|SAMSTAG AUS LICHT|
(München, Church of St. Michael 2013)
for male chorus with mass bells, Good Friday clappers, organ/synth, tam-tam and 7 trombones (live or tape) with a caged wild bird and a sack of coconuts
4th Scene of SAMSTAG AUS LICHT
(SATURDAY from LIGHT)
LUZIFERs ABSCHIED (LUCIFER'S FAREWELL) is the 4th Scene of Stockhausen's dramatic music work SAMSTAG AUS LICHT (SATURDAY from LIGHT), which was the second-composed entry of his 7-part, 29-hour opera cycle LICHT (Light). LICHT is a work 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).
SAMSTAG (Saturday) is LUCIFER's day, which is the Day of Death (and Resurrection), as well as the Night of the transition to the LIGHT. LUZIFER's ABSCHIED, the "Farewell" scene of SAMSTAG, takes place at church, both inside and in the outer courtyard. A male chorus situated in 2 columns around the audience intones St. Francis of Assisi's "Lodi delle Virtù" (Hymn to the Virtues). LUCIFER, as a "Diabolical Wind Player" playing trombone, abruptly interrupts the proceedings and causes chaos. Eventually a sack from Heaven (filled with coconuts) arrives. The men file outside and set a wild bird free. Then they move to a stone slab and begin smashing coconuts on it (Albrecht Moritz notes on his excellent review that this element was inspired from Stockhausen's experiences at a Kataragama religious festival in Ceylon). Finally they leave in a procession, with humorous dance steps, intoning the "Hymn to the Virtues..."
|In the above SAMSTAG AUS LICHT form scheme, the 3rd |
measure is the LUZIFER's ABSCHIED "segment" of the LICHT
super-formula. This fragment is stretched temporally across the
entire hour of LUZIFER's ABSCHIED, resulting in long,
held background chords or other large structural elements.
The image at right is measures 14-16 of the 19 measure LICHT super-formula. When Stockhausen mapped out the 7 operas of LICHT, he divided the super-formula into "day sections", starting from Monday. Saturday is near the end of the week, so it is mapped to these penultimate measures (the measures assigned to Sunday are measures 17-19). LUZIFER's ABSCHIED is the end of the Saturday opera, so its duration segment is mapped to the last measure (16).
A similar procedure is carried out for every scene of the entire 29-hour LICHT opera cycle. The full MICHAEL, EVE and LUCIFER formulas (layers 1, 2 and 3 in the form scheme above) are below (click to magnify):
This fairly innocuous measure from the 1st form scheme is divided into 13 sections, preceded by an "Entrance" and ending with an "Exit". The last 7 sections are further subdivided into 2-3 parts to make 13 subsections. This makes a 2nd form scheme devoted solely to LUZIFER's ABSCHIED. A preliminary version is below:
The larger shape of LUZIFERs ABSCHIED could be summarized like this:
- Entrance with a caged wild bird, with a foot-stamping climax
- The 3 choral groups sing the text in solos, groups and polyphonically, punctuated by increasing organ crescendi, bell and clapper sounds (I-IV)
- A slow vocal rhythm with wooden shoe steps and percussion is interrupted by LUCIFER's arrival as a Diabolical Wind Player (V-VI). Sections VII to XIII are in 13 sub-sections, are each marked by a loud LUCIFER-ian trombone/organ outburst.
- The Basses run counterclockwise along the walls ("...confounds Satan..."), followed by a tam-tam climax, after which they run in opposite directions passing each other (VII)
- Individual Basses begin crossing from one group to another, hopping and throwing coins in the air (VIII-IX)
- A sack from Heaven falls from the sky, soon followed by extreme vocals and bird-like chanting (X)
- A "hellish racket" of singing, bells and clappers ends with fraternal kisses among the Basses (XI-XII)
- The Basses exit the church with the wild bird in the cage, set it free, and begin smashing coconuts. Finally they proceed away into the distance (XIII, Exit)
A more detailed description follows:
|Section||Music & Action||Text (Italian)||Text (English)|
|1||5:26||Entrance||As the organ drones on C and F,
Tenors (heard at center) sing slow, falling glissandi syllables of the text line ("Lodi
delle virtù"). A Bass vocalist
enters carrying a wild black bird in a birdcage on a staff, and places the
cage on a pedestal. Behind him are 25
more Basses, altogether an assemblage of 13 brown-clad and 13 black-clad
Basses. They all slowly walk (wearing
wooden shoes) carrying mass bells or Good Friday clappers to positions around
the audience. As they walk, they
intone assigned syllables from the text in aleatory (freely distributed &
B2 (Bass Group 2, heard on the left, from about 2:40) is lower, faster and louder than B1 (Bass Group 1, heard at right from 3:47). After all Basses are in position (4:45), a 13-second foot-stamping crescendo occurs, followed by quiet footsteps.
|Lodi delle virtù||Hymn to the Virtues|
|2||4:01||I||A yodeling Tenor solo ("O regina sapienza") is followed by intoned texts from B1 ("Il Signore ti salvi con tua sorella") and then B2 ("La pura e santa semplicità"), both supported by low humming. After B2 completes their phrase (1:40), both groups cycle their texts in aleatory rhythms, with B2 having additional vowel sounds. Soon the 1st Tenor line is repeated by the Tenor group on top (2:23). The section ends with an organ crescendo.||O regina sapienza,
Il Signore ti salvi con tua sorella,
La pura e santa semplicità
|O Queen Wisdom,
the Lord save you with your sister,
the pure and holy Simplicity.
|3||4:06||II||A yodeling Tenor solo ("Signora santa povertà") is followed by slow aleatory singing from Tenors and B2. A B1 solo enters ("Il Signore ti salvi con tua sorella,"), and then after the sound of a Good Friday clapper the B1 group also joins aleatorically. After a mass bell rings, there is a pause (2:00), after which B2 sings extremely low syllables in gradually building numbers, punctuated by bell jingles.||Signora santa povertà,
Il Signore ti salvi con tua sorella,
La santa umiltà
|Lady holy Poverty,
the Lord save you with your sister,
the holy Humility.
|4||4:00||III||A Tenor solo ("Signora santa carità") is followed by all groups singing aleatorically with intermittent bells. A B2 soloist sings the 3rd text ("La santa obbedienza") in a rising figure from the EVE formula fragment, and the B1 group sings the same rising figure in aleatory rhythm (1:26). The EVE rising figure freely resurfaces a few times, and there are several crescendoes (with the organ).||Signora santa carità,
Signore ti salvi con tua sorella,
La santa obbedienza
|Lady holy Love,
the Lord save you with your sister,
the holy Obedience.
|5||6:03||IV||Tenors sing the 1st line ("Santissime virtù tutte") rapidly and freely. Then the 3 groups sing line 1 at 3 individual tempos, with increasing numbers of clapper hits. Eventually line 2 ("Il Signore vi salvi") is sung unison as a group tutti. After a fermata (1:35), the remainder is generally aleatory with scattered bells, clapper and a few organ crescendi. The groups all slowly fade until 6 accented organ chords end the section.||Santissime virtù tutte,
Il Signore vi salvi,
Dal quale procedete e venite
|All you holiest virtues,
the Lord save you,
who come from and return to Him.
|6||2:03||V||This section has an even rhythm, with beat accents from bells, clapping, solo and unison syllables, and the sounds of the Basses stepping to the left or right with their wooden shoes. The calm rhythm is broken (at "se prima non muore") by the brief appearance (1:47) of a crazily jumping Diabolical Wind Player - a trombonist repeatedly hammering out the LUCIFER head motif (major 7th). The groups sing the last line again in unison.||Quasi non c'è
uomo, al mondo che possa avere per sé una sola di voi
se prima non muore.
|There is certainly no mortal in
the world who could possess even one of you
if he does not first die.
|7||1:03||VI||As the sounds of the Diabolical Wind Player subside, a Tenor solo begins ("Chi ne ha una e le altre non offende, le ha tutte"), followed by a B1 solo ("e chi ne offende una non ne ha alcuna e le offende tutte"), and then Tenor and B1 together, accompanied by isolated clappers. Afterwards, wooden shoes are briefly dragged on the floor.||Chi ne ha una e le altre
non offende, le ha tutte,
e chi ne offende una non ne ha alcuna e le offende tutte;
E ciascuna confonde i vizi e i peccati
|He who has only one and does not
violate the others, he has them all,
and he who violates only one, has none and violates them all,
and each one alone redeems vices and sins.
|8||4:20||VII a||The 1st pitch of the LUCIFER
Nuclear tones (tone row) is highlighted by a trombone/organ chord, accompanied with
clapper hits. Tenor and B1 briefly
sing a unison phrase ("La santa sapienza") followed by a brief Tenor solo ("confonde satana...").
A dense din then follows as the Basses run in single file counterclockwise along the wall while singing (T: falling glissandi, with excited clapping ending each cycle, B1 & B2: aleatory syllables in rhythm with their running) with bells, clapper and 19 organ crescendi.
A shower of tam-tam strikes erupt (3:00) and everyone pauses.
|La santa sapienza
|The holy Wisdom
|VII b||(3:19) A B2 soloist hoarsely calls out an ascending figure ("E tutte le sue insidie") with bells, and then B1 and B2 begin running again, this time past each other in opposite directions. The tenors sing long syllables, the basses sing in fast running rhythm (with a short hop at the end of each cycle) and the organ plays 5 crescendi. 7 accented organ chords end the section.||E tutte le sue insidie||and all his temptations.|
|9||2:12||VIII a||The 2nd LUCIFER Nuclear tone is highlighted by a trombone/organ chord, after which a B1 soloist calls out "La pura e santa semplicità confonde/La pura e santa semplicità confonde" with clapper hits on each syllable and with 1 interjection ("confonde") from B2 between lines. Then all groups sing aleatory syllables punctuated by clappers and bells (0:48).||La pura e santa
ogni sapienza di questo mondo
|The pure and holy Simplicity
all wisdom of this world
|VIII b||(1:11) The 3rd LUCIFER Nuclear tone is highlighted by a trombone/organ chord, followed by a B2 soloist (opening with a falling glissando: "e...la sapienza della carne") who loudly runs/hops to the other side. All groups resume singing aleatory syllables with clappers and bells. 8 accented organ chords end the section.||e la sapienza della carne.||and the wisdom of the flesh.|
|10||3:14||IX a||The 4th LUCIFER Nuclear tone is highlighted by a trombone/organ chord, after which a B1 soloist sings "La Santa povertà" with clappers and crosses to the other side. As Tenors hum, B2 interrupts with "confonde", after which the B1 soloist finishes with "ogni cupidigia". Then all groups sing aleatory syllables with bells and clappers (0:41).||La Santa povertà confonde
|The holy Poverty confounds
|IX b||(1:00) The 5th LUCIFER Nuclear tone is highlighted by a trombone/organ chord which signals a B2 soloist to sing a falling glissando with rhythmic bells, after which he throws a handful of coins into the air 5 times, calling out ("e avarizia") and walking to the other side. The other groups then resume aleatory syllables, as organ layers build.||e avarizia||and avarice|
|IX c||(2:14) The 6th LUCIFER Nuclear tone is highlighted by a trombone/organ chord, after which 2 oppositely positioned basses (from 1 and 2) begin walking towards each other in the center aisle, alternating high syllables ("e le preoccupazioni di questo..."). After they meet, they quickly continue to the other side singing a unison falling glissando ("...mondo") and ringing bells and clappers. At the same time the Tenors begin humming and the organ plays a thick chord. All groups then resume singing aleatory syllables with bells and clappers. 9 accented organ chords end the section.||e le preoccupazioni di questo mondo.||and the preoccupations of this world.|
|11||3:29||X a||The 7th LUCIFER Nuclear tone is highlighted by a trombone/organ chord which signals a sack to fall from the Heavens. A B1 soloist races to the sack, puts it on his back and sings a solo ("La Santa umiltà...confonde la...") while walking back to his position (0:45). When he reaches it, he stamps in place and then sings a rising/falling figure ("la superbia!"). Meanwhile the Tenors sing in unison and the bass groups sing aleatory syllables.||La Santa umiltà
|The holy Humility
|X b||(1:44) The 8th LUCIFER Nuclear tone is highlighted by a trombone/organ chord, after which B1 and B2 soloists call out back and forth, "e tutti gli uomini di questo mondo". Soon all groups sing aleatory syllables with clapper accents.||e tutti gli uomini di questo mondo||and all earthly mortals|
|X c||(2:42) The 9th LUCIFER Nuclear tone is highlighted by a trombone/organ chord. B1 and B2 soloists call out back and forth in extreme voices, "e tutte le cose di questo". After a clapper/bell strike, all sing "mondo". Then the groups sing in rapid syllables (written as "sharp" or whispered, but sounds "bird-like" to my ears). 10 accented organ chords end the section.||e tutte le cose di questo mondo.||and all worldly things.|
|12||1:34||XI a||The 10th LUCIFER Nuclear tone is highlighted by a trombone/organ chord. All groups and organ sing and play in unison rhythm, sometimes whispered.||La Santa carità confonde tutte le diaboliche e mondane tentazioni||The holy Love confounds all devilish and worldly temptations|
|XI b||(0:35) The 11st LUCIFER Nuclear tone is highlighted by a trombone/organ chord. After an exhaled syllable, the lowest Bass 2 soloist sings/calls "e tutti i timori umani." Then, all groups sing aleatory syllables with extreme vocalization, energetic clappers and bells (a "hellish racket"). Organ plays a thick drone. 11 accented organ chords end the section.||e tutti i timori umani.||and all human fears.|
|13||0:58||XII||A 12th trombone/organ chord (a
repeat of the 11th LUCIFER Nuclear tone) sounds. After B2 whispers a phrase, Tenors sing
held syllables, while both Bass groups sing staccato, first in mirrored
(inverted) counterpoint ("La Santa obbedienza confonde tutti i piaceri
della carne e tiene il corpo mortificato, docile all'obbedienza dello spirito
"), and then in parallel ("e all'obbedienza al proprio
fratello"). Organ plays a thick
but soft harmony.
The Basses walk towards each other and give each other the fraternal kiss.
|La Santa obbedienza
confonde tutti i piaceri della carne e tiene il corpo mortificato, docile
all'obbedienza dello spirito...
...e all'obbedienza al proprio fratello,
|The holy Obedience confounds all
lusts of the flesh
and keeps the body mortified, dedicated to the obedience of the spirit...
...and obedience to brothers,
|14||1:40||XIII||A 13th trombone/organ chord (a
2nd repeat of the 11th LUCIFER Nuclear tone) sounds. A Tenor soloist sings "e rende l'uomo
soggetto a tutti gli uomini di questo mondo" while the remaining groups
hum and bow towards the center of the room.
After the Basses whisper "tredici" ("13") the Basses slowly
walk to the birdcage and one singer hoists the birdcage on its staff.
A Tenor soloist, a B1 soloist, a B2 soloist and then 2 Tenor soloists sing parts of "e non soltanto agli uomini ma anche/agli animali, /alle fiere, /così che possono fare di lui /quello che vogllono" while the remaining singers hum or whisper "tredici". The Tenor group finishes the text ("in quanto sarà loro permesso dal Signore"), after which the Basses repeat a whispered "tredici" as they all walk towards the birdcage held by the staff.
|e rende l'uomo soggetto a
tutti gli uomini di questo mondo
e non soltanto agli uomini ma anche agli animali, alle fiere,
così che possono fare di lui quello che vogllono,
in quanto sarà loro permesso dal Signore.
|and makes humans serve all the
humans of this world,
and not only the humans, but also to the tame and wild animals,
so that they may live in freedom,
as far as the Lord permits.
|15||15:51||Exit||Church bells ring outside. Tenors line up behind the Basses and all
file outside ("tredi-CIII!"). They murmur aleatory syllables (from XIII) accompanied by clappers or
At 2:52, as the church bells begin to continuously change tones, the Bass soloist sings, "La Santa obbedienza, rende l'uomo soggetto, non soltanto agli uomini ma anche agli animali, alle fiere" ("The Holy Obedience makes humans serve not only men, but also the tame and wild animals"), after which, amidst clapping, tramping and vocalized bird sounds, he releases the wild bird into the air (3:36).
The Basses then, one by one, proceed to take a coconut out of the "sack from Heaven", after which a Bass soloist speaks "in quanto sarà loro permesso dal Signore" ("as far as the Lord permits."). With crescendos of bells, clappers, tramping and shouts ("Lodi...delle...virtù..."), they one by one make a wish, and then smash their coconut on a stone slab. After each impact, the remains are briefly examined (based on the coconut's split, their wish may or may not be fulfilled). During these crescendos and coconut smashing sounds, the tolling of church bells builds in layers.
After the last coconut has been smashed (10:05), the singers leave in a procession, using humorous dance movements and murmuring the text from sections XII and XIII. After the last clapper has faded into the distance (about 12:48) the scene fades out to the sounds of multiple church bells and singing birds.
|Section VIII B|
The 3rd LUCIFER Nuclear tone is highlighted by a trombone/organ chord, followed by a falling B2 solo glissandi.
A B2 soloist calls out "(e) la sapienza della carne." (with bells) and loudly runs/hops to the other side.
All groups resume singing aleatory syllables with clappers and bells. 8 accented organ chords end the section.
Images from 2013 performance of LUZIFERs ABSCHIED in the Church of St. Michael in München:
|2 rows of basses surround the audience.|
|A wild black bird is set free.|
|A coconut is hurled onto a stone slab.|
Stockhausen deliberately organized the scenes of SAMSTAG AUS LICHT so that the musical forces expand from a solo (piano), to a duo (flute and percussion), to symphonic, and finally to choral elements. The arrangement of the vocalists around the audience, and the use of low aleatory "affected" male vocalizations, makes me think of LUZIFER's ABSCHIED a little bit as a mix of CARRÉ and MIKROPHONIE II. The use of the bells and clappers with vocal exhortations also makes this work into a possible refinement of some of the "choir noise" elements in MOMENTE, and the running of the basses around the audience provides a nice touch of spatial movement. As always, Stockhausen uses all that he's developed in the past to move into the future.
LUZIFERs ABSCHIED starts out relatively slowly, but it features probably the lowest and slowest bass choral singing in the classical repertoire. When LUCIFER arrives as the trombonist, things get a bit more raucous. The circling of the basses around the space seems to be a method to "corral" LUCIFER, and the 13 trombone and organ outbursts are perhaps LUCIFER's attempts to escape (just a guess). At the end, the action expands beyond the realm of the auditorium itself, and as the black bird flies off, it's as if it takes with it LUCIFER's presence as well. The theater has "exorcised" him, at least until the next LICHT opera. The smashing of the coconuts is kind of a non-sequitur in my opinion, but it certainly adds to the peculiarity of it all, and gives the ending a nice, festive atmosphere. As mentioned before, this coconut activity was most likely inspired by a Kataragama religious festival Stockhausen witnessed in Ceylon, described in "Conversations with the Composer" (Stockhausen interviewed by Jonathan Cott, pg 161). In the same book, Stockhausen describes his experience of seeing an Omizutori Ceremony in Nara, Japan, where the priests run around in wooden clogs and gradually throw them away while running (pg. 167). This probably informed the running scene in LUZIFERs ABSCHIED.
Like the other scenes in SAMSTAG AUS LICHT, my first impression of LUZIFER's ABSCHIED from the original CD release was that it was a dark and dreary affair, and perhaps a little too "gothic" for my tastes (pictures of marching monks and a hairy gorilla-like figure didn't help). But, after reading more about it's background and stage actions, I realized that it actually had a fair amount of humor in it. In fact Stockhausen characterizes his monk-like basses as being "crazy". The sounds of the birds at the end of the CD are a nice surprise (and not indicated in the score), and provide a very positive image at the end of a "Luzifer-ian" musical offering.
Sound samples and CD ordering
Purchase the Score
SAMSTAG AUS LICHT Wiki
Stockhausen on Opera (Interview with Jerome Kohl)
Albrecht Moritz on LUZIFERS ABSCHIED
Albrecht Moritz on SAMSTAG AUS LICHT
SAMSTAG AUS LICHT Staging 2013 (photos)
Samstag aus Licht - Ein Probenbericht (2013, Angelika Kellhammer & Gaby Weber)
"Conversations with the Composer" (Stockhausen, Cott, 1974)