One of my main interests in Stockhausen's music has been his conception of time (and space). It seems evident in nearly all his work. Of course music only exists in time and space for the duration that the sound is in the air. Stockhausen's compositions have explored the cycles of the Western calendar in a way that no other composer I know of has. Perhaps I'm optimistic, but in doing so I think he has helped begin a movement towards restoring truly "seasonal" music to us.
I know in Indian classical music, between the 11th and 13th centuries, music scholars and practitioners started to associate certain types of ragas with the various seasons in India, and later with different times of the day (certain ones being better for morning, afternoon, evening, midnight...)
In Stockhausen's work we see this fascination with time and cycles in Zyklus, in Stimmung where he began singing the days of the week, in Sirius and Tierkreis and the way these can be performed by starting on the appropriate zodiac sign/month when it is being performed. Then of course the great depth he brought to exploring the themes of each day of the week in LICHT, and then the hours of a day in KLANG.
Perhaps in Western music we would need to look to the church Catholic or Orthodox with its liturgical calendar and the way various hymns & plainsong were used in religious orders to see something similar? I'm no music historian, so maybe there are other precedents that are obvious that I'd be missing? More recently I can also think of La Monte Young's work and the way it is an "eternal music" of long durations and sustained tones, and chords that exist in clusters.
Still, this is one of the great areas Stockhausen has enriched my life with through his music, and with such beauty. Pairing that with his spatial conceptions and innovations in music and it is truly space/time music!
Within all of these works, also, there are also hints at other cycles. The transition into death accompanied by Kathinka's Gesang, is one example.
Therefore I propose this new thread devoted to Stockhausen's conception of time and people's experience and thoughts on that matter, and how that relates to the wider musical culture, the above being just the barest overview or sketch. How might a more spiritual approach to seasonal music free us from the oleaginous seasonal music of pop culture (it's Christmas time after all, with the sounds of Santa inspired shopping songs filling the air). Wishing all the best to all!
Thanks for these interesting reflections Justin. I think you are right - Stockhausen had a profound connection to time in his music, and I hadn't really thought of it in the seasonal sense until you mentioned it, but I see your point and I think it's true: the cyclic nature of time, and the ways in which Stockhausen saw different qualities in the different seasons and months and days and hours.
For me one of the perpetually wonderful things about all of this is that there are so many levels at which we can experience it and connect to it: not only in the sense of the changing months and days, but in the constant change, cyclic and spiral, in how we grow and change as people, how our collective humanity grows and changes, how the universe itself grows and changes: all of it enlivened and coloured through Stockhausen's music and through its relationship with, and expression of, time.
For me this is strongest in LICHT, but mainly because that is the work with which I have spent the most time (no pun intended!). I think people will find similar depths and wonders in all of the works you mentioned, and I certainly see these myself. But with LICHT the sense of an eternal spiral as we constantly return to the place where we started, but each time having learned something more, is utterly wonderful: the journey through birth (Monday), conflict (Tuesday), conciliation (Wednesday), new learning (Thursday), temptation and fall (Friday), death and regeneration/resurrection (Saturday), new union (Sunday): and then it all continues again. So, for me, what I find in the many ways in which Stockhausen engages with time is the different passages of growth and change that are part of each of us, all of of us, and of the huge cosmos of which we are a part.
It is interesting that Stockhausen drilled down from the large to the small - the months and seasons of TIERKREIS and SIRIUS, the days of LICHT, the hours of KLANG. He of course planned to then compose the 60 minutes of the hour, and then the 60 seconds of the minute, but death sadly intervened. So while in a sense his music was always looking outwards to the beyond, it also took us ever more closely into the tiny essences of it all too. I guess for him they were always linked, always reflective of one another.
Thank you for starting this thread Justin. I really look forward to hearing others' reflections on this very important aspect of Stockhausen's music.
By the way, I assume you are familiar with his classic article 'How Time Passes...'? It is an amazing early piece of thinking that explains much about his concept of time in music and, even though its focus is largely on the musicological aspects of time and duration and how these can be musically determined, alongside pitch, in more refined and sophisticated ways, I think a lot of his ideas here also connect very deeply with his spiritual and philosophical conceptions of time too.
Hi Ian. Thanks for your response here on this subject. It is definitely nice to converse about Stockhausen. I have read "Music in time..." but it's been awhile, perhaps it's time to revisit. I love his music theory & practice in relation to pitch, duration, etc. It's all of a piece.
I'm curious though, as to where his fascination with the seven days came from. It was certainly a rich and worthy area where he was able to put his genius to use. But whence came his inspiration (besides the time at the temple in Japan when the seed for LICHT was conceived)...because that fascination was there in a way, even his text pieces Aus den Sieben Tagen (From the Seven Days).
In any case I look forward to further discussions here. As the cycle of the year winds down things get busy, but will check as time allows (I guess it is all a matter of right duration!) I hope you are well in the southern hemisphere.
For Stockhausen as a composer for sure the concepts (or should we say: the reality) of time and space are really central. And music basically is the art of time, forms time. Stockhausen was a very conscious artist, and so he not only composed in and with time, as all the composers, but also raised it as a topic, and that in a serial way in order to structure all his work. For me it is interesting to see, that in this series of time-works time appears on different levels. He began with the year, TIERKREIS and SIRIUS, that means he composed the months and seasons, and here we find obviously the differences of time. March is another time than September, and the old astrological traditions reflect that. In a very rich way Stockhausen composes that in SIRIUS; the seasons are very characteristically formed. The differences we all feel, come from the movement of our planet through space, around the sun, and so they are very real. That is quite the same with the month, originating from the movement and the appearance of the moon, and also with the day, originating from the (seemingly) movement of the sun: There is the clear difference between midnight and midday, between morning and evening - that can be a real subject for a work of art (and is so for SIRIUS). But with LICHT I think it is different. For the week has no cosmic reality, as have the month and the day. The week is a totally artificial structure, does not point to any reality beyond social life, but originated from social needs: There had to be a time-structure between the month and the day to establish days of rest and market-days, and so different concepts of the week were established. The old Romans had a 10-days-week, the Babylonians a 7 days-week etc - but that is a social thing. There is a real difference between new moon and full moon in all cultures, in nature - but there is not such a difference between Monday and Tuesday. To put it in the terms of LICHT: You cannot say that every Monday is a day of birth, every Tuesday is a day of conflict -maybe my next Tuesday will be a very peaceful one. And that is different from the seasons: Every day in springtime is a day in spring, even when some snow is falling - you feel it that winter definitely is over. So I would say: Strictly speaking LICHT is not a work on the subject of time (as is TIERKREIS and SIRIUS). It just uses the Babylonian- Jewish-Christian tradition of the week to come to basic tasks of mankind that are derived from the Gods, that were connected artificially with the days. So LICHT is not dealing with time, but with these basic challenges of mankind; in a rather superficial way they are connected with the days of the week. The day again has this cosmic connection, and so each hour of the day has its special character. Stockhausen composed the day in KLANG and he began studying the traditions about the differences of the 24 hours of the day. But sadly - can we say: He lost patience with this subject? Anyway, the works in KLANG have lost their connection to the specific hours, and the 24 hours are just a superficial means of order. JOY is now hour 2, but also could be hour 12 - maybe that even would make more sense! So it is a very special thing with the concept of time in the work of Stockhausen!
As always, thank you for these thoughts and insights Thomas. You make some interesting points that I had not thought of, especially in terms of the different cosmic or non-cosmic significance of the different units of time.
I guess I see this as rather like a continuum - some units of time have greater and clearer cosmic connection than others. But there is a little bit of human intervention in all of them I think. The year and the day are obviously very much defined by the movement of the planet. The month is somewhat defined by the movement of the moon, but not exactly, as there are really 13 lunar months to a year, and 12 was, as I understand it, a human compromise to make it easier to then divide the year into four equal seasons. And yet even these are somewhat arbitrary - although each has its own character, they are characters that we, in our culture, have noticed in particular way. Some other cultures have noticed different seasonal changes and have different numbers of seasons. Some define six seasons. Some define only two. Of course, the astrological meanings of the signs of TIERKREIS are all defined by humans and, as I understand it, Stockhausen added to these some of his own observations about people who had been born under those star signs. The division of the day into 24 hours is quite arbitrary, mainly to help regulate human activity and work and of course, the division into weeks of seven days is perhaps the most arbitrary of all, even though it is also one of the most ancient and has been found in many cultures, even beyond the Judaic cultures.
And then for Stockhausen, in composing LICHT he did derive some of the meanings of the days from Alice Bailey but, as you say Thomas, there is no real cosmic significance there.
It is true that the difference between the units varies. There are clearer differences between the seasons, as you say, than between the days. The morning is different from the evening. But ultimately, I think it is the notion of movement and development that interested Stockhausen the most, and whether there was an actual discernible quality to a day or a month or an hour was, as I see it, less important to him than the actual concept of change itself. But I stress that this is just my opinion - but I guess precisely for the reasons you have noted, Thomas: it didn't seem to matter to Stockhausen whether the characters assigned to the different units of time came from the movement of stars and moons and planets or from the ideas and cultures of people.
One of the things I find fascinating about the meanings of the days in LICHT is not so much how they connect to individual days (as you say, we don't always feel warlike on Tuesday!), but rather the story they tell when we follow them from Monday to Sunday. Birth leads to conflict, which is resolved in cooperation, which opens up the possibility to learn and progress, which then leads us into the possibility of giving into temptation (because our knowledge has enabled us to choose), and therefore to fall, which then leads us to the destructiveness that is symbolised in death, but then this is followed by resurrection and therefore renewal, where new and higher unions are formed, and then new birth is made possible, and thus the cycle, the spiral, continues.
For me this is what I always find in Stockhausen's references to time - he uses them in all their different formations - seasons, months, days, hours - as a way of telling the everlasting human story of growth and development, a path that we are always travelling, from small moment to small moment as much as from big moment to big moment. For me this is strongest of all in LICHT, but that is maybe because that is the work that I have spent so much more of my time thinking about.
It is interesting, though, that we get a similar concept in SIRIUS, with the idea of the wheel that can start anywhere but will always return to its beginning again and I feel there, too, it is not just the story of the seasons we hear, but the story of ourselves - and our journeys of growth, of flourishing, of play, of conflict. And all of this coming to us in a message that is based on the story of the seasons of the Earth, told by visitors from another star system! It is as if they, like Stockhausen himself, draws on the things that are known as vehicles for telling us about the mysteries of the unknown.
As for Justin's remark about the connection between the seven days of LICHT and those of AUS DEN SIEBEN TAGEN, I think that may just be coincidental. AUS DEN SIEBEN TAGEN refers to a seven day period of solitude and reflection, where Stockhausen wrote those texts. I am not aware of him having made connections to this when he conceived the idea of LICHT - I think he simply saw the cycle of seven days as an ideal way to tell the story of these archetypal forces that are always alive and interacting within us and beyond us and, by good fortune, the number seven gave him the opportunity to compose a cycle with an opera that focused on every character individually as well as on all their possible combinations. Of course, seven has been a figure of spiritual significance in many religions and cultures, including many that have ascribed different spiritual and philosophical meanings to the days. This too was certainly part of his thinking in conceiving the idea of LICHT, and he refers to many of the writings of these cultures in the archive material for LICHT.
Looking forward to hearing more thoughts on this interesting topic.
On the number 7. Stockhausen, as well as being a composer, was interested in numerous aspects involving linguistics, chance theory, audiometric subdivsions of 7 (sounds like, reminds me of, never heard this before, etc.) and numbers. So in Licht, 7 is the different number of variants for 3 items (namely Michael, Eva and Luzifer) in 1, 2 and 3 forms. It is purely coincidental that there are SEVEN DAYS IN THE WEEK. A beautiful analogy. In latter years Kh started with the course of the years (4 seasons), followed by days of the week, then hours in the day, with the intention of going to minutes in the hour (and seconds in the hour, which repeats 60, which may not have been liked). So he has often started at the LARGE scale then zoooomed in on smaller and smaller structures. He's also started off small, then expanded to fill the universe, so gone the other way. The progressions/transitions are quite clear. BTW Oktophonie/Signale in Huddersfield was very good, with eyes closed, and not distracted by some "random" light show!!! Ed
All great stuff Ed. Yes, I love the zooming in and zooming out, the smaller and larger structures. We can see that in pieces like Ylem too where he explored the expansion and contraction of the universe, literally going from big bang to big crunch. The "zooming in" can also be heard in pieces like Mikrophonie, exploring the "micro" with the microphone. This is part of what I love about his music, it encompasses the great in the small and vice versa.
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!