Reinterpreting Koenig’s Funktion pieces: historic reconstruction and recontextualisation

Williams, Sean (2017). Reinterpreting Koenig’s Funktion pieces: historic reconstruction and recontextualisation. In: Tracking the Creative Process in Music, 14-16 Sep 2017, University of Huddersfield.

Abstract

Gottfried Michael Koenig’s Funktion series of pieces written in the late 1960s used voltage control to realise his ambitions for greater automation of the realisation process of electronic music. His realisation score for this piece allows the possibility for the Funktion pieces to be recreated, but because the score is divided into two main sections – realising the raw materials, and assembling each Funktion version – it is possible to develop one’s own version, based on the same raw materials.

This paper springs from my own realisation of Koenig’s raw materials using a combination of historic and contemporary technologies, combined with interview and archival data to examine the more ambiguous areas in the score and how that relates to the idea of interpretation and performance practice in the studio.

My own version incorporates my own practice in live electronics and improvisation by means of 4 individual performances in London, Edinburgh, Stuttgart and Karlsruhe, followed by a 4 channel fixed media performance made using recordings of each improvised performance occupying an individual track.

Using analogue equipment in live performance similar to that used by Koenig in the studio, coupled with Max-for-Live plugins based on models of some of the analogue equipment enables Koenig’s highly planned and structured compositional ideas to be reinterpreted through improvisation in an unplanned and intuitive manner. This project remains as faithful as possible to the composer’s methods for creating the raw materials, and tries to retain that faithfulness even in the creation of new algorithms for live performance.

The resulting piece Funktion CMYK can then serve as subject matter for all kinds of analysis, with interesting questions about how much of Koenig’s style is evident in the new piece, and how much the different technologies used in the realisation have affected its reception. The paper also provides an insight into different strategies for researching historical practice, as well as situating such practices within a contemporary compositional and performance practice.

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