Friday, August 28, 2015


No. 28: Dr. K-SEXTETT
for flute, bass clarinet, percussion (tubular bells & vibraphone), piano, viola and cello
1968/1969 [2:32 - 3:36]

     In 1969 Stockhausen was one of eleven composers who were asked to write a short chamber work in honor of the 80th Birthday of Dr. Alfred Kamus, the director of the London division of Universal Edition (Stockhausen's music publisher at the time). 

     The basic idea of the work is that an 8-part harmony is played on 7 instruments (the piano plays 2 layers), and each time this harmony occurs, the notes are either staggered after the downbeat (opening section), or staggered beforehand as anticipatory notes (middle section).  For example, the piece opens with an 8-note chord (divided among the 6 players), and then every 8 seconds the harmony sounds again, but each time more and more "out of sync", due to some players (playing inner harmony notes) coming in "late".  At the same time, the layers of this harmony expand vertically (the intervals between the pitches get bigger, high notes higher, low notes lower).

     Eventually the original "downbeat" chord tones also get delayed, and a new downbeat forms from the bunching up of the "late" notes (in other words, the original downbeat notes now become anticipatory notes to a following "new" downbeat).  During this process, metal percussion somewhat leads the way, both rhythmically and dynamically.  At the very end, a fast chord cadenza basically "re-shrinks" the now fully-expanded vertical harmony.

     The piece is organized into 27 "Moments" (which I call "downbeats"), each of which is 8 seconds long.  From a staging perspective, each player plays his/her note facing a different direction, and the players "freeze" in between notes.

     Below is a rundown based on the version recorded by the California EAR Unit, 1989.
Each of the 27 8-second Moments is marked with a vertical line.
Moment Time Music
1-9 0:00      A loud opening chord, is followed every 8 seconds by quiet chords ("downbeats"), with the individual notes of the chord tones becoming more and more rhythmically "out of sync" (ie - gradually delayed, led by metal percussion).  The longer the delay, the louder the note.  The pitch register also expands vertically which, with the rhythmic delays, makes the chord tones more and more "point-like" (in general the note durations are all short).
10-13 1:12      The delay between notes begins to decrease (ie - the initial "downbeat" chord notes also begin getting delayed towards the later notes, with the most-delayed percussion notes beginning to form their own loud "downbeat"), climaxing in a long decrescendo in Moment 13-14
14-17 1:44      The delay between notes begins to increase again, this time with chord tones coming in early (quiet perc.), anticipating the louder "downbeat" chord (held down by the winds).  Moment 16 features the anticipatory notes sustaining until a solid chord is reached, after which the percussion again takes a prominent role.
18-23 2:08      The metal percussion begin to form a new loud downbeat chord, (starting from just 2 notes) and as other players begin to sync with it, an 8-note downbeat chord is formed (M20 features a few sustained swelling/fading notes - I suppose this could be called an "insert")
24-27 3:04      2 loud unison chords are followed by 9 rapid chords in a decrescendo, with the pitch range shrinking from 6 octaves to 2 and ending on a final swelling harmony.

Moment 4-8: Some notes of each chord begin to lag behind.
(© Universal Edition)
Moment 14-16: Anticipatory notes to a chord come increasingly earlier.
(© Universal Edition)
Moment 24-27: The chord harmony suddenly shrinks at the end.
(© Universal Edition)

Sound Impressions
     This was probably written fairly quickly, though it has some interesting ideas which are very clearly and concisely presented (I suppose that makes this the closest thing to a Stockhausen "bagatelle" that I've seen).  The technique of expanding/shrinking vertical harmony is one of Stockhausen's favorites (see KREUZSPIEL, MANTRA, etc...), but the idea here of a synchronous downbeat disintegrating and then re-forming into a secondary downbeat is something that is (as far as I know) very unique in his oeuvre.

     One way to look at the musical flow is to regard the metal percussion (glockenspiel) as a "rebel" who breaks away, and in the process, leads the other "gang members" into his own downbeat group.  After a "scuffle" (during the long held decrescendo), the glockenspiel forms another new group out of the silence.  In any case, it's a charming work with a somewhat humorous ending, and seems to me to be almost a satire on the complicated rhythms used in much of serial avant-garde music. 

Ordering the Score
Wiki Entry
YouTube clip (California EAR Unit)

Saturday, August 22, 2015


Scene 1

Scene 2
Scene 3
Scene 4

LUZIKAMEL (misnamed "Horsehead Nebula" by Terrans)
for choir (w misc. whistles, noise-makers, toys), bass vocal soloist (with short-wave radio), flute, basset-horn, trumpet, trombone, synthesizer, tape, 2 dancers in a camel suit
(1997)  [ca. 60']

Extract 1: THINKI for flute (~4:30)
Extract 2: BASSETSU for basset-horn (~5:30)
Extract 3: BASSETSU-TRIO for basset-horn, trumpet, trombone (~26:00)
Extract 4: "MENSCHEN, HÖRT" (MANKIND, HEAR) for vocal sextet (2 S, A, T, 2 B) (~16:00)
Extract 5: KAMEL-TANZ (CAMEL-DANCE) for bass, trombone, synthesizer/tape, 2 dancers (~5:00)
Nr. 70 1/2: ROTARY Woodwind Quintet (~8:00)

Introduction and Brief Synopsis
     MICHAELION is the final Scene 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).  In this scene, set at the MICHAELION ("a galactic headquarters for delegates of the universe"), a meeting is held to decide on a new President, who will also hopefully act as an OPERATOR (translator/mediator).  A talking camel named LUCICAMEL appears, and dispenses 7 large colored globes representing the 7 Days of Licht.  Some delegates proceed to playfully shine LUCICAMEL's hooves.  After getting drunk on champagne, LUCICAMEL dances in different styles and engages in a playful bullfight with his "Trombonut" assistant.  After the fight, a surprising figure (LUCA) emerges out of the camel's body.  This person takes his position as President (and more importantly, OPERATOR) and interprets signals from a shortwave radio for the delegation.  He then individually receives a procession of 11 delegates from different alien races speaking in 11 different languages.  Finally, 6 delegates (with 6 globes) go out into the universe, spreading the message of MICHAEL.
lip whistle (or "mouth siren")
     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.  MICHAELION, as the final Scene of MITTWOCH, reflects the natural progression of a premise that was begun in Scene 1, WELT-PARLAMENT.  In that work, the setting was a skyscraper, and in the following Scenes the setting spreads farther and farther away from the Earth until in MICHAELION, it reaches deep space.  Due to its setting, MICHAELION could be considered a science fiction story, in a similar vein as the earlier science fiction-based work, SIRIUS, though its message is, like that work, very much directed towards our current world.  Like WELT-PARLAMENT, it also features a meeting of various characters from different locales, and here the end result is a consensus leading to the transmission of a message to the universe .

Electronic Layers
     The 3 layers of the MITTWOCH-FORMEL (Wednesday Formula) are played live by a synthesizer player as one of the electronic background layers to MICHAELION.  This triple-layer electronic part is the same material as the electronic work MITTWOCHS-GRUSS, though with a different spatial organization (and played live).  The other electronic element in this work is the "signal tape", which is used only in the PRESIDENCY section.  This tape is made up of short electronic melody fragments (from the LICHT formulas) which provide a kind of "fanfare" for the entrance of soloists and choir groups, and generally help to synchronize the various forces.  After PRESIDENCY, this element is not heard again.

Shortwaves (Kurzwellen)
     In the PRESIDENCY and the OPERATOR sections, a shortwave radio (SWR) is used to allow the "President" to receive and translate transmissions from other worlds (using "plus-minus" notation from KURZWELLEN).  The President-to-be first appears about 4 minutes into PRESIDENCY, and innocuously imitates and transforms radio noise and signals independently from the other performers.  He disappears during LUCICAMEL (since he is inside LUCICAMEL), but from just before OPERATOR onwards he again reacts to the shortwave radio, and then later also to the delegates beseeching him.
rosin stick with string attached
to resonating drum head
MICHAELION is divided into 3 main sections, with the 2nd and 3rd section having sub-scenes:
     In this opening section, vocal soloists, choir groups and instrumental soloists perform in various layers of polyphony, creating solos, duos, trios, etc...   This section also features constant movement from the performers, who move on and off stage (conveying the feeling of a busy intersection of different groups of people).  An integral part are the electronic melodies ("signals") which announce the entry of each musical element.  A Bass also adds an independent layer as he interacts with a shortwave radio during several stretches.
     This section features a camel who sings/talks with a Bass voice (from the previous section).  The Bass is essentially the main soloist, and a trombone is it's main accompaniment.  The choir groups interact with the Bass/trombone duo.  The section is divided into 5 sub-sections:
     In this section the Bass interacts with his shortwave radio receiver, but also engages in dialogues with 11 vocal soloists who use unique "toys" to complement their dialects.  After this procession, an instrumental "BASSETSU" trio is featured, during which 6 vocal soloists (Space Sextet) are sent to positions in the auditorium.  The ending is an arrangement of the 3-layer LICHT super-formula for the Space Sextet.  OPERATOR is divided into 3 sub-sections: 
    Time Structure of MICHAELION

    bulb horn
         The stage production of MICHAELION (and for all of MITTWOCH AUS LICHT for that matter) is very elaborate, and a text synopsis really can't do justice to all of the many rich visual elements.  For example, the performers in this scene constantly move around and behind several partitions, and the changing density of vocalists and instrumental soloists visible to the audience is difficult to describe, and is obviously lost in a CD recording.  The CD recording is an excellent studio representation of the scene's musical elements and so here I will mainly concentrate on that. The booklet (book, actually) that comes with the MICHAELION CD has  detailed descriptions and photographs, and a complete (I think) libretto.  The text itself is very humorous and playful, and it's recommended to get the CD to enjoy reading the German and English translations.
    CD Trk
    Music Stage Action

    PRÄSIDIUM (w Signal tape)
    • 0:10 – EM begins (elongated synthesizer arrangement of Wednesday Formula)
    • 1:07 - Signal tape begins cueing in various elements: descending (high) Bass, held/oscillating/buzzing Sopr/Fl and Alto/Bhn lines
    • 1:54 - Signal tape prompts isolated Tenr/Tpt melody fragments
    • 4:12 - OPERATOR/SWR passages begin (entries at 4:12, 5:45, 6:24, 6:56, 8:36)
    • 4:17 - Sopr ens. phrase w. Bass humming, brief Alto fragment, then Sopr solo w. slow staccato Tbn melody
    • 5:58 - Sopr/Fl and Alto/Bhn ensemble joining Tbn and Bass (OPERATOR continues)
    • 6:44 - Alto & Bass duet, ending w. ens. cadence
    • 7:39 - 3-part polyphony: Alto, Bhn, Bass harmony, ending w. ens. cadence
    • 8:29 - Sopr (Coloratura) solo w. high tones on Signal tape and "murmuring" on synth layer (OPERATOR soon quietly leaves)
    • 9:20 - STB trio (Bass is hoarse/humorous)
    • 9:40 - A polyphonic ens. section (Basses sing in 4 languages: Fr., It., Russ., Jap.). Soon Bass/Tpt dialogues w SAT/Fl and Bhn, ending in final swelling chord
         A Bass (later to be revealed as the OPERATOR) sits in the front row of the auditorium and transforms signals from a shortwave radio (SWR).  

         A "Trombonut" (Tbn player) dressed in black enters. 

         The vocalists and instrumental soloists move in front of, between and behind several partitions, sometimes "acting out" the text (for example, pretending to talk on the telephone while singing "Hallo?")


    • 0:00 - After opening ens. phrases, Sopr & Tenr duo w. supporting Fl/Bhn/Tbn (also Bass and SWR).  
    • 0:58 - LUCICAMEL enters with "HU!", and then enters in dialogue with the choir groups
    • 1:26 - Tbn joins LUCICAMEL
         LUCICAMEL (a talking camel) slowly enters with Trombonut (who has changed into a white costume), and interacts with the delegates.


    • 0:00 - LUCICAMEL grunts out the globes, soloists announce them ("KAKABEL!"), background ens. sings held/bending tones
    • 0:39 - LUCICAMEL names the globes and the soloists echo

         LUCICAMEL discharges out of its rump 7 large colored globes, which are each distributed to 7 soloists (SATB):
    S: Green
    T: Blue
    B: Black
    A: Orange
    A: Golden
    T: Red
    T: Yellow
         As each globe appears, the vocalists cry "KAKABEL!" (meaning "Star of God, a powerful angel of folklore in charge of the stars and constellations").

    • 0:00 - LUCICAMEL cries out 13 appreciative words as ensemble sings in syncopated rhythm 10/9 proportion (Sopr vs ATB)
    • 0:39 - After a brief tremolo phrase, increasingly rhythmic, acceleration (LUCICAMEL cries out 20 more appreciative words)
    • 1:15 - Tbn phrase precedes a Tenr section, a LUCICAMEL/Tbn phrase and a giggling Sopr/Alto moment, ending w. a final Tenr phrase
    • 2:08 - Frozen Electronic moment, then a "point-like" aleatoric ending
         Tenors shoe-shine LUCICAMEL's left foreleg, and the delegates sway back and forth with the shoe-shiners.  The hooves change from black to gold.  

         LUCICAMEL cries out 13 appreciative words.  His left hindleg is also polished and he cries out 20 more times in pleasure and makes front and back counter-movements.  Tenors give champagne to LUCICAMEL from a huge bottle.  LUCICAMEL sticks his foot in a side pocket, and tries to leave.

    • 0:00 - Polyrhythmic
    • 0:25 - Sopr w. LUCICAMEL and Tbn trio
    • 1:19 - Fl ostinato enters briefly
    • 1:52 - After a brief pause, Alto joins (quartet)
    • 3:16 - Bass enters and creates 3-part choral polyphony (SAB), LUCICAMEL pauses and Tbn joins Bass
         LUCICAMEL is lured back, and engages in an "artful dance" with Trombonut, singing and dancing in several styles (ballerina, "robot", etc...).


    • 0:00 - Tbn and LUCICAMEL duo, w. handclaps
    • 0:50 - sounds of amazement and humor
    • 2:15 - (OPERATOR emerges)
    • 2:39 - The OPERATOR has Trombonut play a melodic signal combining the head-motives of the 3 formulas (the delegates call out "Trombonut!").
    • 3:10 - OPERATOR begins interpreting SWR (short-wave radio) using notation from SPIRAL and KURZWELLEN

         LUCICAMEL and Trombonut engage in a playful "bullfight", with the delegates (as their audience) providing light hand-clapping accompaniment.  After the bullfight, LUCICAMEL sits on top of Trombonut as everyone freezes and then laughs (sounds of amazement and humor).

         Afterwards, LUCICAMEL is "unzipped", and the Bass from PRÄSIDIUM emerges ("Luca", wearing a cape like a Zen monk).  Trombonut has also changed into a costume of red, blue and green triangles.  Luca is brought to a podium where he is adorned with a yellow costume (robe, eye mask and pointed hat with the Wednesday sign on it).  The delegates greet Luca as the new President and OPERATOR.  The OPERATOR signals Trombonut to play a melodic signal.

         11 vocal soloists with toys (rattles, sirens, whistles, horns, etc…) petition the OPERATOR.  At the end of each of the 10 solos, the already-heard petitioners briefly join in as a chorus:

    • 0:00 - After electronic prelude, OPERATOR begins a cont. dialogue w. SWR, ens. harmony phrase
    • 0:27 - Bass with BULB HORN: w. some Tbn fragments.  Sopr/Alto sing quiet, irregular text cycles.
    • 0:52 - Sopr w. RATCHET (rotating noisemaker): 3-part polyphony w. Tenr/Tpt ens., Tbn (HORN joins at end, see above)
    • 1:26 - Alto w. METAL WHISTLE supported by ens. and Bhn, w. S/T/Tpt harmony & Tbn, (HORN and RATCHET joins at end)
    • 2:03 - Tenr w Good Friday CHURCH CLAPPER supported by ens. and Tpt, w. Alto harm. & Tbn, (HORN, RATCHET, WHISTLE joins at end)
    • 2:45 - Bass GARGLING and spitting WATER, Alto harm./Bhn. and Tenr/Tpt dialogue, Tbn, others join at end, etc…
    • 3:23 - Alto w LOTUS FLUTE (slide whistle) supp. by Bhn, Sopr slow gliss, Alto harm., Tpt ("11 shots") & Tbn sparse melody
    • 4:06 - Sopr w. MASS BELLS, Sopr/Fl slow gliss. melody, Alto /Bhn/Tenr/Bass/Tbn harm.
    • 4:52 - Tenr w Munyo RUBBER WHISTLE (kazoo-like) trio w coloratura Sopr and Tpt ("7 shots"), ens. slow harm., (in this solo, no toys chorus at end)
    • 5:58 - Alto w. MOUTH SIREN (whizzing glissandi) dialogues w. Flute (THINKI) supported by Sopr and Sopr ens. (slow harm.).  The Alto soloist eventually leaves (making flying gestures w. her arms), as THINKI continues.
    • 7:28 - Bass w. WALDTEUFEL (pasteboard rattle, croaking) & Tbn, THINKI cont., Bass monotone chant
    • 9:08 - Tenr w. CASIO (various sound effects), THINKI cont., brief Bass/Tbn gliss
    • 10:25 – Toys harmony tutti w. Bhn solo at end
         As the Operator interprets and transforms signals from the SWR, the vocalists form around the Operator.  As he hears petitions from a procession of 11 delegates (each of whom have a special toy-assisted dialect), he finds a new SW event to transform for each, and responds to both the SW and the delegates (at first separately, but with increasingly blurred distinctions).  During this, the Trombonut plays various notes and phrases, teasing and mingling among all of the delegates (and also sometimes rising and flying into the air).

         During the Tenor/CASIO delegate's petition, the OPERATOR becomes annoyed, and the Tenor is driven away by the other delegates, who are in turn dismissed by the OPERATOR.


    • 0:00 - Bassetsu Trio 1st position:  Bassetsu Trio (Tpt/Bhn/Tbn) rotate elaborated fragments (generously ornamented with grace-notes) from the 3 layers of the LICHT super- formula, vocals and Fl quietly accompany aleatorically (breathy sounds and overtones)
    • 1:40 - Bassetsu Trio 2nd position.  Basses and OPERATOR quietly begin speak-singing a sequence of 15 languages (Kabuki, Noh (Kyogen), American, Russian, Swedish, Cologne, Italian, French, Zulu, Bavarian, Greek, Dutch, N. German, Chinese)
    • 2:44 - Bassetsu Trio 3rd position
    • 3:29 - Bassetsu Trio 4th position, Space Sextet selection begins (Noh, Amer., Russ., Swed., Col…. See at right)
    • 4:20 - Bassetsu Trio 5th position
    • 5:26 - Bassetsu Trio play slow harmony melody, ending in isolated chords and then a final ascending scale
    • 8:34 - Sopr (singing about images from ORCHESTER-FINALISTEN) supported by Fl, Bassetsu Trio cont. sparse chords
    • 9:28 – Sopr/Fl cont., Tenrs begin quietly intoning the text from LITANEI (individually, w. held and gliss. shapes).  This part was later re-appropriated for LITANEI 97.

         The Bassetsu Trio (Bhn, Tpt, and Tbn) rotate around the OPERATOR w. stylized movements, changing direction for each new musical Cycle.  The OPERATOR integrates melodies of the Bassetsu Trio into his SW transformations.

         At the 2nd Cycle, the Bass delegates begin moving onto a Carousel which has risen from the ground.  During the 4th Cycle, Altos (humming) begin moving onto the Carousel as well (Tbn counts to 13).  Much later, Tenors and Sopranos (holding pretzels) also in turn mount the Carousel.

         Also at the 4th Cycle, a secondary sequence begins where 6 vocal soloists ("Space Sextet") take a dialect from the OPERATOR and then take a position in the hall holding a globe:
    Bass: Japanese Noh
    Sopr. (w. a Pretzel symbol): American
    Tenor (w. a Book): Russian
    Alto: Swedish
    Bass: Cologne dialect
    Soprano: (see below)
         At the end, the Soprano soloist sings a song about ORCHESTER-FINALISTEN while spinning on a stool in front of the OPERATOR.

          The LICHT super-formula (MICHAEL, EVE and LUCIFER formulas) is traversed by a vocal sextet 4 times, starting from a simplified "Nuclear formula" version, and expanding to its "fully elaborated" version in the 4th cycle.  Each cycle ends in a held fermata, with the 4th cycle ending in "HU!" In the 1st Cycle, one Sopr sings a solo (marked as "s" below), but she joins the other Sopr starting from the 2nd Cycle.  
         The remaining choir members sing monotone textures, and the instrumental soloists play aleatoric pitches.  Tenors continue intoning LITANEI (with slow glissandi and pitch transpositions) until Cycle 4, at which point they sing a slow melody.

    Time Cycle 1
    Cycle 2
    Cycle 3
    Cycle 4
    2 Sopr (s), M L E M
    Alto/Tenor E M L E
    2 Bass L E M L

         At 7:28, the Space Sextet repeats from the beginning, but singing parts independently, spreading outwards into space (synthesizer swells). 

           As the Space Sextet sings along the walls of the hall, the OPERATOR conducts the  movements of the delegates in circular shapes.  Eventually the Flute goes into flight, circling above and then away, playing freely from 5 notes.  At the same time the Bhn plays 7 notes free, Tpt 9 notes free, and Tbn 6 notes free.  The Bassetsu Trio continues to move in rotations around the OPERATOR.  At the same time, the Space Sextet out in the hall rotates during the fermatas between each Cycle .

           After the 3rd Cycle, the Carousel gradually stops and then changes direction.     

           Eventually the stage becomes dark and light beams in from 6 doorways, through which everyone slowly exits.

           The Space Sextet exits the hall out into the corridors/foyer, singing the 4 Cycles again, but independently.

           The OPERATOR stands up, continues transforming the SWR and vanishes.

            The EVE, MICHAEL and LUCIFER formulas found in "MENSCHEN, HÖRT" (most clearly in the 4th Cycle) can be seen in the LICHT super-formula below (click to enlarge).
      The LICHT Super-formula (English translation)
      Live Performance
      slide whistle (or "Lotus Flute")
           One of the important aspects of MICHAELION which cannot be appreciated from a recording is that the vocalists and instrumental soloists move on and off stage (or behind a partition).  Sometimes a soloist continues playing while unseen, which contributes to the atmosphere of being in a conference, where sounds from other rooms may penetrate, or members may mingle between rooms.  Additionally, during the Carousel portion, the circular movements of the various stage elements also unfortunately cannot be seen (though so far no performance has actually included a carousel yet, that I know of).  And of course, LUZICAMEL’s actions are really something that needs to be seen!

           A concert version of MICHAELION was premiered in 1998 in Munich, and a video of this is available as a DVD from the Stockhausen website.  This version features all of the stage movements (I think), but has a fairly conservative design aesthetic as far as costumes go (though LUCICAMEL looks quite good).  The 2012 Birmingham production of MITTWOCH AUS LICHT included the MICHAELION scene of course, but the design aesthetic there was a bit more like communal “punk rock” than what I would imagine an intergalactic conference to look like (I'm thinking "Babylon 5"...).  In this production there were no real partitions, so the feeling of delegates moving in and out of a conference space is unfortunately lost.  The musical portion however is well-recorded and the Stockhausen Edition CD of MICHAELION (CD54) was recorded during the dress rehearsals.
      (from score cover of THINKI)
      Other Works/Extracts
      Extract 1: THINKI for flute (~4:30)
           THINKI is a slightly modified version of the flute solo from the later stages of the sub-scene OPERATOR.  It features flutter-tongue, “rushing noises”, kissing noises, key slapping, tandem vocalizing and microtonal bending.  Besides using alternating motifs from the LICHT super-formula as the basis for elaboration, some of the phrases from THINKI act as “remembrances” or “time-windows” of passages from previous flute works featured in the LICHT opera cycle.  Also, some formula melodies are interpreted (“intermodulated”) with the rhythm of a different formula.

      Extract 2: BASSETSU for basset-horn (~5:30)
           Essentially, this piece is the basset horn part of BASSETSU-TRIO (starting with the final basset horn solo from OPERATOR).  It features flutter-tongue, single-note tremolos on alternate fingering, microtonal scales, rushing noises, etc…  The score color-codes fragments of the LICHT formula layers in 3 colors, and these are used to indicate what direction to play in, corresponding to the formula layers  (M, E, L: left, rotating, right).

      rubber "fart" whistle
      (similar to "Munyo rubber whistle")
      Extract 3: BASSETSU-TRIO for basset-horn, trumpet, trombone (~26:00)
          This concert version of the instrumental trio from OPERATOR includes the final basset horn solo from OPERATOR, the trio from BASSETSU-TRIO, and an instrumental trio arrangement of vocal sextet "MENSCHEN, HÖRT".  In BASSETSU-TRIO, elaborated fragments of all 3 LICHT formulas (MICHAEL, EVE, LUCIFER) are rotated among the 3 soloists.  For example, the basset horn part starts with m. 17 from the EVE formula, followed by m. 18 from the LUCIFER formula, m. 18 of the MICHAEL formula, m. 18 of EVE, etc…  At the same time the trumpet plays from MICHAEL m. 18, EVE m. 18, etc.. (the switching from fragment to fragment is not in unison so many layers of similarity and dissimilarity occur).  The soloists move in an orbit around a central point, as well as spinning slowly (planetary spin!).  When the soloists are playing different formula layers, they spin in place, but when 2 soloists are playing a fragment from the same formula (though often somewhat counter-pointed) they face each other while moving backwards/forwards in the circle.  When all 3 are playing from the same formula fragment, they all face the center.  Finally, when a player changes from one formula layer to another, his/her own spin changes direction.  These visual aids might help a listener follow the permutations of the LICHT super-formula.

           During the "MENSCHEN, HÖRT" section, the 3 soloists move out into the hall and rotate 4 times through 4 hall positions, just as the 6 vocalists do (for 6 positions) in the original arrangement from MICHAELION.  The 4 Cycles in this section are arranged as follows:
      Cycle 1 2 3 4
      Trumpet M L E M
      Basset-Horn E M L E
      Trombone L E M L

      Extract 5: KAMEL-TANZ (CAMEL-DANCE) for bass, trombone, synthesizer/tape, 2 dancers (~5:00)
           This independent version for bass and trombone (with synth/tape) covers the sub-scenes KAMEL-TANZ and STIERKAMPF (Bullfight). The recording on Stockhausen Edition CD 105 starts with electronic music, then some aleatoric pitches from the trombone and Bass, and then KAMEL-TANZ from about 1:34. At around 5:38, STIERKAMPF begins. After LUCIKAMEL and the trombone finish, the background electronics eventually fade out. The recording on CD 105 features a chamber version of the bass and trombone part without any clapping, etc...

      Nr. 70 1/2: ROTARY Woodwind Quintet (~8:00)
           This quintet for flute, oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon is also an arrangement of the 4 Cycles of "MENSCHEN, HÖRT", with the 5 soloists arranged in 6 positions around the hall in 4 formations.  The table below shows the cycles, formulas, timings and instrument orientations from Stockhausen Edition CD 105.
      Cycle 1
      Cycle 2
      Cycle 3
      Cycle 4
      Oboe (M) Flute (L) Flute/Oboe (E) Flute          Oboe (M)
      Horn (E) Clarinet (M) Clarinet (L) Clarinet       Bassoon (E)
      Bassoon (L) Horn (E) Horn/Bassoon (M) Horn (L)

      Sound Impressions
      wood noise-maker ("ratchet")
           MICHAELION's opening section is really amazing for how it manages to create shifting layers of vocal, instrumental and electronic textures.  At any given moment there are several layers in motion, including droney background textures, foreground solo combinations and shortwave "swarm" sounds.  The use of the "signal tape" to provide entrance cues for new musical elements is very welcome, just as the percussion "samples" in TELEMUSIK were a helpful aid to follow the sequence of "moments" in that work.  The entrance of LUCICAMEL then brings in a level of sheer absurdity, which may or may not put a satirical spin on the idea of "committees".  Later, the BULLFIGHT provides a kind of "remembrance" of the DRAGON-FIGHT in DONNERSTAG AUS LICHT, though with a lighter touch.  When the OPERATOR communicates with the 11 alien delegations, the use of toys to "enhance" the alien dialects is great fun, and is perhaps an echo of the supplementary percussion used by the choir in MOMENTE.  These combinations of vocals and noise-makers act as yet another way to intermodulate two distinct sound forms, this time entirely without electronics.

           Aside from the amazing musical craftsmanship and organization of the numerous vocal, instrumental and electronic forces, MICHAELION also has a very fascinating movement scheme which is unlike anything Stockhausen had done before.  The way the performers thread their way among the stage partitions is kind of funny, and almost brings to mind one of those Marx Brothers routines where characters are chasing each other through doors in a corridor.

           The final section, "MENSCHEN, HÖRT",  provides a magical ending to a wonderfully bizarre science fiction opera, as the Space Sextet messengers disperse out into the universe, sharing a message in praise of God, love, light, music, and the cosmos.

      Related Works:
      Sound samples, tracks listings and CD ordering:
      MICHAELION Premiere 1998 (Stockhausen DVD 10)
      MITTWOCH AUS LICHT 2012 Birmingham Production (Jerome Kohl photos)
      MICHAELION YouTube clip

      Monday, August 17, 2015


      Stockhausen Edition CD 81 Cover
      No.1/2: PUNKTE (POINTS)
      for orchestra (including 2 pianos and 2 harps)
      1952 version (8:20)
      1962, 1964, 1966, 1993 versions (approx. 27:00)

           In the first 1952 version of PUNKTE (Points), Stockhausen took the melodically and rhythmically liberating ideas of the 12-tone/serial composers and expanded them so that each note would have it's own identity as an independent "point".  Instead of using notes to express the development of a melodic or rhythmic idea, notes were given independently-chosen pitches, durations, dynamics, and articulations.  Because these notes did not necessarily have a relationship with their surrounding notes, this produced a kind of "swarm" or "star-field"-like effect (though there are also instances of ensemble cadences).  Ultimately, Stockhausen found that this version required too many difficult-to-acquire instruments and/or was too hard for the musicians to play (tinfoil inside the piano strings was a point of contention), and it was never performed or even published.  However, this idea of scattered specks of sounds soon developed further into KONTRA-PUNKTE, where "hosts of points" would surface from the star-fields of points, and eventually clump together into "groups" with common attributes.

           In 1962, Stockhausen revisited PUNKTE and rewrote it so that the original points were each expanded into triangular pitch range envelope shapes (below).  In fact, the work was so dramatically expanded that its duration went from 8 minutes to 27 minutes long (points were lengthened and rests were put in between most of them).  At this time, Stockhausen had already written works using "group" and "moment" form (GRUPPEN and KONTAKTE), and these experiences probably influenced the reshaping of PUNKTE.  Additionally, Stockhausen began applying GRUPPEN's idea of "silent windows" to some structures (such as when a densely notated page has a shape drawn into it, and all of the notes in this shape are changed to rests - i.e. "erased").  The work was again revised several times up until 1993 (less dramatically then the almost complete re-imagining of the 1952 version, though, in 1964 an introductory page of layered  tremolo points was removed).  At this point no recording of the original 1952 PUNKTE exists, but the revised versions clearly have a kind of dramatic arc to the way it builds and shapes textures.

      From Central Pitches to Envelope Shapes
      In these shapes a "central tone" from the original 1952 version of PUNKTE is represented by the horizontal black line, and in the revised version additional pitches were used to fill out the yellow-shaded areas.  Sometimes the shapes from the 1st and 2nd columns were combined to make the shapes in the 3rd column.
            When Stockhausen revised PUNKTE in 1962, he grouped sounds together so that pitch ranges (think "bandwidths") of sound would expand/contract in upwards or downwards directions.  For example, in the top left case, notes would gradually be added to one of the original points of the 1952 version, with each of the additional notes having a higher register.  In the shape below that, notes would be added so that additional notes would have an increasingly lower register-space (the original central tone remains).  In the second column, the beginning of a sound group starts out with a large and dense available pitch bandwidth, but gradually the outer limit of the bandwidth falls or rises.
      The 6 "shape types", somewhat graphically represented. 
      In all of these cases, the top range of the pitch range shrinks,
      until only the central tone remains.

           During these pitch-range shapes, a specific type of texture/property (sometimes in combination) is featured:
      1. Sustained notes
      2. Intermittent rests ("Morse code")
      3. Glissandi (falling/rising)
      4. Tremolos/trills
      5. Rhythmic subdivision
      6. Staccato, portato, legato chords (staccato shown)
           Shapes can also be based on things like instrumental colors (strings, brass, etc...), dynamic levels (loud, soft, etc...), tempo, etc...

      A page (section 136-139) from the 1966 version of PUNKTE.
      I outlined and numbered some of the more obvious shapes.
      The bottom section strings thin out, allowing the woodwinds in the top portion to surface.
      (Click to enlarge.)
           In the first few minutes of PUNKTE, the shapes occur as short isolated bursts, but soon these shapes begin to overlap (see above), and the music can become quite dense.  As mentioned previously, when a section seems to become too dense for a listener to perceive any kind of particular structure, Stockhausen used an eraser to carve "negative" shapes into them (as rests).  The most obvious visual examples in the score show diamond-shaped "windows" carved into walls of notes (section 117 for example, or above), resulting in a gradual reduction and then restoration of the middle register instruments.

           In some further revisions, Stockhausen would reshape ensemble rests/pauses as punctuation to highlight underlying instrumental groups or to suspend chord shapes as repeating “snapshots” (chord echoes).  Some of the loose, "unshaped" points were also connected to make melodic solo fragments (finding “figurative constellations” (zodiac signs) in the stars).  Even some of the "erased" shapes were refilled with new timbres (such as wind sounds).  At one point an introductory page of a swelling drone figure was present ("Page 0", recorded only once in a performance conducted by Pierre Boulez in 1963 at the Donaueschingen Musiktage), but was soon discarded.  Interestingly enough, this lost intro sounds a bit similar to the opening section of INORI, which would come 11 years later.

           In summary, these are the steps taken to transform the 1-dimensional "points" of the 1952 version into the 2-dimensional "shapes" of the 1962 version:
      • assign shapes to the original pitches (expanding/contracting upwards/downwards)
      • assign pitch ranges to the shapes (i.e. highest/lowest note)
      • assign shape texture types (sustained, trills, glissandi, etc...)
      • assign tempi
      • erase notes from dense sections in the form of shapes
      • add chordal echoes over long fermatas
      • connect "loose" central tones into melodic solos

      12 by 12 Sections
           There are a total of 144 sections (12 groups with 12 sections in each with many sections being as short as 1 measure).  These section groupings sometimes sound a bit ambiguous (some shapes sustain into the following section, and some seem to start early) but in any case the Stockhausen Edition CD2 track divisions match the large group structures (tracks 1-4 are FORMEL, SCHLAGTRIO and SPIEL).
      Section Textures Dur.
      5 1-12 Shapes begin as short isolated bursts, accompanied by a few melodic fragments.
      Ends with a string fermata and 2 brass "echos"
      6 13-24 Shapes begin to bunch together, getting longer and overlapping.  More pedal tones surface in between shapes. Percussion (vibraphone, piano) becomes more prominent (glissandi).  
      Ends with isolated accents from different solo groups (points)
      7 25-36 More dynamic variation in the shapes occur.  
      Low strings solo at 1:01.  
      Quiet sustained tones continue to surface between shapes.
      8 37-48 Long violin drone/trill begins, eventually joined by piccolo trill, 
      Shapes are generally quieter, and more melodic fragments now occur in between shapes (as well as during them).  
      Ends with a wind fermata and 3 string echos
      9 49-60 Shapes are pierced by brass and then piano/harp accents. Harp solo at 0:35.  In general, shapes are made up of groups of accents. 
      Melody fragments continue during fermatas.  
      From 2:20 a trombone pedal tone begins, soon joined by a brief explosion of brass
      10 61-72 More variation in shape lengths but generally softer.  Sometimes quiet sustained shapes contain short accent shapes.  
      Piano/harp solo at 1:52
      More extreme high and low register elements appear (greater shape heights).
      11 73-84 Strings w. glissandi, harmonics, create a "wispy" texture, punctuated by plucked bass melodic fragments and glockenspiel.  A couple stray wind/brass notes appear (1:24, 1:55), but otherwise all strings. 2:14
      12 85-96 Plucked bass solo is joined by melodic fragments from other groups, but shapes soon resume at 0:20.  More percussion enters (marimba, vibr.).
      At 0:53 a long trumpet drone begins and leads a long sustained shape.  
      At 1:52 a bassoon solo fragment appears, followed by a mixture of different shape texture types (tremolo, glissandi, etc...)
      13 97-108 Sustained strings are pierced by accented attacks from other instrumental groups, with strings themselves soon joining in. 1:33
      14 109-120 Sustained textures with accents continue.  Strings briefly change to pizzicato rhythm at 0:39, followed by various other textures (tremolo, etc...).  
      At 1:40 the shapes are no longer pierced, but become more isolated, connected by high harmonic string tones.  
      Ends with a few accent points.
      15 121-132 After an introductory section of melodic fragments, shapes resume.  
      At 0:40 a large shape is accompanied by multiple solos.  
      At 1:21 a falling scale and a rising scale harmonize.
      At the end a long sustained shape is punctuated by a tolling bell, followed by more scalar figures.
      16 133-144 The final group is characterized by loud, brassy shapes with percussive rolls.  After another scalar figure at 1:02, a quiet moment occurs before a final conglomeration of shapes and shape types. 1:50

      Sound Impressions
           Listening and following PUNKTE may be a kind of "educational" experience, since most people are conditioned to follow melodic ideas or rhythmic figures made of orchestral group mixtures.  In this work, the "theme" is actually the development of each individual attack and how their envelope shapes interact.  Perhaps it's easier to first appreciate PUNKTE as a train of chordal bursts (as if Stockhausen were "playing" the orchestra like a pulse generator), and then on further playbacks follow the shapes of the evolving sound-masses.  These expanding/contracting bandwidths of sound in the beginning are often as short as 1 measure, but soon more and more overlapping shapes occur (resulting in a timbral change, but not necessarily a clear wedge-shaped change in sound density).  As the work progresses, more of these expanding/contracting shapes seem to be audible (especially when the shapes are applied to longer held chords).

           It's interesting to consider how Stockhausen might have come to the idea of revisiting PUNKTE in 1962.  The concept of pitch-space envelope shapes occurs as early as STUDIE II, and continues on into works including KONTAKTE  and FRESCO (and the idea of "negative space" would soon be explored again in a very different way as the "negative bands" in PLUS-MINUS).  His methodology in 1962 seems to be much closer in spirit to the way he worked out things like GRUPPEN and CARRÉ
            Sadly, I never really paid that much attention to PUNKTE until now, mainly because the title and number (Points, Work Nr. 1/2) doesn't sound very promising.  This "1/2" numbering is unfortunately misleading, considering that the completely re-imagined 1962 version was completed in the same year that MOMENTE was begun, and it's compositional style is very much reflective of Stockhausen's maturity as a composer.  Fortunately this work seems to be getting performed a bit more frequently these days.

      Sound samples and CD ordering:
      PUNKTE Wiki Entry
      Purchase the Score
      Punkte 1962 version (includes discarded intro)
      The Works of Karlheinz Stockhausen (Robin Maconie)
      Sonoloco Review