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Roland Kayn: “Isotrope,” Part II

From the album Infra (1978-79)

Roland Kayn is surely one of the most fascinating and obscure composers in the history of electronic music.  Kayn was a journeyman in the avant-garde European music scene in the 1950s and 60s: he made appearances at several of the newly-founded electronic music studios, undertook advanced composition studies with Boris Blacher in Berlin, and had works premiered at the famous summer courses in Darmstadt.  

In 1964 Kayn joined the Gruppo d’Improvvisatione Nuova Consonanza, a collective of composer-performers founded by Franco Evangelisti in Rome.  He was a member of the group until 1968, when he left in order to pursue his vision of “cybernetic music,” which had haunted him since his first contact with electronic sound production at the Studio for Electronic Music in Cologne in 1953.  In 1970, Kayn was invited to work at the Instituut voor Sonologie (Institute of Sonology) at Utrecht University in the Netherlands.  The composer Gottfried Michael Koenig, director of the studio since 1964, had recently overseen the installation of a state-of-the-art analogue system of independent modular units, such as oscillators, filters, envelope generators, and logic circuits. At the center of this configuration was a “variable function generator,” essentially a primitive sequencer that could be programmed to store a series of voltages which were then used to control the various components of the studio.  With this system, Kayn was able for the first time to realize his ideas of cybernetic music, which involved elaborate configurations of connections and feedback loops that create complex and unpredictable sonic interactions.  Kayn “composes” the initial setup of the studio components, but once the sound is set in motion, it is allowed to take its own course.  In this way, Kayn believes, “the electronic system develops a sort of capacity to think for itself, a capacity which in a sense can be described as artificial intelligence…. Existential Being, as it were, takes the place of a logically functioning consciousness.”

For more Roland Kayn, check out my earlier post and his official website.  In the meantime, here are some lovely images from the liner notes to Kayn’s albums (with the exception of the picture of Kayn himself, which is from the 1967 documentary film Nuova Consonanza: Komponisten improvisieren im Kollektiv):

Excerpt from the score for Allotropie (1962-64)

Excerpt from the score for Galaxis (1962)

Excerpt from the score for Cybernetics

A glimpse into Kayn’s studio

Roland Kayn in 1967

Played 459 time(s).

July 12, 2010, 4:41pm

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