Dramatic breakdown for SAMSTAG AUS LICHT based on Measures 14-16 of the LICHT super-formula (© www.karlheinzstockhausen.org) |

*I feel that the sounds and intervals of the super formula are actually the characters, and*

*that the people who realise the sounds represent them. So the true actors in the entire work of*

*LICHT are actually the pitches and durations, the intensities and the colours, and the tone-forms*

*of the super-formula. It is difficult to explain to people that I, as a musician, see sounds like*

*people and experience them as such while composing.*

- Stockhausen, "FREITAG, World Theatre"

**This page describes the musical development of the 7-opera LICHT cycle from Stockhausen's LICHT "super-formula". A more general introduction to the LICHT cycle can be found here.**

__Going Towards the Light__

Stockhausen's 29-hour work LICHT ("Light") is basically a multi-disciplinary expansion of a 3-voice theme which he characterizes as a

**"super-formula"**. This concept is the culmination of musical experiments which Stockhausen had been exploring since virtually the very beginning of his career.

In his earliest works he explored ways to generate a variety of musical gestures by conducting non-repeating serial operations on pitch, duration, dynamics and timbre (such as in KREUZSPIEL and PUNKTE). This was followed by adding the concept of "points vs. groups" and tempo (KONTRAPUNKTE, GRUPPEN). Then in MANTRA and INORI he added the idea of considering musical gestures themselves as elements to be quantified and put into a "row", so to speak. These included gestures such as "a scale", "echos", "non-musical noises", "regular and irregular repetition", "clouds of notes around a central tone", etc... (see KLAVIERSTÜCKE V–X and MANTRA for more on this). The behaviors were solidified into a

**"formula"**, which is a kind of serial row for musical "gestures" as opposed to notes (though it is basically note-driven).

While in Japan, working on a piece for a traditional Japanese Gagaku orchestra (DER) JAHRESLAUF, Stockhausen wondered to himself what aural factors gave the different kinds of ethnic world music traditions their identity. He noticed that, for the most part, all of these global music genres still used common pitches and scales (for example, pentatonic, whole tone, diatonic, harmonic minor, etc...), but the element that gave each folk style a specific flavor was actually

*articulation and treatment*of the pitches as they progressed from one note to the next. Examples of these articulation types include microtonal glissandi, use of consonants or sibilant noises, tremoli, overtone vowels, etc... All of these additional articulation gestures were used to further develop the formula technique used previously in MANTRA and INORI.

Stockhausen at Ryoanji, Kyoto Japan 1977 (© www.karlheinzstockhausen.org) |

*"Tonformen"*. The LICHT formula has 36 "nuclear" tones, and the full formula is basically the expansion of these 36 Tonformen nuclear tones into musical gestures which can each be somewhat characterized as having a "head", "body" and "tail". This concept was also informed by his experience with electronic music, where each sound has to be described with an attack, body and decay.

__The LICHT Super-Formula__

Stockhausen hit upon the idea of layering the 3 formulas on top of each in order to get to the

**LICHT super-formula,**which ultimately included just about every idea Stockhausen had used up until this time (with the notable exceptions being spatial music and intuitive music through texts or "plus-minus" symbols). The 3 horizontal staves of the super-formula are named the MICHAEL layer, the EVE (EVA) layer and the LUCIFER (LUZIFER)

**layer, each of which is its own**

**formula**. The super-formula was then divided vertically into 7 segments (2 to 4 measures long), one for each day of the week. Each of these segments decides the overall form of each of the 7 operas in LICHT (each quarter note in the super-formula is expanded into 16 minutes of "real-time" to determine the durations of the acts and scenes - see top and bottom pictures of this page).

Besides the 3 "character" formulas, each of these also have reduced versions which strip the formulas of their gestural elements and leave only pitches, duration and dynamics - essentially a melody-theme. These are called

**"nuclear formulas"**("kernformel"). The nuclear formulas can also be further reduced to just their notes (without duration), which is basically a tone row in the pre-war Schoenberg-ian sense. These are the

**"nuclear tones"**, also called "central tones" or "kernels". MICHAEL has 17 nuclear tones (13 actually, but some are repeated), EVE has 12, and LUCIFER has 11. Finally Stockhausen uses so-called

**head-motives**derived from the first few notes of each of the 3 formula layers to act as character leitmotifs or transition signals.

Aside from these various simplified versions of the LICHT super-formula, these parts can all also be used in retrograde or inversion form (backwards or upside-down), though retrograde is only really used in LICHT-BILDER (and very briefly in LUCIFERs TRAUM). All of this material is then stretched temporally, and transposed vertically in some cases. Some of the musical material of LICHT may be based on a gestural element, and sometimes the material is an exact expression of the melodic content of a formula. It is actually very rare, however, to hear the formulas used as thematic material in the "classical sense" - unlike say in a Tchaikovsky ballet, one usually doesn't end up leaving with a "tune" drilled into one's head. In LICHT, the MICHAEL, EVE and LUCIFER formulas are used more as structural forces whose tonal characteristics exert a kind of planetary gravity over the surrounding musical ether. However, once a listener becomes more familiar with LICHT, the formulas do surface as "tunes" and, as Stockhausen implies in the quote at top, they become almost like "friends".

*In other words, the instrumentation is actually an interpretation that I make on the*

*spot. It even depends on the commission. I would never have thought of using a symphony*

*band for this particular scene if it hadn’t been for this commission. But in the first scene,*

*for example, where the basic idea was that Lucifer dreams a 13th Piano Piece, a piano*

*is mandatory...*

- Stockhausen, "SAMSTAG, World Theatre"

In using this concept of a super-formula, Stockhausen gave himself a firm supporting structure and form on which to build musical materials. As seen in the quote above from

*"SAMSTAG - World Theatre"*, the LICHT super-formula was written in 1977/78, but Stockhausen often didn't know the musical forces he would be using to express each day's opera of LICHT until close to the time he was about to actually begin working on a scene, and this method of development continued all the way up to LICHT's completion in 2003. Many times the instrumentation of a scene was driven by commissions, or sometimes by the urge to write a work for family/friends. Also, because many elements are based on shapes and colors rather than pitch motifs, this gave Stockhausen plenty of room to incorporate virtually any kind of compositional timbres he wanted, both acoustic and electronic.

The LICHT super-formula is shown below but it's instructive to note that this roughly 1-minute sequence of 19 measures almost never actually gets played simply as written. The closest he gets to that is probably in the piece BASSETSU-TRIO from bar 160 to 189 (CD 55, track 15), or possibly the ROTARY Wind Quintet (CD 105, track 6, starting from 4:26). Both works are from the scene MICHAELION/MITTWOCH AUS LICHT. For the most part, the super-formula acts more like a basic pattern from which to form a much more complex quilt of lines and colors.

The LICHT Super-formula (English translation) (© www.karlheinzstockhausen.org) |

Stockhausen calls the extra-musical gestures in the super-formula "accessories". These include

**Modulation**- regular/irregular changes in timbre, rhythm, dynamic, etc...**Scale**- even rising/falling notes connecting one nuclear tone with another**Variation**- ornamental improvisation ("satellite tones") on 1 or more connected nuclear tones**Echo & Pre-echo**- repetition with diminishing dynamic values, or an anticipatory note**Wind**- usually "breathing" pitches with a very transparent timbre, but sometimes played as harmonics- etc...

The LICHT Super-formula segments for each day Click to enlarge. (© www.karlheinzstockhausen.org) |

__The 7 Days of the Week__

Each of the 7 operas takes a 2-to-4 measure segment of the LICHT super-formula and expands it to create a form structure which determines the durations of its Acts and Scenes. Stockhausen's rule-of-thumb was that 1 quarter-note would be equal to 16 minutes in playing time (this rule was often stretched, of course). The following are the 7 days of LICHT with their respective measures in the super-formula (also marked in the above superformula itself by

*slightly*thicker measure lines):

MONTAG (Monday): M 1-3

DIENSTAG (Tuesday): M 4, 5

MITTWOCH (Wednesday): M 6, 7

DONNERSTAG (Thursday): M 8-11

FREITAG (Friday): M 12, 13

SAMSTAG (Saturday): M 14-16

SONNTAG (Sunday): M 17-19

DIENSTAG (Tuesday): M 4, 5

MITTWOCH (Wednesday): M 6, 7

DONNERSTAG (Thursday): M 8-11

FREITAG (Friday): M 12, 13

SAMSTAG (Saturday): M 14-16

SONNTAG (Sunday): M 17-19

MICHAEL formula divided into day segments and with Nuclear tones in diamonds. (Click to enlarge) (© www.karlheinzstockhausen.org) |

__The MICHAEL Formula__

The MICHAEL formula has lots of ascending and descending figures and its characteristic note interval is the perfect 4th, which is also featured in the MICHAEL "head motif". The formula is most easily heard in the beginning of MICHAELs REISE UM DIE ERDE in the ABSCHIED segment. There, the trumpet plays the formula as a solo and the features of the musical gestures are clearly felt and heard. Some of the main gestural features ("accessories") that are displayed here include

**ornamentation/improvisation**(Measure 2) of the 3 notes in M1,

**colored pauses**(as tongue clicks) (M3), 3

**echoes**(of M4 in M5),

**scale run**s (M9),

**rhythmic modulation**(M12),

**pre-echo**(M14) of the repeated note in M15,

**rhythmic pulses**(M15),

**trilling**and

**dynamic modulation**(M18). The signature melodic intervals of the MICHAEL formula are: ascending/descending Perfect 4ths & 5ths, descending minor 6ths.

LUCIFER formula divided into day segments and with Nuclear tones in squares. (Click to enlarge) (© www.karlheinzstockhausen.org) |

__The LUCIFER Formula__

LUCIFER's formula includes more dissonances and has a more "martial" feel. It has a head-motif of a major 7th (Measure 2). The augmented 4th or tritone (named by 18th C. musicians as "the devil in music", appropriately enough) also features prominently. Some of the main gestural features that are displayed here include a march-like

**regular pulsation**(M1),

**colored tremolo**(flutter tongue, M2),

**broken ascending scales**(M3),

**irregular rhythm**(M4, 13, 15, etc...),

**ornamental improvisation**(M5),

**colored silence**(M12),

**colored silence with counting**(M7, 14, 19),

**timbre modulation**(M8-10 (with phonetic vowels), M16), and

**tempo modulation**(rhythmic deceleration) (M17). One place that the LUCIFER formula can be heard relatively intact (and at a pretty brisk clip) is in MICHAELs REISE UM DIE ERDE in the trombone part of the 2nd STATION segment. The signature melodic intervals of the LUCIFER formula are: ascending Major 7ths, ascending minor 6ths.

EVE formula divided into day segments and with Nuclear tones circled. (Click to enlarge) (© www.karlheinzstockhausen.org) |

__The EVE Formula__

EVE's formula holds all 12 notes of the chromatic scale and has more "smooth" legato transitions between pitches as well as the simplest rhythms. It's characteristic interval (used in the EVE head motif) is the "cheerful" major 3rd. It has many of the same gestural features as the MICHAEL and LUCIFER formulas with the notable additions of broad pitch

**glissandi**(M3)

**, colored pitch bending**(M8, 9),

**microtones**(M15),

**rhythmic colored noise**(breathing noises, M12),

**yodeling**(M13) and different degrees of

**vibrato**(M1). One place that this formula can be heard relatively intact is in MICHAELs REISE UM DIE ERDE in the flute part of the 1st STATION segment. The signature melodic intervals of the EVE formula are: ascending Major 3rds, ascending tritones, descending octaves.

*As mentioned above, all 3 ("elaborated") formulas in the form of the 3-layered super-formula can be heard (at reduced tempo with minor variations) in the piece BASSETSU-TRIO from bar 160 to 189 ("Viertes Formel-Trio", track 15 on Stockhausen Edition CD 55).*

__Formulas from Nuclear Tones and Nuclear Formulas__

**Nuclear Tones**- sequenced pitches he wanted to use in the super-formula. These sequences can be used to generate rhythmic figures and ostinato figures without being subject to the prescribed rhythms in the formulas and nuclear formulas. MICHAEL's nuclear tone sequence has 13 tones plus 3 extra repeated tones (the unconnected pitches in segment 5 below). EVE has 12 notes and LUCIFER has 11 notes. Each of these mini-segments can be used alone or in combination as motivic material.

LICHT Nuclear Tones. Glieder = limbs.(© www.karlheinzstockhausen.org) |

The

**Nuclear Formulas**were created by giving durations to the Nuclear Tones, essentially making them into short melodies. Below are the 3 Nuclear Formulas ("kernformel") of MICHAEL, EVE and LUCIFER, in this picture layered on top of each other, though they are often used just by themselves. Compared to their full Formula incarnations, it's clear that these are highly simplified versions of the LICHT Formulas before all of the "dialect accessories" were added in. This makes them much easier to use as motifs and themes in a classical sense, especially when used for tutti groups of instruments such as chorus or brass. Oftentimes these are broken up into fragments so that characters can "speak" with each other musically.

The 3 LICHT Nuclear formulas. Each is divided into 5, 7 and 6 "limbs" (fragments used as motifs). (original Nuclear formula transcription from "Into the Middleground: Formula Syntax in Stockhausen's LICHT" - Jerome Kohl)(© www.karlheinzstockhausen.org) |

*All 3 nuclear formulas can also be heard in the piece BASSETSU-TRIO from bar 117 ("Erstes Formel-Trio", track 12 on Stockhausen Edition CD 55).*

The first few notes of the 3 LICHT nuclear formulas are also used as the

**head motifs**(below) of each character. These are somewhat like the "signatures" of each of the 3 characters of LICHT.

Head motifs of MICHAEL (perfect 4th), EVE (major 3rd) and LUCIFER (major 7th). |

__From Formulas to LICHT__

Stockhausen used the formulas, nuclear tones and head motifs in many different ways to generate the musical drama of LICHT, but probably the most obvious use was still generally based on pitch and duration (as opposed to the gestural elements). A typical scenario could be to take a day's segment (say the SAMSTAG segment of measures 14 to 16 and use those 3 layers on top of the full LUCIFER formula layer to create a 4 layer polyphony, or to use the LUCIFER head-motif as a recurring figure during a scene. In DONNERSTAG's MICHAELs REISE, the trumpet and the bassett horn have duets where they "trade licks" with each other, musically teaching the other fragments of their respective formulas. In the HELIKOPTER STREICHQUARTETT the string players play the full super-formula with tremolo glissandi, but each string player switches from layer to layer. In KATHINKA's GESANG each note of the LUCIFER formula gets it's own workout. Some scenes use many interpolations of formulas, but with a single formula influencing the general tonal character of a scene.

The only part of LICHT which is not fully based on the super-formula is Act 1 of DIENSTAG AUS LICHT, JAHRESLAUF, since it is an adapted staged version of DER JAHRESLAUF, which was completed before the super-formula was developed. However, working on DER JAHRESLAUF inspired Stockhausen to begin work on LICHT, and the version used in LICHT includes additional vocal parts which use the LICHT super-formula.

More detailed explanations of how the LICHT super-formula is used to germinate the individual scenes can be found in the posts describing the individual parts of the operas. A good place to start is the article on MICHAELs REISE.

*"...structures can be composed into each element which accord with*

*the overall structure of the work to be composed.*

*The elementary micro-structures and macro-structures of a composition are derived*

*from the unique, total conception of the work..."*

*- Stockhausen writing about GESANG DER JÜNGLINGE in*

*"Actualia", 1955/rev.1991*

Dramatic breakdown for FREITAG AUS LICHT based on M12 & 13 of the LICHT super-formula. (© www.karlheinzstockhausen.org) |

__LICHT Forces__

*The links below lead to brief synopses and breakdowns of the instrumental forces utilized in each work.*

DONNERSTAG AUS LICHT

SAMSTAG AUS LICHT

MONTAG AUS LICHT

DIENSTAG AUS LICHT

FREITAG AUS LICHT

MITTWOCH AUS LICHT

SONNTAG AUS LICHT

SAMSTAG AUS LICHT

MONTAG AUS LICHT

DIENSTAG AUS LICHT

FREITAG AUS LICHT

MITTWOCH AUS LICHT

SONNTAG AUS LICHT

__Links__

Wiki Entry on LICHT

Into the Middleground: Formula Syntax in Stockhausen's Licht (Jerome Kohl)

The Evolution of Macro- and Micro-Time Relations in Stockhausen's Recent Music (Jerome Kohl)

Time and

*Light*(Jerome Kohl)

Malcolm Ball's interview with Stockhausen on LICHT (1997)

Bernard Pulham's Site on LICHT

Generative processes in Stockhausen's Lichter - Wasser (Bianchi, PDF Thesis)

An Analysis of Karlheinz Stockhausen's Traum-Formel Pt 1 (Vickery, PDF Thesis)

The Saxophone Works of Karlheinz Stockhausen (Bunt, PDF thesis)

I read a book about the Licht cycle that is very informative, full of musical examples combining a lot of sources. It is written by a polish writer, I do not see this book cited anywhere in sites on Stockhausen etc. and there is very much information in it. I do not know if it has been translated but it is a very complete exploration of this masterpiece. I forgot the name of the author, I will try to give it.

ReplyDeleteIs this the book you meant:

ReplyDeleteMonika Pasiecznik

Rytuał superformuły

Wydawnictwo Krytyki Politycznej, 2011

ISBN 8362467398, 9788362467396

http://lubimyczytac.pl/ksiazka/139067/rytual-superformuly-karlheinz-stockhausen-licht-die-sieben-tage-der-woche

318 pages

I quess you know:

Thomas Ulrich

Stockhausens Zyklus Licht, ein Opernführer

Böhlau Verlag Köln 2017

978-3-412-50577-6

481 pages

Ellen de Haas, Rotterdam [NL]