for piano and live electronics
Composer: Paul Schuette
Puzzle Pieces was commissioned by The Stockhausen Response Project for pianist Brianna Matzke
As a composer of electroacoustic music, the figure of Stockhausen – the indelible German (or Sirius-ian?) explorer, technician, and mystic philosopher of 20th century music – looms large. In Mikrophonie I (the specific work that we were asked to respond to), Stockhausen breaks ground that the medium of electroacoustic music has in some ways been responding to ever since. From a technical standpoint, as one might surmise from the title, this work elevated the status of the microphone from a passive piece of hardware to an instrument capable of an extremely subtle range of expressive gestures. In fact to perform the work, one must become something of a virtuoso microphone performer in order to execute Stockhausen’s incredibly detailed notation for the instrument. This perceptive restructuring liberated the status of electronics in music by putting the ‘microphonist’ on the same plane as the violinist. From this perspective, all of my music, which seeks to integrate electronics in nuanced and novel ways in order to enhance the range of expressive possibilities, is made possible by Stockhausen’s contributions.
Mikrophonie I is also a primary example of another of Stockhausen’s influential ideas: moment form. Simply put, Stockhausen’s conception of a moment form is one in which, “no developmental direction can be predicted with certainty from the present one.” Far from a license for piecemeal composition, Stockhausen was searching for a means to restructure the dimensions of music. By calling our attention to the ‘Now’, he seeks to, “make vertical slices, as it were, that cut through a horizontal temporal conception to a timelessness I call eternity: an eternity that does not begin at the end of time but is attainable in every moment. I am speaking of musical forms in which apparently nothing less is being attempted than to explode (even to overthrow) the temporal concept.” By seeking to expand upon the dimensional planes in which the structural logic of the piece is projected, Puzzle Pieces is my humble attempt to expand upon the implications of Stockhausen’s ‘Now’.