I just got back from a rehearsal of Stockhausen’s Treffpunkt, part of the gigantic Aus den sieben Tagen. The score is as follows:
Everyone plays the same tone
Lead the tone wherever your thoughts
Do not leave it, stay with it
to the same place
Owing to a few absences, we were a trio today: Yours truly on the no- input mixing board (an instrument I’ve never played until today but had always wanted to), fellow composer Schuyler Tsuda on his handmade contraption that fuses a Robert Rutmanian steel cello with a spring reverb, and a classical oboist. It sounds like a long-winded setup for a bad joke, but rather than walk into a bar, we played through Treffpunkt a few times and discussed the possibilities. Next week I think we’ll have some solid strategies to present to the whole group.
As a master’s student—and especially as an undergrad—I spent many hours improvising on a variety of electric and acoustic instruments and using my voice. One of my big regrets about the time I spent in London is that I didn’t seize the opportunity to enjoy and participate in more improvised music. So naturally, sitting in front of a spectacularly rich instrument like a no-input mixer, I was barely able to restrain myself from improvising, especially since Schuyler is a nimble, adroit, and much-practiced improviser. Our oboist friend is new to free improvisation, but she acquitted herself with remarkable celerity. The combination of timbres was actually quite magical.
However, Treffpunkt is not an improvisation: It’s a work, and it has a score that (like any other score) the performer is obliged to interpret with high fidelity. I must admit that it took me a little while to reign in my improvising impulses and settle down into Stockhausen’s instructions; the fact that my command of the no-input mixer is still fledgling didn’t help, because my minimal control of the instrument didn’t allow me to do the things I wanted to in service of the score. I think that facility will come with practice, though. And now that I’m learning a new electronic instrument, my desire to improvise whetted anew, I really want to get back into it. It’s a good feeling.