Robin is since decades one of the leading experts in the works of Stockhausen – it is always stimulating to read his texts. The very first sentence of his essay brings that to mind: “The basis of a spiritual life has to be acknowledgement of the reality of suffering” – what a protestant statement! I wholeheartedly agree, though it would not come to my mind to connect that with Stockhausen (and that suffering from dissonances belongs to that theme). Much more, what Robin emphasizes, Dürer, Grünewald and the empathy with the hardships of life; he writes that Stockhausen’s spirituality is to be understood as a “spirituality as a survivor, along with Boulez, Xenakis, and Cage”. Consequently he deals with the first act of the opera DONNERSTAG aus LICHT; one of the themes of this act is the death of Stockhausen’s mother who was murdered by Nazi euthanasia. In the essay we find a lot of other aspects of the theme, but here I will concentrate on this with two questions: 1. Is it true that suffering is a main item for Stockhausen? I was really surprised when I read this first sentence of Robin’s; for me Stockhausen’s spirituality has much more to do with the motive of cosmic order and the praise of this order that comes from God; a motive that is deeply rooted in ancient and especially in Catholic thinking. Therefore Stockhausen’s music much more is the expression of joy, of wonder, of investigating the overwhelming power of love and life – grief, guilt, sin etc is not very predominant here … And 2. Boulez as a spiritual composer? Then everybody who loves music must be a spiritual person. On the contrary I would think: The self concept of an artist is very important, should not be neglected. Even if a piece is modelled on a religious ritual, as Robin Maconie says, the composer of that piece not necessarily needs to write spiritually modelled music.
I agree with Thomas. Stockhausen is a composer of joy, his music has a hymnodic character. The only other composer in the 20th century who wrote with a similar spirit was Olivier Messiaen. But Messiaen did not neglect the suffering respectively the passion of Christ; in nearly every cycle is at least one part which deals with suffering, the cross etc. A climax are the last two scenes of the St.-Francis-opera (stigmata, death). And you can often find a musical symbolization of the abyss in his music, e.g. dark and heavy sounds of trombones, tamtams and so on. The music of the abyss is a spiritual symbol and means 1. the abyss of suffering, the infinite depth and otherness of god or the distance of the eternal god and at the same moment 2. the abyss of divine love, the mystery of god, in which everything is saved and redeemed an all opposites are reconciled. Messiaen often combines the music of the abyss with birdsong (I think e.g. of La Transfiguration, Nr. 9: Perfecte conscius illius perfectae generationis) - tremendum et fascinosum! Fear and joy! Both belongs together.
In Stockhausens music I can not find such immediate symbols or confrontations; it is more hidden an ambigous. I think, in LICHT Lucifer is his dude for dark and painful affairs, but mostly in a humorous and also ambigous way. In the first part of DONNERSTAG Stockhausens seems to look on Michael's childhood and youth with a distant look. It's like watching a fast cut black-and-white-movie or rapid Super-8 clips with pale colours. The medium of music transforms pain and suffering quick into art, e.g. in EXAMEN. Interesting question: Is the way Stockhausen deals with suffering etc. a kind of coping (Bewältigung) or repression (Verdrängung)? Jumps he into the cosmos to avoy the examination?
My essay "Stockhausen and Spirituality" was written at the request of two editors for a proposed symposium dealing with twentieth-century music and spirituality. My understanding was that the task had been offered to another author and been turned down. My paper was rejected when the editors objected to unspecified aspects of the content, and I refused to let the text be altered - after all, I was not being paid. The book has not been published. Suffering is a condition of life: why else would a person need to sleep, if not from tiredness? I am uncomfortable with the word spirituality but took on the challenge in order to disapprove of the view that a composer can be categorized in this way and that doing so relieves the listener from the duty of attention to the message of the music. Anyone reading the essay will see that my chief target is fellow composers who supported Stockhausen when it was convenient to do so, then repudiated him after they had become famous. Spirituality has nothing to do with religion, and I am not interested in burning incense. Purity of spirit is a matter of conviction; in this regard I do not distinguish Stockhausen from Boulez, Cage, Nono and a few others. I am happy to answer any specific questions regarding the text but am afraid that questions of Catholic or Protestant allegiance, while of interest to some, leave me cold.
I see Mary Bauermeister's book critical in many points but I guess in one point she's absolutely right. She writes: "He (Stockhausen) wants salvation not any more by the cross, not any more by suffering but to attain salvation by overcoming suffering towards joy. Praise the Lord!" (p. 302)
When I read Bauermeister's book, I missed this sentence - it is a very clear and important statement, and finally, I think, she is right. How to deal with it? I must admit that a very crucial topic is missing! On the other hand Stockhausen is not to be treated as a teacher of Christian dogmatics. As a work of art it can be more free and easy and thus give a hint to what is missing in many religious realisations: this sense of grandeur and joy and the overwhelming abundance of life.
For the early Christians the mystery of incarnation was more important than the cross. And till the 10th century they even sang 'Alleluias' during funerals. The cross is of course a strong symbol - but also causes a limitated look on Christ; suffering and hanging on the cross do not produce salvation, but the absolute surrender to god in every moment of life - also during suffering. For me Stockhausen spirituality of joy is evocative of the enlighted 18th-century Catholicism, e. g. some of the ecstatic and playful late rococo-churches (you have to look carefully to find a cross in these churches!) or Haydns blitheful and optimistic "Creation".
I think here's another important parallel between Stockhausen's theology and the Urantia Book. If you read the UB you will find that it denies the salvation by the cross and "downgrades" its importance. Here's a quote:
(UB 1615.4 or 143:6.3) In any religion it is very easy to allow values to become disproportionate and to permit facts to occupy the place of truth in one’s theology. The fact of the cross became the very center of subsequent Christianity; but it is not the central truth of the religion which may be derived from the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.
Please allow me to say a few words on Bauermeister's book. I think that the quote from p. 302 is a bit misleading. At the end of the book, Bauermeister looks back after Stockhausen's death, trying to sum up his spirituality. But during his lifetime, while creating his works, the „primal source of Karheinz Stockhausen's music is pain" (p. 9). Here Bauermeister points to the often neglected biographical inspiration of his work. She repeats this quite often during her tale. There are some works where this motive is obvious like in MOMENTE and DONNERSTAG, there are some hints like the booming sound in an electronic work announcing the birth of one of his daughters or the »aha, aha« in KATHINKAs GESANG. But there are many other works where the biographical motive is hidden, and the pain mainly derives from childhood experiences, expectedly. Please remember (if the story is true) that Stockhausen wept (aged 72) while seeing a woman in the film of the Brothers Quay whom he thought to be his mother. It would be a very rewarding task to examine his works under this premise. I am sure that he could combine (hide) most intimate personal experiences and feelings with (behind) a most rational musical structure. This, I believe, is, beneath the symbolic meaning of his works, one of the clues for the conceivability (or comprehensibleness) of his works (for those, of course, who try to listen).
That is very good reminder, Adorján, about Mary's belief that pain is the prime driving force behind Stockhausen's music. I'm not sure that I agree, but Mary certainly knew him a lot better than I did. However, I am struck by two of the examples you offer of "obvious" autobiographical motives: MOMENTE and the "aha, aha" in KATHINKAs GESANG. Certainly the autobiographical element is there, but do you really mean to imply that these somehow represent painful experiences? At the same time, I am wondering how the experience (or vicarious experience) of pain in the example you give of STUDIE I qualifies as a "spiritual" element. (In fact, I am not at all sure that I am clear just what "spiritual" is supposed to mean in the context of this discussion. Perhaps this, too, should be clarified. There are certainly very different nuances and associations in German than there are in English, for example.)
The time has come," the Walrus said, "To talk of Stockhausen things: Of magic and absences and mobile phones Of invisible intentions and swings” “But why” the Carpenter enquired “not his music and the joy it brings?”
If seventy brains with seventy pens Did sit on a net and wrote They wouldn’t create a single sound Or indeed a single note” The Walrus with the Carpenter Did then so well agree And decided it was more worthwhile To listen to a Stockhausen CD.
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!