Karlheinz Stockhausen's electronic masterpiece Oktophonie made its New York premier at the end of March at Park Avenue Armory in Manhattan. Stockhausen was a compositional pioneer who grappled with spatial music as he bent the rules and redefined the listening experience. The German composer's magnum opus "Licht" (or "Light") Oktophonie is a trailblazing electronic musical experience where the audience is surrounded by eight groups of loudspeakers, enveloping them in a sonic environment. The piece was performed by Kathinka Pasveer, an early Stockhausen collaborator, and Igor Kavulek who has been Stockhausen's personal sound technician since 1998. A DiGiCo SD8 and Meyer sound system was specified by Kavulek for the show and provided by Production Resources Group.
Staging the work as the composer originally intended—in outer space—artist Rirkrit Tiravanija was commissioned by the Armory to create a ritualized lunar experience, a floating seating installation within the Armory's soaring drill hall that heightens the listeners' octophonic experience and transports them to another realm. The audience donned white cloaks for the journey, carried along by the all-encompassing score, which was broadcast from the SD8 console placed at center stage.
Pasveer has worked with DiGiCo consoles (SD7s, SD8s and D5s) over the last several years on previous performances around the globe and has been impressed with their ease of use, flexibility and reliability.
"Igor always specifies DiGiCo consoles and Meyer loudspeakers on our technical rider because they sound fantastic together and translate the music the way the composer wanted it to be heard," explains Pasveer. "Oktophonie encompasses 64 channels that were mixed down to eight tracks, which were totally spacialized and played back from a laptop into the console. This very simple but sophisticated sound system gave us huge sound but was not too loud. The DiGiCo SD8 being so compact and flexible is very easy to work with and we use it often for our large productions. You can set it up exactly the way you like and individualize all the channels very easily. And the sound was so beautiful in the Armory. I think everyone was impressed by the sound and sound quality."
About Park Avenue Armory
Part palace, part industrial shed, Park Avenue Armory fills a critical void in the cultural ecology of New York by enabling artists to create—and audiences to experience—unconventional work that cannot be mounted in traditional performance halls and museums. With its soaring 55,000-square-foot Wade Thompson Drill Hall—reminiscent of 19th-century European train stations—and array of exuberant period rooms, the Armory offers a new platform for creativity across all art forms. Since September 2007—Aaron Young's Greeting Card, a 9,216-square-foot "action" painting created by the burned-out tire marks of ten choreographed motorcycles—the Armory has organized a series of immersive performances, installations, and works of art that have drawn critical and popular attention. Among the highlights are: Bernd Zimmermann's harrowing Die Soldaten, in which the audience moved "through the music"; the unprecedented six-week residency of the Royal Shakespeare Company, in their own theater rebuilt in the drill hall; a massive digital sound and video environment by Ryoji Ikeda; a sprawling, gauzy, multisensory labyrinth created by Ernesto Neto; the final performances of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company; and the New York Philharmonic performing Stockhausen's Gruppen with three orchestras surrounding the audience. The most recent project was the event of a thread, a site-specific installation by Ann Hamilton. PHOTOS BY STEPHANIE BERGER