A further link to a paper of Robin Maconie, his review of the world premiere of MITTWOCH aus LICHT in Birmingham: http://www.jimstonebraker.com/Mittwoch.pdf An extremely rich and also provocative text; in many aspects I agree to the critique of the Birmingham production and often wondered at the positive impression on the scenic realisation many others had. If Robin had been dramatic advisor, we would have seen quite another event, with more profile, I am sure! But one critic comment: Robin writes, that wednesday is middle-week, that there is a sense of compromise in the work that for Stockhausen was not desirable and that leads to mediocrity. A sign for this would be, that the three protagonists of LICHT are not present in the whole opera, because they do not represent compromise, but are extreme characters. What the piece is about, is shown in the colour yellow, that is connected with fear, cowardice, urine, gall, and dung. But: The protagonists appear, as the author himself admits, in the music, and that generally is the main appearance, the main layer of the work. And: They cannot appear individually, because they are together in a higher unity - they are no longer separated, but united in a "camel", where m, e and l are the signs for Michael, Eve und Lucifer. The further the LICHT-cycle proceeds, the less the 3 characters for themselves appear; that we can see also in SONNTAG. And it is not mediocrity, but understanding and mutual love - a reality that easily can be misunderstood moralistically and being trivial; but finally that had been of central importance for the composer, for central words and notes from MITTWOCH are represented on his grave.
That Michael, Eva and Luzifer are not present "in person" is also consistent with the "Theme of Absence" which is at the heart of Mittwoch. Another theme is the composer's experiences in Paris in 1952. The opera is rich in references to life at the Club d'Essai in Paris. The Dirigent in Welt-Parlament perched on a high chair may be modelled on Pierre Schaeffer on his studio high chair; the Parlament itself a reference to UNESCO, and the tape music of Orchester-Finalisten echoing Schaeffer's Etude aux Chemins de fer. Mittwoch's powerful communication of absence might have been inspired by Schaeffer's Symphonie pour un homme seul, in lines such as "The commotion of high-pitched voices ... that seem to come from playtime at a village school....The Apostrophe seems to want to introduce an element of intelligibility into this more tragic atmosphere" (Pierre Schaeffer, In Search of Concrete Music, Engl. edn., Chapter 6, p. 56). In overall charge of the Club d'Essai at the time was the surrealist poet Jean Tardieu, whose influence on LICHT has yet to be investigated. Tardieu's play Qui est Là? (1947) has elements strikingly in common with Donnerstag Act I, based on events in Stockhausen's youth, in depicting 1. A family consisting of an overbearing father, passive mother, and son; 2. A mysterious temptress; 3. The father is summoned from his house, and is killed. Later in the play the father comes back from the dead, claiming not to be human, nor ever having been a human being. (Martin Esslin, The Theatre of the Absurd, rev.ed. Penguin, 1968, 230-31.)
Ulrich wrote: "in many aspects I agree to the critique of the Birmingham production and often wondered at the positive impression on the scenic realisation many others had" I think the worst thing was the changing of place at the end of MITTWOCHS-GRUSS. For me the end of MITTWOCHS-GRUSS (so the whole part after Stockhausens's voice) is totally magic but the concentration and impression were totally destroyed by having to leave the hall and find a new place in the other.
Expert scrutiny aside .. I think the whole experience was overwhelmingly positive for the cause of Stockhausen's music, and for performing art music in general. As was the Sonntag premiere. For a first interpretation, not too bad, it garnered an award too .. perhaps a door opener in terms of getting the stuff played more often (attention).. like it deserves to be. I love LICHT and I find it even more intriguing than many of the earlier path setting works, as great as those are. It really turned me around to the composer. Perhaps on the centenary of the composer we will see a staging of the whole musical puzzle .. oh and I have to say that i've always found the helicopter scene/work to be the least interesting musically and sonically.
A question I would have for Kathinka, Robin & Thomas, having been with this music for quite some time; what would be their personal favorite opera of the cycle? Or what would be their LICHT highlights?
Great to see a forum devoted just to Stockhausen finally, hopefully it gets an upgrade! Perhaps linked to the new official site too?
Although this question was not directed at me, I would like to paraphrase from Stockhausen and answer that my favorite LICHT opera on Tuesday is DIENSTAG, on Wednesday is MITTWOCH, on Thursday, DONNERSTAG, on Friday FREITAG, and so on.
To James' question of a personal hitlist on LICHT: When I think about that, I realize, that, what I like most are those works I have been busy with for a longer time - and that is a sign for the quality of the music, isn't it? Many get better and better, the more you listen to them! Thus one of my absolute favourites is MICHAELs REISE, then LICHTER-WASSER and ENGEL - PROZESSIONEN, but also OKTOPHONIE - and that is not the end of the list. Indeed: KINDERFÄNGER I should not forget! Maybe finally Jerry is right! And as to the helicopter-work: Did you see the film on the Helicopter String Quartet by Frank Scheffer? That helped me love this quartet!
Yes I do own a copy of that film .. and while I can see the great challenges presented in pulling it off, it didn't sway my opinion much. Musically, I just think it is one of the least interesting things in the entire cycle. It works as a theater event though! I'll answer my own question and advocate my personal choices or HIGHLIGHTS .. from THURSDAY - Michaels Reise (actually prefer the soloists version, that ECM recording is a big favorite) & Invisible Choirs .. from SATURDAY - top choice is Lucifer's Dance (wind band version, just an amazing energetic work, and featuring great trumpet - i.e. Upper Lip Dance). I also like Kathinkas Chant but prefer the version for 6-channel electronics & flute. MONTAG has a lot of harmonious and beautiful music within, though overlong in areas .. still, its sound-world is a great entry point for curious newbies imo .. I like many of the pieces from this one i.e. Wochenkreis, Ave, the Klavierstück .. Abduction (version with soprano sax) .. Lucifer's Fury is quite zany & comical. TUESDAY is a strong opera, and fun. Oktophonie is definitely a big highlight for me, I also love much in the 1st act a great deal. Powerful stuff. People have issues with the 'timbre' of Oktophonie but I love it. I love synthesizers and what they can do, and how KS uses them. From FRIDAY .. The Electronic music with Sound Scenes blew me away! This electronic piece pulled me into LICHT, when they played a section from it on BBC3 with Richard Toop. (he also played a bit of Joy from Klang that equally knocked me out!) Must mention Vibra-Elufa, a cool vibraphone work. From MITTWOCH .. top choice is Welt-parlament, what a piece for choir! But I also like 'Mankind, Hear' & Bassett-su Trio (from Michaelion), the electronic Greeting & Orchestra Finalists (they should perform this one at the Armoury in NYC I was thinking!). From SUNDAY (my favorite opera of the lot) .. highlight is a toss up between Licher-Wasser (just beautiful) or Licht-Bilder (now this is an amazing quartet!) .. also really like 'Rays' fashioned from scenes of the opera.
A question for Thomas: As a student KS was impressed, not altogether favourably, by a performance of the "Dance around the Golden Calf" from Moses und Aron by Schoenberg. Is it possible that KAMEL in Mittwoch might be Stockhausen‘s "yellow camel" in parody of the "golden calf"? That would suggest a "false representation". After all, the Golden Calf was created by Aron as a popular idol in the absence of Moses on Mount Sinai. And a question to Jerry, and perhaps also to Richard Toop, if he is watching: What about the similarity of the name KAMEL to the real composer KAGEL who was famous in Cologne for his sense of subversive humour. (And by the way, KAMEL can be read either as KA + MEL (Stockhausen and the trio Michael, Eva, Luzifer) or as a permutation of Michael alone: K-M-L = M-K-L. Again, MEL can be interpreted as signifying "darkness". What about that?)
Of course anything might be associated with anything, Robin, and often is. You already know of my belief, following your lead about popular-culture elements from the time of Stockhausen's boyhood, that the camel motif actually originates from the 1938 episodes of the American newspaper comic strip Joe Palooka ("Luca", the Operator's name, is clearly a shorted form of "Palooka"), in which the hero joins the French Foreign Legion and encounters camels in many episodes. From here it is an easy step to "Joe Camel", who advertises "Camel LIGHTs" (presumably navigation aids for "Ships of the Desert" when traveling at night) using an image of a pool table strewn with planetary globes, of the sort we see in Michaelion. More seriously, what is the language context in which MEL can be interpreted as signifying "darkness"? The best I can come up with is Albanian ("millet") or Danish ("flour"), or maybe Arabic, where MEL (مل) can mean "be fed up", "be weary of". Considering the permutational schemas Stockhausen adopted in MITTWOCH, shouldn't we also be looking for meanings in LEM (=Hebrew יָם, meaning "sea", "ocean", "lake", or "west"), ELM (a tree motif?), MLE, etc.? Or do we need a theory first, in order to help sift out evidence that might prove unsuitable?
Jerry - please do try to keep up. Have you actually read my Mittwoch review? where it says that MEL is the root of Melancholia (near anagram of Michaelion), Melatonin and Melanoma, meaning black. In German, Melasse (treacle). Melos is the root of "music", melas of "blackness" - including mood. What about "MEL-ANGE"? Or MEL-ODIOUS? What is Momente about, if not permutations of K-M-D? These are names but also qualities. Again, Michael, Eva, and Luzifer are names and also qualities: the names are "incarnations" of musical order, in the spirit of High Renaissance symbolism. My point is that lurking in the background is a darker meaning. Such permutational tricks, in addition to the deep roots of wordplay in German culture (for example the Proteus Poem of Scaliger the Elder, the combinatorics of 16th c. poet Georg Philipp Harsdörffer), the rebus, etc., reappear in 20th c. atomic theory, the linguistics of Roman Jakobson, as syllabic permutation in Gesang der Jünglinge, formal permutation in Momente, anthem fragmentation and reconstruction in Hymnen, and anthropology: Lévi-Strauss's theory of tribal relationships (as in Freitag aus LICHT), ALL influenced by plus-minus Information Theory tree diagrams and Markov chains as taught by Meyer-Eppler, and clearly serialist in principle. The above was taught at the 1964-65 Cologne New Music Courses by Georg Heike, successor of Meyer-Eppler at Bonn, and I am referring to my class notes.
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!