March 3rd 1998, Cologne
Greetings from the Studio for Electronic Music of the WDR in Cologne where Stockhausen has been working since February 16th realising the electronic music for MICHAELION, the 4th scene of WEDNESDAY from LIGHT which will be world premièred on July 26th this year in Munich. He will be here until the end of May realising and spatialising the work. Stockhausen has a new idea for the spatialisation which I will tell you about in the next report, when he has finished it. He is being assisted by Antonio Perez-Abellan, a young Spanish synthesizer player, who will be teaching synthesizer and the piano part of KONTAKTE during the Stockhausen Courses Kürten this summer.
The 70th birthday year was inaugurated on January 16th with a concert of INORI in Munich performed by the Symphony Orchestra of the Bayerischer Rundfunk conducted by Stockhausen. The dancer-mimes were Kathinka Pasveer and Alain Louafi, and the concert was organised by Prof. Udo Zimmermann, artistic director of the Musica Viva. Prof. Zimmermann is also the general superintendant of the Leipzig Opera, where TUESDAY from LIGHT and FRIDAY from LIGHT were world premièred in 1993 and 1996 respectively. This concert was the first Stockhausen appearance in Munich in 25 years, so Zimmermann deserves a lot of credit not only for that but for his single-handed effort on behalf of getting these two Stockhausen LICHT operas performed at a German opera house.
Rehearsals with the orchestra for INORI started on January 6th in Munich, and there were some days when Stockhausen was conducting 12 hours a day. From the 6th until the 11th there were sectional rehearsals, which means rehearsals with individual groups of instruments. This is always necessary to perfect the details of each group of instruments before the entire orchestra of 90 musicians, each playing an individual part, comes together. That means that during the period of sectional rehearsals, the individual musicians had a half-day of rehearsal at the most, but since Stockhausen had to conduct everyone, he had very long days.
The final result was worth the hard work on everyone's part. The concert, which took place in the legendary Herkulesaal ("legendary" because of its excellent acoustics), was sold out two weeks ahead of time and hundreds of people who were standing in line for the standing places had to be sent away. Stockhausen had suggested giving two performances to accommodate the many people who wanted to attend, but the orchestra refused. Luckily the concert was broadcast live, so many people who could not get tickets could at least hear the work. Of course the visual aspect plays such a large role in this as in most of Stockhausen's works that "only" listening is like looking at a postcard , but is better than nothing. Reviews from all over Germany were ecstatic.
The day after the concert, Stockhausen travelled to Hilversum, Holland, where for the first time since the work was composed in 1974 another conductor, Peter Eötvös, was rehearsing INORI. This time it was the chamber version which was to be performed by the Radio Chamber Orchestra at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. Peter Eötvös is one of the leading conductors of contemporary music in the world and collaborated with Stockhausen in the Studio for Electronic Music of the WDR in the 70s, and is a good friend. He later said after the rehearsals were nearly over that INORI is the most difficult work he had ever conducted. We know this: even Stockhausen, who has conducted this work countless times and is the only person who had conducted it until then, always has to practice several hours a day for a solid month before rehearsals with the orchestra start. This is mainly due to the constant tempo changes and the many sub-divided bars and cues for the orchestra, which would immediately fall out of sync if the conductor makes the slightest mistake. In turn, the movements of the dancer-mimes are so unified with the music that they are dependent on absolute precision of the tempi. Finally the length of the work 70 minutes demands utmost concentration, without pause.
Two days before the concert of INORI, which was recorded by the Dutch television (watch for the video which the Stockhausen-Verlag will be distributing) the orchestra moved into the Concertgebouw. There were two rehearsals in two days. Before and after each rehearsal the huge dancer-mime podia and all the electro-acoustic equipment had to be removed ( luckily the loudspeakers could remain suspended) in order to not lose a single seat for the classic orchestra and chamber music concerts which took place each evening. Unlike the large orchestration of INORI for 90 musicians, which Stockhausen conducted in Munich, and which has a fairly simple sound projection, the chamber version is for 33 musicians, each of whom is amplified by a microphone. Stockhausen did the sound projection at a 48-channel mixing console at the centre of the hall, which also had to be removed and re-installed 3 times. To maximise the amount of time available for the musical rehearsals, an excellent crew worked miracles to do this in record time. The concert halls world-wide, due to the commercial attitude most of them have, are completely inflexible. Thus anything which does not fit into the "normal" music business, such as the time necessary for installation of sound equipment and sound checks, has to be squeezed into their constrictions which can virtually mean sabotaging the quality of new works which need TIME.
Luckily the performance went very well, despite the attitude of the Concertgebouw, thanks to the unified effort of all involved including many experienced angels. Here, I should mention André Hebbelinck who, in his function as artistic director of the VARA matinee series of the Dutch Radio, initiated the idea to commemorate Stockhausen's 70th birthday in this way. He was the one who hired and co-ordinated all of the good spirits, and he was always there to help. Again the house was sold out and many in the audience had travelled a long way to be there. There were even some Americans present who had come from Los Angeles!
From February 25, Stockhausen did the sound projection for a series of concerts of his tape music which took place at the Planetarium (Cité des Sciences) in Paris. The concerts were organised by Gerard Pape, composer and director of the UPIC studio near Paris. The first evening, HYMNEN was played beneath the projection of the Paris nocturnal sky rotating for two hours in real time. The second evening, INVISIBLE CHOIRS of THURSDAY from LIGHT and MONDAY GREETING of MONDAY from LIGHT were played beneath the northern nocturnal sky, which made one complete rotation during each of the respective durations of the works: 49 minutes and 33 minutes. The third evening, the French première of the Electronic Music and Sound Scenes of FRIDAY from LIGHT took place. This time, the projected southern nocturnal sky rotated in 144 minutes, the duration of the work. Even connoisseurs of the works were amazed at the unique hearing experience possible in the planetarium. Stockhausen had spent all day on the 2nd with the local technicians re-circuiting the 24 built-in loudspeakers located behind the dome projection screen for the stars. Of course, for each work a different loudspeaker circuiting was necessary: HYMNEN is 4-track surrounding the audience; INVISIBLE CHOIRS is 8-track and MONDAY GREETING is 4-track surrounding the audience, and the Electronic Music and Sound Scenes of FRIDAY from LIGHT is 20-track with the loudspeakers forming a pyramid. Due to the fact that not a single sound was lost or diverted (because there are no corners in a planetarium) the spatialisation and movements of sounds could be heard especially well. It is our hope that we will perform SIRIUS there sometime, and that more planetariums world-wide will open their doors to series of tape music. If they have good sound systems they are the ideal listening venue, and the stars help to transport us.
The following week I travelled to Ste. Croix, Switzerland, together with Antonio to check the Zodiac music boxes which had been manufactured by Reuge Music the weeks before. We are behind schedule on this: we had expected to be able to offer them at Christmas , but correcting the prototypes ( both the mechanical works and the boxes themselves) took longer than we thought it would. While there, we checked the duration (tempo) of each box according to a list which had been established using the prototypes to compensate for the difference in altitude (air pressure) between Ste. Croix (1500 metres) and Kürten (140 metres). Generally the duration was to be 1.52 seconds faster in Ste. Croix due to the thinner air. The boxes will be slower in Kürten and elsewhere. The duration can be altered by bending the little propeller which rotates when the box is playing. The more it is bent the shorter the duration.
Then we had to check the synchronicity, pitches and rhythm. Many cylinders (with the pins which pluck) had to be exchanged as well as the so- called combs ( the pitches of each melody) which are plucked by the pins on the cylinder, due to the amount of play in the machines (driven by computers) which mass produce these two components. In addition, individual pins had to be bent to correct the rhythm and / or synchronicity or removed whenever they were in the wrong place. Working together with the very fine people at Reuge Music, who have been manufacturing music boxes for generations, we finished in the nick of time and are happy to say that the music boxes now meet our standards and will be a treasure to any of you who decides to buy one. We are especially pleased that after a break of about 10 years, the Zodiac music boxes are available again.
On Friday the 13th of February, Stockhausen gave a lecture about OCTOPHONY at the University of Cologne to a packed hall full of musicologists and musicians from all over Germany. For 1 hours he explained the compositional process and realisation of the tape using octophonic examples from a "material tape". Then after an intermission, OCTOPHONY was performed. As you may know, OCTOPHONY requires a special loudspeaker set-up : a perfect cube around the audience. One musicologist who attended said that even after hearing TUESDAY from LIGHT 3 times in 1993 (in which OCTOPHONY is the electronic music of the second act) he had only really perceived what was going on after Stockhausen's lecture and performance in Cologne. Nevertheless, the set-up of loudspeakers had been nearly ideal in Leipzig in 1993. Fortunately, the Institute of Musicology of the university has a virtual visionary in its midst, Prof. Dr. Christoph von Blumröder who has the chair there for 20th Century Music. The first thing he did after he received the professorship urged on by Stockhausen of course was to buy three DA-88 multi-track machines, 8 loudspeakers and a mixing console, and now, 24-hours a day, students can listen to multi-track works with a perfect set-up. This should be the case at every university which purports to be forward looking. Without this possibility, one of the main parameters in musical composition since 1950 cannot be studied properly.
February 20th, 21st and 22nd was spent at the Hessen Radio in Frankfurt recording PIANO PIECES VI and XVI with Ellen Corver. The series of PIANO PIECES is now complete, with the exception of PIANO PIECE XV which Ellen will record in the near future. When she does, she will be nominated for inclusion in the Guiness Book of Records as the only pianist who has recorded all of Stockhausen's piano pieces including PIANO PIECE XV, which is actually a work for synthesizer (which "pianists" usually do not like to touch) as the instrument which is the successor to the piano, in Stockhausen's opinion. See the article Piano Music in the booklet of CD 42. I believe this is also on-line.
My last report was on September 29th, therefore I should fill you in on the rest of 1997.
In October the preparation of the MOMENTE score and orchestra and choir material continued.
Stockhausen met with the technician of Ensemble Modern, a German ensemble which specialises in new music, which has approached Stockhausen about a commission for their ensemble. The meeting was to test a piece of equipment with which certain characteristics of conventional instruments can be altered. He would need one such unit for each instrument. Before Stockhausen decides about the commission, he must be sure that some kind of new process of instrumental transformation will be possible. Such a decision is always connected with costs, of course, and therefore, often what is interesting to Stockhausen from the compositional point of view is too expensive to put into practice. We will keep you posted on the progress of this interesting project, which may be performed in New York, if it comes into being.
Stockhausen rehearsed with Nicholas Isherwood, the bass who has participated in all of his operas and in SIRIUS, for the world première of CAPRICORN for bass and electronic music which took place in Orléans, France, during the Weeks of Music festival in November. LIBRA for bass clarinet and electronic music was performed by me in the first half of the program.
Werner Scholz, a recording technician and amateur photographer who collaborated with Stockhausen at the Studio for Electronic Music of the WDR in the 60s and who in this capacity photographed him at work in the studio and on tours, presented the Stockhausen Foundation for Music with all of his originals and negatives of the photographs he made during this collaboration. This is, of course an invaluable addition to the photo archives of the foundation, and we are extremely grateful to Mr. Scholz for his foresight.
You will be curious to know about the world première of the ROTARY Woodwind Quintet which I mentioned in my last report. It took place at a very beautiful old country castle not far from Cologne and was a surprise for the members of the Cologne Rotary Club which was celebrating its 25th anniversary. This "surprise" was commissioned by the current president of the Cologne Rotary Club, Prof. Rolf Hanstein, who is the director of the Kunsthaus Lempertz in Cologne, which auctions art and which, in 1991, had an exhibition (opened with a small Stockhausen concert) of a selection of Stockhausen's original drawings which range in size from 7 metres x 2.5 metres to 40 x 60 cm. He makes these colour drawings with felt-tip pens for lectures and other occasions, and they are so colourful and informative analytically that we often include them in the Stockhausen exhibitions which take place on the occasion of concert series. (If any of you have an idea about what he could use instead of felt-tip pens, which, although they are "permanent", do fade with the years, we would be grateful). The exhibitions also include costumes, photos, concert posters and requisites. The covers of our CDs are mini-versions of these drawings.
Back to the Rotary experience. As you may know, Rotary Club members tend to be conservative. Therefore, very few of the circa 200 members and wives present at the banquet which was opened (after all had taken their seats at the banquet tables and therefore could not leave unnoticed) with the announcement that Stockhausen had composed a work for the occasion would have voluntarily attended a Stockhausen concert. But now they were trapped, and it was interesting to observe (as I could, from my perspective) the variety of expressions on their faces as it was announced that they would now hear a new work by Stockhausen. Stockhausen had made the request to Mr. Hanstein that in deference to the musicians who were playing by memory and to the music no drinks or food should be served before the performance, and that the work, which lasts only 8 minutes, would be performed, then briefly explained by Stockhausen, and then performed again.
It was a beautiful atmosphere: the banquet hall was candle-lit and all were really curious, if not apprehensive.
As the first chord sounded, one could sense the wave of relief , because in fact it was a normal woodwind quintet which was playing and not electronic music or other "noises", and the sound filled the room because the musicians encircled the audience. At the end of each cycle (there are four), the musicians slowly rotated to their next position, and at some places the horn player walked diagonally through the audience.
At the end, there was a standing ovation and it was clear that many were surprised that "Stockhausen" could sound so consonant, so beautiful, and that they might even follow up this experience with a visit to a "real" Stockhausen concert someday. At least, a lot of false biases and preconceptions were broken that evening and that is always good. Following the applause, Stockhausen gave a brief explanation of the piece, which is based on the carrousel section of MICHAELION for choir, 4 instrumental soloists and bass singer. The musicians play the three-layered super-formula of WEDNESDAY from LIGHT, and the three formulae which comprise the super-formula are shifted vertically 4 times; at each displacement the musicians rotate. After the brief explanation by Stockhausen, the work was performed again, and there was another standing ovation.
For more information, see the score of the ROTARY Woodwind Quintet which was delivered from the printers last month. It was performed by musicians of the Musikfabrik, a new music ensemble located in Düsseldorf.
In November, work on MOMENTE continued.
I have already mentioned the concert in Orléans on November 15th. Directly following that, there were rehearsals in Stuttgart for 2 Stockhausen concerts. The first one was with MIKROPHONIE II for choir, Hammond organ and ring modulators. This was the first performance since 1985 when the BBC Singers performed it during the Stockhausen Festival Music and Machines at the Barbican Centre in London . In Stuttgart, there were constant problems with the output of the Hammond organ which plays a critical role in the piece because it is circuited to the ring modulators for transforming the singers. Thus, even an "old" piece (1966) brings new challenges, and even with today's technology it took too much precious rehearsal time to finally solve them. In several of the Stockhausen works with Hammond organ ( such as MOMENTE and VISION), it has been possible to replace the Hammond organ with a synthesizer. It is not easy because the Hammond organ has mechanical characteristics which cannot be synthesised, such as the Lesley effect. But this will probably have to be done in future performances of MICROPHONY II, since Hammond organs are ever rarer these days and thus to find one which is in perfect condition becomes increasingly difficult. In Ste. Croix, one of the music box technicians had a beautiful one in his home, for which he had written pages of the circuiting.
The second concert was STIMMUNG. This and MICROPHONY II was performed by the Neue Vokalsolisten directed by Manfred Schreier. It is an ensemble consisting of singers of solo calibre, such as singers from the Stuttgart opera, who enjoy getting together to sing new music. The level of STIMMUNG was very high and its preparation had been very conscientious. This was a relief to Stockhausen, because the Collegium Vocale Köln, the group which has performed STIMMUNG hundreds of times including its world première in 1968, has folded, and for years there was no ensemble who he could recommend as being authentic in their performance.
Speaking of authentic STIMMUNG performances, something very inauthentic took place at the Konzerthaus in Vienna, also in November. STIMMUNG was performed by an all-woman ensemble, Bel Canto . The work was transposed up a major third in order for them to be able to sing it. This was very upsetting to Stockhausen, because he had composed it specifically for 3 men and 3 women, and the fundamental on which the overtones of the work are based is critical for the composition. This is indeed the first composition in the history of art music in which the particular overtones are composed and they cannot be changed, in the same way that a pitch or rhythm or dynamic marking in a musical composition may not be changed, without violating the rights of the author. In addition, the poems which are to be recited by men lose their meaning, and become even ridiculous when recited by women, and the whole interplay between the sexes, which is sometimes playful and sometimes erotic is completely lacking. If the costs of paying a lawyer to sue the ensemble had not been so high, Stockhausen would have immediately taken them to court. Instead, he and the publisher of STIMMUNG, Universal Edition have issued a warning to Bel Canto to never perform the piece again, but have received no answer.
At the end of November, Stockhausen travelled to Essen, about an hour from Köln, where he was invited by the Folkwang Hochschule to give a seminar about his tape music and to do the sound projection for a performance of STUDIE I, TELEMUSIK, and KONTAKTE with piano and percussion. The day before the concert he rehearsed three hours with a very talented young student duet, and the next morning they had the dress rehearsal. Following the dress rehearsal, Stockhausen spoke to a hall overflowing with music students about composing STUDIE I and KONTAKTE. The head of the composition department, Nicholas A. Huber had invited him to talk about this theme because there is increasing disinterest in tape pieces, especially in the French sector (IRCAM), in favour of other storage methods (computer) and /or live-electronics. Stockhausen seems to be one of the very few still pursuing this means of composition. For him it is still the only way of taking complete responsibility for the audible result of composition. In his seminar he described the loneliness involved in this path, but also its necessity if an absolute realisation of the composed intention is sought.
In December, the MOMENTE project continued and the complicated process of making the first photocopies of the score was initiated. Because the score is so large (A1), it is difficult to find machines which can make these reproductions without having to send the originals through rollers.
Alain Louafi arrived for rehearsals of INORI with Kathinka for the performances in January. In addition, there were meetings about another series of concerts in Lebanon as a follow-up to the series of performances in the Caves of Jeita in 1969.
Allegri Films, the company who made the HELICOPTER STRING QUARTET documentary film, is now making a film about KONTAKTE and another one about electronic music. They came to make an interview with Stockhausen for both of these films. We will be distributing both films when they are ready. Allegri is also making final plans for a full-length film of the performance of the HELICOPTER STRING QUARTET. Frank Scheffer, producer of the film, wants to make it all-around video and audio, and after years of searching for a sponsor to pay for a studio for the mixing and montage, it seems that the premiere of the film will take place in Salzburg this year, on the occasion of Stockhausen's 70th birthday.
Speaking about films, there is a new one by Iara Lee (Caipirinha Productions) about the history of electronic music entitled Modulations. There are excerpts in it from KONTAKTE, MICROPHONY I, and STIMMUNG so watch for it. There is also a brief interview with Stockhausen in it, as the grand-daddy of electronic music. He doesn't look like it, though.
The VPRO Dutch radio came to Kürten to make an interview with Stockhausen about his relationship to Edgar Varèse for inclusion in film about Varèse. The film has not yet been completed, but for anyone who is interested in it, we can provide further information.
The English magazine for jazz, improvised and contemporary classical music AVANT published a lengthy and important interview with Stockhausen in the November / December issue.
The superintendent of the Bonn Opera, Dr. Beilharz, sent a contract to Stockhausen for the world première of WEDNESDAY from LIGHT in May 2000 at the Bonn Opera. Stockhausen did not sign the contract, explaining that the scenes for choir (WORLD PARLIAMENT and MICHAELION), orchestra (ORCHESTRA FINALISTS) and string quartet (HELICOPTER STRING QUARTET) had already been performed by the Stuttgart Radio Choir, the Asko Ensemble (Amsterdam) and the Arditti String Quartet respectively and suggested that it would be more realistic to engage these ensembles for the opera production in 2000 to save the months of rehearsal time necessary for the Bonn opera choir and orchestra to learn these works from scratch (and by memory which is necessary in MICHAELION and ORCHESTRA FINALISTS).The superintendent answered that he wanted to use his own musicians and that if Stockhausen did not accept this, he would cancel the contract. Stockhausen replied that if the opera choir agrees to the months of rehearsals necessary to perform well the scenes for choir, and that if the opera orchestra musicians agree to learn their roles (including memorisation of their parts and moving around on stage for ORCHESTRA FINALISTS and playing in helicopters in flight for the HELICOPTER STRING QUARTET) then he would waive his doubts. To date, there has been no answer from BonnOf course we will keep you posted.
To those of you who are thinking about attending the Stockhausen Courses Kürten: do not wait too long with your applications, because the amount of cheap private housing is extremely limited. It will be assigned on a first come, first serve basis.
And to close
Stockhausen recently gave a TV interview about a book which has been a source of great inspiration to him while composing MICHAELION: A Journey through Time: Exploring the Universe with the Hubble Space Telescope by Jay Barbree and Martin Caidin and published by Penguin Studio. In the new work MICHAELION, delegates from many different galaxies meet to discuss common issues. We have more in common than one would believe