foray into live electronic music performance. Distinguished from electronic music realized on magnetic tape and played back on loudspeakers with or without live instrumentalists, live electronic music involves manipulation of devices that transform and produce sound without pre-recording. (Remember these were the years in which the first synthesizers (Moog, Buchla, etc.) were still being designed). The first "live" electronic performances were given by John Cage and David Tudor in such works as "Cartridge Music" (1960), and Stockhausen's experiments in using contact microphones to pick up subtle harmonics from a large tam-tam proceed directly from Cage's use of pickup cartridges, etc. "Mikrophonie I" is scored for tam-tam, two microphones, two filters and potentiometers (six players). By using the harmonically-rich acoustic instrument, a large tam-tam played with various metal, wood, rubber etc. implements as the input, mysterious and unique sounds result as the contact microphones pick up sounds not normally accessible to the human ear (unless the hearer is right next up to the instrument). "Mikrophonie II" for chorus, Hammond organ and four ring modulators extends the idea of live signal processing. The chorus sings a text made from Helmut Heisenbüttel's "Simple Grammatical Meditations." This becomes one input to the ring modulator ("program" or "carrier"), and the other input comes from the pure tones of the Hammond organ. Each ring modulator produces additional tones which are the (1) sum and (2) difference of the two input frequencies. Therefore, a vast palette of pitches is engendered, including extreme ones not possible with acoustic instruments. Together with an array of new timbres, these materials make up the mysterious, cosmological aura of this composition.