Festivals: Quick, Karl, the Potentiometer!

The conductor's arm chopped down —not to give the downbeat but to start his stop watch. Twenty-three minutes of tuneless blatting erupted from the trombonist, first of a dozen instrumentalists to play in sequence. Although the instruments were plugged into a bank of ten loudspeakers (with four technicians at the potentiometers, or volume controls), the audience strolled around the stage to pick up sounds from every angle. One player improvised his own percussion by borrowing a woman's slipper and rapping it on the platform. After four hours. Conductor Karlheinz Stockhausen finished...

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