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Ulrich Offline

Posts: 157

Wed Feb 12, 2014 3:28 pm
On Interpreting LICHT reply

1.) In traditional opera there is a story and the music illustrates and deepens that story, gives it its special colour. In LICHT happens something other, because all main figures of the operas are made from music, are emanations of melodies, the so called “formulas”. Thus everything is dependent on music, music being the first and main item. To give an example: The content of the SONNTAG aus LICHT is the “mystical union” of Eve and Michael, and this content is presented in the union of the two melodies related to them.
But, on the other hand, there is a lot of other stuff, religious, philosophical and mythological motives and beings that contribute a lot to the scene, for instance angels, the order of creation, scents and signs of the days. They have to be interpreted with words, because words can differentiate meaning much clearer than music. Because of this Stockhausen himself uses words of interpretation extensively, and not only in analysing music – there are 10 big volumes of his texts, and another seven are to be published this year.
How is it possible to bring these two layers, i.e. music and the themes of spiritual tradition, together? One way is to concentrate on the music – its analysis finally should open and clarify the content, the main themes of the opera. I think (at a first glance – I just received the book) that is the path, Rudolf Frisius follows in his third volume on Stockhausen in an impressive manner. But in this way interpretation is limited; not everything can be expressed in musical language and structure.
2.) What about these themes, that must be explicated with words? In this respect emerges a second speciality of Stockhausen’s work: In LICHT there are basically no single stories you can tell, but rather general themes, for instance (in SAMSTAG aus LICHT) death and resurrection; the difference between Luciferian and Christian ethics etc. How should interpretation function here? One possible way is to ask, what the composer himself said about these themes, how he interpreted his works; to investigate, what books he read, what had been the common way of thinking in his time and in his background.
3.) But I think even that is too limited. Stockhausen deals with universal motives, traditions and problems. There is much more depth and complexity in these themes than a single person can realise, even if his name is Stockhausen. Thus the interpreter should look at those traditions Stockhausen refers to for himself, reveal as much complexity as possible and relate that to the work, even in aspects the composer was not aware of. One example: In scene 4 of SAMSTAG aus LICHT the Luciferian monks sing words of St. Francis of Assisi. Why? We can approach one aspect of an answer when we know that possibly St.Francis himself at the end of his life had a vision of him sitting on the heavenly throne of Lucifer – the throne Lucifer had to leave in the course of his rebellion. Stockhausen did not know that tradition – in this case it is quite clear: tradition is richer than we can realize, and this wealth, when we realize it partly, can contribute to a more subtle and lively understanding. In this way the interpretation of a profound work of art, as the LICHT-cycle is, will never come to an end. That is especially evident with LICHT, for the themes of the days of the week are deeply connected with human life and tradition in general, and every single person, every time has to give own answers in respond to tradition, and every answer sheds its own, a new light on LICHT.


Tue Feb 18, 2014 7:21 pm
#2 xx reply



Tue Feb 18, 2014 7:22 pm
#3 RE: On Interpreting LICHT reply


I read your three point post on Licht with great interest - in fact, I've read it three times.
It is very very good and has led me to clarify my own views on Licht. They are equally as complex and as you point out

There is much more depth and complexity in these themes than a single person can realise, even if his name is Stockhausen.

This is a very accurate summing up of the difficulty of reducing the whole cycle to a coherent analysis.
Well done! How far from Paul Griffith's summing up of Donnerstag 'A great creative mind talks to itself' is Momente.

To mention one aspect; I think that the [deeply] autobiographical Momente is a rueful admittance of failure - he didn't kiss the joy as it flies and consequently had no hope of living in eternity's sunrise.
What about the words that precede this. He that binds himself to a joy does the winged life destroy.
I see a whole tranche of autobiography in that one sentence also. Momente ends with a sigh of resignation on Stockausen's part because nothing worked out as intended.

I once likened Stockhausen to Gulliver. At first we Lilliputians tried to tie him down in our ignorance and incomprehension and then when he is free he sees much further than we can ever see and gives whatever clues he can but we are too small to fully in mind and body comprehend. Just a wayward thought.

Spirituality »»
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! Thomas Ulrich
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