ZitatStockhausen once claimed that he wasn't a libretto specialist, or a professional writer, even alluding to that fact that he was naive in this regard .. but said that what he does ultimately "works" .... Another thing too, is that he gets considerable criticism from high profile peers, others in the field etc. for the text aspects of his pieces, especially the later works like SIRIUS, LICHT and KLANG. Not so much the musical use of them, but their content. Anyone have thoughts on this ..
In the same statement he also says that so far he wasn't kicked out of the opera houses... :-) I think what many people don't realize - especially critics -: that Stockhausen's libretti sometimes are pure nonsense. In the tv film about KLANG Kathinka says something like: People don't expect this because they think that "serious" (in German ernste) music must be something serious without any humour. And even musicologists feel ashamed for Stockhausen when they hear the MONTAG libretto with words like Busi, Busa and Muschi (Busen are tits, Muschi is the word for pussy, and that in every sense..;-))...). Long time I wondered how and why Stockhausen came to the idea to let a camel appear and dance (!) in MICHAELION. In the meantime, having listened to the cd very often I imagine: Stockhausen sits at his desk, writes the word Kamael (angel of the 7 planets) and has immediately the funny association Kamael - Kamel. The same with Andromeda - Dromedar - Andromedar. So one must not be so intellectually infatuated like one of our dear forum members who secretized in his untold confused MITTWOCH review the most absurde assumptions into the opera. I learnt that life in most cases is more simple and trivial than we imagine - and that, I think, is also the case with Stockhausen's libretti.
Of course, a writer may just deliberately make jokes. But his formation, education etc is so intrinsic that he puts things into his texts which are not so simple. That means he (mostly) cannot fall below his own level even if he has a sudden association. Busi, Busa and Muschi are not nonsense, and your other examples, Christian, make also sense. I remember an interview with Boulez where he said that it is an absolute catastrophe to write an opera without a specialist for the text. Therefore, he always was looking for someone like Genet, Müller and others to help him with his own opera project. He despised dilettantism. And, as far as I remember, he was thinking of Stockhausen when talking of this matter. Now we know that Stockhausen first wanted to become a writer. We also know that Hesse was encouraging Stockhausen to be that. There must have been potential in Stockhausen which Hesse perceived. It would be, of course, interesting to read the novel Stockhausen wrote, and also all shorter poetic texts of his youth. Doing this, one could compare these texts with his libretti. Is there a development, an evolution or possibly a regression? Without these texts, it will be very difficult to answer: Was Stockhausen a gifted dilettant or was he also a good writer of libretti?
I didn't want to say that Busi, Busa and Muschi are nonsense, I think they make sense in the context of MONTAG. But there are friends of Stockhausen's music who sometimes feel ashamed for his libretti. And imagine Klaus Umbach, journalist of the "Spiegel", sitting in Milano and listening to this - the comment was as it could be foreseen. I quote from his MONTAG review:
"Peinlich indes wird das ganze musiktheatralische Spektakel erst durch das "Text-Aktions-Gebräu" ("FAZ"), mit dem der Gesamtkunstwerker Stockhausen seine tönende Botschaft panscht - gleichgültig, ob da, wie der Komponist und Kritiker Dietmar Polaczek rätselt, "niederrheinischer Bauernbuddhismus" oder "tantrisch-lamaistischer Klosterkatholizismus" die Sinne vernebelt." Source: http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/print/d-13527558.html
I have long maintained that the endurance of Aus den Sieben Tagen in the imagination is the power of its text. The language is evocative enough that it still fires the imagination of performers.
The libretto for Licht is a huge focus of my dissertation. I'm just finishing up a partial analysis of the Hoch-Zeiten text collage at the moment. The mix of high and low is built into the design of Licht. I can't cite chapter and verse, but I think Thomas discusses this in his Theological Interpretation, when he points out that Stockhausen uses everything he can get his hands on to make music. That includes his texts!
Zitat von Adorján im Beitrag #3 I remember an interview with Boulez where he said that it is an absolute catastrophe to write an opera without a specialist for the text. Therefore, he always was looking for someone like Genet, Müller and others to help him with his own opera project. He despised dilettantism. And, as far as I remember, he was thinking of Stockhausen when talking of this matter.
The quote you mention is probably from Boulez's infamous interview published in the journal "Opera" (volume 19/5, June 1968) in English translation. As far as I know it first appeared in "Der Spiegel" in fall 1967. Of course this was long before Stockhausen had the idea to write operas. While the question of whether Boulez had Stockhauen in mind is an interesting one, I rather doubt it here. Boulez might have been directing his ire more at a figure such as Hans Werne Henze, a composer who had some success in opera -- in 1957, Boulez, Stockhausen and Nono ostentatiously walked out on a performance of Henze's "Nachtstücken und Arien" in Donaueschingen.
At least in 1967, Boulez speaks of wanting an opera text that "must not be an adaptation of literary material...Literature set to music is sterile." Rather, "...text and music would be conceived simultaneously." This might actually suggest some resonance with Stockhausen's approach(es)!
In German there is a saying: "Über Geschmack läßt sich nicht streiten" - about taste you cannot quarrel. But it is fact that many people are repelled by certain texts of Stockhausen - even his son Markus looking at the erotic texts of STIMMUNG. He proposed to his father, that in a second version he should use poems by Tagore or Rumi; but his father answered quite furiously: Did you understand my work at all? See TEXTE VII, page 163ff. Stockhausen would have had much more success with his operas, had he used classical texts as did Aribert Reimann, Henze and all the others. But if you think of the concept of LICHT, it is immediately clear that that is totally impossible. His protagonists are musical figures and thus the texts cannot be predominant; in many scenes texts need not be existent at all: MICHAELs REISE, HELIKOPTER STRINGQU., LUZIFERS TANZ etc. And even if he uses a classical text like in LUZIFERs ABSCHIED, that beautiful text of Franciscus v. Assisi does not dominate the scene. If you do not want to tell a story but to materialize on stage the cosmic forces and energies of life itself, as Stockhausen did, he had to integrate everything by himself, also the layer of texts. So there was no choice - he had to write the texts by himself. And we must tolerate his obsession with certain items, for instance with vulgar sexual connotations - for me that is not a theme of humour, but of taste.
Not sure if many can relate to the odd or obscure nature of the literature or texts he uses. But opinion has changed significantly regarding his later music. Interest and positivity seems on the uprise. It reminds me of Slominsky's book which illustrates how many great works were initially dissed big time but over time things changed. Things go up and down over time. It takes about 50 years or so to get a clearer picture with the most recent music.
Regarding Boulez, at the time of KS's death .. in an interview with the BBC he stated that he had no issues with the actual music of LICHT, finding much of it "striking" but he did have issues or reservations with the "text". He wasn't probed further by the interviewer as to why. But Boulez did say that you really have to be a writer. And in other interviews he did diss the Helicopter String Quartet many times saying that for it to be worthwhile they'd have to stage an actual accident or crash .. also stating that he found KS's use of handpicked ensembles not as interesting because there is instant approval and no resistance - which breeds little introspection or self criticism.
James is right. I remembered just that Boulez interview with BBC on the occasion of Stockhausen´s death where he stated that one has to be a writer to fabricate an opera libretto. It is clear that by stating this he critisized Stockhausen for writing his texts himself.
It is not quite accurate, however, to conclude with "all the others" after naming a few important composers who restricted themselves to writing music to librettos by other hands. There are many successful examples of librettos written by composers, from Wagner via Orff, Blitzstein, Schoenberg, Krenek, Floyd, Tippet, and Messiaen to Max Davies, and on the other hand catastrophic librettos for which the composers were no doubt thankful they were not themselves responsible, after the reviews appeared (Isaac Albéniz's Merlin, to name just one amongst thousands). No one is going to argue with Boulez, however, that it takes a writer's skill to write or even compile a libretto (as Nono did, for example in Intolleraza 1960 and Il gran sole carico d'amore, or Cage in Europeras). The only question that remains, therefore, is whether Stockhausen had the requisite skill or not. In order to answer this question, of course, it is necessary first to know what the needs of the opera in question are, since only then can we assess whether the librettist has successfully met them. As Thomas said, in the case of LICHT this is a particularly difficult question, since the drama emerges from the music, rather than being the foundation around which music is spun.
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!