No. 65: MITTWOCHS-GRUSS (Monday Greeting) 8-Channel Electronic Music
MICHAELION is described by Stockhausen as "a galactic headquarters for delegates of the universe." With this in mind, the synthetic tones 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 takes 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.
A fascinating analysis of this work. I think for me, at least to some extent, MICHAELION is the real climax of LICHT and if I was to imagine the seven operas being performed consecutively it would make more sense to me to end with MITTWOCH than with SONNTAG. For that reason, it makes enormous sense to me that the MITTWOCHS-GRUSS would be built from the electronic layer of MICHAELION, setting the stage for us, from the outset, for this amazing journey into the cosmopolis, as you call it. Thank you so much for this really enlightening journey through the timbres of this piece.
Thanks Ian. Yeah, I love the timbres, and I can only imagine hearing this in 8-channel must be epic. If I ever get tired of writing about Stockhausen I may devote the rest of my time to rebuilding the Expo 70 spherical auditorium! In the nearby park if necessary!
That's an interesting idea about MICHAELION being last. It's difficult for me to say having not experienced MITTWOCH or SONNTAG live... I suspect live the effect might be different. Then again, Stockhausen says that these can be started from any Day, so if that's true, every one could be used as a finale. Personally, I just think of them in chronological order, since each one develops the Licht super-formula more and more. Donnerstag has the formulas stated in their straightest form, and by the time of Freitag, they are pretty much rewired into the Friday Formula. Mittwoch kind of brings then back (especially in the Bassetsu Trio of course), but then Sonntag mutates them further and in Hoch Zeiten I can't remember hearing any straight formula quotes at all.
Of course that's just based on super-formula variation level. Dramatically you may be right about Michaelion being the climax....
I probably should stress that seeing MITTWOCH as the end, and MICHAELION as the climax of LICHT is very much a personal thing. That's what works for me, and how I personally would like to experience the operas if I were ever to see them all live. But ultimately I think any order would yield its own riches, tell its own stories and create its own challenges. I do totally take your point about the superformula suggesting they be performed consecutively. Another part of me loves the idea of it starting with DIENSTAG: there's just something about the idea of everything being set in motion by a cosmic war that I find rather appealing. Like so much else in Stockhausen, the possibilities are inexhaustible!
Starting with DIENSTAG fits really good for me as well, especially since JAHRESLAUF is "pre-LICHT" anyways. Dramatically yes that works too for me. But how about FREITAG first and the DIENSTAG? Michael is pissed that Lucifer was hanging with his woman! War, baby! Then DONNERSTAG as a "flashback"...etc... Haha - this is fun.
Well, I remember enough of Year 11 maths to have been able to work out that there are 5,040 different ways in which you could order the seven operas of LICHT. That certainly makes for a lot of very different stories to tell!
Haha, that's funny, and I just finished a future post about Klavierstuck XI, which apparently has 10 to the 40th power number of possible versions. A CD release of that would blow away even the 50 disc Merzbow!
I feel that it could be useful to have a discussion-forum on the music of Stockhausen. There are so many people from all over the world, young and old, learned and eager to get into contact with this musical world: musicologists, composers, musicians, music lovers; people who plan concerts - who write books or have to give lectures and so on. So there should be much stuff, many ideas that we can share. And when we have open questions, there may be people who studied just that and could give a hint or a stimulus.
A problem might be the English language, but i feel that is the only possibility that many people who are interested can participate. And we can exercise tolerance to mistakes!