Stefan Prims melds acoustic and electronic sound sources seamlessly. Throughout the course of this piece, the live ensemble tends to function more as timbral augmentation to the very digital electronics part, which is the main focus of the piece.
Mikrophonie I is a piece for electroacoustic tam tam with extremely directional microphones investigating normally inaudible vibrations. It uses six performers: two play the tam-tam with a variety of implements, while two use hand-held microphones to amplify the tam-tam in specific ways. The other two are seated in the audience, filtering the sounds through resonant bandpass filters and dispersing them to quadrophonic speakers. Notable sources of sound are scraping the tam tam, using the tam tam as a resonator for stringed instruments, drumming the tam tam, speaking into the microphones and crunching up plastic.
Stockhausen had his own tam tam, bought for use in Momente, which he had interacted with at home with a microphone and a collaborator interacting with the electronics. His experimentation led to him categorising the sounds into various sound types, with specific actions against the instrument devised to create these sounds. This allowed for a scored-out manipulation of the tam tam.
Mikrophonie I explores a huge variety of textures in its 25-ish minute duration over 33 "moments", a type of structural block Stockhausen described as having its own unique character. The way moments are connected in this piece can vary, with consecutive section not necessarily being dissimilar or in any way related, leading to variations in structural direction; the piece can go to a totally different place at any time, or it can build on what is already occuring, leading to an organically varied structure.
The categorisation of a single instrument in this piece into 36 different types of sounds by Stockhausen, even before any electronic manipulation, demonstrates the massively multitudinous range of sounds possible from electroacoustics beautifully. With so much variation in musical material from a single resonant body, imagine the pot
Scapegoat is a unary electroacoustic ensemble piece where instruments are miced up in unusual ways to create a morphing, static sound mass. Ordinary orchestral timbres - French horn, trombone, double bass, piano - are heard against a greater number of electroacoustic sounds. The resulting texture is a droning mass which sounds like many sections occurring in parallel.
Many sounds are harder to define. The percussive rattlings and wailing high pitches, as well as the various midrange squeaks and "tremolo" rhythms, dominate the sound. Sounds range between sounding very immediate and quite distant, with some seemingly affected by reverb.
Strangely, this piece seems to resemble Riley's In C. Though I feel in terms of timbre this is like comparing apples to oranges, the kind of density and repetition of pitch material (notably the repeating piano note and the wailing horns) resembles the denser, droning sections of In C, taken to a logical conclusion.
Listening to this piece brings up several issues of perception for me. I've heard that humans don't really experience sound as several things happening at once. We tend to perceive things one by one, albeit fast enough that we can experience, for example, a block chord, as more than one pitch occuring simultaneously. This piece defies listening to simultaneous occurences; as soon as you latch onto something hidden within the weave of the overall texture, it drops out and bides its time. Each sound is equally distracting and listening to the piece as a single static texture is like trying to look along a piece of metal with many small holes in it. It defies focusing your senses.
Add to this the fact that each individual sound is timbrally rich and you have a piece with so many ways to listen to it that even in a recording there is a kind of indeterminacy in listening. You may be taken on a different route and find yourself lost each time.