Explaining TRANS is like describing a David Lynch film ala Eraserhead. But I gave it a shot. Lots of great ideas here and some funny solos.
TRANS, for orchestra and taped weaving loom sounds - 1971 TRANS was one of the first Stockhausen pieces I ever heard on the radio and even though I found it very odd and alien, I still was very curious about it. After reading the scant information about TRANS available at the time, I was under the wrong impression that some kind of giant wooden box was swinging back and forth over the audience and making the loom shuttle sounds. The reality was of course, much safer! However it was still a very mysterious piece, and the constant wall of strings made the whole thing seem very hazy. After giving it some more time and attention, I realized that there was actually quite alot of activity going on underneath that blanket of droney strings.
For the audience at the premiere of TRANS, it must have been a completely puzzling experience (and the Stockhausen Edition CD includes the recording of that premiere, complete with whistles and boos). Even watching the clips from the documentary film, one gets the feeling of cognitive dissonance: the only thing to be seen are the string players in a hazy violet fog, but a full orchestra playing dense and active figures can still be heard. Not only that, but several times individual orchestra musicians seem to be staging some kind of open revolt against their peers. One must have wondered if it were "real" or not. Finally, the string players mechanically bow with blank facial expressions, as if they were just wind-up toys. Actually, with the reddish haze, it seems a bit macabre to me.
The solos are all excellent and exuberant, and shows that Stockhausen could write "virtuosic solo music" with ease when he wanted to. The idea of having these bizarre skits is pretty comedic, and I think could be a predecessor to the "games" of DER JAHRESLAUF 6 years later. The concept of the string orchestra "opening and closing" the curtain is an interesting one, but ultimately it seems to be more an organizational technique (such as using a Fibonacci series, or a formula, etc...) than a literal one, since the hidden orchestra is pretty much heard at the same level of "clarity" throughout the performance, no matter how dense the string chord cluster gets (at least to my ears). The use of aleatory elements provides some nice "statistical" textures, though at times the figures are a bit hard to hear (intentional obfuscation?). One thing I would be curious to hear one day would be the string orchestra and the hidden orchestra parts separate from each other. Perhaps a new release of TRANS someday would include these isolated tracks. Both parts are beautifully conceived and despite the novel concept of 2 forces at odds with each other, the individual parts are well worth exploring as well.
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!