The Modified Toy Orchestra explore the hidden potential and surplus value latent in redundant technology; a process of creating sophisticated new electronic instruments from abandoned children’s toys. They have been at the forefront of a worldwide underground movement known as circuit-bending.

In this evening’s programe at mac, Birmingham, the MTO create 3 interpretations of Stockhausen’s music, focus on specific areas of  the scores;

The first piece, Spiral, was originally written as a solo piece for short wave radio. Here it is reinterpreted with 3 players imitating and responding to the radio signals.

In composing the second piece, Mikrophonie I, Stockhausen was fascinated with exploring close miking and filtering in order to hear new sounds from the tam-tam. There is a commonality of approach with The Modified Toy Orchestra, who are used to revealing previously hidden worlds of sound from their unorthodox instruments. In Mikrophonie I they take this one-step further by using transducers alongside conventional microphones to expose the microsounds of the tam-tam, like a sonic microscope.

The final piece Cosmic Pulses, was composed with 24 melodic perameters in 8 different tempos and 8 different pitches. Originally called a tape piece, Stockhausen composed this on a computer. The MTO chose to apply the principle of  8 & 8 with 24 arbitrary free-tunings and interprete them back onto tape. Only the opening phrase of the score is used and the remainder are variations composed using a Casio keyboard.

Modified Stockhausen is performed as part of the Festival of Light ( culminating in the world premiere of Mittwoch Aus Licht by Birmingham Opera.


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