Marcus Schmickler
Studio Piethopraxis

Kemp Echoes

Kemp Echoes (2013) was commissioned by AchtBrücken and the Ernst-von-Siemens-Stiftung. The curatorial idea was to commission a piece which was to be performed along with Karlheinz Stockhausen’s compositions `Mixtur,´ `Mikrophonie II´ and `Gesang der Jünglinge´. In `Mixtur´, sounds from the orchestra are ring modulated,  producing transformations of the instrumental timbres, microtonal pitch inflections, and—when the sine tone frequencies fall below about 16 Hz - rhythmic transformations. Furthermore, `Kemp Echoes´ is based on indexing acoustic sounds with a proximity to ring modulation but without the use of electronics: 1) Ring modulations in woodwinds (specific multiphonics) and 2) Frequency modulations in complex spectra (bells, trills, brass, idiophones and radio waves). 

Some of Stockhausen’s electronic music, which in its beginnings around 1950 dealt with the composition of sound spectra, marks the emergence of an epoch in which not only music but also the sounds themselves were composed. Frequently, he relied on the combination of electronic and instrumental or vocal music and transferred their respective characteristics to the other domain. An example of this is `Mixtur´ (1964): the piece is considered one of the first compositions for ensembles with live electronics. Four ring modulators (originally radio devices) are used to create new timbral and pitch relationships. In the text accompanying `Mixtur´ Stockhausen wrote: “My systematic experiments with microphonation, filtering and ring modulation of instrumental sounds first led to the work `Mixtur´ in 1964. This gave a new direction to the artistic orientation of the studio work”. For Stockhausen, there were two essential aspects of `Mixtur´: Firstly, the transformation of the familiar orchestral sound into a “magical world of sound” led the listener to a completely new experience: an illusion between sound and sound by integrating new technologies. Secondly, the sidebands created by ring modulation produce new overtone-series that do not occur in nature.

Schmickler wondered, if and how the technique of ring modulation, so crucial to early electronic music, could be done in the acoustic domain, without electronics. The collaboration with Ensemble Musikfabrik and particularly their oboist Peter Veale enabled him to examine these sounds more closely. He figured out that certain woodwind multiphonics produce these unnatural ring modulating spectra. 

The title `Kemp Echoes´ refers to a psychoacoustic phenomenon discovered by David Kemp in 1977.  We experience important practical applications of the findings of psychoacoustics in every day life. This is another conceptual consideration that is fundamental to `Kemp Echoes´: Discovering music and sound can also include a rediscovery of the hearing. The second approach to researching and composing sounds for `Kemp Echoes´ thus relates to hearing itself.  So-called difference tones, tones that only emerge in the ear as differences between two sounding tones, appear as an artefact just like the sidebands caused by ring modulation in Stockhausen’s `Mixtur´. A higher listening volume helps to perceive the processes of hearing and the difference tones more clearly. By moving the head a few centimetres, listeners hear these differences louder or less loudly. 

Helen Bledsoe (Flute), Peter Veale (Oboe), Carl Rosman (Clarinet), Heidi Mockert (Basoon), Christine Chapman (Horn), Ales Klancar (Trumpet), Bruce Collings (Trombone), Melvyn Poore (Tuba), Ulrich Löffler (Synthesizer), Benjamin Kobler (Piano/Sampler), Dirk Rothbrust (Percussion), Thomas Meixner (Percussion), Juditha Haeberlin (Violin), Hannah Weirich (Violin), Axel Porath (Viola), Dirk Wietheger (Violoncello), Benedict Ziervogel (Bass), Marcus Schmickler (Computer), Paul Jeukendrup (Soundprojection).  

Premiere conducted by Enno Poppe.

For Large Ensemble and Computer 
Duration: ~ 22minutes

Cologne Philharmonic 05.30.2012