(1969) [approx. 5 hours length]
In 1969, Stockhausen was asked to present a concert program at the Beethovenhalle in Bonn (birth city of Beethoven). Stockhausen's idea was to do something along the lines of his previous works for independent-but-concurrent compositions, such as ENSEMBLE and MUSIK FÜR EIN HAUS. In this case, 3 rooms in the Beethovenhalle concert complex were used to present 3 simultaneous Stockhausen programs (some with pre-taped works, some performed live). Additionally, four foyer spaces (not normally used for presenting music) contained 4 chamber orchestras, which each independently played a layer of FRESCO ("wall sounds for meditation"), a new "ambient" work, mostly consisting of extremely slow glissandi. Since there were only 3 rehearsals available for this piece before the performance, Stockhausen wrote very technically simple music to play, but the real "magic" of the piece is how the individual players within a group "vibrate" together as they navigate the glissandi (heterophonically). For example, one intention is to create different speeds of frequency beating through close, but contrasting, unison lines. In any case, the idea of a "foyer music" piece would be revisited in some of the Greetings and Farewells of the LICHT operas (MONTAGS-GRUSS, FREITAGS-GRUSS, MITTWOCHS-GRUSS, etc...).
"The idea of "wall-sounds" is in no way ironically meant. I imagined that for once, instead of all the usual chatter from the cloakrooms to one's seat in the concert hall, and all the time until the conductor enters, the whole building would already be resounding."
"FRESCO...can also create a "sound environment" on its own, in connection with visual exhibitions (in museums) or in sacred room complexes, and in meditation rooms or parks, serving as an aid to concentration."
- Stockhausen introductory text, Richard Toop translation
There is currently no recording available, possibly because of the extreme length, or also possibly because of it's nature as a location-separated "installation piece". The actual performance was somewhat wrecked by both an uncooperative Bonn Orchestra (obviously this was not from the usual Haydn symphony repertoire), and an unruly audience (but probably "par for the course" in the hippy-dippy late 60's). The Wikipedia page has more information.
|Time Plan for the 4 orchestral groups.|
(© Universal Edition)
|(© Universal Edition)|
|Beethovenhalle map with the locations of FRESCO's 4 orchestra groups in yellow squares|
For the premiere performance, the groups were made up of the following wind, brass and string instruments:
- Group I - "Brass and Percussion": conductor (w oboe), 1 tuba, 2 trombones, 2 bassoons, 3 horns, 1 percussionist, 2 oboes, 2 trumpets, 2 clarinets, 2 flutes, vibraphone
- Group II - "Strings": conductor (w harmonium), 2 contrabasses, 3 cellos, 4 violas, 11 violins
- Group III - "Strings and Brass": conductor (on piano), 1 trombone, 2 contrabasses, 1 bassoon, 2 cellos, 2 horns, 2 violas, 1 oboe, 1 trumpet, 4 violins, 1 clarinet, 1 flute
- Group IV - "Strings": conductor (w accordion or chromatic harmonica), 2 contrabasses, 3 cellos, 3 violas, 11 violins
Performance Schedule for the Beethovenhalle Concert(s)
|20:00||GESANG DER JÜNGLINGE
|Aus den sieben Tagen:
|21:00||KLAVIERSTÜCK VI||MIKROPHONIE I
V, VII, VIII
|23:40||"An den der mit mir
It's a pity there's no CD recording of this work as yet available. I can imagine it being more modern-sounding than ever, despite that it was composed almost half a century ago. The concept of spatially-separated orchestras playing ensemble glissandi figures at glacial speeds would fit very well into today's ambient music scene. However, if one considers that in order to hear this whole work as it was premiered, it would require 20 hours (5 hours times 4 orchestras in 4 separate spaces), one can see that this would be a tough thing to release on CD. Of course, it would also be very interesting to hear all 4 orchestras super-imposed, since in the introductory text (and score cover) it seems to allow that the 4 groups could be also heard simultaneously in one space, if used as a "meditation aid to concentration".
Ordering the Score