Pianists Steve Beck and Eric Huebner gave a spectacular performance of Stockhausen’s MANTRA in Lippes Concert Hall, using the electronics solution developed by Ryan from HNH (this time behind the mixing desk instead of Piano 2). This patch, built within the Max/MSP platform, was developed in collaboration with the Stockhausen Foundation in Kürten with advice and input from Benjamin Kobler and Kathinka Pasveer, integrating modifications made by Stockhausen later on in his life, as well as the [totally bonkers] morse code track he recorded for MANTRA.
The brains of this patch is pretty simple––ring modulation is the signal multiplication of a simple waveform (in this case a sine wave) with any other input signal (e.g., a piano), and is perfectly implemented in the digital domain[*]. The tricky part is developing a user interface that is intuitive and easy for the pianists to manipulate while negotiating woodblocks, crotales, and the intricate piano writing of MANTRA. This interface was developed and tweaked during HNH’s rehearsals of MANTRA, with many modifications made after performances, and uses Cycling74’s MIRA iPad platform for seamless wireless interfacing with the Max patch.
[*The sound diffusionist Jan Panis was telling us that Stockhausen himself was evidently skeptical of anything digital, but once before a performance of MANTRA his analog ring modulators died, and Panis proposed using a digital version he had built in an early version of the Max/MSP platform. Stockhausen grumbled, but ultimately consented, and Panis recounted (with some relish) how Stockhausen was delighted at the clarity and cleanliness of the sound, and was henceforth more trusting of digital audio.]