"Radio is the key." Yes, of course, but when listening to a recording, everything is "over the radio". What difference is there in this context between listening to TRANS and listening to the Missa Solemnis, or to Falstaff? The brilliance of a live performance of TRANS is that the audience, expecting an orchestra in front of them on the stage, is given instead a "radiophonic" performance of the winds, at least. This is exactly the kind of thing that is lost completely in a recording. However, I was thinking instead of the strings, and more particularly of the solo for the violinist, who goes berserk trying to play something individualistic and, in response, gets a disapproving glare from all of his colleagues. You cannot hear this happen in a recording (or on the radio), and yet it is one of the most powerful and chilling moments in TRANS. Or so I believe. You were sitting right next to me in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Robin, when we witnessed this performance (twice). Surely you must agree that "live music is best" in such a case!
In reference to Robin's comments about "degrees of comprehensibility", yes, all of this is perfectly true. At the Stockhausen 70 Symposion in 1998 at the University of Cologne, I heard Georg Heike give a very interesting presentation. Heike was a classmate of Stockhausen's in Meyer-Eppler's communication-theory seminars at Bonn University, and also assisted Stockhausen in the experiments conducted to determine these "degrees of comprehensibility" for GESANG. The connection with speech-recognition criteria developed at Bell Labs could not have been made clearer.
Yes, Jerry, you are right - and nevertheless, I heard from several sophisticated people who have seen and heard a Stockhausen performance: All right, all fine, but what is it worth WITHOUT the actions? Morag pointed to this point of view by calling it a „reductionist“ conception of music. I must confess that I myself was sometimes in doubt whether the visual element wasn't a rhetorical trick to convince the listener of the quality of the work. But I always found that this is a fundamental error, firstly because it is spoiling the joy of experiencing a visual „extra“ which indeed is added to the music and doesn't take anything away from it, and secondly because (and here I come back to the mentioned listening of CDs) it is always possible to control the aural impressions one had during a performance by listening to a CD without the visual element. However, Stockhausen has, in some pieces, a very didactic intention concerning the movements, to make audible things clearer - but this means that he doubles sometimes (one hears and sees the same), and this I find annoying. I am thinking of pieces like IN FREUNDSCHAFT and others. Completely different and not didactic but mysterious is a piece like TRANS and I am really envious of you and Robin that you have been able to listen to and see it. I hope there will be a possibility for me in the near future, because it is one of my favorite Stockhausen pieces - ironically due to CD hearing only!
Yes, Adorján, I have also heard this doubt expressed about the visual aspect. I wonder how much this attitude depends on the experience of listening to radio broadcasts and recordings. When this is our primary means of hearing music, it is easy to assume that the sounds alone are "the music". For some pieces, of course, this is perfectly true, and it is not quite necessary to have recordings and the radio to imagine hearing music without being "distracted" by seeing the performers. In 1650, a rather eccentric Englishman named Thomas Mace published (in a book called Musicke's Monument) a design for a house with a "music room" where chamber music could be performed out of sight of the listeners, who could "listen in" through tubing connecting to another room in the house. The conception of "acousmatic" listening also goes back to ancient times, and is attributed to Pythagoras. However, I think it would scarcely have been possible for Haydn's audience to object at having to watch the musicians get up one by one and leave the platform at the end of the "Farewell" Symphony, let alone to complain that the effect would be better if detected solely from the gradual thinning of the orchestral sounds.
One of the pieces at which this criticism has been directed is INORI. "Why must we be subjected to these embarrassing amateur theatrics, which add nothing to the music we are hearing from the orchestra?" On this point I beg to differ. I knew INORI only from the recording for many years, and in spite of great enthusiasm expressed by respected musician colleagues, I could not myself see (or, rather "hear") what the fuss was all about. Repeated listening was not producing any improvement in my opinion, which was that it was a not particularly interesting piece that went on for too long. It was only when I finally saw it performed with the mime gestures (and prefaced by the Lecture on HU) that it made musical sense to me, and I have come to regard the gestures as the central part of the piece, with the orchestra as "mere embellishment". It does not go on for too long, and the strength of its form is now very apparent to me, even when I "just listen", because I can see the gestures in my imagination.
Before anyone gets too carried away about INORI, the imagery of silent so-called "prayer gestures" transformed instantly into melody is not without precedent: think Karajan, Bernstein, Leon Theremin, Clara Rockmore (Other Planets page 356), and the 19th century elocutionist Alexander Melville Bell (father of Alexander Graham Bell), whose wildly popular reader and pronunciation guide (my 1892 copy is from the 248,000th edition)incorporates a system of arm, hand, and foot gestures. Bell's rhetorical language of hand gestures includes open hand, two hands fingers touching , clasped hands, and hands crossed over the heart, to signify "1. Simple affirmation; 2. Emphatic declaration; 3. Apathy or prostration; 4. Energetic appeal; 5. Negation or denial; 6. Violent repulsion; 7. Indexing or cautioning; 8. Determination or anger; 9.Supplication; 10. Gentle entreaty; 11. Carelessness; 12. Argumentativeness; 13. Earnest entreaty; 14. Resignation" all combined with a system of levels: low, medium, high. As with STIMMUNG, another work based on Victorian era elocution exercises, what we have here is an elaborate and beautifully executed plagiarism of long forgotten self-improvement guides for the middle class, camouflaged as religion. Just another example of KS using the appearance of religious ritual to control the audience, not because he is necessarily feeling religious. Personally I enjoy the INORI gestures, which have their own beauty and remind me of Merce Cunningham, but am left unimpressed by the LECTURE ON "HU", which pretends to be serious but is just an overlong charade in the spirit of Kagel (though not nearly so funny).
Perhaps only Americans of a certain age will immediately think of Pat Paulsen's "editorials" on the Smothers Brothers' Comedy Hour on television. Given that this aired during a period when for much of the time Stockhausen was living in the US (1967–69), it is possible that he would have seen Paulsen's virtuoso display of "manual rhetoric", doubtless itself derived from Bell's once-famous book.
Melville Bell's hand gestures were invented in the mid-nineteenth century. They are not religious in intention though some of them have religious associations. The gestures were invented for teachers and students reading from books (elocution) to express outwardly the inner tensions of the chosen text, on the classical principle of the rise and fall of a melody expressing a modulation of a person's inner temperament. By "plagiarism" I am saying that Stockhausen borrowed this idea of expressing melody in gesture, and converted the gestural part to a pretend religious significance, both to disguise its real origin, and to purify audience perception of its function as an index of "spiritual possession". The Theremin "terpistone" was designed in the 1930s for Clara Rockmore to practice a choreography of total body movements that the equipment (a conductive surface laid on the floor) would convert into melody. Knowledge of this technology may well have been relayed to Stockhausen by Robert Moog, who in addition to inventing the Moog synthesizer was a fan of Theremin and who compiled a documentary movie about Theremin and Rockmore in which the terpistone is described. (See also Fred K. Prieberg, Musica ex Machina, Ullstein Verlag, 1960, 207. Speaking of a 1932 Carnegie Hall Theremin concert: "Eine Tanzfläche war so mit Antennen des "Aetherophons" unterlegt, dass eine Tänzerin durch die verschiedenen Schritte und Stellungen sich selbst musikalisch begleiten konnte." Of course the difference is that INORI succeeds in making the gestural language musically (and spiritually) intelligible whereas nobody remembers Melville Bell, and the terpistone invention never went anywhere. But INORI's success is also fake (in Picasso's sense of a fake to awaken the truth) as well as not truly his own invention. I am emphasising the point that very few of Stockhausen's "original" ideas turn out to be actually original. His genius consists in taking other people's ideas one or two steps further. One should always look for precedents in history while acknowledging the brilliance of the working out (the art). There is still an opportunity for someone now or in the future to create a body suit with sensors on it that will translate movements on a stage into sounds moving in space.
Certainly Bell did not invent his system without any precedent, but I think it may be important to emphasize that Bell was not particularly interested in religious gestures. Rather, he was building on the rhetorical tradition that can be traced back at least as far as Quintilianus, but which was refined and regulated in a systematic way by art theorists of the French Academy in the 17th century. There were several books published in the latter half of the 17th century with tables of facial expressions and hand gestures for the guidance of beginning artists. Certainly this same idea of a standard set of loci topici was common practice in training actors for a long time before that (Quintilianus, writing in the early first century, mentions this), and I imagine there must be published style manuals as well.
The possible connection between Bell and Stockhausen, of course, is through the son, Alexander Graham Bell, who continued his father's interest in assisting the deaf. An important part of the research carried out at Bell Labs in the 1930s and 40s concerned artificial speech, and this was an area in which Werner Meyer-Eppler was especially involved. It seems reasonable that some of this later Bell Labs research must have had some influence on Stockhausen's electronic music, at least. Whether he or Meyer-Eppler ever heard of the elder Bell's hand gestures is more doubtful. I would like to hear of any hard evidence that they did.
It is also important to make a distinction between manual communication symbols such as Bell's, and the prayer gestures Stockhausn used in INORI. The latter are very narrow in scope (for example, Stockhausen does not seem interested in expressing fear, rage, impatience, or duplicity, all prominent in the 17th-century Affektenlehre publications) but on the other hand very delicate in discriminating fine shades of supplication. A more likely influence here, in my opinion, are the mudras used in classical Indian dance. Stockhausen is known to have witnessed some of this dancing, and at least some of these hand positions are identical with ones used in INORI. Another certain influence comes from the more than 200 photographs Nancy Wylie collected for Stockhausen, of prayer gestures in art from many cultures around the world, some of it very ancient. These photographs were exhibited at the premiere of INORI, as well as at least twice at the Stockhausen courses. Only a few of the images directly correspond to the INORI gestures, but the cumulative effect produces the same focus found in Stockhausen's work.
I am not saying that there is no possibility that Stockhausen knew of Bell's system of gestures, but it seems to me that there are stronger contenders for the sources upon which he likely drew. It is also possible that they all (and others besides) had varying degrees of influence on his thinking.
Jerry is absolutely right to reference the Indian subcontinent and its influence on 18th century European high culture. INORI's imagery of an undulating figure at the top of a flight of steps is not only evocative of Indian art (see the score notes of HOCH-ZEITEN) but is also a combination of musical universals, the stepladder referring to the mode or scale (scala = ladder) and the undulating body referring to musical sound waves, undulating through the air. Snakes in the air to represent music is a cliché of classical Indian art. It also reminds us that the game of "snakes and ladders" was invented in India and brought to Europe by 18th century intellectuals. This is a very rich vein of cultural symbolism. The same symbolism is fleetingly echoed in MITTWOCH, as I have previously mentioned. I have always thought that KS's "conversion" to anthropological imagery starting with MOMENTE was an outcome of his association with Mary Bauermeister, whose father was an anthropologist. Perhaps Jerry or Morag can tell us the answer to that too, since Boulez and Cage were also bitten by the Claude Levi-Strauss bug at the same time, ca. 1961.
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!