Thursday, January 29, 2015


Scene 1
Scene 2
Scene 3
Scene 4

Shattered coconut.
(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
1982 [58']

     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.
     LUZIFERs ABSCHIED was originally composed on a commission to celebrate the 800th anniversary of St Francis of Assisi, and premiered in 1982 at the Assisi Cathedral where St Francis was baptized.  In 1984 it was performed again as the final scene in SAMSTAG AUS LICHT.  Following the same procedures used with the other LICHT scenes, LUZIFERs ABSCHIED follows a form structure based on measures from the LICHT super-formula, specifically the last measure of the formula segment assigned to Saturday (top 3 staffs of the 3rd measure shown).

     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):
MICHAEL formula
EVE formula
LUCIFER formula
    The 4th staff from the form scheme is a fragment from the LUCIFER Nuclear formula (or "kernel").  This is a simplified version of the full LUCIFER formula without the many timbral and rhythmic articulations (which Stockhausen calls "accessories").  The Nuclear formulas also have the LICHT days of the week mapped out on them and the 4th staff is the Saturday segment of that mapping.
     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 measures above are created by adding rhythmic articulations to the EVE measure (1st staff) and the LUCIFER Nuclear formula measure (2nd & 3rd staff).  The form scheme's most apparent use is to provide durations and some glissandi figures for the 3 chorus groups. The 13 numbers at the end are reflected by 13 trombone/organ clusters spread through the last half.

Good Friday Clapper

Mass Hand Bells
Wooden Shoes

Form Structure
     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 & non-unison) rhythm.  

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 

confonde satana 
The holy Wisdom

confounds Satan 
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 semplicità confonde 

ogni sapienza di questo mondo 
The pure and holy Simplicity confounds 

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: " 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 

ogni cupidigia 
The holy Poverty confounds 

all greed
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 


la superbia 
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 hand-clapping. 

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.

Live Performance Images
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.
(at one point I saw a Youtube video of a recent live performance, but it sadly seems to have disappeared...)

Sound Impressions
     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
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)

Friday, January 23, 2015


Whirlpool Galaxy in Canes Venatici (photo used in score cover with inverted colors)
No. 37: YLEM
for 19 players / singers and 4 shortwave radios:
  • 4 electric instruments (with additional shortwave radios)
  • 5 stationary instruments
  • 10 (or more) mobile instruments
(1972) [about 26 minutes in length]

Instrumentation for the 1973 premiere:
  • electronium (accordion-synth), synthesizer, electronically-processed saxophone, electronically-processed cello
  • electric organ, piano, harp, cello, tam-tam (gong)/vibraphone
  • flute, oboe, English horn, clarinet, bass clarinet, bassoon, horn, trumpet, trombone, violin

Phoenix Music
     The word "ylem" ("eye - lum") comes from a 1940's science term for "matter", specifically the sub-atomic plasma initially created at the Big Bang (theorized creation of the universe) which continues to spread outwards forming the boundaries of the universe.  Stockhausen's composition YLEM musically simulates the Big Bang, as well as it's theorized (at that time) contraction (Big Crunch) and rebirth.  Nowadays the concept of universal mass causing a Big Crunch is largely out of favor - but who knows?  In any case, Stockhausen wrote this as a piece for the London Sinfonietta to play during a 1973 tour featuring his works.

     The basic sequence of events is that players start out on a fortissimo tri-tone tremolo and slowly expand their pitch ranges in aleatory (free) fashion, at the same time decreasing the note density by adding silences in between attacks.  Some players concentrate on glissando figures which connect the notes of the other players.  The phrases also become more elaborate in shape and color as the expansion proceeds.  At one point a shortwave radio signal briefly surfaces.  Eventually, the players begin to shout "HU!" (see notes in INORI), after which the reverse happens (including another shortwave radio event).  When the sounds reach its maximum density on the original tri-tone, a tam-tam strike signals the tri-tone to move up a note, after which the players disperse once again and fade out.

     On the Stockhausen Complete Edition CD 21, there are two performances of YLEM (the 3rd and 2nd recording sessions).  The 26-minute second version (track 2, also the one released on the original LP) has this chronology (with a 10 second introductory silence included in the timings):


(players move outward into the auditorium)
Shortwave radio event 1 2:40

(compression begins)
Shortwave radio event 2 16:03
Single-note tremolo signal

(players return to the stage)
2nd Explosion

(and transposition upwards)

A more detailed explanation of YLEM's "cosmology" follows.

      The piece begins with the "mobile" players (winds, brass, etc...) huddled around the piano.  At the sound of a tam-tam (gong) crash, all of the instruments except the 4 electric instruments (referred to as the "Connection Players") play a very loud 2-3 second tremolo on Eb or A in their instrument's middle range. 

Evolution (Explosion)
     For roughly the next 11 minutes, the instruments "expand" in durations, silences, and pitch ranges.  After a beginning phase of dense staccato "points", the silences in between gradually get longer.  The notes and figures remain generally short, but longer notes and figures can surface from time to time.   Dynamics are free.  Starting from the initial note of Eb or A, each instrument expands it's pitch range (higher and lower), but each pitch must be played at least twice before adding a new note.  The actual sequence of notes is freely chosen (aleatory), but the notes should be evenly distributed over the expanding range.  The rate of expansion for each instrument is individually independent, but at the 9-minute mark, the full pitch range of the instrument should be exploited. The actual sounds and figures increasingly vary in form, using trills, fragmentary glissandi, rhythmic and arrhythmic beat patterns, changing dynamics, timbre changes (multi-phonics, etc...), ornamentation, etc...the variations are only limited by the imagination of the player.  As the expansion continues, more and more extreme values (pitches, durations, dynamics) surface.  "Clumping" also occurs between the note attacks of different instruments to form spontaneous duo, trios, etc....

     At the same time, the 10 mobile players with handheld instruments slowly move outwards from the piano and towards the right and left walls of the auditorium, until they are lined up at both sides (see graphic down below).

     At around 11 minutes, one of the still-seated Connection Players calls out, "HU!", after which all of the other players respond with their own "HU!" exclamation after various short intervals.  At this point, the reverse of the previous phase happens (usually faster), and the notes become denser in attack and narrower in pitch range (but players remain at their wall positions).  Around 8 minutes after the "HU!", one of the Connection Players begins a signal by continuously playing a high, fast, single-note tremolo with crescendi and decrescendi.  At this, the mobile players slowly move back towards their original huddle around the piano, with everyone eventually reaching a point of intense, fast tremolos on their starting note of either Eb or A.

2nd Evolution
     When a state of maximum density is reached, the tam-tam explodes again, and the pitches ascend 1 whole tone to F or B.  At this point the Evolution expansion begins again.  This time however, the 9 seated players of stationary instruments get up and begin playing small mobile instruments.  All players slowly move outwards from the stage, and eventually out of the auditorium, their sounds fading out. 

The Connection Players
     The 4 Connection Players have slightly different roles than the other 15 players.  These electronic sustain-oriented instruments (synths, etc...) each progress by matching notes played by any of the other players.  Each Connection Player "takes off" and "lands" from one "stepping-stone" pitch to another by playing various kinds of glissandi (wavy, dotted, ascending/descending patterns, "points", etc...).  The Connection Players are generally quieter than the other players, but when ensemble pauses occur, the Connection Players can continue quietly in the background.

     At one point during the Evolution (and once again during the Implosion), a Connection Player switches on a shortwave radio, and uses the sound material (rhythm, timbre, melody, etc...) as the model for a glissando between notes (the SW is turned off when the 2nd note is reached, typically about a minute).  In the score, the work SPIRAL is referenced, which certainly fits the image on the cover.

Additionally, Stockhausen writes in the score:  
     "YLEM is music which best succeeds when the players establish telepathic communication with one another (they play with eyes closed) and with a "conductor" who listens with extreme concentration from the middle of the hall, but is not outwardly active."

Live Performance
     The positions of the 1972 London premiere players at the midpoint "HU!" moment is in the diagram below, with the Connection Players above the dashed horizontal line.  During the densest moments (explosions), the 10 players at bottom are huddled around the piano.

Stockhausen's Introduction to YLEM
     The following is the introduction to the concert on 25 August 1992, in which YLEM was performed by the Ensemble Modern at the Mozartsaal of the Alte Oper in Frankfurt. It was the fifth of seven concerts with introductions during the Frankfurt Feste ’92. The programme was: TELEMUSIK [Electronic Music] – YLEM for 19 Players – HYMNEN Region IV [electronic and concrete music].  (from the DVD transcript)

     Before I wrote the score I heard the following:

     A tone that was very strong and indescribably dense exploded.  With its particles, the tone gradually expanded to three octaves lower and higher in the tone-space. The distances between the individual tones became more and more irregular, and also their durations – separated by pauses – became more and more differentiated. I also heard different timbres. The whole process lasted for a relatively long time, and the distances between the tones became larger and larger. Finally, this event achieved the complete range from the highest to the lowest tone.

     Then I heard the syllable HU shouted, and this music, which had became very thin in the meantime – but still consisted of all extremes of dynamics and many different pitches and timbres – gradually pulled back together until it finally, after a long time, became inextricably dense, and this dense state, which I cannot describe other than by calling it compact tone-material, then exploded again and everything moved up one tone.

     There is a theory about an oscillating universe in which we live: Every 80 billion years the universe explodes, pulls itself back together and then explodes a second time – thus “oscillating universe". The original explosion, or also the primary material, is called ‘Ylem’. All the material that exists originated from a primary material, then expands, the expansion slows down, and then through increasing acceleration everything in the universe melts in fire and becomes the basic substance hydrogen, and then explodes again...

     I cordially request that you pay attention to this expansion: how every instrumentalist gradually expands his tone-space and forms the individual tones more and more, so that every tone-space receives a new shape. Very much depends on the inventiveness of each individual musician: how he shapes the tones, how he distributes them within the deceleration and subsequently again during the acceleration. Let the whole have an effect on you, not just by the details.

(from Wikipedia: Big Crunch)

Sound Impressions
     YLEM is a fascinating composition, reflecting in musical form a literally universal concept.  Beethoven was the first to be nicknamed the "universal composer", but Stockhausen here tosses his hat in the ring for that distinction.  The available recordings are interesting documents, but I think a live performance would have a much greater impact, with the sounds moving outwards in space, and eventually out of sight.  The think ideal situation would be where the musicians start at the center of the auditorium and move outwards in a circle, away from the audience in all directions.  On the recordings, the glissandi of the Connection Players are a little bit too low in the mix for my tastes (as well as the shortwave radio events), but they do provide a nice added dimension to the sound ether, almost like shooting stars, or spaceships "taking off and landing" as Stockhausen characterizes them.  Bernard Herrmann first used theremin tones to provide cosmic "atmosphere" to his film score for "The Day the Earth Stood Still", and the Connection glissandi at times reminds me a little bit of that feeling.  Also, when the ensemble moves to the next higher pitch level at the second Big Bang, it's a bit like the universe has been reborn in a higher dimension. One wonders if Stockhausen was aware of current theories about the stacked nature of parallel universes...

Sound samples and CD ordering
Purchase the Score
Stockhausen rehearsing and talking about YLEM, 1992 (DVD)
DVD sample clip
Wiki Entry
Albrecht Moritz on YLEM
Sonoloco Review


Score cover.
(Natural Durations 1–24) for piano,  2005, 2006 [approx. 2 hours, 20 minutes]

Rin bowls.
     NATURAL DURATIONS is the 3rd "hour" of Stockhausen's originally-planned 24-part cycle KLANG ("SOUND") which is based on the 24 hours of the day.  NATURAL DURATIONS, like the cycle itself,  has 24 installments, which can be played either as a complete set or independently (such as is done for Bartok's Mikrokosmos piano pieces).  They have at their core the initial concept of letting the tempo and rhythms of the work be determined by how long notes ring out (sustain).  Factors such as pitch register, attack intensity and use of the sustain pedal also are considered.  This idea was previously explored to some extent in Stockhausen's 1959 trio composition for piano, celesta and percussion, REFRAIN, but this cycle uses some additional techniques such as performer breathing rhythms, ringing percussion tones, durations based on difficulty of playing, etc...  The pianist does however have some percussion duties for a couple pieces, specifically No. 10 where Indian bells are attached to the fingers, and No. 22 where 5 Japanese rin bowls are used.

Form Structure
     Some of the NATÜRLICHE DAUERN are directly dependent on the decay times of piano attacks, but many are also fascinating explorations of melodic and rhythmic contrast.  The organization of the pitches in the KLANG pieces are derived from serial combinations of the KLANG 24-note all-interval tone row.  The general rhythmic shapes and melodic tendencies are described below.

Description CD Track
1      Sustain pedal is used throughout.  Loud single notes of a descending scale alternate with soft chords slowly increasing in volume and later, ascending.  Tempo is determined by decay time of the loud scale notes (but tempo generally decreases since the lower notes resonate longer than high notes).  The chord and scale note attacks start together, move apart, and then come back into unison.  A short coda of 24 rhythmically-notated chords (independent of note decays) ends the piece. 10:42 "waiting for
notes to finish"
2      Tempo is indicated as 60 bpm and sustain pedal is used throughout. Loud single notes of an ascending scale alternate with descending chords starting loud and becoming softer.  The chord attacks start close to the scale note and move away.  A short coda of 23 loud, descending and decelerating chords (independent of note decays) ends the piece. 10:51 "point and
3      Tempo is indicated as 60 bpm and sustain pedal is used throughout.  Strong high chords and soft low chords orbit a glacial melody, played with decisive attacks and with each note sustained until its natural decay.  In the final measure, a 24-note tone row is played, oscillating from small intervals to large, and then small again. 9:39 "through-
4      High staccato chords accelerate and decelerate.  Low sustained chords also accelerate and decelerate, but in a different tempo and asynchronously with the high chords. 7:32 "long and
5      Quiet low chords are accompanied by 3-note figures above.  Each chord-melody is separated by a long fermata.  The chord melody has an generally ascending direction.  One of Stockhausen's most "lyrical" pieces. 6:16 "chord
for 3"
6      A set of 3 descending right hand figures are repeated about 21 times at decreasing and then increasing tempos.  Starting a beat after the right hand starts, the left hand also plays a set of 3 descending melodies.  Both left and right pedals are applied. 4:56 "fast
7      8 figures made of alternating high and low notes with increasing and decreasing intervals distances (ie - 2 non-parallel scalar figures) are separated by fermatas, with each phrase either a crescendo or decrescendo.  Sustain is applied throughout and the piece ends with a tremolo on E. 5:16 "8 counterpoint
8      A low, rumbling, repeating 6-note figure with sustain pedal and gradual changes in dynamics is topped with isolated high and low single notes and chords. 3:12 "low rumbling, with
9      Sustain pedal is used throughout. Two isolated chord clusters open the piece (about a minute), followed by 9 fading dyad chords and then irregular tremolos on high B and low D.  Near the end, the title "Third Hour" is spoken. 2:22 "cluster,
tremolos -
Third Hour"
10      Right hand plays different sets of repeating quintuplet figures in fluctuating tempo and dynamic.  Indian bells are worn on the fingers and constantly jingle.  Some sets are bridged by tremolos or glissandi.  The left hand plays a series of sustained low dyad chords.  The piece ends with an ascending scalar figure. 10:14 "rolling
Indian bells"
11      A huge piano cluster is struck and sustained.  Then a melodic figure is played (begun) so that it ends at the same time as the initial cluster attack. 1:22 "cluster's
12      A sequence of 24 chords (alternating high and low) follows the rhythm of the player's inhalations and exhalations (~8 secs/chord). At the end, the 24 chords are repeated at a fast tempo (with audible fast breathing). 3:43 "half
13      24 chords are each played with a single inhale/exhale of the player (~12 secs/chord), emphasizing the low register. At the end the last chord is repeated 3 times, quietly. 5:46 "full
breath chords"
14      Expanding/shrinking intervals from the KLANG 24-note pitch row are followed by a long fermata, after which 4 bars of more complex material are played at 1 bar per breath. 1:22 "1
counterpoint and
4 breath
15      Slow ascending scales, first with single notes, then dyads, then triads, then tetrachords, then clusters, with isolated opposing register notes and figures.  A "falling" glissandi occurs before each successive scale ascent.  The final cluster ascent has extra cluster glissandi and figures mixed in.  "Ascension" is spoken during the ascending triads.  In a final ascent, the inside piano strings are scraped with a plectrum (or credit card). 9:02 "Ascension
16      Different upper register chord tremolos (between 2 chords with 1 shared tone) are separated by isolated high and low notes. A "free" interlude occurs in the middle of the piece.  Ascending chord tremolos end the piece. 3:43 "tremolo
chords with
17      Both hands play the exact same descending scale in the same register, with one hand delayed by 2 triplets. 0:33 "following
hands down"
18      Thumb and pinky of the right hand press and hold down 2 notes while the other fingers of the same hand play 2 to 12 notes in between.  This repeats several times with different internal melodic figures while holding the same dyad.  The thumb and pinky then play a new dyad and the process repeats - at a new tempo.  The left hand does the same procedure for a different sequence of held dyads and melody figures, asynchronous to the right hand. 
There are 17 dyad/tempo changes from 36 to 120 bpm, in non-sequential order.
3:53 "outlined
X 2"
19      Isolated chords (1-5) demarcate a sequence of fast chromatic glissandi, tremolo (with octaves), and chordal tremolos.  The piece ends on a chord tremolo, changing dynamics. 2:10 "points and
20      A repeating middle range note is bounded by alternating high and low notes with louder attacks.  The "root" note is also treated to energetic scalar ornamentation.  The root note eventually changes and the process repeats.  After several cycles of different root notes, a fast sequence of alternating small and large intervals ends the piece.   4:11 "points,
above and below a
21      Each hand asynchronously plays rhythmically even figures of single notes and dyads separated by pauses of varying length.  The figures for each hand start out at high and low registers but gradually come together in the middle register.  The tempo is fairly lively. 2:05 "high and
22      There are 5 sections, each one having a different sequence of 5 measures with a Japanese rin bowl strike in each.  Each rin strike and its decay determines the length of a measure, each made up of mixed chords and single notes.  The last measure includes a 7-note chord with 6 echoes. 7:58 "Rin bowl
23      This piece incorporates many shapes and colors including tremolo, pedalling, frame knocks and scalar runs.  The 48 measures are divided into sequences of 1 to 9 continuous measures, divided by brief silences.  Basic tempo not indicated, but marked as about 5'30" in length. 5:52 "shapes and
24      The preceding 23 pieces are revisited in an ascending sequence from 1, alternating with a descending sequence from 23: 1 - 23 - 2 - 22 - 3 - 21 - 4 - 20 - 5 - 19 - 6 - 18 - 7 - 17 - 8 - 16 - 9 - 15 - 10 - 14 - 11 - 13 - 12  19:21 "the shuffled past"

Live Performance
Frank Gutschmidt, Piano, Stockhausen Courses Kürten 2006 (12 July 2006)

Nino Jvania (Zhvania)

Duccio Beverini
Sound Impressions
     These final piano pieces are truly beautiful "postcards" of shape and color.  If the KLAVIERSTÜCKE are oil paintings, then these are like watercolors, or maybe even Japanese rock garden (枯山水) sand art.  Stockhausen always put poetic expression and beauty above musical athleticism, and these are perfect examples of that.  In fact he almost makes fun of technical virtuosity by making some fingerings very awkward in order to limit the tempo.  Interestingly, I sometimes found looking at the scores for these to be a little deceptive, since the music ended up sounding quite different than what I first imagined (then again, I'm no pianist...).  In any case, these are great pieces to listen to on a frigid wintry night - the notes and chords fall like snowflakes onto a field of silence.  Some pieces are also evocative of encountering lost islands in the ocean, or exotic fish in the deep sea.

NATÜRLICHE DAUERN samples, tracks listings and CD ordering
Purchase the score
NATÜRLICHE DAUERN 22 (Live Youtube clip)
NATÜRLICHE DAUERN 10 (Live Youtube clip, Nino Jvania (Zhvania)
NATÜRLICHE DAUERN 5 (Youtube clip Marino Formenti)