Marcus Schmickler
Studio Piethopraxis

Sky Dice / Mapping the Studio

ARP 2500 Synthesizer, 
Publison DHM89B, 
Infernal Machine and Computer 

11.2 channel audio. Duration ~17 minutes.

Donaueschinger Musiktage, 2018

comissioned by SWR

For ARP 2500 Synthesizer, Publison DHM89B, Infernal Machine and Computer 
11.2 channel audio. Duration ~17 minutes. 
Premiere Donaueschinger Tage fur Neue Musik 10.20.2018 

In Sky Dice / Mapping the Studio I deal with the history of live electronic musical production using the example of the SWR Experimentalstudio (EXP). The piece develops a fragmented acoustic map of the facility; here the studio serves as a model for the sonic depiction of historical signal paths. 

Mapping the Studio I: A studio is filmed from seven camera perspectives in the summer of 2000, showing the nocturnal activities of cats and mice when no one was there. ‘I thought it might be interesting to let the animals, the cats and mice, make the map of the studio. So I set up the camera at various places in the studio where mice run about, just to see what they would do among the leftovers of the day’s work‘. (In AC: Bruce Nauman, Verlag der Buchhandlung Koenig, 2003) 

Mapping the Studio II: A convolution reverb makes the acoustic properties of the EXP audible. Miked impulse responses from the empty studio rooms, hallways and storerooms are used to simulate a reverberation which turns the studio-architecture into an acoustic fingerprint. 

Mapping the Studio III: Work with no-input feedback, where the inputs of devices are connected to their own outputs: the devices and instruments sound as if from nowhere, without any external signal being fed in or changing the sonic impression. 'Star networks' are analogue circuits consisting of several nodes, each with three or more connections – essentially labyrinths with a number of paths for the current to flow through. When such a circuit is connected to an amplifier in a feedback loop it creates an oscillator, which is unstable by nature. 

Mapping the Studio IV: For my interpretation of the commission, I wanted to create not only a piece with the hardware of the EXP, but also about the hardware and the studio itself. Part of this was curating heteronomous positions on the chronology of the studio. Reflections on the spectacular history of the EXP give me pause, because its funding structures can be viewed critically in terms of gender roles and cultural diversity. The chronology begins with Stockhausen, Halffter, Cage, Boulez and Globokar (1970s), then continues with Nono and Schnebel (1980s) and reaches a total of 315 world premieres by 2018 (with 25 pieces by women in that time). The composer with the most productions (14) was Nono, whose works were also performed the most times (92x Prometeo), followed by Mark Andre (13 productions). Just under half of the works produced there disappeared into the archive once premiered, while the other half were performed more frequently – 55 of them more than twice. But all the ‘hits’ (more than ten performances) are surpassed by concerts with works by Nono (~400 in total). (From Constanze Stratz, Chronologie der Urauffuehrungen der im Experimentalstudio des SWR entstandenen Kompositionen, SWR 2015/18). 

Mapping the Studio V: The chronology of the Experimentalstudio would not be the same if its staff had not advanced the development of sound processing technology from the outset (Mantra Machine, Halaphone, second filter, coupling fields). Many of these devices have meanwhile been replaced by software clones in the form of Max/MSP patches, which is why some of the historical hardware is only partially usable. There are still numerous specimens and variants of the Publison devices frequently used by Nono (the DHM 89 and Infernal Machine), and thanks to their interfaces they are still perfectly usable. 

Mapping the Studio VI: The sonification of visual diagrams and other relevant data served as an approach to the sonic representation of technical ‘couplings’, with the aim of enabling a comparison between the compositions produced in the studio’s history and the technology used for them. 

Mapping the Studio VII: Certain historical algorithmic procedures were employed for the purpose of sonic organization: Flip, Flop and Flip/Flop. 

Key words: Larsen effect, Audio Style Transfer, Topological Sonification. Assistance: Lukas Nowok (EXP). 

Commissioned by SWR, 2018

2019 04.23 Radio Point of View [70]: Marko Ciciliani WDR3 Radio 
2018 10.18  Donaueschingen Erich Kästner Halle  Premiere at Donaueschinger Musiktage
09.23 Print Decomposing the Past Thoughtful article for Norient by Ksenija Stevanovic