Introduction to Karlheinz Stockhausen Studio

 Recording on Studer tape machines. Photo by Paulo Griffin!
Recording on Studer tape machines. Photo by Paulo Griffin!

One of my new classes kicked off with a very fun exploration of the analog equipment dating back to the ’60s here in the Karlheinz Stockhausen Studio (KHSS). Our teacher, who goes by the name of ‘Mouse’, began with an introduction on how copper coils and magnets, when combined with fluctuating electrical current, allow for speakers to sound. Electronic sound is about converting information between sound waves and numbers, and vice versa, for example translating a sound sung or spoken into a microphone into electronic signals that are stored, and then recalled later in a reverse process to be heard through speakers. For the speakers to properly sound, the current has to go from equilibrium to positive, equilibrium to negative, and back, in a complete cycle. A machine that makes this happen is called an oscillator, and the studio has many different kinds. We got to make connections between different electronic equipment (inputs) with other equipment (outputs) on a physical patch bay, where you plug in cords to physically connect them. So many options! Very fun.

We also got a chance to play with the Studer tape machines, and record sounds from the oscillators onto tape. Threading the tape, adding leader tape at the beginning to thread the tape to the other side, cutting and splicing tape, where interesting and easy to learn. I remembered how my sister and I used to make our own tape recordings of sounds, music, or stories back when we were young! By seeing the tape run at different speeds, and how it raised/lowered the pitch made me fully understand this concept that I had previously only done on my laptop with various software. We could also flip the tape (with quite a few steps), and here the recording backwards. Made me appreciate those early tape music compositions much more. Months and months of work, what we now can do so quickly on a laptop.

We also got a quick introduction to the mixing board, and Mouse explained this in a straight-forward and clear way! The inputs are vertical, and outputs horizontal, like a grid. I have had numerous electronic classes, but somehow this class is locking various bits of information in place in my mind.

Here are links to the studio:

“On October 10th 2008, the Studio for Electronic Music of the Royal Conservatory in The Hague in Holland will change its name to Karlheinz Stockhausen Studio.

On this occasion, the Institute for Sonology will present a special concert in the Kees van Baren Hall of the conservatory with Stockhausen’s 8-track work”

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