In other threads it was already talked about the "Urantia" hours 14 to 21 of KLANG. I must say that I have my difficulties with these hours, though I like COSMIC PULSES very much. And the strange thing is that I cannot explain why I'm not "getting warm with" them (as we Germans say). So I'm curious what other Forum members think of these compositions...
My experience with KLANG is strictly via recordings. And I have to say that although hrs. 14-21 aren't my favorite pieces of the cycle (still highly fascinating though) they are more preferable as a home listening experience than COSMIC PULSES is (too dense for stereo playback); whereas 14-21 are leaner texture-wise, so absorbing these hours allows one to break things down and hear more of the electronic tapestry .. and I like Stockhausen's often volatile writing for the soloists. One would need to experience all these live under the proper conditions to get the full effect however.
In response to James: Speaking as someone who has heard all but two of these pieces "live" (the exceptions are JERUSEM and NEBADON), I can say that the difference from listening at home on your living-room stereo to the solo pieces is comparatively small, though not negligible. COSMIC PULSES is another story, though if you are expecting it will not be "too dense" in eight-channel playback, you will be disappointed. It is a deliberate exercise in sensory overload, with some surprising results for those who have the patience to keep their ears open and listen, despite the initial impression of an overwhelming onslaught of sound.
My first experience with COSMIC PULSES was not a happy one. It was at the German premiere, on a Friday the thirteenth (!) in July 2007. It was a warm and muggy evening, and the Sülztalhalle was packed with listeners. My wife and I arrived very late, and there were exactly three seats left: in the back row, directly in front of speaker-group VII. Needless to say, we heard only one-eighth of the piece. Combined with the oppressive heat, it was a very unpleasant experience. Since then, I have heard it (in eight-channel playback) a number of times under much more favourable circumstances, with a huge improvement in my receptive capacity. The experience reminds me of the story Stockhausen told of the audience reaction at the premiere of KONTAKTE in 1960. It had to be performed twice, because of the huge demand for tickets, and for the first performance the hall was hot and stuffy because the air conditioning was too noisy and had had to be turned off. Afterward, the doors were opened and the ventilation turned on before the second audience was allowed in half an hour later. Stockhausen reports there were many people who complained after the first performance that it was far too long a piece; almost no one made the same complaint after the second performance.
In any case, I find COSMIC PULSES a daring piece of music, the effect of which depends largely upon the subjective results of the sonic overload. Only a little of this can be perceived in the stereo mix, and even this depends in part on knowing what to listen for, as a result of having previously heard the "real thing". To start with, every performance has been quite literally an entirely different piece. This is because there is so much sonic information that the ears are forced to select what to listen to at every moment. One aspect of this is that certain peculiar effects, such as the well-known "whispering voices illusion", may occur at different points and in different registers (men's voices, women's voices, mixed voices), for longer or shorter periods of time. Similarly, there is a sensation of the sound rising and falling in space (even though there is no vertical dimension to the physical sound movement), and this, too, occurs at different points in time and to different degrees of intensity—even in the same hall using the same playback setup (I heard it three times straight through, in the Sülztalhalle at the courses in 2008). Different halls of course produce different senses of space for any piece of music, and this is, if anything, even more true for COSMIC PULSES because it depends so heavily on spatial relationships for its audible effect. From time to time, you can just detect familiar melodic fragments from the KLANG row against the dense background, but they vanish like ghosts or elves as soon as you notice they are there. More difficult to describe (and consequently also harder to remember from one performance to the next) are the constantly changing timbres within the swirling walls of sound, like glittering, intermixed flecks of colour within which similarly hued groups momentarily coalesce into patches that evaporate again—Gregorio García Karman aptly describes these as "where the perception of movement leads to audible modulation range effects, binding a connection between space and timbre." This is certainly the most unusual and unforgettable feature of COSMIC PULSES.
For some listeners (myself included, at that first performance) it can be nothing but the unrelieved tedium of a sound mass that never changes over a span of half an hour; for receptive ears, it can be a constantly changing, evolving kaleidoscope of colours and shapes. Has this become my favourite Stockhausen work? No, I don't think so. But then again it is so unlike anything else he ever composed—a sonic monolith at a constant dynamic level and with uniformly fused timbres—that it is quite astonishing to discover that it works in the way that it does. This in itself I find fascinating.
Let me say that I love all of Stockhausen's electronic pieces especially. The old classics right up to the end. He was always great at it. But yea CP is a dense piece no doubt, I've listened to the stereo recording many, many times, i know how it goes so to speak .. but what I was meaning is that in stereo it is all squished and you don't get a sense or feel of the layered melodic loops in space moving around you with the correct setup and dynamics etc (things you've touched on). Same would go for the remaining hours I'd imagine (thinner more clearer texture but still a sensation of music looping around you + the flesh and blood soloist woven in, floating above etc), though there .. at least at home you can hear more. I do like the feature of the CP recording we KS allows us to hear the individual layers to get a sense of their shape and sound etc.
It is difficult to convey the reality of the situation, but you may take my word for it that you will not have any sense of loops moving around you in the eight-channel setup, except in the first minute or two, and again at the end of COSMIC PULSES. The solo pieces are a different matter, because of their much thinner texures. I think this is especially true for HAVONA, in part because of the lower register, but also because of the slower speeds of events. By the time you reach PARADIES, the cyclic events repeat so rapidly that their rhythms are actually audible as deep pitches, and the rotations seem less evident.
One important thing about the "orbits" is that their paths vary from just three points (out of eight possibilities) to all eight. A great may of these include a path segment that moves, in theory, straight through the listening space from one station to the on on the opposite side. (KONTAKTE and HYMNEN both have similar spatial movements, though at slower speeds and involving denser clusters of sounds, which Stockhausen called Flutklänge, or "flood sounds".) This is physically impossible to achieve, however, because every listener has got an acoustic obstruction getting in the way of the moving sound: his head. What you will hear when listening to one of these loops (in isolation from the others) is the sound moving first between two speakers somewhere out on the perimeter, then swerving toward you. As it approaches, at some point it suddenly seems to spread out in all directions and then reforms on the opposite side of your head, moving away. In the solo pieces, this can often be heard as a breaking up of the expected orbital motion, supposing that you are concentrating on just one layer in the accompaniment.
This is only one small detail in the complex of the overlaid and continually changing orbits. Like the notes themselves, in COSMIC PULSES they are piled up in such density that they are not separately perceptible, quite apart from such technical failures as the one I have just described. Consequently, you "don't get a sense or feel of the layered melodic loops in space moving around you" in the eight-channel set-up, either—at least, not once it gets fully underway. It is a very odd sensation, because everything seems both rigidly fixed and in frantic motion at the same time. It "scintillates", only in position or apparent intensity, rather than visually. It is within this jittering constancy that slower but insubstantial events of the sort I described emerge, or seem to emerge, and then vanish again just as you begin to feel certain of them.
The solo pieces do provide a sort of "educational opportunity" to hear portions of the electronic music in comparative isolation, and the tracks on the COSMIC PULSES CD to which you refer offer the additional chance to hear the first 45 seconds or so of each individual layer (though naturally without their spatial rotations). On the other hand, the solos also add a very prominent line for an instrumentalist or a singer, on which we tend to focus our attention. Again, the CD recordings each provide separately the accompanying three layers of electronic music, either for rehearsals or for study.
Apart from the mechanics of taking apart the layers of COSMIC PULSES, the eight solos are also pieces of music with separate identities. The four vocal solos also have texts, and even some of the instrumental pieces have short verbal comments added to the electronic music. At the risk of provoking indignant remarks about the irrelevance of sung texts compared to "the actual music", these texts provide a certain context. Especially the text of HAVONA sets the stage for the following seven pieces. Personally, I find the text of ORVONTON the most entertaining, though perhaps my impression is coloured by having heard Jonathan de la Paz Zaens perform it. His engaging stage manner probably does not come across on the CD recording, but the text nevertheless is the longest and most nuanced of the four vocal pieces—and in places quite funny and self-deprecating.
I think I would like to "cut to the chase" here, in response to Christian's original question for this thread. Despite never having heard it live, the piece to which I warmed the most quickly was NEBADON, the solo for horn. I think this was for two reasons. First, the warm, Romantic character of the solo instrument is hard to resist. It immediately evokes the horn writing in Bruckner, Brahms, or Richard Strauss. Christine Chapman's virtuosic playing certainly amplifies this "heroic" character (twenty-five minutes without a pause to drain tuning slides is mighty impressive, even knowing how it is done). Second, the three electronic layers are the thinnest of all the eight solos, which sets the soloist against a harmonic background that is relatively stable and untroubling.
PARADIES is engaging for very different reasons. First of all, the flute part is denser and far more complex than any of the other solos, requiring not only agility but also quicker improvisational decisions from the performer than in the other pieces. The accompaniment is, after NEBADON, the simplest but is also the highest and fastest. Paradoxically, this speed (like the collective speed/density of COSMIC PULSES) produces a static serenity at another level, and a harmonic drone of an augmented triad toward one note of which which the flute drifts. The implications of this musical process are both self-evident and ambiguous. How we are meant to interpret this, possibly in connection with the text of HAVONA, is an interesting question. In any case, after NEBADON, I find PARADIES the most immediately attractive of the solos. Just a personal opinion, of course.
Dear Jerry, thank you very much. These pieces are - I must confess - quite strange to me. I heard for instance the première of EDENTIA at Hamburg. All I heard were very sparse "comments" of the soprano sax. I could not make much sense out of it, especially I did not hear a connection between the electronic layers and the lines of the instrument. I presume there are some but I had to capitulate. On the other hand, I admired from the start HAVONA which I heard at Paris created by N. Isherwood. It made sense because here, I could hear at first contact that the bass started at certain points of the electronic music which gave the piece a "narrative" added by the movements of the singer. You mentioned your personal opinion; I have to say that I like bass voices (Talvela etc.) and this might helped much with HAVONA. It is a beautiful tour de force for every bass singer.
So Jerry .. there is no sense that the music is moving around you, all those trajectories etc .. no sense of the music surrounding you in the 8-channel set up? No sense of being engulfed within that dense sound-world? Even live if the loops as the piece builds become indistinguishable and hard to follow ..?
The only piece I haven't heard is Uversa, but I love much of Stockhausen's writing for basset-horn so I do imagine enjoying it. As I like Nebadon, Paradies & Edentia. They are relatively easy to absorb & enjoy. And I view the vocal interjections within these as sort-of cues for the soloist who are operating within the surrounding music.
Out of the vocal ones .. I instantly warmed up to Jerusem & Urantia, but they are all fascinating in my opinion. Always admired Isherwood's contribution to KS's music.
But still .. I find other areas of the cycle much more effective.
I think I can respond to both Adorján and James at once. In the eight-channel set-up there is of course a sense of movement at the beginning, before the layers have built up to a certain density, and for a shorter period at the end, when they have thinned out again. In the great majority of the piece, however, the density is so great that the sensation is one of movement that is so furious that it cannot be "tracked". It is a bit like being in the middle of a large flock of birds, or a swarm of bees: you can no longer follow the path of any individual, because there are so many others vying for your attention. There is a constant motion and yet the composite result is, paradoxically, one of stasis. Because of the much thinner textures, the spatial effect in the solo pieces is of course very different, as I have already indicated.
As far as connections between the solos and the electronic music are concerned, because of the continual, uncoordinated cycling of the pitches, the relationship even between those melodies is not the conventional harmonic/contrapuntal one, and the solo part in each case is best thought of as an added, fourth layer. This is particularly easy to see and hear in PARADIES, because the flute has so many more notes to play than is the case for the other soloists. Nevertheless, because of the signals to the soloist it is possible to set off in each segment from a specific point in the electronic music. I do not hear any particular pattern in this respect, and the scores understandably do not indicate anything about the pitches in the electronic layers. Michele Marelli tells me that, as he rehearsed UVERSA, he began intuitively to feel connections between certain notes in his part and pitches in the surrounding electronic sounds, and this influenced his phrasing and rhythmic nuances (the rhythms are quite free in all the solos). However, this remained a vague feeling, rather than something concrete where you can say, "Right here there is a major third between my part and the second layer," or "The three layers here converge into an augmented triad that supports two notes in my part." Considering the way the electronic layers were produced, I cannot believe that there can be any systematic deployment of such connections, so they are almost certainly accidental.
As I mentioned before, NEBADON has the fewest number of pitches in the electronic music, and here it is possible to hear "chords". However, once again the loops cycle in an uncoordinated fashion and, because of the glissandi in both pitch and tempo, these are not terribly stable. The most nearly stable harmony, ironically, is produced not directly from the notes of the loops, but from the rhythms of the fastest layers, which are rapid enough to produce the sensation of pitch. As I have already said, this occurs in PARADIES, though even these notes are frequently destabalised by the "tempo glissandi".
CP sounds like a live experience I'd want to hear & feel at full volume .. swarm of bees, flock of birds .. I get the idea, and it is nothing that a home experience can replicate. I wonder how octophonic pieces/setup differs as a live experience to mere 8-channel in terms of perceiving the movement of music as a listener. I've read about it but I'd like to compare and contrast live experiences, too bad the stuff isn't played with a high frequency all over the world.
For 14-21, from what I hear, the register of the soloist lines up with the register of the layers used, from lowest to highest, from frantic passages but also lots of long held notes, at the appropriate moments. KS setting up a room that emanates music that the soloist walks into and plays within, and the public sits within. And the sound projectionist monitors.
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!