LICHT: Musical Forces

Stockhausen at Ryoanji, Kyoto Japan 1977

A Brief Guide to LICHT - Pt 1 

     LICHT (Light) is Stockhausen's 29-hour work for acoustic and electronic operatic forces, divided into 7 days of the week.  Though it is generally considered a cycle of 7 "operas", practically speaking it has almost nothing in common with most operas written in the last 200 years, and is probably better considered as a collection of interconnected vocal concert works with extremely interesting stage design and costuming.  Each of the 7 "operas" has a melodic/thematic backbone (called a "super-formula"), but story-wise, actors and narrative change from act to act and the libretto text very often is made up of non-traditional grammar.  In fact the text begins in German but later includes multiple world languages, even some which Stockhausen created himself.  However the work does revolve around 3 archetype characters, MICHAEL, EVE and LUCIFER, and over the 29 hours each of these characters are introduced, come into conflict, face temptation and finally come into union.

     Each scene and act of LICHT is also designed to be performed individually as a concert work (as opposed to being "staged" within a performance of its actual opera).  Though the musical super-formula of LICHT was developed in 1977, the development of the instrumental forces (arrangements) of LICHT were largely left open, especially after the first opera was completed.  Many times a scene or an act was designed as the result of a commission, or as a gift to one of his musical collaborators (or family members).  What results is that each of the 7 operas has specific themes, but the realization of those themes can be very different.  For example MITTWOCH (Wednesday) includes helicopters in one scene, and a camel from space in another, and from a narrative standpoint they have no connection whatsoever.  However some of the operas do have some more static stage elements, especially if the theme is a very visual one.  For example MONTAG (Monday) revolves around a giant statue of a naked woman giving birth, and this statue remains on stage for the entirety of that day's opera.

     The one thing that truly ties the 7 operas together is the 1 minute long super-formula, which informs just about every note in the entire 29 hours.  The super-formula is rarely played in a classically expository way, but is threaded through the work in various guises, sometimes in atomized form.  In a separate article I'll examine the super-formula in detail.

     This first part contains a very brief synopsis and a list of the instrumental forces utilized in each work.  These guides will generally avoid most of the non-musical staging elements (colors, dancers, costuming, symbolism, etc...) since then this would no longer be very "brief".  However the articles on the individual works on this site (at this writing mostly still forthcoming) will go into those elements in more detail.  Additionally there are several resources on the web that cover these dramatic aspects very well already.

     It may be interesting to note that the themes of the 3 characters of MICHAEL, EVE and LUCIFER are expressed as solos, duos and a trio over the course of the 7 operas of LICHT:


Here is a brief guide to the 7 Days of LICHT:
(Thursday from Light) (1977-1980)
(for 3 solo voices, 8 solo instrumentalists (trumpet, bassett horn, trombone, piano, clarinet, contrabass,, saxophones), 3 solo dancers, choir, orchestra and tape)
     DONNERSTAG is MICHAEL's day, the Day of Learning.  It features MICHAEL's representative instrument, the trumpet.  MICHAEL is portrayed as a human, growing from child to man.  He undertakes a journey around the Earth until he encounters EVE and her bassett horn.  Eventually he returns to the Heavens where he describes his experiences to the other heavenly beings.

THURSDAY GREETING 8-piece brass ensemble, piano, 3 percussionists


Tenor, Soprano and Bass vocal soloists, 
trumpet, bassett horn,  trombone, piano, dancer,
tapes (INVISIBLE CHOIRS and multi-tracked trumpet, bassett-horn  & trombone)
          CHILDHOOD (featuring Tenor, Soprano and Bass vocal soloists)
          MOON-EVE (feat. Tenor vocal soloist and bassett horn)
          EXAMINATION (feat. Tenor vocal soloist, trumpet and piano (PIANO PIECE XII))

Trumpet & Orchestra
          THE 7 STATIONS
          HALT (feat. trumpet & contrabass duo)
          MISSION (feat. trumpet & bassett horn duo)
          DERISION and CRUCIFIXION (feat. sopr. saxophone duo)
          ASCENSION (feat. trumpet & bassett horn duo)


Tenor, Soprano and Bass vocal soloists, bassett-horn, trumpet, 
trombone, choir, orchestra, tape (of choir)
          VISION (feat. Tenor vocal soloist, trumpet and dancer)


5 Trumpets

Released on Stockhausen Edition CD 30

(from Lucifers Dance)
(Saturday from Light) (1981-1983)
(for Bass vocalist, 10 solo instrumentalists (piano, flute, percussionists, trombone, piccolo flute, piccolo trumpet...), 2 solo dancers, symphonic wind band, ballet or mimes, men's chorus, organ)
     SAMSTAG is LUCIFER's day, which is the Day of Death (and Resurrection).  It is also the Night of the transition to the LIGHT.  LUCIFER's instrument is the trombone, which is featured in the opening Greeting.  LUCIFER has a dream of death and resurrection, after which a cat-like flautist protects his coffin with musical exercises.  Then an orchestra made up in the image of LUCIFER's face battles itself into self-destruction.  Finally a group of monks release a caged black bird into the sky.

The color for SATURDAY is BLACK.

SATURDAY GREETING 26 Brass instruments and 2 Percussionists


Bass vocal soloist and piano (PIANO PIECE XIII)

Flute and 6 Percussionists


Bass vocal soloist, piccolo trumpet, piccolo flute, symphonic wind band


Men's chorus, organ, 7 trombones, bells, gong

Released on Stockhausen Edition CD 34

(EVE prepares to give birth)
(Monday from Light) (1984-1988)
(for 14 solo voices, 6 solo instrumentalists (piano, bassett horn, flute, piccolo, synthesizer, etc...), 1 actor, choir, children’s choir, girls’ choir, modern orchestra (3 synthesizer players, 1 percussionist, tape))
     MONTAG is EVE's day, the Day of Birthing.  EVE is represented by bassett horn and flute.  EVE gives birth to a new form of Mankind, but the children and their caretakers are mocked by LUCIFER.  In the end a Pied Piper flautist leads the children off into the distance.
The color for MONDAY is LIGHT GREEN.

MONDAY GREETING Bassett horn and tape

EVE'S 1st BIRTH-GIVING: 3 Sopranos, 3 Tenors, Bass, actor, choir, 
children’s choir, 3 synthesizers, perc., tape
         EXPECTING (feat. 3 Sopranos and choir)
         HEINZELMÄNNCHEN (feat. 3 Sopranos)
         BIRTH-ARIAS (feat. 3 Sopranos, 3 Tenors w. choir)
         BOYS' HULLABALOO (feat. choir)
         LUCIFER'S FURY (feat. Bass vocal soloist and vocalizing actor)

EVE'S 2nd BIRTH-GIVING: 7 Boy vocal soloists, bassett horns, piano, children's choir,
girls' choir, 3 synthesizers, perc., tape
           GIRLS' PROCESSION (feat. girl's choir)
(feat. piano (PIANO PIECE XIV))
           RE-BIRTH (feat. children's choir)
           EVE'S SONG (feat. bassett horn, synthesizer, boy vocalists)

EVE'S MAGIC: Bassett horn, alto flute with piccolo, 
children's choir, 3 synthesizers, perc., tape
           MESSAGE (feat. bassett horn and alto flute soloists)
           THE PIED PIPER/ (feat. alto flute, piccolo, children's choir)

MONDAY FAREWELL Tape featuring piccolo flute, Soprano voices and musique concrete

Released on Stockhausen Edition CD 36

(from the Course of the Years)
(Tuesday from Light) (1977, 1987-1991)
(for 3 solo voices, 10 solo instrumentalists (trumpets, trombones, ekectronic keyboards and percussion, synthesizer, flugel horn, etc...), dancer-mimes, choir, synthesizers, perc., tapes)
     DIENSTAG is the Day of War.  LUCIFER and MICHAEL engage in a contest of wills in a "Course of the Years".  Later the opposing forces of each battle in the air and on a futuristic battleground.  The forces of LUCIFER penetrate a crystal barrier to reveal "war gamers".  In the end a clownish figure, the Synthi-Fou defuses the conflict with his good humor.
The color for TUESDAY is RED.

TUESDAY GREETING: Soprano vocal soloist, 9 trumpets, 9 trombones, 
2 synthesizers, choir
     WELCOME (feat. trumpets, trombones, 2 synthesizers)
     PEACE GREETING (feat. Soprano soloist)

COURSE OF THE YEARS Tenor, Bass vocal soloists, dancer-mimes, 3 synthesizers, 3 piccolo flutes, 
3 sopr. saxophones, harmonium, guitar, metal percussion, tape

INVASION – EXPLOSION with FAREWELL: Soprano, Tenor, Bass vocal soloists, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, 
flugel horn, 2 synthesizers, 2 percussionists, choir, tape (OKTOPHONIE)
     OKTOPHONIE (8 channel tape)
     PIETA (feat. Soprano and flugel horn)
     BEYOND (feat. male choir (CT, T, B) and tape)
     SYNTHI-FOU (feat. synthesizer soloist (PIANO PIECE XV))

Released on Stockhausen Edition CD 40

(from Children's War)
(Friday from Light) (1991-1994)
(for Soprano, Baritone, Bass, flute, bassett horn, children’s orchestra, children’s choir, 12 choir singers, synthesizer, 12 couples of dancer-mimes, tape)
     FREITAG is the Day of Temptation where LUCIFER attempts to tempt EVE into joining his revolution against Heaven.  At first EVE resists, but the children of LUCIFER and the children of EVE meet and play together.  However a Children's War soon shatters the union.
The color for FRIDAY is ORANGE.

(Outer Space Pt 1)
Tape (modified vocal and concrete sounds)

FRIDAY TEMPTATION: Soprano, Baritone and Bass vocal soloists, flute, bassett horn, choir, children’s choir and "orchestra", synthesizer, tape (modified vocal and concrete sounds)
     PROPOSAL (feat. Soprano and Bass vocal soloists, flute, bassett horn)
     CHILDREN'S ORCHESTRA (feat. Soprano and Bass vocal soloists, 2-part children's choir and soloists)
     CONSENT (feat. Soprano and Bass vocal soloists, flute, bassett horn)
     FALL (feat. Soprano and Baritone vocal soloists, flute, bassett horn)
     CHILDREN'S WAR (feat. 2-part children's choir & synthesizer (PIANO PIECE XVII))
     REPENTANCE (feat. Soprano vocal soloist, flute, bassett horn)
     ELUFA (feat. bassett horn, flute)
     CHOIR-SPIRAL (feat. 2-part mixed choir)


Soprano and Bass processed with concrete music
(Outer Space Pt 2)
Tape (modified vocal and concrete sounds)

Released on Stockhausen Edition CD 50

(Wednesday from Light) (1995-1997)
(for flute, bassett horn, trumpet, trombone, string quartet, Bass with short-wave receiver, choir, orchestra, synthesizer, 2 dancer-mimes, tape)
     In MITTWOCH, the Day of Cooperation and Reconciliation, MICHAEL, LUCIFER and EVE attempt to reach common ground through a council on love, a floating orchestra, a flying string quartet, and finally a meeting in interstellar space where a strange camel (LUCI-CAMEL) brings clarity and sends message bearers out into the universe.


WORLD PARLIAMENT Vocal soloists, mixed choir

ORCHESTRA FINALISTS Orchestra soloists with musique concrete tape

HELICOPTER STRING QUARTET String quartet, helicopters

MICHAELION Vocal soloists, mixed choir, short-wave radio, flute, bassett horn, trumpet, trombone, synthesizer, tape, toys


Released on Stockhausen Edition CDs 66, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55

(from Scents - Signs)
(Sunday from Light) (1998-2003)
(for 10 vocal soloists, boy’s voice, four instrumental soloists (bassett horn, flute, trumpet, synthesizer), two choirs, two orchestras, electronic music)
     SONNTAG is the Day of Mystical Union between MICHAEL and EVE.  God is praised.  An orchestra atomizes and rotates the themes of MICHAEL and EVE after which a procession of Angels praises the union.  Light Pictures reflect the courtship of the two characters, and the 7 Scents of the Week are celebrated.  Finally, an orchestra and a choral group take turns to finalize the union with recollections of scenes from each day of LICHT.
The color for SUNDAY is GOLD.

LIGHT-WATERS Soprano and Tenor vocal soloists, orchestra, synthesizer

ANGEL PROCESSIONS Choir a cappella (with 4 soloists)

LIGHT-PICTURES Tenor vocalist, bassett horn, ring-modulated flute, ring-modulated trumpet (with synth for controlling ring modulation)

SCENTS – SIGNS Vocal septet (solos, duos and a trio), boy’s voice, synthesizer


SUNDAY FAREWELL   Tape (5 synthesizers (PIANO PIECE XIX))

Released on Stockhausen Edition CDs 58, 67, 68, 69, 73, 74

Part 2 of this overview of LICHT ("Super-Formula") is here.

Albrecht Moritz's Stockhausen Reviews
Bernard Pulham - LICHT Essays
Sonoloco Record Reviews
Wiki Entry on LICHT
Ian Parson's blog article and PBS LICHT broadcast
Malcolm Ball's interview with Stockhausen on LICHT (1997)
The Evolution of Macro- and Micro-Time Relations in Stockhausen's Recent Music (Jerome Kohl)
Into the Middleground: Formula Syntax in Stockhausen's Licht (Jerome Kohl)
Time and Light (Jerome Kohl) 


No. 82: KLANG Hour 2: FREUDE (Joy)
for 2 Harps with voice
2005 [41']
     After writing HIMMELFAHRT (Ascension), the first hour of KLANG (a cycle of chamber pieces devoted to the 24 hours of the day), Stockhausen received another request from the Milan Cathedral to write something for the following year's Pentecost in 2006.  He envisioned a piece for 2 harpists, inspired by the performing duo of Marianne Smit (niece of Stockhausen's flautist Kathinka Pasveer) and Esther Kooi.  He also decided that text from a 24-line sequence hymn of the Pentecost ("Veni Creator Spiritus") would be sung during the performance.

Form Structure
Text of "Veni Creator Spiritus"
FREUDE is made up of 24 continuous 1-3 minute long sections ("moments") each devoted to a line of the "Veni Creator Spiritus" text.  
Stockhausen's sketch for FREUDE's structural Form Scheme (from score).
Here are some impressions of each of the 24 FREUDE "Moments":
CD Trk/
Text Time
1 Veni, Creator Spiritus 1:48 (+9) alternating chords, tremolo plucking, chorale-like text
2 Mentes Tuorum Visita 2:09 "point" music interspersed with glissandi figures
3 Impie Superna Gratia 2:24 ostinato patterns, glissandi up and down, phrases shared between harps, high irregular chanting echoing away
4 Quae Tu Creasti Pectora 1:46 long held chords, alternating text syllables
5 Qui Diceris Paraclitus 1:29 baroque(?) feeling, ending with strings "hammered" with open hands
6 Altissimi Donum Dei 1:25 slow held notes with a few glissandi
7 Fons Vivus, Ignis, Caritas 1:14 chordal phrases with ostinati
8 El Spiritalis Unctio 0:53 wild glissandi with plectrum
9 Tu, Septiformis Munere 2:10 chord tremolo, fast glissandi with fingers and nails - "Joy!"
10 Digitus Paternae Dexterae 1:14 slow low chords with a few high gliss. figures
11 Tu Rite Promissum Patris 1:01 descending scale, then ascending with harmonics
12 Sermomne Ditans Guttura 2:33 alternating low pedal note, then rhythmic chord strokes, slowing, then accelerating, glissandi end
13 Accende Lumen Sensibus 1:18 chord tremolo, double glissandi (2 notes) alternating with rests and chord phrases, tremolo ending
14 Infunde Amorem Cordibus 1:27 chorale-like text, followed by tranquil Harp 1 solo
15 Infirma Nostri Corporis 1:16 rhythmic low pedal figure with mixed figures
16 Virtute Firmans Perperti 1:28 occasional glissandi and ostinati accompanied by recurring 2-note descending motif
17 Hostem Repelias Longius 3:16 long scalar passages of varying tempi in duple and triplet rhythms
18 Pacemque Dones Protinus 1:31 long up/down glissandi, with slow tremolo punctuated by sforzati accents
19 Ductore Sic Te Praevio 1:55 low melodic phrases slowly ascending, ostinato patterns
20 Vitemus Omne Noxium 1:13 alternating low ostinato patterns with accented chords and string rubbing
21 Per Te Sciamus da Patrem 1:24 high tremolo trilling, trilling in different registers
22 Noscamus Atque Filium 1:34 chordal trilling, low ascending figures, ascending syncopated chords ("beat humorously")
23 Te Utriusque Spiritum 1:14 fast rhythmic ascending chords, string hammering, chord tremolo
24 Credamus Omni Tempore 1:58
synchronous melodic phrases punctuated by accent chords, ending with alternating low chords (reminiscent of 1st moment)

Excerpt from Moment 9 (glissandi figures).

Excerpt from Moment 23 (fast ascending chords).
(score ©
Stockhausen's Program Notes on FREUDE

     The first part of my new cycle KLANG (SOUND), The 24 Hours of the Day, was a commission of ArtAche Milano, an institution of the Duomo di Milano with its artistic director Don Luigi Garbini. I named it KLANG – Erste Stunde: HIMMELFAHRT (SOUND – First Hour: ASCENSION) because it had its world premiere on May 5th 2005 for Ascension Day. The score is written for organ, soprano and tenor.  

     After this première, Don Luigi asked for the première of KLANG – Second Hour in relation to the festival of Pentecost. I accepted it happily and immediately had the inner audition and vision of a work for two harps. During the composition I was imagining the two Dutch harpist-girls Marianne and Esther, both 21 years old, who live and perform together as real idealists. One of them is the niece of the flutist Kathinka Pasveer for whom I wrote so many works.  

     As a first title I chose Pentecost and decided to let the two harpists also sing – in alternation or sometimes together –the essential text of Pentecost Veni Creator Spiritus, while plucking, picking, caressing, stroking, pinching, rubbing, striping, striking, pinking, jubilating. In accordance with the 24 lines of this hymn I have composed 24 musical moments like the 24 hours of the Day, so that the Second Hour of KLANG is a full day within one hour of the Day. 

     During the composition I changed the title to FREUDE (JOY). My basic feeling was Freude (joy). I imagined always the première at the Duomo di Milano, the enthusiasm of the two girls, their playing, singing. The score certainly preserves this fantastic joy in my mind and soul during the many months of composing this work. There is something unique about the adventure to combine two harps which are normally tuned in diatonic scales and to synthesise them into one large chromatic harp.  

     Now I have understood why I have sent a design of a Greek harping angel to Don Luigi to remind him of the divine role of this instrument. Pentecost unites what has been separated. My work FREUDE too.

      - K. Stockhausen, February 15th 2006
Live Performance
(from Stockhausen Edition 84 CD Booklet)

Live performance extracts (12:42) with harpists Bleuenn Le Friec and Frédérique Cambreling:

Sound Impressions
     FREUDE is a truly beautiful piece for harp and female voices, and might surprise people who think of contemporary classical music as being intimidating and inaccessible.  It's pretty amazing that Stockhausen could create such a "pretty" work so late in his career, and then follow that up with the ear-bending COSMIC PULSES just a couple years later.  It's a bit lengthy at 41 minutes, but once one perceives that it's really 24 individual sections structured in a dramatic arch, it almost becomes a kind of liturgy in itself.  The 24 sections are also a kind of "microcosm" (symbolically, but not musically) of the entire KLANG concept of 24 hours of the day.

FREUDE (CD 84) samples, tracks listings and CD ordering 
Purchase the Score
Stockhausen in Lugo: HIMMELS-TÜR and FREUDE DVD
FREUDE clip with premiere performers Marianne Smit and Esther Kooi
Wiki Entry
Albrecht Moritz Analysis
Marianne Smit Website
Review of FREUDE on Dusted Magazine