MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Stockhausen’s Licht

Here’s a chance to get an experience of Karlheinz Stockhausen’s vast cycle of seven operas, LICHT: Die sieben Tage der Woche (“LIGHT: The Seven Days of the Week”). On Sunday, Birmingham Opera is streaming MITTWOCH here, the program book for which is available online.

You can also see a stream of SAMSTAG performed at the Paris Philharmonie.

And in June 2019, Dutch National Opera presented a version of LICHT spread over three days and condensing the original 29 hours into 15. See a 90-minute overview of this epic undertaking.

Certain music awakens that higher being within us who we constantly want to become. We really always want to become a better person than we are at the moment, otherwise our whole life would have no meaning. — Karlheinz Stockhausen, 1975

Filed under: Karlheinz Stockhausen

Stockhausen’s Stimmung

At 17:00 PST on Sunday 17 May, under the direction of Cyril Deaconoff, Voices of Silicon Valley streams its performance of the abridged version of Stimmung for six vocalists, microphones and a tuning tape (Paris version). From Voices of Silicon Valley’s page:

STIMMUNG is in its simplest explanation a sequence of 51 different vowel-based vocal patterns which are interspersed with “Magic Names” and interrupted 3 times by passages of love poetry. Each vocal pattern (“Model”) is started by an indicated vocalist and the other vocalists gradually transform whatever they are doing to match the new Model. Magic Names of gods from various cultures can be introduced as new models. Only singers who have reached “identity” with the lead Model can introduce a Magic Name, but up to six (one for each singer) can be invoked.

There are 6 basic notes (from a Bb Major 9th chord) which the vocalists intone the Models on, and the Models are designed to bring out the overtones of the pitches with the help of the vowel shapes. The score arrangement (form scheme) lets the mixed vocal group create a kaleidoscopic layering of overtone frequencies on a single chord (actually a single note, since the chord is created by the harmonic partials (overtone series) of the Bb note).

Stimmung was commissioned and first performed by Collegium Vocale Köln. Stockhausen had just returned from a few weeks exploring the ruins of the Mayas in Mexico and was inspired by the stark but iconic architecture he found there, as well as the accounts of the ancient (and sometimes bloody) rituals conducted in those places.

A tape of 7 pitches as sine or square waves (the Bb Maj9th chord in just intonation) is quietly played during performance. This helps the tuning of the singers, who sit facing each other in a circle on cushions. Additionally the Magic Names are naturally aleatoric in nature. Periodically, Stockhausen calls on singers to move away from just intonation by singing around the pitch, thus creating pulsation in sound for a while, and then come back to pure intonation.

The official score is for two sopranos, and alto, two tenors and a bass vocalist, but Stockhausen has actually recorded Stimmung with some slight deviations…
For preparation, Stockhausen recommends that singers perfect their ability to emphasize the overtones of each vowel phonetic before attempting the Models themselves.

Filed under: Karlheinz Stockhausen

Lucerne Festival Academy in Berlin

INORI

To the Orchestra of the Lucerne Festival Academy fell the honor of closing out the 2018 Musikfest Berlin — and what could possibly top their rendition of Stockhausen’s INORI as the final act?

Led by Peter Eötvös, the Academy musicians found themselves on the stage of one of the most sacrosanct spaces of Berlin’s music scene, the Philharmonie, playing the Berlin premiere of the full version of Stockhausen’s intensely beautiful “Adorations” for large orchestra and two “dancer-mimes” (hitherto given here only in a reduced version).

They’d spent the summer rehearsing it and presenting it as part of the Stockhausen homage at Lucerne Festival — the two pairs of artists who undertook the unusually demanding dancer-mime roles spent the past year mastering their parts — and everything was in place for Stockhausen’s weirdly gripping, transporting music of the spheres to cast its spell.

Spirituality and ritual comprised a thematic focus for several of the Musikfest programs. Stockhausen’s gathering of ageless gestures of prayer and worship that have been used across global cultures conveyed a contemporary longing to transcend the mania of our fragmented, restless lives and attention spans in this late-capitalist era.

Trained under the supervision of Kathinka Pasveer, Alain Louafi, and Peter Eötvösm Winnie Huang and Diego Vásquez were the dancer-mimes in this performance. At the start, they ascended the steps to the two raised platforms positioned downstage, where over the course of the 70-minute work they performed Stockhausen’s meticulously notated gestures, in sync with changes in the pitch, rhythm, and dynamics of the music. INORI has been described as a sister work to GRUPPEN, but here the focus is on synchrony rather than simultaneously unfolding polychronies.

Mostly performing from a seated position, the dancer-mimes eventually descended again from their perch, slowly retreating to an exit high behind the stage, like Bodhisattvas who have fulfilled their mission.

Filed under: Karlheinz Stockhausen, Lucerne Festival, Lucerne Festival Academy

Kosmos Stockhausen

Getting ready to take in my first experience of Lucerne Festival’s Kosmos Stockhausen series: a seven-concert homage to the powerful postwar avant-garde guru marking what would have been his 90th birthday this year.
My adventure will begin with this afternoon’s program of GESANG DER JÜNGLINGE, REFRAIN, ZYKLUS, and KONTAKTE, featuring Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Helga Karen on keyboards, Dirk Rothbrust on percussion, and sound designer Marco Stroppa.
Then comes a solo recital with Aimard performing KLAVIERSTÜCKE I-XI, GRUPPEN with the London Symphony and Lucerne Festival Orchestra (and, as the three conductors, Simon Rattle, Jaehyuck Choi, and Duncan Ward).
I wasn’t able to make the most-touted of the series, INORI in its Swiss premiere, but I’m planning to catch it during the Academy’s tour in Berlin as part of the Musikfest Berlin.

Katharina Thalmann offers a preview of INORI for the Luzerner Zeitung here. From her interview with the composer and conductor Peter Eötvös, who collaborated closely with Stockhausen, comes this observation about the work’s contemporary resonance:

Trotzdem: «Die Interpreten in diesem Projekt kommen aus der ganzen Welt zusammen, dadurch wird die multikulturelle Haltung von Stockhausen hier in Luzern am besten repräsentiert.» Denn fast scheint es, als hätte Stockhausen mit «Inori» in die Zukunft komponiert. Die mannigfaltigen religiösen und spirituellen Symbole, die in dem Werk aufeinandertreffen, nehmen das Konzept der Globalisierung vorneweg. Diese Weltvorstellung repräsentiert die heterogene, multikulturelle Zusammensetzung des Academy-Orchesters perfekt.

Manuel Brug writes about INORI here.
And in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Jürg Huber offers this commentary.

Filed under: Karlheinz Stockhausen, Lucerne Festival, Lucerne Festival Academy

Stockhausen at 90

Filed under: Karlheinz Stockhausen

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