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uatu Offline

Posts: 206

Thu Apr 09, 2015 4:17 pm

Some new blog entries on KREUZSPIEL and SCHLAGTRIO

From my "concluding remarks":
Even though these works are basically part of the "avant-garde" classical movement of the post-war era (an era normally known for it's dry and impenetrable style), they are surprisingly accessible. The percussion part for the 1st stage of KREUZSPIEL actually plays a continuous tremolo rhythm, which would never happen again in so continuous and obvious a manner in Stockhausen's percussion work . The percussion parts of the 3rd section, as well as the dynamic timpani figures of SCHLAGTRIO, make these two pieces simply exciting to listen to. Even without being aware of the "crossing" of pitch fields, the melodic elements of the pitched instruments interact with the percussive rolls and accents in a very organic, almost jazzy way. It's fairly easy to appreciate the music just by listening to how the tom-toms and the piano parts set each other up. Present also, of course, is the "song" Stockhausen mentions in several parts of KREUZSPIEL (where the points are at maximum convergence).

SCHLAGTRIO presents the 6-note timpani melody as a kind of "shadow-mirror" to the 6 octave piano part. On the first few listens the piano and fortissimo timpani accents dominate one's impressions, but on further listens the beauty of the timpani melody fragments become much more appreciable. In the CD booklet, Stockhausen describes the concept of 2 "principles" coming together and creating a new, 3rd entity (after which they then "return to a situation which is beyond the physically representable"). However, I actually find listening to the "point" field and it's collective behavior against a canvas of "jagged" timpani dynamics to be more fun.

uatu Offline

Posts: 206

Sat Apr 11, 2015 3:33 pm

Does anybody have a better explanation for SCHLAGTRIO than the one I have cobbled together in my post? I've read all the published literature that I could find and none of it seems to exactly follow the final product. The timpani solo in the middle is not mentioned anywhere as far as I can tell. Also I still can't quite figure out what the 3rd "entity" is.... And then there's the score cover does that work into it? Any ideas?

Joe Offline

Posts: 104

Sat Apr 11, 2015 9:11 pm

It depends on what you mean by a better explanation. The one in your post is fine, since it paraphrases Stockhausen's. The problem that Stockhausen's pocket analyses often present is that they can be seriously misleading, making us look for things that aren't as salient as the analysis makes it seem to be. The other problem is the classic issue of music analysis in general, where it can miss the forest for the trees. Stockhausen always kept his eye on the ball, so to speak, and his goal wasn't to write music that could be understood merely by a structural schematic.

The tympani episode is a nice demonstration of that. It's typical Stockhausen. He gives us this very unusual instrumentation, which he is so proud of ("a new category of chamber music"!). There's also a cheekiness to lining up six tympani across from a piano. The configuration alone is kind of funny. As Maconie points out, the tympani are clearly resonators, a reflection point that also serves as the engine for the formal process of the piece. Taking a moment to give those resonators a solo turn is akin to letting the sine wave slow down to an individual pulse in Kontakte. It's also just Stockhausen doing what he does as an orchestrator, running through all the potential combinations of his ensemble.

Robin's got a nice metaphysical reading of the structural concept in his book. That's probably a more helpful way of conceptualizing the "new entity". Clearly, the convergence brings about a typical Stockhausen "tune" around bar 30. The intervals that are dispersed so abstractly up until now have been condensed into singable music (at least compared to what's come before). Is that the "new entity"? What's obvious is that the music has changed significantly at this moment. And then there are echoes of it in the rest of the piece, like the striking sequence of 4ths and 5ths starting in bar 119. Such a reading of the score follows Stockhausen's pocket analysis, but it's certainly possible to conduct a different reading of the piece with Stockhausen's model in hand, one where, for instance, the tympani soli is the "new entity". To wit:

The sketch demonstrates how important mirrored symmetry is to the piece. The tympani are the metaphorical mirror (Maconie invokes Cocteau on this point), and the interlude gives us a look at the mirror itself (sans reflection). That could comport with Stockhausen's pocket analysis as well.

uatu Offline

Posts: 206

Sun Apr 12, 2015 1:36 am

>The one in your post is fine, since it paraphrases Stockhausen's.<
Thanks Joe! Yeah, I'll paraphrase KS - I mean, if there's anyone worth paraphrasing, it's him.

>Stockhausen always kept his eye on the ball, so to speak, and his goal wasn't to write music that could be understood merely by a structural schematic. <
Uhh yeah, you never see any of Stockhausen's formschemes anywhere...he sure kept them well hidden.

>The problem that Stockhausen's pocket analyses often present is that they can be seriously misleading, making us look for things that aren't as salient as the analysis makes it seem to be. <
You've recently acknowledged your predilection for always writing in the declarative Joe, so I suppose I have to automatically preface all of your statements with "IMHO". Frankly (IMHO) this is wrong, and what KS mentions in his analyses are indeed the most salient elements of his work. I mean, why would he try to mislead his audience? I mean, it's not as if there's some kind of Satanic sex-magic ritual hidden in these works, is there? The only thing which makes his booklet note in CD 2 possibly inconsistent with the final work itself, is that all of his published text (TEXT II) is a letter describing his future intentions regarding this work, and not a post-game analysis. My guess is that the final realization was much more developed than what he had initially sketched out, but he didn't feel like writing a fresh analysis of a work which he regarded as relatively minor, so he left it at the first paragraph in the letter. My guess is that the ideas expressed in the letter were realized in the "trades" sections of SCHLAGTRIO and he added the surrounding sections later to add "pedagogical" structure (illuminating the "deviant pitches, etc...).

The Maconie thing about the resonating symmetry I didn't really buy. The percussion is much closer to the piano in KREUZSPIEL. If the timpani were meant to resonate with the piano to create some kind of sonority, why are they placed so far apart (farther away than in KREUZSPIEL)? KS never mentions this effect anywhere, so I just assumed Robin was making an assumption.

The tune at 30 is the point of convergence, that's pretty obvious, but what are the projected 23 sections (of which the 12th is the "birth" section according to Maconie) and what are their differences? What kind of permutations are carried out on the initial 12 note rows? Why is the 1st "song" different from the 2nd "song"? What is the significance of the bongo strikes (musically, not from a spiritual standpoint)? In other words, do they signal the sections? If so they don't add up to 23. They are also unequal in length, which is puzzling. The sketch has symmetry, but how does it indicate how the 12 note row was manipulated? Are the boxes to be read left to right, or is the curvy line indicative of a sequence? I suppose I'm looking for more Toop-style technical explanations for how the sketch was translated into notes and stems.

Anyways thanks for your input. Are you going to the Courses this year?

Joe Offline

Posts: 104

Sun Apr 12, 2015 3:37 am

Regarding the form schemes, this is a constant theme throughout his career. The bottom line is that he wasn't a composer of form schemes. He was a composer of music. He would be the first to tell you that the form scheme is not the point of his music. His music is the point of his music, so to speak.

Did he reify his form schemes to the point where he liked to print them in programs and project them onstage during an opera scene? Of course. But if the music could be understood merely by looking at the form scheme, why bother writing it?

A lot of this is down to personal taste. Who is to say what is most salient in a composition for any given listener? Quite often, Stockhausen's pocket analyses make a big point of a detail that clearly means something to him, but it may not have much to do with a typical listener's experience of the piece. There's nothing malicious about the fact that these analyses can mislead the audience. Stockhausen is merely conveying what was important to him. One of the side effects of those efforts is that they can inflate certain details that simply might not resonate with most listeners. Here again, we are on well-worn ground. Much has been written about this subject, and probably much more should be.

An easy example of this is his statement that Hymnen is not a collage. Fine. We get it. It's not musique concrète, which was an important stylistic distinction early in his career. But, to any listener, the most salient aspect of Hymnen is that it is a collage. Stockhausen is trying to stress that the recordings are not merely cut and pasted together in the piece. Thus, he makes a technical distinction, but it's a functionally irrelevant one.

Here, the "12 tone melodies" indication is a much more subtle misdirection. What he means is that the melodies have 12 tones. Trying to think in terms of tone rows really departs from the way the music sounds, where the notes are clustered in a fascinating interplay of overlapping groups. This is where that recording is so frustrating, because the dynamic levels are so inconsistent. There's a really sensual performance of this piece awaiting the right trio. Not that the piece needs to be played that way, but the score is quite lyrical. The way the soft tympani sounds are so overbalanced by the piano and the loud tympani sounds is unfortunate. Those fff tympani hits sound like the beginning of the Looney Tunes theme because they are so dynamically isolated.

I don't read Maconie as saying that the tympani are meant to have much more than a symbolic function as passive resonators. Clearly, if Stockhausen wanted their resonance to sound, he would have miked them. I read Maconie, as he is doing in the rest of that article, as speaking about the tympani more metaphorically. They are avatars of six "reverberant spaces".

What you are asking for is a kind of reverse engineering of the piece, taking it apart to figure out how it was made. There's obviously nothing wrong with that at all. But I think those questions you asked in your last post might well be replaced by new ones. There's so often a piece left over, so to speak, once you've deconstructed everything to see how it fits together. That's not to say, at all, that such an effort isn't worthwhile. Like so much of this, it boils down to one's personal tastes and interests.

You can find these stories everywhere, but the one that I personally witnessed is the one that I repeat. When he was lecturing on Lichter—Wasser in 2001, a student pounced on a "mistake" that he thought he had found. He asked a question that suggested Stockhausen was not following his own rules because of a repeated note that fell outside the scheme. Stockhausen's response was a virtual shrug. He said, "I wanted to repeat that note." There are always going to be those left over pieces, the notes he wanted to repeat, the rule that he wanted to break, or the insert he wanted to make.

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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