Documenting Early Electronic Music Performance Practice

Sean’s research into electronic music performance practice is focused on the WDR Studio for Electronic Music in Cologne between 1953 and 1970, and on the music of Karlheinz Stockhausen. He has interviewed technicians and engineers from the WDR Studio and has recreated certain historic works, using period and contemporary technologies to gain insights into historic creative working practices. A key interest lies in rediscovering forgotten but valuable techniques and engaging with them in his own musical output.

Instruments such as frequency generators, filters and faders are used to test accounts of historical techniques by reconstructing early electronic music works in the studio. Electronic instruments, such as a quadraphonic panning performance mixer, and various synthesizer modules, are designed and built when needed, and used for sound projection and live electronics performances in various concerts.

Sean’s performance setup from the LLEAPP 2013 workshop
Sean Williams

The above image is a picture of Sean’s performance setup from the LLEAPP 2013 workshop in which you can see a self-built synthesizer to the left, and on the floor, the modular mixer which Sean built to emulate the live performance setup used by Stockhausen in the 1960s and ‘70s.

As sound projectionist he has performed Stockhausen’s Kontakte for piano and percussion with Nicolas Hodges and Colin Currie at Glasgow’s Old Fruitmarket (5 stars – The Scotsman), and Klavierstücke VII and IX with Simon Smith, and Gesang der Jünglinge alongside his new version of Studie II, with pieces by Ligeti in Edinburgh.

Sean’s research into Stockhausen’s Gesang der Jünglinge featured in an interview he gave for BBC Radio 3’s Hear and Now programme in October 2013.