Mark Applebaum
Composer / Performer / Educator

Mouseketier Praxis

Aphasia score sample

Mouseketier Praxis is an improvisation for the Mouseketier, an original instrument built in the summer of 2001. The Mouseketier resides in a lineage of electroacoustic sound-sculptures that begin in 1990 with the Mousetrap, and subsequently includes the Mini-Mouse, the Duplex Mausphon, the MIDI-Mouse, the six Micro Mice (constructed for the Paul Dresher Ensemble), and the Kindermaus.

The Mouseketier consists of three amplified soundboards—pink, blue, and yellow triangles with piezo contact pickups—arranged as tiers. In addition to its three principal pickups are five that work as switches to trigger external processes or computer functions. Mounted on the soundboards (the three tiers) are junk, hardware, and found objects (combs, squeaky wheels, threaded rods, doorstops, nails, springs, Astroturf, ratchets, strings stretched through pulleys, twisted bronze braising rod, and, of course, mousetraps) that are played with chopsticks, plectrums, knitting needles, a violin bow, and wind-up toys. The resulting sounds are modified with a tangle of external digital and analog signal processors. The instrument sounds great, but it is intended equally for its visual allure.

Aphasia score sample

Annoyed by the transportation and set-up challenges associated with the behemoth Mousetrap, I built the Mouseketier as a kind of travel model. Not only does it set up in minutes (instead of hours), its flight case—meeting the airline specifications—was designed first. Thanks go to my wife Joan for contributing the Mouseketier's basic architecture and name.

The video below documents a 2012 improvised performance at CCRMA, Stanford University. A lengthy discussion about my original instruments and reflections on their cultural context was published in New Music and Aesthetics in the 21st Century, volume 4, and also appears at the Canadian Electroacoustic Community’s eContact! 12.3: Progress Report: The State of the Art after Sixteen Years of Designing and Playing Electroacoustic Sound-Sculptures. The new Kindermaus can be seen on the page Sound-Sculpture Project in Other Work.

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