|MITTWOCH AUS LICHT|
|Stockhausen Edition CD 66 CD cover|
The boxes show examples of the spatial mapping notations (as if seeing the room from above).
8-Channel Electronic Music
MITTWOCHS-GRUSS (Wednesday Greeting) is the electronic "entrance music" portion of Stockhausen's dramatic music work MITTWOCH AUS LICHT (WEDNESDAY from LIGHT), which was the 6th-composed entry of his 7-part, 29-hour opera cycle LICHT (Light). LICHT is a work of cathedral-like 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. The main element connected with MITTWOCH is air. The 4 Scenes in MITTWOCH AUS LICHT are preceded and followed by "entrance" and "exit" works: MITTWOCHS-GRUSS (Wednesday Greeting) and MITTWOCHS-ABSCHIED (Wednesday Farewell). In a staged production, MITTWOCHS-GRUSS is projected in the foyer and auditorium as the audience arrives, and MITTWOCHS-ABSCHIED is projected as the audience exits. The Wednesday Greeting is also played live by a synthesizer player as one of the electronic background layers to Scene 4, MICHAELION, while the concrète-based "multi-environmental" tape of Wednesday Farewell is played in the background of Scene 2, ORCHESTER FINALISTEN.
Formula Layers to Drone Pitches
(Note: The first staff system (above left) only has 4 lines since that part of the Wednesday measure has silent rests for the MICHAEL and LUCIFER layers (only the EVE staff is shown). Also, the first 2 notes heard are from the ending of the Tuesday segment of the EVE formula.)
The pitches employed in the long, held tones of MITTWOCHs-GRUSS are from the form structure measures in the top right picture (which could be considered to be the "MICHAELION form-scheme"). Appropriately enough, the form structure of MITTWOCHs-ABSCHIED is based on the top left picture. In any case, the MICHAELION form-scheme's seven (and change) 6-staff measures are temporally-stretched out through extreme rhythmic augmentation to last over the 54 minutes of MITTWOCHs-GRUSS. The only real alteration to this portion of the original MITTWOCH-FORMEL is that in the "LUZICAMEL" portion of the formula (from middle of measure 3 to end of 5), the two G-flat "tongue-click" notes in the top EVE staff are replaced by the inverted EVE Nuclear formula (a simplified pitch row version of the EVE formula). In the bottom staff of the graphic (labeled "OPERATOR", middle of measure 6), the single G-flat tongue click is replaced by the non-inverted EVE Nuclear formula. These note sequences are expressed in the EVE electronic layer by 20 different "Points" (some repeating), which are basically sound events made of irregular pulse tones or soprano vocal sounds.
Timbres and Moments
There are basically 3 electronic layers in MITTWOCHS-GRUSS, one for each of the 3 LICHT characters, and divided into 77 "Moments", with some Moments having subsections. The durations of each Moment match a proportionate note/attack in the MICHAELION form scheme. The EVE layer frequencies are usually in the high register, the MICHAEL frequencies are in the mid-range, and the LUCIFER frequencies are in the lower range. The EVE layer, as mentioned earlier, makes use of 20 different "Points", which are basically pulses of relatively pure tones or female voice. The MICHAEL and LUCIFER layers employ more "grainy" or "rushing" timbres, and in a few times contain male vocal elements (usually distorted in a similar way to what was done in PAARE vom FREITAG). The one important exception is that Stockhausen himself announces the "Wednesday Greeting" (bilingually!) without any electronic modulation at all, just after Moment 69. The 77 Moments are distributed according to the 7 MICHAELION form-scheme measures (again, top right graphic) as follows:
The table below is a "timbre-map" of the Wednesday Greeting. Each time marking and horizontal line below marks a timbre change and usually a change in pitch for 1 or more of the 3 synth layers. All told there are about 161 different sound elements distributed over the 3 layers (49+56+56). The change in timbre sometimes fades in or fades out past the actual time marking (or is intermittent). In any case, the changes in sound coloration are sometimes changes in "shade" rather than changes in the color itself, though they are still recognizably different. EVE's 20 "Point" elements are enclosed in diamonds (<P1>, etc...., starting from Moment 25).
(continued next column over)
Spatial Movement and Electronic Realization
At the 1998 premiere of MICHAELION in Munich, the 3 synthesizer layers (EVE, MICHAEL, LUCIFER) were performed live by Antonio Pérez Abellán, and the signals from each of these 3 layers were sent to 3 individual joysticks which were "played" by Stockhausen to distribute the sound around the room (quadrophonically). At the premiere, Stockhausen improvised the spatial movements live, but in 2003 he notated the spatial movements in the score using 29 different kinds of bird's-eye box diagrams, and these movements were recorded onto a master tape (the box diagrams are displayed on the CD cover of MITTWOCHs-GRUSS, seen at the top of this page). The movements were realized in the studio using a graphic tablet pen and touch screen, which Stockhausen used to "draw" the motions of the layers.
The compositions of the movements themselves were more or less intuitive and not based on a Fibonacci series or anything like that. One unusual spatial Moment happens in Moment 50x. Each layer has gong-like booming timbres, both in unison and in counterpoint. After about 3 minutes (22:51), they line up in unison, and each attack sounds as isolated points surfacing around the room (as opposed to the usually "sweeping" motions of the other sounds). In the CD cover at the top of the page, the spatial mapping boxes overlaid with "R" and "EE" (part of "GREETING") have the mappings for the MICHAEL and LUCIFER layers respectively in this 8 beat event. On Stockhausen Edition CD 66, the surround-sound element is expressed as well as possible in stereo, but it's a little like seeing one of those 360-degree panorama photographs - everything is there, but you are not there. Ideally one should experience this work in its intended form with an 8-channel surround system.
The timbres themselves were created in collaboration with Antonio Pérez Abellán, using a Kurzweil K2500X synthesizer and an Akai S2000 sampler. Some sounds were created by making field recordings of bells, etc..., and the female and male voices heard in the recording are of Kathinka Pasveer, Stockhausen, and Abellán.
MICHAELION is described by Stockhausen as "a galactic headquarters for delegates of the universe." With this in mind, the synthetic tones of MITTWOCHS-GRUSS serve quite well to portray the background hum of a futuristic alien cosmopolis. On the surface it seems like a relatively sedate "ambient" piece, but on further examination there's actually quite alot happening, both in the timbres themselves (modulation, aleatory rhythmic shapes, overtone cycling, etc...) and in the way that the timbres change on average every 20 seconds (this is an eyeball-average, based on just looking over the timings). This work also acts as a kind of "rosetta stone" for the character-specific timbre vocabularies of the MICHAEL, EVE, and LUCIFER formulas, here newly-developed between Stockhausen and Antonio Pérez Abellán, and which would be employed for the remainder of the electronic elements of LICHT.
It's interesting to compare MITTWOCHS-GRUSS with the other two long-form, electronically-synthesized music works of LICHT: OKTOPHONIE and FREITAGS-GRUSS/FREITAGS-ABSCHIED (WELTRAUM), since those works are also electronic elongations of specific Days of the LICHT super-formula (but with Simon Stockhausen's collaborative contribution instead of Abellán's). Besides the differences in Simon and Antonio's sound vocabulary, all three works have differing structural shapes. MITTWOCHS-GRUSS has the fastest-moving "timbre progression" in all of its layers, whereas WELTRAUM is much slower in some layers . OKTOPHONIE could be considered to have more "point-like" textures (shots, bombs, etc...), whereas the other two works are based more on sound "masses". MITTWOCHS-GRUSS' timbres have more "hard" timbre changes, while OKTOPHONIE and WELTRAUM take a more developmental, modulating approach. However, MITTWOCHS-GRUSS' frequent "moment-form" timbre changes could be considered a natural outgrowth of the constant timbre changes of the "bass pattern" in WELTRAUM's second half. This "electronic fantasy trilogy" is probably one of my favorite aspects of the LICHT opera cycle, and each of the three delivers something new every time I listen to them.
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Albrecht Moritz Analysis