(Stockhausen in conversation March 1999 by Ken Hollings. The article originally appeared in The Wire Magazine, issue #184 June 1999. for more information on The Wire, go to: www.dfuse.com/the-wire.)
'I have determined the whole mechanism of Harmony in its smallest details, from the methods of its central
administration down to the most minute aspects of its domestic relations, which is diametrically opposed to
our own' - Charles Fourier, 1803.
Cologne Cathedral stands at the centre of its own collapsing universe. Like the burnt-out core of some ancient star, it seems to generate a powerful electromagnetic field, pulling everybody and everything in towards it. What was once the cross-roads to the Northern Christian world on the banks of the Rhein continues to dominate the city. There's no escape. All the main streets seem to converge on the public square directly beneath its smoke-blackened twin spires. A cluster of smaller churches and chapels lie dotted around the immediate vicinity, each following its respective lonely orbit. Further out are the glittering, more ethereal, structures which house WDR Cologne, the West German broadcasting complex and, beyond that, the wide trajectory of motor ways and side roads that will take you east, towards some of the more distant spiral arms of this particular galaxy.
'My God!' Philip Leden, the photographer, laughs, as the road up ahead twists and turns into the desolate green distance. 'We've gone beyond the end of the world.'
It must be more than that. The journey has become a winding tortuous route through dense forests, mountain slopes and sparsely occupied villages, past lakes and silent farming communities. Out here, the fields reek, and the sunset turns the light purple and gold. People give directions in a noticeable rural burr.
'Karlheinz,' Philip repeats to himself with a heavy emphasis. 'That's a real farmer's name. Old fashioned.'
Well, why not? Karlheinz Stockhausen, one of the most outstanding figures in twentieth-century music, comes from a family of poor farmers. Born in Mödrath, near Cologne, in 1928, Stockhausen has lived for over thirty years in wooded seclusion, just outside the little village of Kürten, which is proving extremely hard to find, even with a detailed map downloaded from the Internet. His father, who studied to become a teacher, was killed in combat during the Second World War, while his mother, institutionalised following a severe nervous breakdown, was put to death by the authorities when Stockhausen was just thirteen. The setting sun touches the tree-lined hills, and the passage of time is temporarily suspended. This far out, things seem so changeless and still.
Kürten won't be too hard to miss, however. The town hall will have a mobile recording studio pulled up outside of it. In fact, the massive pink truck is visible long before you even notice the modest outlines of the municipal buildings standing off to one side of the public space where it is parked. Belonging to WDR pop station Eins Live, the semi-trailer with its Lawo 48-track digital desk has been a permanent fixture here for the past month while Stockhausen mixes down a studio recording of the Arditti quartet performing his HELIKOPTER STREICHQUARTETT; originally premiered over the rooftops of Amsterdam in June 1995 with the aid of four Alouette helicopters from the Royal Dutch Airforce. Stockhausen, appointed director of WDR's celebrated Studio for Electronic Music back in 1963, has been working in this mobile unit out in the middle of nowhere because a digital suite wasn't available for him in Cologne itself. This was the simplest solution.
Happy that the task is finally completed, Stockhausen sits sequestered in the control room, listening to a final playback. A couple of kids idly wheel their mountain bikes around the neatly laid-out parking area, while a local citizen empties a sackfull of glass containers into a nearby bottlebank. If anyone needs to use the bathroom, one of the sound engineers has a key to town hall's main entrance. It's the first of two doors across the hall. High-end technique in the West German countryside.
The truck will be gone tomorrow. Emblazoned across its sides are the words 'funk', 'rock' and 'avant-garde' in large purple and white lettering. Stockhausen, stepping out into the late afternoon air, comments cheerfully on how unusual it is to find such a candy-coloured monster in a place like Kürten. 'Having this here. It's such an unusual sight.' He's keen to be photographed standing in front of this futuristic, pop culture mirage. As if a man in dazzling white jeans, embroidered cotton shirt and a fluorescent orange cardigan is going to pass unnoticed in the muted confines of this tiny road-side berg.
Accustomed to manual work at a very early age, Stockhausen has the sturdy build of a farm labourer, lively blue eyes and features more naturally inclined to smiling than many photographs of him might at first suggest. It's also clear that he genuinely enjoys the attention of others. He seems energised by their presence. Philip clicks away. He should also take pictures of the two engineers, Reiner Kühl and Jürgen Königsfeld, plus the flautist and long-term Stockhausen collaborator Kathinka Pasveer. Then, there's the mixing desk itself. Philip's camera takes it all in. A car door opens a few yards away, and sound of heavy rap rhythms echoes briefly across the square. Unreal.
The Electronic Child
Radio has always had a significant presence in Stockhausen's life. Back in the early 1930s, at age six, he would often amaze people by sitting at the piano and playing back tunes after hearing them broadcast only once; with all the right harmonies. It's an aspect of his early development to which he still responds with considerable warmth. 'Aha!' Stockhausen's voice, a soft melodious bass, fills the formal, neatly-arranged space of his music room, located in the gate house at the foot of a winding, tree-lined path. An old anatomist's chart hangs on one wall, showing the detailed inner workings of the human ear in fleshy, sculpted sections. 'My very first memory stems from the time when I was about three-and-a-half years old. My father was a school teacher and he had bought a small radio ... I can still see that box in front of me ... and my mother liked singing so she liked to listen to this small radio.' The stresses and rhythms of his speech are all carefully modulated.
'It was one of the first radios in 1931 or '32. And she would then talk to the speaker of the radio and when she didn't get an answer she became very furious. She couldn't understand that this was a one-way box, a one-way message, and that she had no chance to talk to this voice. I have never forgotten that. I think she was right: that the radio, from the start is an invention which is incomplete, and if someone talks to me, I should have a chance to talk back. Theremin, the Russian scientist, tried to help this very primitive situation and he invented a device which was used, as a matter of fact, by people. I have experienced the Theremin device myself in America. It was as if he had invented a radio which you can influence with your hands so you could shape the music which you hear.'
Even though the shelves are stacked with exotic percussion instruments which Stockhausen has collected from all over the world, and a multi-channel mixing desk stands near the centre of the floor, it's hard not to notice that the room is dominated by three electronic keyboards.
'When I was about 6 years old,' he recalls, 'when I had my first piano lessons, I listened to the radio in order to learn new tunes. When I was 8 or 9 years old, my father took me sometimes to a small restaurant where we lived in Altenberg. The people would come and drink something, eat something, at weekends in particular; cake, coffee, chocolate, whatever it was. And I was asked by my father to go to the piano, and the owner of this restaurant was my piano teacher and also the organist in the village, Mr Kloth, and as I was able to play folk songs and what we call the Schlager in German, the hits which were in fashion. The people would regularly sing along with what I was playing. Then I got some money and I got cake and chocolate and so I understood that when I would be able to play a lot of songs, then I would be successful.' Stockhausen's eyes gleam, as if he has just let slip the secret of his success. 'This is my more creative relationship with the radio.'
And the Theremin in America?
'That was in 1958. It was in the private home of Karl Hauser, the man who had arranged an American tour for me. Later, in the early 70s, I met an Australian dancer, and she came here. Nearby is a barn where we gave concerts regularly, and she brought a Theremin device from Utrecht in Holland, which meant you had an electro-magnetic field around a plate of metal, and wherever you moved you could influence sound, if the plate is wired with a synthesizer. And in the synthesizer you can pre-plan the different parameters, which meant you can influence the dynamic levels of what it produces but also, with certain movements, you change the pitch and even timbre if you get the electro-magnetic field to act in a three-dimensional way. It was quite interesting to see how a dancer can shape sounds and produce a simple sort of music, but there is potential in this invention.'
Stockhausen has criticised Popular Music for becoming increasingly reliant upon technical devices while at the same time chastising composers and interpreters of what he calls 'Art Music' for their reactionary attitudes towards the musical exploration of modern technology. Is there still hope for the electronic child of the twentieth century?
'I have been working in the studio for the production of sounds and for the combination of sounds with the help of technical means since 1952. That makes now 47 years. In the beginning, this work was extremely hard because I had to decide the duration of every sound by measuring them with a ruler and cutting the tape with scissors and then glueing pieces of tape together. Very slowly, during these 47 years, this method has become more flexible. Today I worked 8 hours in the studio with Pro Tools and I can influence the dynamic curves of 8 channels simultaneously or very smoothly without physically cutting something or physically putting it together. All the individual channels can be shaped dynamically with devices that are invisible, purely electrical. That means that my musicality can be used more directly in forming the music and the same applies, if I want also, to other parameters. So there is hope that the contact between the musical person and the sound which the person is shaping can become more direct and this is as matter of fact a result of a long evolution and it will improve.'
Will such electronic instruments exist in people's homes in the same way the piano once did?
'Oh, Yes!' Stockhausen answers quickly. 'They do already! Here you are, in a private room. There are several synthesizers. There is a mixing console, a simple one, but nevertheless, this is a small studio, and I can make a whole composition of electronic music here with a collaborator who knows how to programme the synthesisers. This year I will work here the whole month of August for electronic music which will be played together with the orchestra and the two soloists for my new work, LICHTER-WASSER.'
'In the final decade of the 21st Century,' a voice confidently announces at the start of the 1956 science fiction classic Forbidden Planet as a shimmering galaxy of stars fills the screen, 'men and women in rocket ships landed on the Moon. By 2200 AD, they had reached the other planets in the Solar System. Almost at once, there followed the discovery of Hyper-Drive through which the speed of light was first attained and then greatly surpassed.' A disc-shaped space cruiser slides smoothly in and out of frame to an accompaniment of 'electronic tonalities' created by Louis and Bebe Barron utilizing cybernetic systems first formulated by Norbert Weiner in the early 1950s. It epitomised an epoch in which every home was to be transformed into a maze of electrical circuitry, and television shows such as 'Out Of This World' mixed lectures on science with dramatised accounts of vacations on the Moon. As a social experiment in which visions of the future were refracted through the prevailing notions of what could be expected from daily life, those days now seem long gone. Listening to Stockhausen describing his latest composition, however, it's clear that in this corner of the universe they may never have ended.
'At the moment I am composing a work which is called LICHTER-WASSER.' Stockhausen speaks with the calm, deliberate lucidity of someone still prepared to be surprised and excited by things. 'I am studying very carefully now all the moons of our solar system, their names. And I have a soprano singing in this work who describes what she offers to Michael, who is a tenor in this new piece. They are in the same hall where the musicians will be. She offers to prepare these moons, and also the other planets which seem to be at the moment uninhabitable, for human beings who will travel there in the future and who will certainly some day try to transform these satellites of the other planets and of our Sun into beautiful places.'
The 1950s saw an expansion of interest in cosmic matters. The Earth no longer existed as an isolated entity, but had become a part of something far larger. In Chicago, at the start of the decade, the Urantia Foundation was created to distribute The Urantia Book, which reconfigured the Bible in vast cosmological terms. 'The myriad's of planetary systems,' one chapter states, 'were all made to be eventually inhabited by many different types of intelligent beings, who could know God, receive the divine affection and love him in return.' Our own world, known simply as Urantia, is part of a local universe whose sovereign is Michael, 'the son of God and the son of Man, known on this world as Jesus of Nazareth.' Other Central and Super universes also exist.
Deep space became the acknowledged home to a higher spiritual order. In the Californian desert, George Adamski made contact with a visiting Venusian who spoke of 'the Great Creator'; and the Unarius Foundation was set up by Ruth Norman, also known as the Archangel Uriel, to prepare humanity for the coming of the 'Galactic Federation'. George King founded the Aetherius Society after being informed by a disembodied voice that he would henceforth be speaking for 'the Interplanetary Parliament.' The Space Brothers had arrived. 'These individuals,' William Burroughs later commented, 'may be tuning in, with faulty radios, to a universal message: we must be ready at any time to make the leap into Space.'
Was Stockhausen, whose massive week-long opera cycle, LICHT, develops spiritual ideas from The Urantia Book, aware of such things in the 1950s?
'Yes, I did, naturally in a different form because, you know, German rocket specialists like Von Braun, who had emigrated to America, planned to go to the Moon, and it was clear for me when I was studying that this was now part of the coming development not only of astronomy but also of space travel. The publication at that time of books by Heisenberg and Einstein all had to do with a complete new consciousness about the Cosmos. Yes, that was very much in the air when I was finishing my studies. My first piano pieces I myself have called Star Music. One piece by Messiaen for piano I have also called Star Music. And it is true that in many letters which I exchanged at that time 1952 when I was living in Paris with a friend of mine, I have written that I would like to make music which is concentrating on the stars, and the way the stars are composed is a model for my music.'
Harmondie under Pluramon
The gate house containing Stockhausen's music room is a modular Aladdin's Cave of musical material stored behind large windows, open hatchways and mirror-backed doors. Costumes from LICHT are arranged on headless mannequins along the upstairs landing. On the ground floor, printed copies of his scores are stacked in brown paper packages on carefully-ordered steel shelving units. The effect, glimpsed from a downstairs window, is reminiscent of an elementary school stock room. It is from here, however, that Stockhausen Verlag distributes not only the large majority of his scores, but over 80 hours of Stockhausen's music on CD. Often accompanied by a booklet containing Stockhausen's detailed programme notes and performance specifications as well as a selection of relevant diagrams and photographs, each release features a cover illustration by Stockhausen himself. It is a unique achievement in modern music for a composer to exercise so much control over the presentation of his recorded work, from the overall design of the series right down to the serial numbers.
Stockhausen does not need to be reminded of early works. He reminds you. Compositions from over 40 years ago are brought up and discussed as part of an established cannon. All of his music remains current, often existing in multiple forms. KONTAKTE, a dazzling electronic exploration of tempi realised on magnetic tape at WDR Cologne between 1959 and 1960, later incorporated piano and percussion for live performances and was then transformed further still into ORIGINALE, a piece of 'musical theatre' involving actors, technicians and a street musician. Stockhausen has said of HYMNEN that it is 'composed in such a way that different scenarios or libretti for films, opera, ballets could be written to the music.' Is there ever a fixed point for such a work, or does it simply become historically complete?
'That is different for several works,' Stockhausen begins carefully. 'KONTAKTE is open. The end which exists now could have been different, and the plan of the work is longer. GESANG DER JÜNGLINGE is the same. But PUNKTE, for example, which I wrote in 1952 is complete. GRUPPEN is complete. Maybe I could have made a few more inserts in GRUPPEN because these are not determined by the first form plan, but that was determined I think by the timing of the first performance as GESANG DER JÜNGLINGE. HYMNEN is certainly open because I have already realised several longer parts of HYMNEN which are in the studio, but finally I decided to stop at two and a half hours. Also, because the performance was planned a long time before, I wanted to reach that agreement. The works which I have composed in Licht could naturally be longer but not much longer because there's a form plan 22 years old which determines all the parts of LICHT into seven days of the week and their sections. But when I compose now, for example, LICHTER-WASSER I have already felt the need to compose 6 bridges between the parts of LICHTER-WASSER which form part of the super formula which I use. So I always find a back door to go into the forest, and this is my personal freedom in relationship with myself. So I make for myself some sort of an architecture, a building, but then with a lot of doors and windows.'
So you can get outside?
Past works do not exist in historical time, but become expressions of the technology which produced them. The short wave voices and signals at the beginning of HYMNEN, originally recorded between 1966 and 1967, sound today like fragments left over from an epoch that no longer exists. There's a strange sadness about them, as if some vast apocalypse has occurred. Stockhausen disagrees.
'I hear it differently. I hear it as if a lot of transmissions were superimposed and that causes another sort of chaos which is not an ending but is the situation on our planet because you have to listen to so many transmissions at the same time. That's how I did HYMNEN. But there is secretly always that strange hymn underneath when this is happening: 'The Internationale', the communist anthem, during all this mishmash and all this chaos of different short wave programmes. And it leads very slowly into 'The Marseillaise' a direction secretly audible in spite of the apparent chaotic situation.'
HYMNEN's reworking of the world's anthems, including those for France, Germany, America and Spain, as well as several African ones, is an extension of the intricately modulated world music of TELEMUSIK, realised by Stockhausen in the electronic music studio of NHK Tokyo in 1966. This universality is given more concrete form in HYMNEN's fourth 'region' in which the last chord of the Swiss anthem is extended and transformed into a hymn to Pluramon. Described by Stockhausen as 'a symbiotic being combining aspects of a pluralist and a monist', Pluramon is the ruler of Harmondie, a utopian combination of harmony and 'mundus'. More recently, 1995's WELT-PARLAMENT for a cappella choir, the first scene of Stockhausen's MITTWOCH aus LICHT, is dedicated 'to the first world parliament.'
Such concerns primarily reflect notions of spiritual, rather than social, evolution. The texts for AUS DEN SIEBEN TAGEN, a series of extended explorations of intuitive music for instrumental ensemble, were written over a seven-day period of intense seclusion in May, 1968. Was Stockhausen aware of events in Paris at that time?
'You mean the protests and all that? I haven't seen that.'
Looking back, it's hard not to be intrigued by a period when massive upheavals are underway in Paris, which included artists as well as students taking over the concert halls, and there is Stockhausen, withdrawing ...
'Not withdrawing!' His correction is firm but good-natured. 'I was working! But all my work is withdrawal, if you like. My whole life is work and I am a child of the war and I have learned not to pay too much attention when other people lose their time in going on the streets and protesting and throwing stones and that all that. You see, I want to continue working and not to be involved too much in these public affairs.'
Stockhausen pauses for a moment.
'Though it has very funny aspects,' he continues. 'When I was in Paris, one of my French friends, Maurice Fleuret, who is dead now, but who was Minister of Culture and then later became the Director of France Musique, he liked very nice shoes and clothes etc., and he was sort of awfully excited by these uproars of students. He had a friend who was an aristocrat and he would go out on the streets in his nice clothes and then come back when I was there and was very, very excited and out of breath. He said: "No, no, no Henri Louis, you won't believe it but I just threw a stone! I threw a stone!" And he replied: 'Oh, you are brave, Maurice. That is fantastic.' So I think there was a lot of this humour in the whole situation. Naturally De Gaulle seemed to be a tank, who had to be attacked, but there was no possibility to attack this tank because he was a general and France believed that De Gaulle was almost a Tsarist himself so I think it didn't really change the situation.
Hence the translation in HYMNEN from 'The Internationale' to 'The Marseillaise'?
'Yes, exactly, because that was successful, and then 'The Marseillaise' was transformed, as you know, into wild geese and finally to boys shouting in the schoolyard. Then, before the German anthem comes, it becomes very, very slow and black. I mean, Bruckner should pack his things and go home. He has no idea how slow and dark and black I could go. Not to talk of Mahler...'
AUS DEN SIEBEN TAGEN reaches its own dark intensities. Preparation for these works commit the the musicians to the rigorous contemplation of extremely abstract concepts. 'Play a vibration in the rhythm of dreaming,' reads one of the instructions to NACHTMUSIK, suggesting the starting point to a Fluxus art riot rather than a musical meditation. Extreme physical disciplines are also involved, including prolonged fasting, periods of isolation, without sleep, and energetic physical activities. Stockhausen and the other performers often appear sullen and self-absorbed in photographs taken at the time of the first performances. An almost palpable tension hangs in the air. During the opening moments of ABWÄRTS, Stockhausen sounds as if he is scourging himself while invoking God's name, trying to will himself into a higher state where others may not wish to follow.
'But I am not reflecting about people,' Stockhausen states calmly. 'I can reach ecstatic moments when I am no longer aware of myself, this can happen sometimes.'
In KOMMUNION, this process ultimately led to what Stockhausen has described as 'a sense of deathly annihilation, which is the most ecstatic I have ever heard'; a statement which appears to go beyond any traditional scale of values.
'Yes, that's true because all are possibilities to get out of the prison of the body, of the senses, of the mind. All these are prisons. And to express our cosmic nature which is unlimited and only for the life as a human being, imprisoned. But the deepest desire is to get out of this prison. All models and all systems and all limits defined by human beings are practical to make this machine work on this planet and to make society work. But they are only valid for a certain time. They are not absolute.'
AUS DEN SIEBEN TAGEN concludes with one final text: 'When I began to fast and to withdraw into myself, I had a reason. Now I no longer have this one reason, but rather ALL the reasons. May 11 1968.'
For six months in 1970, from March 14 to September 15, seated within a specially designed spherical auditorium in the German Pavillion at the Osaka World Exposition, up to 5500 listeners per day heard performances of Stockhausen's work. Played back over 50 loudspeakers surrounding the audience, sounds moved through space, under Stockhausen's control, in diagonals and spirals, circles and lines. By the time Expo '70 folded its tents that autumn, approximately 1,000,000 people had listened to his music in this manner. Photographs taken inside the glittering dome show a geometric grid of stars reminiscent of set designs drawn up by utopian thinker Charles Fourier, in the wake of the French Revolution, for Mozart's Magic Flute. The same sense of celestial harmony prevails.
'The German architect who built the sphere, according to my proposals, had used the technique of Buckminster Fuller's geodesic dome with all these wonderful connections. As a matter of fact the whole skin of this dome was this plastic material and acoustically it was very successful. We had a very good acoustic sound. And the stars - you see, these many, many small bulbs could be dimmed at different degrees, particularly when people came in and sat and you could shut down all the lights and get dark, only very small lights remaining. And this belongs to my music. I prefer even to play, if possible, outdoors with the stars like I do in STERNKLANG when you look at the stars. STERNKLANG should be performed in the summer on a full-moon night, as we always did as a matter of fact. And then these bulbs start to glow.'
Was there a moment when he wished he could take the whole auditorium back home with him?
'Yes, I have suggested this even during the time when I was there to several representatives of the German culture who came to Osaka.' The dip in his voice indicates how highly Stockhausen thinks of such individuals. 'I said one of the bigger cities in Germany should use this sphere. The transport of the sphere with everything inside would even not have cost anything. Several cities like Cologne, or Essen, Hamburg, Munich were contacted, but none of them wanted this sphere. They started immediately calculating the yearly costs for the personnel because it is true that the sphere in Osaka didn't have any heating in the winter time so it was sometimes, you know, very cold. Nobody objected to this. But as a permanent auditorium, it would have needed improvement that would have costed another few million. And strangely enough the representatives, the responsible people, who were asked didn't want it so it was destroyed.'
While they start constructing the next World Expo.
'Yes, of course, it is always the case. I read yesterday that some asteroids almost crashed into this planet a few years ago. There was a danger that this could happen, and the whole planet would be smashed to pieces. So we would have to start somewhere else.'
Except that the historical trajectory towards space initiated by Von Braun seems unattainable now.
'No, it's absolutely clear.' Stockhausen retorts with an enthusiasm that seems to well up from deep within. 'I don't know if you know the new books from the Hubble telescope, publications from NASA, but it's absolutely clear that they will be on Mars in 2012 and that it will cost 800 billion dollars. I know they are going to go very quick now into the solar system. It will take, I would say, not more than 100 years until they have gone even to Pluto. You see, mankind will not stop now discovering the solar system and all the moons because Stockhausen has composed a work in 1999 which says that it should go on to all the moons. As I said, the last few days I have discovered myself all the rotation, velocities and diameters of the 60 moons of Jupiter, and tomorrow I will continue to study more carefully all the moons of Saturn, which is even more work to do. But I am very interested in all the rotations and rhythms of these globes because these are models for compositions. If you compare the speeds and the sizes and the rotations around the Sun and the rotation around themselves and you try to make sense why four of them, of the moons of Jupiter turn backwards, they start in the west and rise and then they descend in the east, whereas all the others do the opposite. So this is a fantastic school of teaching that you can use as a composer, to think how are my rhythms? My speeds? My tempi? And I am doing now a piece for a large hall which is 40 by 40 metres. The world premier will take place in such a hall, a sport gymnasium, in October of this year. The musicians stand placed in a square and diagonal lines and across, 29 musicians in different places. The sounds are moving from one musician to the next with different speeds. I am always now making designs how to make these movements of sounds in that given space, and the score describes exactly how this string of pitches, of melody of timbres, etc, is developing in two lanes simultaneously in the work and the speeds change always. But that's why I am so interested now in comparing what I am doing with the speeds of - how do you say? - space ...' Stockhausen pauses for a second, trying to capture the word.
Set Sail for the Sun
It's growing dark outside. Far away from the light-polluted skies over Cologne, Stockhausen loves to watch the stars at night. The revolving stellar maps of the planetarium have proved in the past to been an ideal venue for his works.
'The world premiere of SIRIUS took place in the Einstein Spacearium in Washington,' he explains, 'which is a very modern planetarium with the most modern-sized projector. I also presented SIRIUS in Berlin, a whole series of performances, and not so long ago I performed the electronic music from FREITAG aus LICHT, which is called OUTER SPACE, at the Amsterdam planetarium. And last year I worked a whole week in the Planetarium in Paris and performed my electronic music there. What was interesting in Paris was that I could decide the speed of the firmament rotating so for TELEMUSIK the duration of one rotation of the firmament was 18 minutes, but for HYMNEN 113! minutes. They could plan this with the computer, and I liked that very much.'
Do audiences still surprise him with their reactions to his music?
'Every time. I think mankind is not a static combination of spirits. Always new spirits enter, others leave, so it is unpredictable, and the freshness of unusual works remains the constant, permanent factor, not only when you go to countries where you have never been before. Yesterday I had an invitation to Turkey for the first time to give concerts in Turkey. I can't go there in September but I will go later. I have performed in Russia for the first time following the change of political system in 1990, we went there for five fantastic concerts, one of the best audiences of my life, because it was all fresh and new to them. But it is also true when I give a concert in Cologne, we performed Orchestra Finalists last year for my 70th birthday, and for most of the people it was completely new. They had never heard or seen it before and the reaction was accordingly very alive, mixed ... both for it and against it. So there are always people who are unprepared and others who are knowledgeable, specialists and fans.'
Are there any specific problems to presenting electronically-generated music in a live setting?
'There are two aspects. One aspect is that all live performances, soloists, are transmitted into halls by transmitters. It needs a sound projectionist who sits in the middle of the hall at a mixing console and controls and shapes the dynamics of what the soloists are performing while they are moving around on stage. In my works, they usually perform from memory. They don't sit as in traditional music, where their gestures and the movements are conducted. The other aspect is that I use music which is programmed before the performance. Many electronic works of mine exist only on tape, most of them multi-channel, and this music then is projected into the hall from tape machines. To bring these two things together is a historical process which is improving more and more. I think in the future that what is pre-formed, what is programmed, does not necessarily need to be only on tape or on a hard disc or something like that. It can also be shaped, influenced by special performers who are playing these new electronic keyboard instruments, keyboards that are nothing but devices which trigger sounds and sequences. This makes for a very flexible performance combining the music of voices and certain instruments which will certainly exist in the future.'
And will that mean pen and paper no longer play a part in the composing process?
'Well, I wouldn't recommend that,' he replies gravely, 'because when working, it's not important if it's paper or a screen where you have a light pen or something like that. What is important is spending time, unlimited time, on composing. Even if you don't use paper, or you use a monitor which is fed by a computer or whatever, it is necessary that the spirit of the composer can concentrate on what he sees so that his eyes can help organise symbols which are used for other human beings to produce the sound. Even if he is his own interpreter, like I am in many cases, I need that process. What I wrote last night I have changed this morning because during the night I have woken up and changed something. So this compression of unlimited time into the time of a performance gives a quality which I think we will never achieve because when we look at the universe, we can see that it takes a lot of time to develop a solar system or planet. It is essential that the creative process uses this method. I don't know exactly what the paper of God is and what His plan is, but I am sure He needs also time to go at what must be an indescribably faster time than my own, which is determined by my body and my brain. Nevertheless, I think He makes His plans and His goals.'
As William Blake once wrote: 'The roaring of lions, the howling of wolves, the raging of the stormy sea, and the destructive sword, are portions of eternity, too great for the eye of man.'
Stockhausen nods his head thoughtfully.
'Too great for the eye of man,' he repeats slowly. 'Yes, but that is very creative isn't it? Because the limitation causes progress and invention, and that is the whole meaning of the universe.'
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