Tuesday, October 21, 2014

ORCHESTER-FINALISTEN, MITTWOCHS-ABSCHIED

MITTWOCH AUS LICHT
Greeting
MITTWOCHS-
GRUSS
Scene 1
WELT-PARLAMENT

Scene 2
ORCHESTER-FINALISTEN
Scene 3
HELIKOPTER-STREICHQUARTETT
Scene 4
MICHAELION

Farewell
MITTWOCHS-
ABSCHIED
 
MITTWOCHS-ABSCHIED at the end of the Birmingham 2012 production.
Note LUZIKAMEL (from MICHAELION) in the foreground.

No. 68 ORCHESTER-FINALISTEN (Orchestra Finalists)
for 26 (or 13) orchestra instruments
1996 [46']

No. 71 MITTWOCHS-ABSCHIED (WEDNESDAY FAREWELL)
Electronic and Concrete Music (8-track)
1996 [44']

Introduction
     ORCHESTER-FINALISTEN is the 2nd Act of MITTWOCH AUS LICHT (WEDNESDAY FROM LIGHT), the 6th-completed LICHT opera.  This piece has no vocal text, but instead features 11 different orchestra instruments performing short "auditions" one after another against a background tape of musique concrete (environmental field recordings).  Each solo is also accompanied by a single 5-chord orchestral figure, cued by the soloist (the instrumentation for the chords are left open, but Stockhausen provides suggestions).  After the auditions, the musicians all play together using their solo parts, coming in and and out at different points.

MITTWOCH AUS LICHT (Wednesday from LIGHT)
     LICHT is a work of monumental proportions for acoustic and electronic operatic forces, divided into the 7 days of the week (one opera for each day).  This opera cycle revolves 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.  The music is almost entirely based on a "super-formula", which is a 3-layered melodic-thematic representation of the 3 characters.  These formula-themes are together and separately threaded throughout the opera's vocal and instrumental fabric.  Story-wise, actors and narrative can (and often do) change from scene to scene, and the libretto text is sometimes made up of non-traditional grammar (or even purely phonetic sounds).

     MITTWOCH (Wednesday) is the Day of Cooperation and Reconciliation.  The scenes in MITTWOCH do not have a dramatic arc connecting them, instead the theme of Cooperation and Reconciliation between the characters is achieved through musical, visual, and spatial means.  In ORCHESTER-FINALISTEN, the orchestra is "floating high up in the air from far away: individual soloists fly closer, each of them in/above their own space..."  The "spaces" are aurally represented by field recordings of different juxtaposed environments.  The theme of cooperation is represented by the coming together of the separate soloists into a full orchestra at the end of the Scene.

ORCHESTER-FINALISTEN
     The musical material of the soloists' parts (and more subtly, the background tape) in ORCHESTER-FINALISTEN is derived from the DIENSTAG and MITTWOCH (Tuesday & Wednesday) measures of the LICHT super-formula (m. 4-7, drawn below on the CD cover), as well as the beginning of the EVE nuclear formula (a version of the EVE formula based on the melody without the ornamentation and articulation markings).  Each of the instrumental solos include various extended techniques as well as body movements and pantomimes.  In fact, in a staged version of Orchestra Finalists, the musicians are suspended in the air and have specific "telescoping" trajectories in space.  They are also dressed as "musicians from 12 different alien cultures".

Stockhausen Edition CD 52 cover.
These measures are based on measures 4-7 of the LICHT super-formula.
www.karlheinzstockhausen.org)
MITTWOCHS-ABSCHIED
     The accompanying background tape used to produce the "environmental space" is also known as MITTWOCHS-ABSCHIED (Wednesday Farewell), since it is re-projected at the end of the opera performance as the audience departs (slightly edited).  It has 8 channels and is oriented octophonically in a "sound-cube" (such as in OKTOPHONIE).  There are 11 overlapping environments/situations, with the 11th space including some elements of the live part (a mummy and contra-bass player).  The concrete elements of these layers are projected as different surfaces of the sound-cube and are often treated to reverb, ring-modulation and/or delays.  The elements cannot occur together in reality (or at least rarely) and become "trans-realistic" as Stockhausen describes it.

     The 3 layers of concrete elements are also pitch-transposed according to the above 3 layers of the LICHT super-formula fragment (DIENSTAG & MITTWOCH).  This basically results in several background "drones" which sound like high metallic strings, low hums, etc...  For example in the 1st section ("cathedral"), the high F, middle Eb and low Db can be heard.  In the 6th section, wine glasses sound the Bb from the MICHAEL layer.  The pitch transpositions and different 3-sided spatial projection shapes of the 8-channel sound cube in each section can be seen in the form-scheme below.
www.karlheinzstockhausen.org)
     In the formscheme, each set of 3 staffs shows (in order): a layer's formula pitch for transposition (derived from the formscheme on the CD cover), spatial orientation, and nature of the concrete sound.  There are 3 sets: EVE, MICHAEL and then LUCIFER's layers.  In each of the 11 Spaces, there are usually 3 concrete sound layers and orientations, but in Spaces 7 and 8, there is only 1 layer (but with a mixed environment), since the MICHAEL and LUCIFER layers have rest notes in those measures.
8-channel loudspeaker set-up to create 3D sound space
Form Structure
     The images above show the general melodic material Stockhausen used for each solo below.  Melodic material from each of the 3 layers below each instrument were atomized and recombined to create the basis for each solo.  The 3rd column below highlights some of the additional articulations and gestures for each soloist.
Track Instrument & Environment Additional instrumental timbres and
Tape Elements
Time
1 Cathedral environment begins Cathedral environment, brief instrumental "signatures" from each solo, higher ventilator power-switch on 1:31
2 Click of ventilator switch Fan rattle, lower ventilator power-switch on 0:14
3 Oboe Solo Large register leaps, long tones with dynamic volume envelopes
Catholic mass bells, priest singing"paster noster", power switch-off
3:31
4 Airport by the sea environment begins Seagull cries 0:11
5 Cello Solo Tremolos and trills, mimed bowing, harmonics, energetic bowing
Seagull cries, water, plane landing
3:13
6 Harbor port environment begins Ship's horn, jet fighter 0:22
7 Clarinet Solo Scalar runs, small interval tremolos, multiphonics
Ship's horn, jet fighters, boat engines
2:36
8 "Electronic Bassoon" tones begin Electronic bassoon tone, wind 0:20
9 Bassoon Solo Wide interval tremolos in different registers, long tones, orchestral tremolo
Wine glasses, ship's horn, boat engines, electronic bassoon tone, clarinet tremolo, seagull cries
2:55
10 Bird reserve environment begins Birds and bees 0:16
11 Violin Solo Dense tremolo, high staccato, pizz/gliss figures, harmonics
Bird calls, bees, struck wine glasses
2:32
12 Struck Wine Glasses Wine glass hits 0:08
13 Tuba Solo Mouthpiece "buzzing" alternating w low tones, short figures facing left and right
Wine glasses, bees, birds etc...children in class, goat
3:30
14 Kindergarten class begins Soprano: "rrr", children 0:16
15 Flute Solo
3 note ascending figure with harmonics, flutter-tongue, vocalizing, percussive, "trombone tones", key noises, whistle tones, 2-note tremolos
Children, goats, soprano sings names of instruments in order of solos.."sorry..so sorry"
4:05
16 Swimming pool environment begins
3 pool splashes, children 0:13
17 Trombone Solo Wednesday fragment of EVE formula (6 note gliss figure) with 7 different "attitudes": ceremonious, elegant, angry, pious, excited, tired, happy
Pool splashes, elephant calls, children
3:52
18 Viola Solo and Marrakesh train journey begins Pizzicato, held like a guitar, rising stabbing notes with tremolo combined w verbal counting, multiple orchestra accompaniment figures, waving farewell at end
Wild geese, locomotive approach and whistle, PA announcer, lion roars, tree frogs, locomotive departure
3:51
19 Trumpet Solo and Marrakesh Slow microtonal notes with verbal counting, tongue clicks
Ethnic percussion, Arabian oboes, laughing orangutan, bird warbling, lion, zebras, horses
3:21
20 Ship journey begins Ship creaking 0:09
21 Contra-bass Solo Phonetic vocals with with low bowed tone and drumming on bass body, labored vocal exclamations with fast bow bouncing, long "rrr" interrupted by bandaged "mummy" and Chinese gong.  Bassist falls down, then gets up and conducts orchestra with bow: "1 - 2 - 3 - nothing!", jazzy bass riffing
Tree frogs, ship creaking
4:20
22 Horn Solo Horn soloist enters stage playing Wednesday fragment of EVE formula (the horn player has actually been repeatedly playing his solo throughout the concert, but outside the auditorium, in stairwells, the lobby, etc..) 
Tree frogs, ship creaking (cont'd)
0:25
23 Orchestra Tutti All soloists play their solos again simultaneously, but entering at slightly different intervals
Tree frogs, ship creaking (cont'd)
4:06


Score
Page 1 of the Contrabass solo
The bass repeats a heavily bowed note 10 times with different phonetic vocalizations
and finger drumming on the bass body, followed by bouncing of the bow on the strings
www.karlheinzstockhausen.org)
Live Performance
     In a staged performance, ORCHESTER-FINALISTEN is performed once, but in an independently produced concert version the work is performed twice, each time with a different set of orchestra finalists (26 players instead of 13).

From Stockhausen's notes:
     "A telescopic observation of the stage reveals, through the telescope and corresponding to the music, the towering roof of a cathedral, aeroplanes flying over the sea, a harbour, etc. The electronic music delineates 11 spaces. They follow each other in succession, are superimposed in three layers for various lengths of time, and are clearly differentiated through octophonic spatial projection:
  1. A cathedral
  2. An airport by the sea
  3. A harbour (also with aeroplanes)
  4. A railway train with steam locomotive
  5. A bird reserve (also individual birds)
  6. Flocks of birds and swarms of bees
  7. A kindergarten with little goats
  8. A swimming pool with elephants
  9. Wild geese above a railway train
  10. A market-place in Marrakech, zebras, lions, wild geese, horses
  11. A sailing-ship with tree frogs, rattletrap (jeep)
     Objects inherent to these spaces protrude out of the floor. Above this, each soloist floats back and forth in a particular way (each also flies at a different altitude). At the end, all fly upwards in different directions, playing."

Flute excerpt by Karin deFleyt Birmingham 2012:


Tuba with Ian Foster, Birmingham 2012:

Trombone with Andrew Connington, Birmingham 2012:

More excerpts (with World Parliament for the first 5'20'' min.): Oboe, cello, viola, tuba, flute, trombone, horn, contrabass
Sound Impressions
    ORCHESTER-FINALISTEN is a great collection of instrumental solos with a very rich and organic musique concrete background tape.  It contains all of Stockhausen's favorite playing techniques as well as some pretty typically absurd moments, such as the mummy with the Chinese gong (I wonder if there's a subtext there or if it just came to him in a dream?).

These days, many orchestral musicians aspire to play soloistically without risking 
a career as soloist. I am therefore hoping that orchestra musicians will also be 
interested in playing the roles of the ORCHESTRA FINALISTS, through which
they demonstrate their musicality and skill by a new style of interpretation: 
playing from memory, moving in an individual way and projecting their personal aura.
  - Stockhausen

     The tape portion, MITTWOCHS-ABSCHIED is just as enjoyable separate from Orchestra Finalists as with, maybe even more so.  Stockhausen managed to juxtapose some disparate elements which could never (or at least rarely, depending on how often elephants dive into swimming pools) occur in real life.  The CD version is broken into 11 tracks with the rundown given above.  In any case, ORCHESTER-FINALISTEN was one of those scenes which had a reputation for being "unperformable" due to the score requirement of having the soloists fly around over the sea and in the sky.  The only production so far by the Birmingham Opera Company is a valiant effort, but I'm looking forward to the future where hopefully anti-gravity belts will be available for the soloists to use.

Links
Stockhausen's Notes on ORCHESTER-FINALISTEN 
Sound samples, tracks listings and CD ordering:
Scores for MITTWOCH AUS LICHT
MITTWOCH AUS LICHT Wiki
ORCHESTER-FINALISTEN Youtube clip
MITTWOCHs ABSCHIED Youtube clip 
MITTWOCH AUS LICHT 2012 Birmingham Production (Jerome Kohl photos) 

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