His father killed in combat, his institutionalized mother put to death by the authorities, he was a stretcher-bearer at sixteen treating casualties in a military hospital right behind the front lines. As the war wound down, the huge red cross painted on the roof of the hospital proved too tempting for Allied air raiders to resist. With no time to bury the dead, his job became piling fresh corpses on top of old ones. Some bodies showed signs of life, but there was no time to check them out - they were buried under yet more bodies.
What doesn't kill us might make us stronger if we're strong or smart enough in the first place. Fortunately, KARLHEINZ STOCKHAUSEN, an essential pioneer of Electronic Music, prevailed, although his wartime experiences would have withered a less hardy soul. The composer admits he learned not to fear death as a result of the war.
Though he referred to God in one of his early poems as the "great spirit of torment," Stockhausen has always had a religious fascination with living systems, from atoms and cells to stars and constellations. Using the exhaustive documenting techniques and rigorous methodology of a research scientist, he has worked for years identifying the processes that keep these systems humming and attempting to create their musical equivalents. Profoundly metaphysical and profoundly rational, his mind is generally focused on two things: organic processes and time.
In the 1950s, Stockhausen and other European composers, hoped to portray "in very honest terms what it was like to pick up the pieces of a bombed-out continent" (Steve Reich interview, by Edward Strickland, Minimalism: Origins, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993). They had one abiding imperative: to kill Romanticism and find a replacement. They replaced it with Serialism, a rigorous method for structuring all musical elements in pre-determined sequences. Stockhausen believed Serialism was a principle derived from Nature, allowing the emulation of life processes via incremental mutation. Composing first with singular, isolated notes called "points" in a Messiaen-like style, he later devised laws for the notes to interact in "groups," creating what might be seen as the equivalent of molecules. Kontra-Punkte, a piece Stockhausen wrote in group form, came to the attention of Igor Stravinsky and influenced that composer's writing. Still later, Stockhausen merged masses of these groups into "moment form," paralleling the scenario of cellular life with a higher level of organizational rules. Such a Gestalt concept is central to Stockhausen's musical thought. Complex structures comprise more than the sum of their parts - emergent properties appear.
One of Stockhausen's most important contributions to Twentieth Century musical thought is contained in his influential essay "How Time Passes," detailing his discovery of a "spectrum of time," a result of his working with sound on tape. The spectrum of time encompasses all sound as an aspect of one thing - vibration. If a note is recorded and played back very slowly, we hear a series of rhythmic pulses. If the tape is sped up, the rhythm is perceived as pitch, and if played even faster, the pitch enters the extreme high end of what humans can hear, as higher "partials" which create timbre in conjunction with lower tones. These "ranges of perception are ranges of time, and the time is subdivided by us, by the construction of our bodies and by our organs of perception" (Robin Maconie, Stockhausen On Music, London: Marion Boyars, 1989, p. 95). Critics who doubted the validity of Serialism's attempt to unify all properties of sound were confronted with a "unified field" theory in which duration, pitch and color were aspects of the same thing.
In 1954, aleatory and statistical processes began to appear in Stockhausen's "totally organized" music as a result of studies with physicist Werner Meyer-Eppler, who had applied information theory to acoustics and language. When studying random sonic phenomena using statistical procedures he had been the first to describe them as "aleatory." One result of Stockhausen's studies was Song Of The Youths, probably the best-known piece of Electronic Music during that era. The influence of information theory is apparent in its permutations between comprehensible speech and fragments of incomprehensible speech drawn from the biblical Book Of Daniel. Written for five groups of loudspeakers, Song Of The Youths stands out as the first Electronic Music to incorporate spatial movement as a structural element (a pioneering move - commercial stereo recordings were not to appear until about five years later). Later the same year, Stockhausen met John Cage, whose anarchic experiments with chance operations may have helped confirm for Stockhausen that he had found something important in aleatoric procedures.
Stockhausen continued incorporating chance behavior into his music. Seeing entropy as a necessary ingredient in musical processes that would live and die, he found a way to incorporate it into his music with live improvisation, or "process music." In 1964, he moved Electronic Music from the studio to the concert hall with his newly-founded Stockhausen Group, the members of which performed on volume knobs, ring modulators, shortwave radios, and a few acoustic instruments. Instead of creating traditional scores, Stockhausen drew symbolic charts with descriptions of the processes to be realized. The schematics he created evolved into more prosaic text pieces, more like aphorisms or poems - sets of instructions for the performers - containing no musical notation. These pieces became known as "intuitive music." An interesting precursor of these musical processes can be found in Herman Hesse's 1943 novel The Glass Bead Game, which describes a chess-like game played with symbols and hieroglyphs according to strict rules and intuition. Interestingly, Hesse and Stockhausen had corresponded shortly after the book's publication, and Stockhausen must have been struck by the implications in Hesse's prophecy.
In 1966, Stockhausen visited Japan on a commission from Japanese Radio (NHK). Jet-lag and culture shock cost him over a week's worth of sleep, resulting in recurring visions of sounds, notations, technical processes and concepts. It reminded him of an idea he'd once had - to create compositions made up of various ethnic musics, "a music of the whole world, of all countries and races" (Texte Zur Musik 1963-1970, Vol. iii, Cologne: privately published, 1971, p. 75). Telemusik was the result, an electrifying, heavily-processed mix of Balinese, African, Japanese, Vietnamese and other world musics, separated into thirty-two sections, each precipitated by a percussive noise reminiscent of the temple-block and bell strokes used in Japanese ritual and drama.
Encounters with Japanese culture greatly influenced Stockhausen's music, primarily with respect to how time is used. The sudden transition between extremely slow and extremely fast time in Noh dramas, slow-motion Gagaku ceremonial music, and days-long Buddhist rituals all made a deep impression. The tea ceremony with its lengthy preparations was key - drinking the tea was not really the object of the effort; it was the process of making the tea.
Stockhausen premiered a masterpiece in 1967 - the two-hour epic Hymnen, a tape montage composed mainly of national anthems, a stage set for brilliant hallucination, a collision of the internal world of imagination with the external world of perception. Juxtaposing a range of taped and synthetic material with recordings of Stockhausen speaking with his collaborators in the studio, it creates an interesting contrast between recorded (frozen) time and real (continuous) time. The inclusion of Stockhausen's studio conversations within the piece may have been a deliberate attempt to endow this musical "organism" with a kind of recursive self-awareness, looking at itself in the process of its own creation. As Paul Griffiths says, "It is a meta-world, a window into other worlds. Hymnen is even a world into itself" (Modern Music And After, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995, p. 170). The piece ends with the sounds of Stockhausen breathing, bringing to mind scenes from Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, which was released the next year. Shortly before contacting Stockhausen to request his participation in a Beatles concert, John Lennon appears to have used Hymnen as a model for his infamous "Revolution 9." In retrospect, most Psychedelic Music loses its edge after one experiences Hymnen. It certainly foreshadowed a good deal of Industrial, Ambient and Techno in its use of droning, collage and distortion.
In the late Sixties Miles Davis took an interest in what Stockhausen was doing with improvisation and his unending "moment form." In Davis' autobiography he says, "I had always written in a circular way and through Stockhausen I could see that I didn't want to ever play again from eight bars to eight bars, because I never end songs: they just keep going on. Through Stockhausen I understood music as a process of elimination and addition" (Miles, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1989, p. 329). Cosmological ideas entered into Stockhausen's work increasingly throughout the Sixties and Seventies, his concept of world music, characteristically enough, having jumped to the next-highest paradigm - that of the universe. Working with "Formula," an extension of his earlier Serial methods (later his "Super-Formula" would contain expanded musical features like tempos, modulations and echoes), he completed Sirius, a piece about the star which he considers to be center of our local universe. He believes music is the language spoken on the planets around Sirius and considers himself to be descended >from their inhabitants. He also believes music will be the universal tongue of Earth in the distant future.
Since 1977, Stockhausen has focused on a massive week-long opera cycle called Licht. Based on the days of the week, it is projected for completion around 2006. He's developed many ideas for Licht from a mysterious tome called The Urantia Book, published by The Urantia Foundation, an occult group in Chicago. Parts of Licht sound like Tibetan ritual music, others like Sun Ra meets Olivier Messiaen. Sometimes it's nothing but sheets of synthetic sound (Electronic Music from the opera Freitag [Friday], for instance, consists largely of sustained synthesizer drones), and at other times it's reminiscent of Wagnerian Sprechsingen.
Time occupies a central role in Stockhausen's theory and compositional craft. He has written a great deal of music about different manifestations of time - days, weeks, years, astronomical time - and has explored it acoustically, right down to the microsecond. He also has perceived time in unique and profoundly creative ways as the basic building block of his work. As he puts it, "I know that breaking through the routine of time makes things reveal the mystery" (Breaking Through The Routine Of Time, Krten: Stockhausen Verlag, 1996, p. 13).
Notorious for his non-stop six- and seven-hour lectures (one lasted nine-and-a-half hours), he once surprised his composition students by asking them to attend their 10 A.M. class before dawn for a few days, then late in the afternoon, the idea being to demonstrate different exper-iences of time. "This is something that intrigues me: to get out of normal human cycles, bodily cycles, and discover other cycles" (Breaking Through The Routine Of Time, p. 13). Stockhausen tries to do the same thing with his music by expanding into perceptual regions we are not accustomed to using (microtones, aperiodic rhythms, complex harmony and timbre, etc.) and asking us to concentrate on the music's organization to the greatest possible degree. Having written Telemusik and a collection of intuitive pieces called Aus Den Sieben Tagen after week-long periods without sleep, Stockhausen knows whereof he speaks.
There is something Nietzschean about Stockhausen and his relentless efforts to push beyond the mundane world of being human. As he puts it, " ... this music trains a new kind of human being ... who has never before existed on this planet" (Comes Awakening, Comes Time, Krten: Stockhausen Verlag, 1986, 3). And in his essay "Music And The Centers Of Man," Stockhausen says, "Most music is just physical, and speaks to centers in us that belong more to the animal than to the superhuman" (Music, Mysticism And Magic: A Sourcebook, New York: Arkana/Routledge, 1986). Or as you hear in a studio conversation in Hymnen, "Wir k°nnen noch eine Dimension tiefer gehen ... (We could go yet one dimension deeper )."
SECONDS: You wanted to be a poet when you were young, and you corresponded with Herman Hesse.
STOCKHAUSEN: Yes. I wrote a lot of poems, in-between novels, and shorter stories.
SECONDS: And he urged you to continue writing?
STOCKHAUSEN: Yes. I sent him poems and he answered very kindly, saying that I should continue, and I was sure that it made sense to write poetry.
SECONDS: Do you still write?
STOCKHAUSEN: I have written the texts of all my works, except the "Song Of Songs," which is part of Momente, and the text of Song Of The Youths is from the Book Of David from the Bible. I have also composed Invisible Choirs, based on texts of the Apocalypse. It is partly sung in Hebrew.
SECONDS: But you decided instead to work with music.
STOCKHAUSEN: Yes. The moment I felt that the musical compositions I was writing were more what I wanted, then I gave up writing poetry and I dedicated my whole life to composition.
SECONDS: You wrote your graduate thesis on Bartok's Sonata For Two Pianos And Percussion, and for awhile you seemed to be interested in Bartok.
STOCKHAUSEN: Well, for my state examination as a pianist, I played several works of Bartok. I liked his work very much, and I had heard several performances of the Sonata For Two Pianos And Percussion during the time of my studies, and I devoted an entire year to this work, analyzing every note.
SECONDS: It makes sense that you would be interested in Bartok, if you were focused on piano.
STOCKHAUSEN: Yes. He was obviously an excellent pianist, and performed together with his wife.
SECONDS: You then played piano with a magician, Adrion.
STOCKHAUSEN: Oh, that was a part-time job. From 1947 until 1951 I played almost every night in clubs and bars in the city of Cologne, or sometimes even in the afternoons in cafs to make a living. And towards the end of my studies, in 1950, a magician came to the student's dormitory and he asked me to improvise, because I was rather famous in the city of Cologne amongst the students and younger musicians for improvisation, and I improvised for him and then he accepted my collaboration. We travelled through all of Germany, and he performed his magic and I played the piano, improvising according to his different tricks.
SECONDS: You were following his movements?
STOCKHAUSEN: Oh yes. And very often covering his movements. So people didn't notice what was happening.
SECONDS: So you have a history with popular music, then?
STOCKHAUSEN: Yes, very much so. Even earlier, when I was nine or ten years old, although we were very poor people we had a radio and an old upright piano. I was able to imitate on the piano what I heard on the radio. So I could play what we call Schlagers - very popular tunes. And on Sundays my father would take me into a restaurant in Altenberg and say, "Now, go and play." I was ashamed in the beginning, but later on I had more courage. As a matter of fact, my piano teacher, a Mr. Kloth, a wonderful person, had married the lady who owned this restaurant. And I played there, sometimes for an hour, and then I got some money. And all the people enjoyed singing together with me.
SECONDS: Do you hear your influence in music today?
STOCKHAUSEN: It seems that recently many Pop Musicians admit that they have learned a lot from my work because they are so interested now in Electronic Music and electronic sound synthesis. Most of them sample music, but they transform the samples. As a matter of fact, the most famous ones know my work quite well. Several of them have been my students. Even in America, the musicians of the Grateful Dead or Jefferson Airplane were in my composition classes in Davis, California in 1966-67. Et cetera.
SECONDS: Do you draw a distinction between so-called "serious" and "popular" music?
STOCKHAUSEN: The word "serious" is perhaps no longer clear. I'm deadly serious, I must say, when I try to invent and discover something that I don't know, and this is always the case whenever I start a new work. As a matter of fact, the music that is related to fashion, which means to what is in the air, and to what people buy and to what a lot of producers can sell - this is one type of music, you see; it is adjusting itself to existing demands, taste, advertising, et cetera. Whereas the music that I am aiming at since 1950 does not accept this kind of relationship between me and the people. Because I do what I hear inwardly, and what I find fascinating, and what I very often don't know about myself. So there is an enormous difference between Utility Music or Commercial Music and Art Music. I call it Art Music, not so much "serious." It is very often very humorous music; it's not only serious. Well, both. But I call it Art Music compared to Commercial Music.
SECONDS: Looking back to acknowledged masters, Mozart is the most obvious instance of someone who mastered his art but was aware of commercial restrictions.
STOCKHAUSEN: Well, he was employed! [laughs] As long as he worked only for the Archbishop, he had to follow the style of Church Music. And as soon as he got in touch with the aristocratic societies in different cities, and in particular in Vienna where there was a lot of competition with famous Italians, then he adjusted to the style in vogue. This was the case even for Johann Sebastian Bach, who had to be careful. I mean, Corelli, Vivaldi and Rameau were for him fashionable composers. He studied them and to a great extent he imitated them. But then what made Bach become Bach is what was not like what the others did. And that's what today makes him much more important as a contributor to our spiritual development, and with Mozart it is the case also in a few works. The rest was stylish composition of his time. He adjusted naturally, as an employee, to what the style of the court was.
SECONDS: Right. So, the distinction between Art Music and Popular Music is not really one of style but one of how one applies oneself, or where one gets one's ideas.
STOCKHAUSEN: Well fortunately, I am not an employee, you know, since I started to compose. So I don't need to listen to persons who pay me, what they want or what they do not like. And I have made a living with other work, for example as a conductor. I worked in radio for many, many years as a sound technician, realizing works of other composers in the Studio For Electronic Music, and I wrote a lot of texts for late-night radio programs analyzing works of other composers. In the course of time I learned to conduct, and now I am a sound projectionist, so I can earn enough to live on in a few concerts per year and I don't depend on anyone who criticizes the style of my music - you see what I mean?
SECONDS: You tend to work on a colossal scale. You're an idealist, you have exceptional endurance, and you're metaphysical in the sense that you want to extend yourself beyond the mundane, the limits of being human.
SECONDS: Do you identify with, or were you instilled with the ideas of metaphysicians like Schopenhauer, Beethoven, Bruckner, Goethe?
STOCKHAUSEN: Yes. All the spiritual artists - but also all the great scientists and philosophers who knew that human thinking and human production and human creation is an extraordinarily small mirror of what we can study in nature and in the universe or in the micro-world. I have only modestly tried to translate the greater principles and laws of the world, of what we can discover and study, and in this sense I know that my composition is an extraordinarily small model of what I can see daily in astronomy or genetics or biology, physics and chemistry. The last thirty or forty years are so packed with new discoveries in the micro-world and the macro-world that our artistic production is really very small. One has to be very humble, really.
SECONDS: The macro- and micro-world seem to be the essence of your work, going from the world of micro-sound to stretching that sound out to the macro.
STOCKHAUSEN: That is true. But also, hmm also works like the great isorhythmic motets have been mirroring the relationship between the stars and the atoms - and it was not at all fashionable when Johann Sebastian Bach, towards the end of his life, created these great works which certainly were not practical. I mean, not only The Art Of The Fugue, but also the Goldberg Variations, The Musical Offering.
SECONDS: The Mass In B Minor?
STOCKHAUSEN: Right! That was exceptional, because he was a Protestant - imagine what that meant! Unbelievable! I mean, that was so extraordinary, what he did as a Protestant to compose a big Catholic Mass. And it was certainly not readily accepted in the Protestant Church. These are insights into greater relationships and laws of spiritual creation, and in our time there are so many explosions of consciousness that we cannot even catch up with it because our technical means are so limited.
SECONDS: Do you think we will ever stop developing, because our intellect just can't take in more information?
STOCKHAUSEN: [Laughs] No. I think that mankind is in a school. And it will continue being a school in our local galaxy. But I know that I have learned a lot before this life, and I want to develop much more after this life, because it's so short. I certainly want to continue, and not only on this planet because I think that the planet is extraordinarily simple and limited. And it's limiting itself more and more because of the expansion of physical life. And physical life demands physical satisfactions. As a musician, as a composer, I see that this planet is certainly not inviting me to do my music, you know what I mean? It wants something else as a natural reaction to this explosion of population.
SECONDS: What do you mean it wants something else?
STOCKHAUSEN: Food! Food and shelter and energy, et cetera. I mean, a physical energy for survival. So music is for most of mankind just background entertainment. They don't even think about what music could be like as a spiritual food, because they have so many other problems.
SECONDS: One problem is just the time to listen to it all.
STOCKHAUSEN: True. There was an American visiting me about three weeks ago, Jerome Kohl from Seattle, and he's a professor of music, a very bright person, and he said, "Stockhausen, are you aware that you have now produced over eighty hours of music on CDs? Imagine how long it takes if one wants to listen just once to each of your pieces. Well, then it takes more than ten days in a row, eight hours per day to listen to them only once." And I became aware of this situation: that I have composed a lot, and there are all these CDs, not to speak of live performances, that will never be heard by the majority of mankind. Because they have no access to the concerts, and they don't know where they take place, and they cannot travel to the performances, of which there are very few.
SECONDS: You once said music in the post-war period was not an expression of human feeling, but a re-creation of cosmic order. There was an orientation away from mankind.
STOCKHAUSEN: Well, it is true. When I discover something that is mysterious for me, new for me, and when I very carefully try to formulate it in sound, then it is certainly not the human side of myself which is touched. It is very strange to me. And I feel there is something that I don't know; I don't even know how to formulate it and to translate it into the instrumental world, whether in the electronic studio or with traditional instruments is secondary. The music which is composed by me and rehearsed many times and perfected in a lot of rehearsals very slowly creates feelings that I haven't had before. But it is not the expression of my feelings. So then I have new feelings. New music creates new feelings. It gives us completely different experiences that we haven't had before. That's why it is so important - it expands us.
SECONDS: It expands us?
STOCKHAUSEN: It expands our range of feelings, yes. Thoughts and feelings.
SECONDS: So is music always an expansion -
STOCKHAUSEN: No, no, no [laughs]. Most of the music just touches us, because there exists already a feeling, due to the fact that we have heard it before in a similar way. But only new music which expands our consciousness has that quality that leaves us in a state of surprise, and we are astonished. That is very rarely the case.
SECONDS: In the late Forties and Fifties, did you feel that you were creating music from scratch? That there was really no tradition, and it had to be re-invented?
STOCKHAUSEN: There was a lot of tradition, because I studied traditional music in all styles and as part of my training at the State conservatory I had to write pieces in all styles of the past. It is true that as a student I had heard Stravinsky's work for the first time on the late night radio programs in the student dormitory in Cologne, and also perform-ances of Bartok which I had never heard before. Hindemith I played myself as a student only at the end of my studies in 1950 and '51, the Hindemith sonatas, et cetera. It's true that I had not yet heard this music, and it sounded very different from what I had heard before and what I'd played before as a piano player and what I sang in the conservatory choir. But then at the end of my studies in 1951, I felt that all the music that I had played and sung before belonged to another era. That era was completely finished. After my first work, Kreuzspiel - which sounded very strange to me when I conducted it for the first time - I felt that a new era was beginning, with completely different methods of composition. The music was my state of the soul at the time. I composed it as if I were an astronomer >from the outer world reorganizing planets and sounds and circuits and time proportions. So I was not so much identifying with sounds, but creating new sound worlds. And since then I know that a new music began about 1951.
SECONDS: Are all musical parameters of equal importance?
STOCKHAUSEN: They are certainly not, if you think of our technical means. The oldest ones began in the Ninth and Tenth Centuries when a few monks invented the lines of the staff for pitches, and now within the half-tone we have micro-tones which I have composed with for the last forty-three years. Even for traditional instruments, not to speak of the forty-two different micro-scales which I used in Kontakte - or in Song Of The Youths, I used about thirty different micro-scales which are not chromatic scales. So naturally the parameter of pitch is the most developed technically. It's terribly primitive, what we still notate for traditional instruments in dynamics. So the dynamic is a parameter which was developed rather late. And when I compose in electronic timbres, then I have my own timbre-scales, and actually I have a hundred degrees of dynamics in the studio when I work with ProTools. But people don't know that, and they still haven't learned to differentiate so many degrees of dynamics or the scales of timbres that I use, and the same is true for moving sound in space. I mean, I now use a series of constellations of sounds moving in space or standing in a certain constellation. I work with series of space constellations. But the notation is still relatively poor compared to the pitch notation, though in Electronic Music I do not use the traditional pitch notation because of all these intervals which do not correspond to chromatic scales.
So it is true that historically we have a hierarchy from pitch to space - positions or movement in space. But as for perception - it is different. We can't consciously perceive as many degrees of dynamics as we can perceive degrees of pitch. And the same is true for rhythm, in particular. We can perceive fantastically many different rhythmic values, but we are very limited up to now to rationalize this in notation. With synthesizers it's easier. I have worked the last two years with metronome scales that go down really in micro-intervals of metronomic speeds. And it works. It works very well, if one superimposes different layers of different periodicities so that one can hear the beats between different periodicities of tempi. But nevertheless, the notation is a historical result. And we move rather fast now in developing notation which establishes more and more an equality of rights for the different parameters of perception. Perception depends on what we know, and what we know is only what we can write. But development of all parameters is speeding up now.
SECONDS: Levels of duration are probably the most abstract parameters to differentiate.
STOCKHAUSEN: Maybe. Hmmm ... you think more than pitches? When I listen to the Pop Music now, it goes back to medieval modal music, which is amazing, that it gives up the wonderful possibilities of using a lot of intervals.
With durations it's similar. The fact is that all the music of the past is based on our muscle rhythms. What we can tap on the table, or what we can dance to, what we can do with running, walking, slowly moving the hands, the eyes, et cetera - this is the basis of rhythm in music. Everything is related to a basic periodicity, like the heart, the breathing, the tapping, the dancing. But since 1951 I have slowly but steadily left the body rhythm of my own body. I like dancing - I love it. And I play dance music and there's a lot of electricity in the air. Nevertheless, I purposely leave the rhythms of the body, of my body and the body of others - my body's not so different from other bodies. I allow myself rhythms that are much more complicated and very often cannot be related to periodic rhythms of the body anymore, and that is very interesting. I have written more and more irregular rhythms, like eleven-tuplets, thirteen-tuplets, et cetera. If they're based on basic unities which can be still felt with our bodies but subdivided irregularly in a more complicated way, then we can enormously expand our ability to make distinctions between different durations. This is true for the relatively short rhythmic values. What is a problem and will be true for the relatively short rhythmic values. What is a problem and will be [Image] a problem for a long time from now on are the durations of works. I compose only unified works, not works in movements. I had a lot of discussions with friends at the beginning of the Fifties, saying, "Why do you still write movements? It's ridiculous. You must write like you're building a cathedral, one evolution, one big arch of a piece." Anyway, they said, "Well, I need that," and that is a sort of French-Italian tradition to write a lot of small movements. Ligeti still does it today. I call this "cookie music" - they write small cookies. What is necessary is to build one musical composition which has an ever-expanding arch, because that expands our sense of evolution, of development. And that is very, very important. So my works have grown in length since Gruppen, twenty-five minutes, which was one unified duration. And then Carr was thirty-six minutes, Hymnen was more than two hours, then Stimmung, seventy minutes, Sirius, ninety-six minutes, Fresco, five hours, and now Licht is twenty-seven hours. So one by one, the length of a so-called musical composition has grown in duration. And this goes far beyond what we can remember or what we can identify. It is important not to think that we have a fixed sense of duration, which is around one quarter of an hour, and then we need to pause, need something else - and that a musical work, basically, should not be longer than an hour. The thinking that man needs a certain duration for a musical work is no longer what I am following. It has become completely relative. And it's very good to learn proportions in time which extend our sense of memory, which are much longer than our memory. And not in one generation, but in the long run, in two or three centuries, one will have a completely different perception which will be the result of music which extends the duration more and more. And which also goes ever more into the differentiation of aperiodic rhythms and small proportions. Do you understand that?
SECONDS: Oh, yes. With respect to rhythms of the body and perception, what about mental rhythms - the rhythms of thought?
STOCKHAUSEN: Aha! It is true that certain parts in my own work approach nine, ten, eleven, twelve pulses per second, around the alpha wave region, which is very important for telepathy and telekinesis - a very interesting zone where we lose our ability to make distinctions between rhythm and pitch. It starts already at six or seven per second, and then after sixteen per second we are in a new realm of perception where we talk about pitch, a "low sound." But the zone that I have just mentioned is related to our brain vibrations, and I have composed quite a lot of music where I like to stay in this zone. It's a sort of gray zone between realms of perception, between rhythm and pitch. And the same applies, by the way, to a zone between pitch and timbre. So if it goes beyond about thirty-two hundred per second, then there is a zone where pitch is steadily becoming what we call timbre, the high partials. And the same is true also for eight seconds: when the durations from one-sixteenth of a second become longer and longer, there is that gray zone, and then we come into rhythm. We are dealing with longer and longer durations for slow movements, slow rhythms and metres; and when we go beyond eight seconds, then we lose memory, we cannot remember well enough if it is eleven seconds or twelve seconds. We have no developed sense for that. The memory is then weak. And that's very good, very interesting. Because then we begin to perceive formal subdivisions, longer durations. What's inside we consider as being the texture of a longer formal duration. So we have new music, switching sometimes in transitions from one realm of perception to another one, and that really is something new.
SECONDS: What does it mean: time is in things, and things are not in time?
STOCKHAUSEN: Viktor von Weizscker is a very important biologist who has mentioned that in a book called Gestalt Und Zeit. It means that in modern times we have become aware that on each planet in the universe there is a different time. And that we have a local, universal time, we have a solar time and then - now I generalize - that human beings have their own time compared with bees, or with one-day flies, or with an oak tree. All beings have their own timing and their own time. Therefore, time manifests in beings, in what exists. And in music this has become tremendously important. In traditional music, time is perceived in the music of instruments, of vocal sounds. Their natural limits function as if you have the calendar, days, hours, minutes and seconds. We usually think there is time existing. You look at the clock or at the sun or at the moon, and you see that things move according to cycles that are given by other beings.
Yet since the beginning of Electronic Music I have discovered a lot of sounds for which I made a scheme for rhythms, and then I had to change my schemes and metronomic tempi and my chronometric timing, because the sounds demanded their own time. In particular, when you use sounds which have a certain development, inside a body, as we say, and a head and a tail, you destroy the sound when you cut it too early or if you superimpose another duration - you see what I mean?
SECONDS: I think so. It sounds like you're talking about the envelope.
STOCKHAUSEN: Yes, also. So certain sounds have their own time. One has to listen to them in order to put them in the right place in a composition. And increasingly, in particular with percussion instruments, there are a lot of new sounds which have, as you say, their own envelope, and their own development inside of the note, and then one has to listen more carefully, depending also on the intensity of the attack which you use, to give certain sounds their own time. So to generalize now, uniform time is only an abstract thing that can exist for traffic, for trains and airplanes and God knows what else. But in music it's no longer important. The time has become completely relative depending on the material that you use, and on the overall time concept one uses for a given composition.
SECONDS: When realizing Kontakte in '58, you spliced it all by hand - and you worked on the last section for three months?
STOCKHAUSEN: Oh yes, at least. Because I had to do it twice.
SECONDS: You played it back and realized it was too fast.
STOCKHAUSEN: Yes. Terrible. I remember. It's rather complicated. There are hundreds of splices.
SECONDS: Again we're talking about time, the tempo. I guess you cut the pieces too short?
STOCKHAUSEN: Right. In the studio at that time - but it's still the case now - one cannot do more than a certain number of splices during a week or so, and if one has a construction planned, and if it is based on relationships between the individual durations - and in my music that has always been the case - then you go on and trust that it will sound organic. But then when you splice all the parts together in the end, all the different sections, then you hear for the first time how it sounds in a run, in continuity. And every now and then you have a terrible shock. You see, every time I rehearse, after all these years, with an ensemble or with certain instruments, I have to change the timing considerably in certain places. Often I'm too fast.
SECONDS: If you had had digital technology in the case of Kontakte, would that have solved the problem?
STOCKHAUSEN: No. I would never have composed Kontakte, I would have composed what I compose now. Kontakte would never exist. Kontakte can only be what it is, depending on the tools which I have had forty years ago. I mean, all the musicians whom I meet who are now working on Electronic Music, they envy me because Kontakte sounds so fresh and original. And they say, "My God, we cannot make these sounds any more." I said, "I can very well understand that, because it depends on the tools."
SECONDS: Did you revise your thinking of musical time while flying over the U.S. in 1967?
STOCKHAUSEN: Yes, I did. I know what you are referring to. It's Carr. Naturally. Because I made my first visit to the United States in 1958, and I lectured for six weeks. I was invited to thirty-two universities to give lectures on Electronic Music. And I did, with my tapes and drawings. And I had to fly almost every day from one city to another city. So as a matter of fact, on certain days I spent more hours on the plane than meeting people, when you exclude the time of sleeping. For the first time in my life I experienced time in a totally new way. It was different from my dreams; it was different from everything I had experienced in slow motion. It was much slower than any slow motion I had experienced before. Sometimes only for two or three hours - a white bed and a blue sky, and nothing else. And then this motor. There were still propeller-driven planes. And I put my left ear - I like to have seats at the left, because my left ear is better than my right ear - I put my left ear against the wall of the airplane. And then I could hear all the overtone spectrums, just humming up and down the spectrum. Fantastically interesting. I mean, I had never heard that before. So I made sketches during all these flights, during six weeks, for the next work I was commissioned to write - Carr, for four orchestras and four choirs. And when you hear this music nowadays, you become aware that there is a timing from beginning to end which no longer has anything to do with what I wrote before, or what anybody else wrote before, because it is the result of this slow-motion experience.
SECONDS: When you switched from point form to group form and then to moment form, how did that transition occur?
STOCKHAUSEN: Just applying the same principle that I applied to individual notes to groups of notes which had the same characteristics. Let's say if you have three notes that are different in three parameters, but they have in common that they are all fortissimo, then you build a group. So I wanted to have a better relationship to organic forms which I studied in books on biology and statistics. At the same time I studied at the University of Bonn with Meyer-Eppler, who was professor of information theory and communication science. He did the same, so I probably learned a lot from him, too. We made text analyses in the seminar, and we had, for example, to take a text from a newspaper and then take scissors, and everyone had to cut the text into words with one syllable, words with two syllables, words with three syllables, and then finally into two words, three words, five words, eight words, et cetera. Then we shuffled these syllables, or groups of syllables and words, like in a chance operation, and we found out that the redundance of text depended on the grouping. I mean if we had only individual syllables, there was an extremely high degree of nonsense. And the more the syllables and words were grouped in groups, the more they made sense. And I worked from that moment on, from the end of '53, with degrees of predictability and redundancy. That was the natural transition from points to group forms. And so statistics led me immediately to mass structures. We studied at the same time mass structures in statistics - basic principles of information theory concerning the relationship between points and groups and masses. I applied to masses the same principles that I applied to groups and individual notes. And so a whole scale was developed - degrees of predictability, of aleatoric behavior and all that. It was in the air at that time, by the way.
SECONDS: Were you in touch with Xenakis at the time?
STOCKHAUSEN: No. He was not on the scene yet. I have never been in touch with him, by the way. I know that later on I heard and read that he used the word "stochastic" because that also has similar principles of aleatoric behavior in mass structuring. He must have heard of it during his education as an architect.
SECONDS: In the program notes to Momente you say you rejected dualistic thinking in favor of polyvalent thinking.
STOCKHAUSEN: Well, that started very slowly during the late Fifties. It is basically the result of what we call even today "serial thinking." That means that if you have any kind of opposition - black and white for example - at the moment you begin to think in degrees of grays, then you already think like a serial composer, which means there must be equidistant differences between the different degrees of gray. And then you make a scale, and you interpolate, permutate the steps of the scale, and you have serial composition. So dualistic thinking, like sound and pause, or like noise and sound, high and low, or music and not-music, et cetera, is a traditional kind of thinking. But since the Fifties relativity has come into our way of thinking on all levels. And now I can transform a mouse into a glass - you see what I mean?
SECONDS: So you could set up a series between blue and yellow and you could theoretically say that yellow is blue.
STOCKHAUSEN: Yes. It is the extreme kind of blue if there are mediating degrees between the two, naturally.
SECONDS: So if you set up a series between the future and the past ...
STOCKHAUSEN: These are illusions. Future and past are illusions of our human brain. I don't want to remember everything that has happened to me in earlier lives - I couldn't move anymore. It's a good limitation for this life, you see? Nevertheless, that is an illusion. Because I am absolutely sure that the moment I give away this brain that is talking to you at this moment I will have my full memory.
SECONDS: When you were at the University Of California in '66 and '67, what were your impressions of the Hippies?
STOCKHAUSEN: Well, I participated in it! I went to The Fillmore West many times, naturally. And I met Ginsberg. I was very excited at that time. I must say also that the Pop Music that came up during that time was extraordinarily different from the Pop Music I had heard before. I heard this new music, and the whole spirit I experienced on Ashbury Street was well, literally freedom. Freedom to such an extent that many killed themselves and drugged themselves to death with this new freedom. But it was an enormous explosion. It was a wonderful liberation with all the dangers. I had a lot of students who flipped out, really.
SECONDS: Could you talk about what you call "formula"?
STOCKHAUSEN: Well, formula is an extension of the series, which means it is not only a series with the four basic parameters of notes that you use for creating a whole musical composition, but it also has other characteristics like a small improvisation on the previous figure, as part of the formula, or a scale from one present note to the next. And the scale can be very different, so I use different types of scales. Or to have a double or triple or quadruple echo of two notes or three notes which have occurred before. Or to have a so-called modulation, which means you have a note but the note is followed by the same note with different kinds of modulation - amplitude or frequency modulation, rhythmic modulation of all kinds, et cetera. So in a formula, there are, if it's a simple formula, different aspects of Gestalt composition which traditionally did not occur in a theme. Johann Sebastian Bach used a series when he made a fugue. But he had no idea about formula composition in the sense that a formula has many more organic aspects of shapes, of musical figures, groups, et cetera. In 1952 I composed the first formula of that type - for the work entitled Formula for orchestra. Later I was ashamed of this work. I thought it was too traditional because shapes occurred and figures occurred that I had excluded in my previous work. But in 1970 I tried to integrate into a series all the different aspects that I needed to add when I was composing with a series previously. This has developed through a lot of works until '77, and in '77 I made a triple formula, which means three formulas superimposed so that all the harmonic relationships between the three formulas vertically were growing or decaying within the triple formula as organic procedures. Now this triple formula is the formula I've used since almost twenty years now - this year will be the twentieth year of making one big work. And I still could go on for an unlimited time inventing new organisms with this super-formula.
SECONDS: You often refer to your work as an organism.
STOCKHAUSEN: Yes, I think so. It should be like my body. With a heart and a brain and limbs. I use the word "limbs" very often for the subdivisions of a formula. Like the limbs of a body.
SECONDS: Does the word "organism" imply consciousness?
STOCKHAUSEN: Oh yes. It must be spiritual. [laughs] As a matter of fact, there are a lot of organisms which seem to be very simple compared to a human being, but I'm sure there are organisms that are far beyond the complexity and - how can I say this - the transcendent quality of a human organism. Also, the whole planet is an organism. And the solar system is another entity, et cetera. Yes. But the difference between "organic" and "un-organic" is naturally artificial. You know that from normal matter, distinctions of matter, states of matter. Nevertheless, "organic" must be somehow related to us as human beings. So the more it is related to the human being, the more we understand "organic" as being harmonious. It can be disordered, but in the best sense it should correspond to the organism of the human being - certainly!