It sometimes perplexes me a little that some people find in Stockhausen's many references to spirituality a stumbling block to the appreciation of his music. I find this perplexing because I know of few composers who have had as expansive and as inclusive a notion of spirituality as has Stockhausen: more so than Bach or Messiaen, for example, whose music seems to be much less likely to be rejected by audiences who do not identify with their overt religiosity. But I certainly know people who find it hard to settle into Stockhausen's music because they find it just 'too spiritual'.
Stockhausen, from what I read of his own writings and, more importantly, from what I listen to and study of his music, seemed to be constantly moving from one realm to the other in his thinking and in his creativity, as if for him the spirituality to which he so often referred was about many things as once: theology, mythology, psychology, cosmology, physics, mathematics. He seemed to be driven by a creative force that is everywhere, regardless of what we call it, and was maybe searching, as much as anyone else, to understand and grasp what it actually is. Is it the God of Judeo Christian tradition? Is it the pantheistic spirituality of Hinduism? Is it creativity of the human mind? Is it the energy that propels electrons around the nucleus of an atom? My sense is that for Stockhausen it was all of these and more, and it can likewise be any or all of these for us, too. In other words, Stockhausen's spirituality is something that can accommodate whatever views we might have about what holds life together and propels it onwards.
So it seems to me a sad irony that Stockhausen, who expressed perhaps the most inclusive and accommodating spirituality of all in his music, a spirituality that allows for everything from pantheism to atheism, appears to suffer more than many others from a resistance to that spirituality.
I would be interested in others' thoughts on this issue!
I think you are right in your characterization of St.'s spirituality: It is very broad-minded indeed (though I would not think that it embraces atheism as well - but maybe that is a question of definition). And also for me it is always a question: Why does that provoke so much hostility? Indeed there are many composers who are religious people; as a contemporary composer I would add Mark Andre, who nowadays in Germany is very established as one of the best composers we have. And everyone can know: He is a confessing Protestant; most titles of his compositions are hints to the bible. But no one turns him down because of that. Maybe because in the music there are no explicit traits of that religious belief. It is more in the realm of concepts. And that is different with Stockhausen. In LICHT Michael, Luzifer and Eva are present and they have explicitly a religious meaning. Well, you must not see it in HELIKOPTER-QUARTETT and other scenes, but when it comes to discuss the meaning, you have to mention the religious meaning right in the beginning. What might be a possible reason for the said hostility is the history of the reception of his music. In the Fifties Stockhausen was THE progressive composer, a composer of music that had an impressive technical level. In spite of the religious texts in GESANG DER JÜNGLINGE he was not so much seen as a religious composer, but as a member of a scene of progressive avantgarde-artists. And these had to be against tradition, against the Adenauer-era etc. Therefore maybe it was a terrible disappointment for his friends when they had to listen to works like INORI. And: Stockhausen had this inclination to strange traditions like Jakob Lorber, Sri Aurobindo, Urantia Book, to esoteric thinking that seemed to be in a strange contrast to his rationalist way of composing, to his inclination to construction, to numbers, to mathematics. Therefore I think: A main issue in interpreting Stockhausen has to be, to raise understanding for instance for his interest in the Urantia Book: that it is not just stupid, that he did not betray his avantgard-thinking by that, but that it is in accordance with main tendencies of his thinking and composing: his interest in space, in modern cosmology, that man is no longer the center of the universe, but that we have to deal with vast dimensions. In a way that is what the Urantia Book tries to express, though (for me) in a very odd way.
Thank you, as always, for these insights Thomas. When I speak of atheism, I mean simply the notion of a spiritual dimension to life that might not include a belief in a God, or in many gods, or in a theistic entity as such (for example, I tend to think of Buddhism as an atheist religion, and I think there are many similar examples of this that are not established 'religions' but nevertheless entail an essentially spiritual engagement with life, without a belief in a deity. Humanism may be another example of this, and perhaps even some political ideologies, although I have not yet thought about this deeply enough ... but, as you say, this may all just be a matter of definition).
I find your comments about the popularly perceived conflict between Stockhausen's avant-garde rationalism, and his sometimes unusual spiritual interests, especially pertinent. I think it is exactly as you say: these different systems of belief were all different manifestations of the same thing for Stockhausen - his belief in the overall grand design and order of the universe and of reality, and of the ways I which this is present at so many different levels. It is something that I always find remarkable when I study the sketches in the Archives, and see how all of these ideas are placed side by side in his thinking. It is for me an incredible experience to explore those connections and then to see how they appear in his music. For me, my own particular interest lies in seeing how those connections then are manifest in the psychology of human personality, which is the basis of my study for my PhD.
But the richness of Stockhausen's spirituality, and the richness of his expression of it in his music, is, I believe, unparalleled. Just as Stockhausen once said that he felt he could go on composing with the Superformula forever, I think one could go on exploring and studying different and uncharted dimensions of the symbolism of LICHT forever too.
I am looking forward very much to reading your own analyses and observations in your book. It is, according to Amazon, 'unterwegs'!!
Ian, and Thomas. The notion that Stockhausen's spirituality could extend to atheists is supported by a passage in Paul Dirmeikis's dialogue book, Le Souffle du temps (1999), on pp. 66–69, in my translation from the published French version:
[ Stockhausen ] It is a new conception of music.
[ Paul Dirmeikis ] a religious conception?
[ KS ] Not necessarily. Believing in God is not a necessary condition for recognizing and approaching mysteries. Certain people can be atheistic and, in spite of that, admit the mystery which permeates our universe and our existence. But because they do not believe in a single God, they will speak instead about cosmic forces.
[ PD ] It seems to me that in a broad sense one can retain the term "religious" to qualify this attitude, this manner of apprehending and of interpreting the world, even if it is not adherence to a dogma.
[ KS ] Aha! Yes... Indeed, as Goethe, who recognized the existence of a Spirit which unifies the universe and which can be apprehended and perceived thanks to nature.
Further to your point, Ian, about the "popularly perceived conflict between ... rationalism ... and spiritual interests", I mention on p. 5 of my Zeitmaße book: "In tandem with his conservatory studies, Stockhausen read Musicology, German Language and Literature, and Philosophy at the University of Cologne. Alongside the established moderns (Kant, Hegel, Leibniz, etc.) philosophical studies at that time emphasized the phenomenology of Edmund Husserl (rehabilitated in Germany after the suppression of his writings by the Nazi regime), his pupil Martin Heidegger, and the existentialism of Heidegger’s pupil, Jean-Paul Sartre. Stockhausen formed a particular admiration for Heidegger’s Holzwege and read (at least superficially) his most famous work, Sein und Zeit (Being and Time). Phenomenology’s emphasis on the sensory world, unprejudiced observation, on ontology, and on time, had a considerable significance for Stockhausen’s subsequent development."
In earlier drafts, I followed this up with two paragraphs that had to be sacrificed in interests of space. One version of the first of these paragraphs read:
ZitatThough Gerhard Marcks’s famous statue (now in front of the main university building) of 13th-century philosopher Albertus Magnus was cast only in 1955 (the year Zeitmaße was begun), no-one treading the venerable university’s grounds could have been unaware of the medieval tradition of Scholastic and Speculative Mysticism that lies beneath the very roots of the University. Renowned as the Doctor Universalis, Albertus, teacher in Cologne and Paris of (amongst others) St. Thomas Aquinas, was unusual amongst cleric scholars of the time for his acute observation of nature, and his critical interpretation of Aristotle’s investigations. (Marcks’s sculpture portrays him peering up inquisitively at the natural world from the great book of learning in his lap.) Inquiry into natural phenomena was, for Albertus as for Stockhausen, contemplation of the work of God, and therefore a spiritual as well as a scientific exercise.
The second paragraph (from a slightly earlier version) continues:
ZitatAt the south-east corner of the Albertus-Magnus Square (at the heart of the University), is a tiny, crooked street named after the most famous and eloquent of the Speculative Mystics (an offshoot of Scholastic Mysticism), born some sixty years later than Albertus and fifteen years before the death of Thomas Aquinas: Meister-Eckehardt Straße. When sent to Paris to argue the Dominican view against that of the Franciscans, Meister Eckehardt argued, on the issue of Being and Intellect, that God does not understand because He is Being, but the reverse: He is Being because He is Intellect. Further, Meister Eckhardt argued, it is in man’s capacity for intellect—and not through love or will, or even through the exercise of intellect—that the mystical union with God takes place: “In the soul, there is an agent of the first rank, the intellect, by means of which the soul knows and detects God” (sermon, “Into the Godhead”). Such thoughts must have sustained Stockhausen, whose Catholic piety might otherwise have seemed in conflict with the “scientific” intellectualism that was in favour at the time.
If I recall correctly, Stockhausen briefly resided in student quarters on Meister-Eckehardt Straße but, even if that is not the case, it is hard to believe that he could have been unaware of these two great medieval philosopher/theologians.
Thank you for these insights Jerry - very interesting observations there, and I had not been aware of those comments from Stockhausen.
Even aside from this evidence of Stockhausen's own openness to an atheistic engagement with spiritual themes, I continue to be very interested in exploring the ways in which Stockhausen's work can express or reflect ideas with which he himself was not acquainted. It reverts to points I think I have made elsewhere about Stockhausen and The Glass Bead Game - the notion of a universal connection of ideas, that can accommodate very different fields of thought. I am continuing to find my own study of this in terms of viewing the symbolism of LICHT from a Lacanian perspective to be especially enlightening, even though I have found no evidence at all of Stockhausen's own interest in psychoanalysis and particularly not in the theories of Lacan.
Your references to Heidegger are especially interesting to me too ... I have also been drawing somewhat from Heidegger and his concept of Dasein in my approach - that is, the inherent tension in the human search for higher meaning from within the confines of the everydayness of our perception and understanding of the world. This is a tension that I think all of us feel to some degree, whether we couch that search in theistic terms or otherwise: and I think LICHT provides us with some interesting insights into that tension.
To the question, how much Stockhausen was influenced by philosophers/theologians: He mentions some, for instance Heidegger. But it is the question, if he really took time to go into these books (Holzwege, Sein & Zeit). Christoph von Blumröder (in his profound book: Die Grundlegung der Musik K. St.'s, Stuttgart 1993, p. 22f) argues that there was just a rather superficial contact: he had discussed his compositions with a student of Heideggers and therefore he mentioned Heidegger's books - but that might have been the whole thing. A similar thing could be that he mentioned the logical theory of Gotthard Günther in one of his texts (unfortunately I could not find the reference right now in his TEXTE-books) - but I cannot imagine that he really went into these complicated theories. Nevertheless G. Günther could be a theme in party-talks of these days (as I know from myself). And the same might be true with Albertus Magnus and Meister Eckhardt. I would be really cautious to draw consequences just from name-dropping. It is another case with the Urantia Book. Here you can point very directly to traces in LICHT. But here, too: That of course does not necessarily mean that he was an orthodox follower...
Thomas, you are perfectly correct: We cannot be sure how deeply Stockhausen may have gone into any of these sources. He did often mention writers whose works he can scarcely have comprehended fully, but whom he nevertheless acknowledged as inspiration for his compositions. The Günter reference is a case in point. It is found in the note on MOMENTE in TEXTE III, and the "influence" certainly extends no further than the notion of logics that do not depend on dualism (so-called n-valent logic). Stockhausen's passing reference involves a bit of wordplay that seems to have confused Karl Heinz Wörner (or his translator, Bill Hopkins) into thinking the text represents "a mind at the end of its tether". My purpose in bringing up the two deleted paragraphs from my book is not to claim that Stcokhausen knew (even superficially) the writings of either Albertus or Eckehardt, but rather to indicate that an intellectual emphasis is not necessarily in conflict with a spiritual outlook, and in particular that Cologne was historically central to such thinking amongst medieval scholastics. It is a modern prejudice for many people that a mystical outlook is the product of feeble-mindedness, or at least an intellectual naiveté. This represents the other side of the coin from the idea that atheists cannot be spiritual in any way. When Stockhausen refers to Albert Einstein, both in Paul Dirmeikis's conversation book and in a minor but revealing document which I cite in my book, it is not to any of his scientific writings, but rather to a small book titled The World as I See It, originally published in 1931. Its title essay ends with these thoughts:
ZitatThe fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which are only accessible to our reason in their most elementary forms – it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in this alone, I am a deeply religious man. I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the type of which we are conscious in ourselves. An individual who should survive his physical death is also beyond my comprehension, nor do I wish it otherwise; such notions are for the fears or absurd egoism of feeble souls. Enough for me the mystery of the eternity of life, and the inkling of the marvellous structure of reality, together with the single-hearted endeavour to comprehend a portion, be it ever so tiny, of the reason that manifests itself in nature.
That is a fascinating quote from Einstein, Jerry ... thank you for posting it here and of course also in your book (which I have ordered but still await).
I think many ideas, such as those of Günter about non-dualistic logic, would have become known to Stockhausen largely through the circles in which he mixed during the 1960s, and particularly through the people who tended to congregate in and around Mary Bauermeister's Lintgasse studio. I recently interviewed Mary when I was last in Germany and she spoke about that very issue (the 'non-Aristotlean logic' as she described it) and its enormous influence and importance on her, and Stockhausen, and their circle at that time. I'm sure many other ideas emerging, or being critiqued, in philosophy at that time were very much part of the lively discussion amongst what she called the 'melting pot of ideas' in which they lived and created during those years.
My sense from reading Stockhausen's own words on these sorts of issues - spiritual, cosmic, philosophical, theological - is that ideas for him accumulated and synthesised and mixed, always building on and with each other, rather than one set of ideas giving way to another. So I imagine that even these thoughts that were being discussed amongst his colleagues and friends in the 1960s continued to be part of his Weltanschauung from then on. This is another thing I love exploring in his later works - the bringing together of so many ideas and views about what life, and the universe, is all about. I find it scarcely surprising that, when these all come together and mix, that new, unexpected, possibilities also emerge.
To clear up any possible mystery about the expression "non-Aristotelian logic", the original (1959) title of Gotthard Günther's book was Idee und Grundriss einer nicht-Aristotelischen Logik, Bd. 1. Die Idee und ihre philosophischen Voraussetzungen (Idea and Outline of a non-Aristotelian Logic, Vol. 1: The Idea and Its Philosophical Postulates). Second and third editions appeared in 1978 and 1991, with slightly different subtitles, though the implied second volume seems never to have materialised, except perhaps as the supplement added to the third edition. What made it so topical at the time of its original publication was the concurrent excitement in particle physics over comparatively recent disoveries of subatomic particles that did not conform to the usual positive-negative model, such as the pi meson (now called a pion, apparently) which came in three sorts instead of two. Günther's model offered a possible alternative to traditional logical models for dealing with such things. It is highly unlikely that Stockhausen would have been interested in the mathematical details of Günter's theories, but certainly the general idea of such mysterious subatomic particles formed a lasting impression. For example, one of the texts for Atmen gibt das Leben speaks of muons. Incidentally, to refer back a bit in this discussion, another of the texts used in that composition is by Meister Eckhart.
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!