On two separate occasions in the lectures Stockhausen on Music (37, 96) Stockhausen approvingly cites a remark from Victor von Weizsäcker "things are not in time, but time is in things" (from the book Gestalt und Zeit) describing it as "a new concept", even though it actually reverts to a medieval conception of time. In light of recent and poignant commemorations of the death of the composer's mother, does anyone else here sense the stark irony of Stockhausen's public commendations of a biologist and member of the medical profession alleged to have taken part during the war in research on the brains of victims of the Nazi euthanasia programme? How does a reader respond to that? Again, who among readers here apart from Suzee has publicly defended the composer's remarks on 9/11, which thirteen years after the fact are at last being understood as the remarks of a philosopher in the tradition of Walter Benjamin, André Breton, and Theodor Adorno? Adorno, a leading philosopher of music, had said "what we now need are works of art which consume themselves through the temporality at their heart, offering their own life to the moment of truth's appearance and then vanishing without a trace while remaining completely undiminished in the process." (See my essay "Art and Realpolitik" in Avant Garde, 297-309). Since Thomas Ulrich has brought up the serious subject of spirituality, perhaps he can provide a compelling and non-trivial explanation. There is a connection between the moral challenges of the composer's remarks made in the public domain, and the unsettling ambiguities of his music dramas.
Robin, a very trivial remark to your contribution as to Viktor von Weizsäcker: I only know him and his work very superficially - but I remember from the past, that VvW was a very respected scientist, and also Stockhausen at that time possibly was not aware of his connection to the euthanasia-programme; the texts you cite do not show any irony. And to the remarks on 9/11 I am not quite aware what you aim at. I even am not sure what Stockhausen meant: the Luciferian character of this event? Or the parallel to a work of art, that is done with total commitment? For me is puzzling his remark: Thousands of people were bombed into resurrection - that surely is no cynical statement but you could must understand it as a spiritual remark (if you are willing to understand it at all): Finally things are not what they seem to be on the surface; there is another layer. And thus for instance war in DIENSTAG is "from LIGHT" too; in Christianity similarly you could say: the treason of Judas was essential to bring about salvation... Literally everything is penetrated by God's light - though you could not dare to state that in front of many concrete events and the despair that is caused by them.
Just a quick thought on the whole 9/11 mess. Love KS, brilliant artist and all .. but I think it was just a dumb & unfortunate thing for him to say .. especially around all those news reporter types who are known to twist things! Stockhausen learned the hard way, apologized and carried on.
James is entitled to his opinion, but it is based on absence of thought and explains nothing. If you cannot understand the remark, and appreciate the point, then my question is, do you really understand the spirit he was. My Artforum article from March 2008 defending the remarks is reprinted on the Stonebraker site; it is quite long and I will not repeat it here. The moral challenge is to make sense of what Stockhausen said, not to turn away in embarrassment, or deny that he meant what he said. Thomas: you are naturally missing the point, which is that the tragedy of 9/11 was a supremely surrealist act, to which KS responded with a surrealist statement. Stockhausen has in mind Breton's statement to the effect that the most perfect surrealist act would be to fire at random into the crowd. Sadly, I rather doubt that many here have even heard of André Breton, but modern arts commentators of the French and German press at that infamous press conference should have been well informed enough to get the composer's allusion to the leader of surrealism. Also to Thomas: You have three options. Denial is not an option. Of course it is not necessary for Stockhausen to have known about the accusations against Viktor von Weizsäcker for his statements to be perceived as ironic. 1. Either Stockhausen was ignorant of Victor von Weizsäcker's alleged involvement in research on the brains of victims of the Euthanasia programme, in which case his statements of approval of the biologist are painfully ironic - to his audience then as much as to the reader today. 2. Or, he did know of these allegations, and did not care, in which case his statements display a dreadful callousness toward the memory of his mother. 3. However, supposing he did know of these accusations, and made these statements all the same in order to shock those among his listeners who would know of these accusations. This third possibility seems to me the most likely, and the most authentic interpretation, since then he would be expressing the same cosmic defiance toward Fate that shines through in the lyrics Der Rebell (Baudelaire) and Frei in the Drei Lieder. Thomas may call the composer's remarks Luciferian in manner, but I think that is to trivialize observations that are absolutely truthful and characteristic, the more so because of their painful reality. Here is a reference: LaFleur, and Shimazono, "Rationalizing Unethical Medical Research: Taking seriously the case of Viktor von Weizsäcker" in Böhme, "Dark Medicine: Rationalizing unethical medical research." Bloomington IN: Indiana University Press: 2007, 15–29.
It sure wasn't a wise or intelligent thing to say imo, and it certainly didn't end up reflecting well on his character at all. We all have moments like this that we later regret, as he did. He had his guard down and these private remarks were leaked and spun. I think you have to look at the big picture .. by and large Stockhausen did good, very disciplined & beautiful in many ways - and his deeds speak much louder than his words, and are a reflection of that.
Though by my very nature I miss the point, I ask myself what this remembrance of surrealism adds to understanding... I did not want to call Stockhausen's action Luciferian; my point was: Stockhausen called the action of the terrorists a perfectly executed Luciferian action. What he did not realize was that in that moment of shock nearly nobody was able to understand what he wanted to say. But that are old stories and I am very glad that despite of all that it was possible in the last year to present works by him in New York with great public success! And finally I want to contradict to the way Robin reacts to a person like Viktor von Weizsäcker. Nowadays it is a very common way of thinking, but nevertheless you reject the good together with the bad. To give a more common example: When you realize that Martin Heidegger in a period of his life has been a follower of the Nazis you are not compelled to deny that he was one of the most creative philosophers of our time and up to now it is very worthwhile to read his books. Or is it impossible to learn from Martin Luther, because at the end of his life he wrote books violently arguing against the Jews? You will become rather narrowminded if you force yourself to morally judge everybody.
I do not know, dear Robin Maconie, why you think that Breton is not known among the people taking part in this discusssion. Luis Bunuel, also part of that bunch of surrealists in Paris, always wanted to commit a crime to be really surrealistic but of course it always was kind of coquetry. I know for sure that Stockhausen meant what he said: „Ich habe wieder einmal die Wahrheit gesagt.“ But there is another aspect of his remarks which does not point to a surrealistic allusion but to his very concept of art as a perfect thing. He admired the preparation for years of a very short and extreme act, and he admired the radical effect of this act. As compared to this, preparation of musical performances are dilletantish, and the effect on the hearers is insignificant. I remember also a telling remark of Stockhausen concerning ABDUCTION: a hearer complained that it is not good to abduct children. Stockhausen answered: Why? He would like to be abducted to heaven the earlier the better. So the whole concept of life and death is different to what is usually accepted in our time of planished opinions.
I reject nothing. Even Martin Luther, because I am not a Lutheran. I am not fooled by the false modesty of Thomas's first sentence, which excuses ignorance as a defining trait of human nature. Shame. I was asked to defend, I defended and I continue to defend Stockhausen's 9/11 remarks. Uncovering complexity of motive can only be seen as attacking him by those who have been brought up to fear complexity and hide it in their own lives and motivations. Spirituality is Thomas's choice of topic It is his site, he made the initial choice, he invited me to respond. I would much prefer to discuss the interpretation of the plus-minus scores. Stockhausen's operas are about embracing the negative in the positive, and vice versa. It is extreme realism. The way of thinking that one should "reject the bad and take account of the good" is what permitted the rise in Europe of a terrible system of oppression, of which the composer himself was a victim. What is one to do? Burn more incense, to cover up the smell? Read more Heidegger, to feel better? Or is burning incense all that your "spirituality" dear Thomas is about? Breton was gassed and suffered in the trenches as a stretcher-bearer in the 1914-18 war, so as a survivor of the trenches is a kindred spirit to Stockhausen and a companion source of the continuous presence of suffering in the very music you, Thomas, are pleased to recommend as "geistliche Humor". Sheer kitsch. I repudiate it utterly. Stockhausen is quoted (in translation) in Other Planets 238-39: "I once wrote that the function of music must be spiritual. That doesn't mean religious. I make a distinction between "geistig" and "geistlich even though my etymological dictionary says both mean the same and are derived from the same original meaning as ghostly. To me the concept of spirituality comprehends both the spiritual and the unspiritual (and you'll always find the devil lurking in there as well). . . . 'The same, always different' is a spiritual phenomenon: at the same time understandable and damnably elusive." "Vieldeutige Form", Texte 2, 249.
Robin, what did I do, that you treat me in such a rude way? I feel it is a pity, because some ideas you contribute in my understanding are very important and very true, for instance what you write in the beginning of the third section of your last contribution about the negative and positive. Instead of insulting we should concentrate on interpretation. And therefore I would like to take up the sentences you cite from Other Planets about spirituality: I agree with you - a week ago or so you wrote that you do not like that word- nor do I because I feel it is very vague. But perhaps, when we look on Stockhausens words you cite we can get a clearer impression what it could mean. Now my attempt to that theme: First allow me the hint that the English translation is not correct. Stockhausen writes in German: "Geistlich heißt nicht kirchlich" - thus one could better translate: "That doesn't mean ecclesiastical". That is according to the way the term "spiritual" is used nowadays in German discussions: it is related to religion (refers to the religious spirit - that is the origin of the word in the discussions in the Church Fathers: "spiritualitas" in antiquity), but to religion in general, not to certain confessions and churches with their special dogmas. Insofar Stockhausen writes that special musical forms do not convert the music into a spiritual one (f.i. using a hymn), but a more general procedure. It is one that transcends the rational; it has to do with a mystery that cannot be done, that just happens by itself and in this way (that is what I guess) opens new realms. I think: What St. writes in this article is no proper definition, but it points to a certain direction - to me, when I think of the works to come, it is the direction of the intuitive, that goes beyond all construction, and for the elder Stockhausen that is a path of religious trust. Just some ideas - it would be necessary to add more precision, if possible, so that we could use this word "spiritual" with a better feeling, when we know better what we mean with it. By the way: Why not exchange ideas about PLUS-MINUS? You are invited to do so!
Dear Thomas, do not take personally what is not offered personally. I am not being rude, just as direct and exact as possible in responding to your implied attacks on the composer's integrity. I am not here to be friendly but apparently to save participants the trouble of thinking about and trying to resolve arguments that have been available in book form for up to forty years, have not been contradicted, and sadly are still apparently not being taken seriously. I provide exact citations, and you respond with soothing words that show you have not read them, or do not care to think or talk about them. I do not have that luxury. Do you imagine that being Stockhausen was easy? Since 1972 I have put my life and reputation on the line to publish whole books to defend the music and the philosophy of Stockhausen, Boulez, and Cage, in a critical and academic environment that is still largely hostile. I argued with Messiaen in 1963-4 and with Stockhausen, Pousseur, Zimmermann and others in 1964-5. I was excluded for a period from the Stockhausen courses in 1964-5 for challenging the composer, and banished from the official website almost from day one for reasons you can perhaps explain, delivered in Stockhausen's own words in his own handwriting on the Stonebraker site. A forum is a place to debate, not to close down discussion. I am not sure your understanding of what Stockhausen means by "geistlich" is informed about what he is saying elsewhere in the same essay and his despairing mood at the time he wrote it. The tactic of resorting to convenient formulae to dispose of inconvenient topics is no different from someone else running off to the dictionary to look for answers instead of examining the evidence. Why is this important? Because it influences the way the music is prepared and performed. If you want to turn a performance into "theatre" then you ought first to understand the plot! But I am also conscious that maybe a few readers outside the "inner circle" will be reading these discussions and will draw their own conclusions from those contributions whose response to difficult truths is to say "he didn't really mean that" or "it was so long ago."
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!