Stockhausen Edition no. 30
(Donnerstag aus Licht)



Karlheinz Stockhausen – “Donnerstag aus Licht” (“Thursday from Light”); opera in three acts, a greeting and a farewell for 15 musical interpreters (4 solo voices, 8 instrumental soloists, 3 solo dancers), chorus, orchestra and magnetic tapes (1978 – 1980).

Interpreters:

MICHAEL: Tenor: Robert Gambill (act 1), Michael Angel (act 3; “Festival”), Paul Sperry (act 3; “Vision”). Trumpet: Markus Stockhausen.
EVE: Soprano: Annette Meriweather. Bassett horn: Suzanne Stephens. Speaker: Elizabeth Clarke.
LUCIFER: Bass: Matthias Hölle. Trombone: Mark Tezak. Speaker: Alain Louafi.

Majella Stockhausen [piano in “
Examen”], Alain Damiens [clarinet as one of the Clownish Pair of Swallows], Michel Arrignon [clarinet / basset horn as one of the Clownish Pair of Swallows], Hugo Read [soprano saxophone as one of Two Youths], Simon Stockhausen [soprano saxophone as one of Two Youths]

The Choir of the West German Radio in Cologne [tape act 1 & 3]
The Radio Choir of Hilversum [act 3: “
Festival”]
Ensemble InterContemporain, Paris [act 2]
The Radio Orchestra of Hilversum [act 3: “
Festival”]
Freies Wind & Percussion Ensemble [“
Donnerstags-Gruss”; ”Thursday Greeting”]

Peter Eötvös [cond. act 3; “
Festival” & hammond organ act 3; “Vision”]
Karlheinz Stockhausen [cond. Act 2; “
Donnerstags-Gruss” & sound projection on all recordings]

Stockhausen 30 A – D. Duration: CD A: 75:02. CD B: 49:42. CD C: 50:39. CD D: 39:44.




Stockhausen at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden 1985
(Photo: Kathinka Pasveer)

It arises in a silvery, calm motion of wind instruments – obviously preparing us for something of importance and vast durations. It is “Donnerstag-Gruss” (“Thursday Greeting”); the start of “Donnerstag aus Licht” (“Thursday from Light”); the first completed opera in Stockhausen’s opera cycle “Licht” (“Light”). In this very first part of “Donnerstag” the Michael formula melody is introduced.

Donnerstag-Gruss” is divided into three parts called “Michaels Gruss I – III” (“Michael’s Greeting I – III”).
The second part – “
Michael’s Gruss II” introduces some percussion in addition to the pure wind ensemble of “Michael’s Gruss I”. It also prescribes some of the blowing mouth sounds that Stockhausen often incorporates into his wind music. The music takes on a gamelan feeling at times, where the percussion is treated in a way similar to the liturgical Gong Gede of the Batur temple of Bali, while the trumpet soars in the atmosphere of for example Miles Davis! “Michael’s Gruss II” winds down into a slower revolution, before stopping and giving room for “Michael’s Gruss III”, where percussion has an even more prominent role, and a piano is introduced, further enriching the sound web of the third greeting of Michael. The music stops all of a sudden with a short, strong outburst.

Donnerstag-Gruss” is to be performed by an ensemble placed outside the hall, in the foyer, really greeting the audience.
And ah! If you’re listening in fall time, the trumpets and the horns and the trombones and the tuba are the leaves of the maple trees; the yellow, gold and brown light in the leafy crowns and on the ground around the trunks! Clear, fresh – refreshing; and in awe of something much greater to come: the wonder of rest and recuperation, and new life budding inside the crevasses… and the piano; the steel eyed droplets of morning dew reflecting the hard shine of the sun star rising in the East! The clarity of the stillness inside the sound: a canoe across a calm lake of Scandinavian October…


Participants of “Donnerstag-Gruss”:
Trumpets: Markus Stockhausen, Reinhold Friedrich, Peter Kertzner.
Horns: Barbara Kamienska, Marcie McGaughey,
Trombones: Mark Tezak, David Nikkel.
Tuba: Ulrich Haas.
Piano: Wolfgang Hoyer.
Percussion: Martin Schulz, Robyn Schulkovsky, Rumi Ogawa.
Conductor: Karlheinz Stockhausen.


After the greeting the story begins.

Licht” – with its seven operas (the last of the works; “Sonntag aus Licht” being composed as of now, as Stockhausen has worked intensely on the choral part called “Angel Procession”, the score for the choir recently having been completed) - is a giant, all-encompassing “Gesamtkunstwerk”, contrasting the main forces of the Universe and Life against each other.
Michael Kurtz says in his book “
Stockhausen – A Biography”, that “Licht” is “Stockhausen’s attempt to create a cosmic world theatre that summarizes and intensifies his lifelong concern: the unity of music and religion, allied to a vision of an essentially musical mankind. Stockhausen’s world theatre is enacted not only on Earth, for the plot also unfolds in the world beyond. It considers the destiny of mankind, the Earth and the Cosmos, in conjunction and confrontation with the spiritual essences Michael, Lucifer and Eve. Michael, the ‘Creator-Angel of our universe’, represents the progressive forces of development. Lucifer is his rebellious antagonist, and Eve works towards a renewal of the ‘genetic quality’ of humanity through the rebirth of a more musical mankind.

There are certain characteristics pertaining to the seven days of “
Licht”; each represented by its own opera. Stockhausen extracted and refined these characteristics and the divinities associated to the days from different cultures and traditions, much in the way he’d done in earlier works like “Stimmung” etcetera, but this time around in much greater depth, with much greater implications, placing “Licht” in a unique position in the field of contemporary music.

To summarize the “
Licht” week in rough terms, the days can be distinguished as follows: Monday is Eve’s day, Tuesday is the day of confrontation between Michael and Lucifer, Wednesday is the day of collaboration between Michael, Eve and Lucifer, Thursday is Michael’s day, Friday is the day of Eve’s temptation by Lucifer, Saturday is Lucifer’s day and Sunday is the day of mystical union of Michael and Eve.

Michael can be seen as the protective angel of the Earth and mankind. This is by special arrangement by Stockhausen, since by earlier tradition Gabriel was the protective angel of Earth, whereas Michael had his realm around Jupiter. Stockhausen has switched their places in “
Licht”.

At the Stockhausen courses in Kürten in August of 2001 Stockhausen had a special seminar on his work “
Lichter-Wasser”, which is the “Sonntags-Gruss” (“Sunday Greeting”) of “Sunday from Light”. In this piece Stockhausen lets the mystical union of Michael and Eve take place gradually, as Michael slowly takes over the Eve formula, while Eve does the opposite.
There are always these kind of “hidden” signs and secrets inside the works of Stockhausen, which the observant listener, who may be aided by a score, can detect, if he is somewhat experienced. I’m convinced that there are many hints and revelations inside the scores of Stockhausen, that he hasn’t readily explained, but which will be revealed as the years go by, by meticulous musicologists, but maybe there are some secrets in there that will remain known only to Stockhausen.
One of the little deviational secrets of Stockhausen was explained in a surprising way by Stockhausen at the “
Lichter-Wasser” seminar in Kürten 2001, when an observant student of the score remarked that the tenor in the beginning of the piece deviates from the nuclear Michael formula. Stockhausen replied that that was true, and that the reason was that Michael was greeting Eve at that point, using characteristics that belong in the Eve formula. Asked if Stockhausen does these things often he smilingly replied “Yes!”, to which the participants of the seminar responded by wild laughter. I’m sure Stockhausen enjoyed this opportunity of showing his own compositional freedom, in spite of the seemingly strict rules of formula composition, showing that there is always something more, something different, something surprising, and that you should never get stuck in a mold, without freedom of movement, spiritual, intellectual or for that matter; physical.

The super-formula for “
Licht” was sketched by Stockhausen while in Japan in 1977, later to be completed in all detail on March 24th 1978, and it consists of three formulas, one each for the three main characters; Michael, Eve and Lucifer. This so called super-formula for “Licht” holds the rhythms, dynamics, timbres etcetera.
Michael has a formula with 13 different pitches (12 plus the first one an octave lower as the 13th) but with 17 notes; 4 are repeated towards the end, Eve has a formula with 12 different pitches and Lucifer a formula with 11. From the resulting triple-formula polyphony the whole opera cycle is built.
From that nucleus Stockhausen has worked since then, producing this grand richness of compositional treasures and thereby also amply demonstrating – as in many earlier compositional methods – the richness of existence and the innumerable possibilities that may rise out of a sole seed, as an oak my rise out of a small seed, eventually giving shade and a thousand-year home for generations of birds and their squirrel antagonists, while mellow cows gently and inwardly ruminate through dreamy centuries under the glittering, leafy brancheries in the timeless sound of summery winds through leaves.

The three characters of “
Licht” (Michael, Lucifer & Eve) appear in three forms, namely as singers (bass, tenor, soprano), wind instruments (trumpet, trombone, basset-horn) and as dancers.

Stockhausen says he has used parts of his own biography – sometimes even in detail – to render the story a realistic touch without having to invent anything.

The rudimentary plot of “
Thursday from Light”, which Stockhausen draws on, is that Michael has incarnated himself as a human being, to find out how the life of humans feels.
Here on Earth Michael grows up in a human family, with a father who is a school master and who teaches him the basic facts of praying and hunting, whereas his mother sings, laughs, dances and teaches him the names of the celestial bodies. It is no secret (Stockhausen reveals this himself) that much of the hard facts of the circumstances are deduced from Stockhausen’s own life, which is also plain to see from the summarized description above.

In
Act II, after his rendezvous with the star-girl Mondeva (Moon-Eve) and after having passed a musical examina, Michael tours the world with his trumpet. The act is titled “Michael’s Journey Around the Earth”. On stage there is a huge globe rotating slowly. Michael appears in different windows in the globe, playing music that takes on the characteristics of the various places, like for instance India, Africa, Bali, Europe, Japan.

In
Act III – “Michael’s Return Home” (“Michaels Heimkehr”) – Michael has retreated back to his home amongst the stars, in his purely spiritual domain, bringing back with him his human experiences, just like the Christ of the Bible. At the end of the Act, in a part called “Vision”, all that Michael has experienced is mirrored above him, somewhat like we all are supposed to see our whole lives in a flash when we die, having it evaluated with a guiding spirit, according to the Tibetan Book of the Dead.

The opera concludes with a “
Thursday Farewell”, performed by five trumpeters spaced at suiting locations around the premises, playing single melodic limbs from the Michael formula. Everything recedes into itself. A magnificent cross-legged rest of the Creation, which slowly dissolves into the sounds of the environment and the movement of Time, falls like gentle precipitation all around and in the minds of the listeners, ensuring one and all that the meek shall inherit the Earth…

The characters of “
Michael’s Youth” are Michael (Tenor, Trumpet & Dancer), Eve [as mother and Moon-Eve] (Soprano, Basset-Horn & Dancer), and Lucifer [as father] (Bass, Trombone & Dancer-Mime).
A pianist is accompanying Michael in “
Examination”.
Invisible Choirs weave an atmosphere in which the activity is going on. The texts – too distant to be readily encoded – are sung in Hebrew and German, and originate in the “Ascent of Moses” from the “Apocalypse of Baruch” and from “Leviticus”. A Soft Chord from invisible trumpets, bassett horns and trombones is diffused.

In “
Childhood” (Scene I of Act I; “Michael’s Youth”) Michael is revealed to own singular gifts. He appears to be very talented. He is taught different disciplines by his parents, his mother teaching him vocal arts and dancing, while his father, the school teacher, initiates him in the attitude of praying, to offer himself up in relentless honesty and vulnerability that is hiding nothing from the Deity. His father also teaches Michael to hunt – to shoot and kill the trembling game in the meadow… - and to act in a theatrical setting.
It is a refinement story, in essence – in this particular respect, when lingering on it - akin to the basic content of some of the novels by Herman Hesse. It is also here that the autobiographical influence is particularly obvious. Without having had to construct an imagined setting, Stockhausen has been able - through the enactment of real life circumstances out of his own past – to have the opera ooze and vibrate with the unmistakable closeness of stark reality, in all its manifestations of spirit and matter in a scope of varying resolution.
Further on in
Scene I of Act I the mother goes insane, attempts suicide and is taken to an asylum, where she is being mistreated. The youngest son Herman dies in his father’s arms. The father resorts to alcohol and eventually goes to war.

To be able to follow the different text lines of the participants it is very useful to have a score and a libretto at hand, since the singers ever so often perform simultaneously, much of the time in a three-some, and also as duets, but more rarely in singular presentations.
The interaction of the voices in “
Childhood” is exemplary and very intricate. In his analysis – found at Stockhausen’s homepage – Albrecht Moritz even compares the swirling dance of the voices grinding against each other with the Bach counterpoint of singing voices against instrumental accompaniment.


Markus Stockhausen's leather mute belt,
mutes and trumpet
Mutes, from the left:
wawa mute (above), plunger mute (below),
melo-wah mute (above), cup mute (below),
whisper mute (above), harmon mute (below)

The sonic events that evolve initially, when the Soft Chord is allowed singular expression, have remarkable similarities with parts out of “Sternklang”, but in “Sternklang” these sounds were achieved by synthesizers handling the incoming sounds of the instruments. Here these wobbling, slightly out-of-phase bendings of sound (micro oscillations) - like light around heavy celestial bodies – are controlled by minute, miniscule movements of mutes of the wind instruments, at times creating intervals that are grating and jarring, at other times fondling and caressing your auditory organs. It’s pure, unadulterated sonic poetry out of Stockhausen’s open hand!

It is indeed a staggering vocal simultaneousness that amasses you on entering “
Childhood”. The father/school teacher stands at the blackboard, multiplying numbers, after a while switching over into Roman history. The mother sits on a stool, and Michael leans in front of her on the floor. The mother and Michael utter the names of planets and gods in connection with the days of the week.
Through this blending of family, gods, notion of time and history and a brewing present we are pulled straight into the pulse of life itself with its limitless qualities of wonder and tragedy.
The bass (Lucifer – Father), soprano (Eve – Mother) and tenor (Michael) paint the auditory scenery in their respective tonal colors on the backdrop – hovering all around like the flow of spirit through space – of the mystique of existence itself envisioned by the
Invisible Choirs and the Soft Chord.
The bass singer, i. e. Lucifer – Father, talk-sings, while the soprano portraying Eve – Mother and the tenor enacting Michael sway and swirl with the bass singer-talker as a sonic anchor.

At one staggering moment the bass is displayed in a lonely, slow, relentlessly pounding solo, singing to Eve – Mother, when she, having become increasingly insane, wants to retreat to the attic, where she believes Heaven is:

Eva, wife,
up there is no Heaven,
heaven comes only
after we’ve died…
then we shall be redeemed
.


There is such a grave, sorrowful tone of love and loneliness in this short soloistic part of the bass singer… which anyone who has suffered great loss or a shattered life will recognize.

Like in other works of Stockhausen, sound poetic ingredients are interspersed, wherein the singers utter phonetic progressions, which along with the
Invisible Choirs and the Soft Chord render this music an otherworldly quality, or rather demonstrating the actual otherworldly character of our day-to-day life, are we only a little introspective, a little observant, a little less ignorant.
Like devilish forced thoughts the clicking of tongues from the
Invisible Choirs emerge when the orderlies from the asylum arrive to fetch the mother.


Moon-Eve & Michael
(Suzanne Stephens & Markus Stockhausen)

In “Moon-Eve” (Scene II of Act I of “Thursday from Light”; “Michael’s Youth”), Michael receives a revelation of a creature from the stars, in the appearance of a half-bird, half-woman creature playing a bassett-horn; Moon-Eve, whom Michael falls in love with. On an erotic level he learns how to master her music, while simultaneously his mother is being killed at the hospital while his father dies at war, throwing his life into orphan hood.

Michael talk-sings to Moon-Eve, counting her fingers and toes, and she always replies with her bassett-horn. Simultaneously the father exclaims mottos of war, like “
attack!”, “down with the enemy!” and “protect the loved ones!”. It is very peculiar when you hear, simultaneously, how Michael is trying to get Moon-Eve to answer him at an intelligible tempo, as she is either too fast or much too slow with her bassett horn. In the process he examines the nipples of her bare breasts, pulling at them.
His mother, who has been humming in a motionless posture throughout the scene, is killed at the asylum by an orderly who arrives with a syringe with a lethal fluid.
Of course it is heartening and eerie to know that this in fact happened to Stockhausen’s mother during the Nazi reign.
There is a gliding, shifting, phasing motion of the names that occur, like Sirius – Sirisu and so forth. Everything is shifting from the well known into the unknown and back in a layered, subtle mechanism of a hall or mirrors of drifting lingual morphemes.

Examination” is Scene III of Act I. In this scene Michael is aspiring to gain access to the High School of Music, but in order to be admitted he must take three exams. Eve appears as Soprano – Dancer – Dance-Mime, and Lucifer appears as Bass - Dancer – Dance-Mime, albeit with very changed looks from before, which is why Michael does not recognize them.
In their guises as voices and bodies Eve and Michael constitute a four-person jury, which will examine the knowledge and skill of Michael.

In examination 1 Michael as a singer (tenor) describes his childhood in the role of his mother, accompanied by a piano.
In examination 2 Michael as an instrumentalist (trumpet player) describes his childhood in the role of his father, also accompanied by a piano.
In examination 3 Michael as a dancer describes his youth in his own role as a child, but also appearing as a singer and as a trumpeter, again accompanied by the piano.

The jury is overcome by Michael’s obvious and overstated talent, and exclaims: “
Admitted! Of course admitted!

It is interesting how Michael in these examinations re-enacts, re-lives, his youth through the experiences of his parents and himself as a child, even more so when you carry the knowledge of Stockhausen’s autobiographical truths incorporated in the composition. I’ve never come across anything of the same naked honesty anywhere in contemporary music. “
Donnerstag aus Licht” has got to be unique in this sense of personal openness and honesty, proving the oneness of art and life in the Stockhausen oeuvre. If one does not know this, unfortunate skirmishes with the ignorant media might occur, like the recent accusations from a German newspaper in connection with the dance of Shiva in America; the Armageddon-like demolition of the two exclamation marks of Capitalism on the island of Manhattan (bought from the Americans by European immigrants for worthless beads).

In addition to the regular singing and the regular playing of the trumpet an array of vocal techniques are utilized in “
Examination”.

While a review like this, basically engaging in the CD production of the opera, mostly concentrates on the audible contents, it must be said that this opera should be viewed, if not live – taking into consideration the rare performances – then at least on video, or maybe in the future on DVD. Stockhausen is an expert at mixing down his music onto the two channel audio of the CD, and the music cannot be handled any better than this, but still, an important aspect is lost without the presence in an opera house, so, if possible, get a video or a DVD in addition to this CD box! For instance, in the second examination, when Michael describes his childhood in the role of his father, he comes on stage acting as if biking, turning the trumpet as a wheel. From all the pictures available from performances of “
Thursday from Light” it is apparent that there is a visual magic at work on stage!

Stark feelings are at play as Michael re-enacts the life of his mother, singing phrases like:

Down there is Hell! Up there is Heaven! I want to get into the attic!

Michael mimes moments in the mental hospital, like “attempt to escape”, “caressing Michael”, “undressing”, “being beaten up in the shower”, “being put into strait-jacket”…

Towards the end of the first examination Michael turns to the Jury, stating:

That was my childhood on this Earth
lived through the soul of my Mother…

and a little later:

… as witness of my love for all Man’s children
given by the Son of Light as music
.

Throughout “
Examination” the piano provides meandering, rhythmical progressions and the metal-drop shine characteristic of the instrument. Michael’s playing of the trumpet in the second examination is clear, shiny, brittle – and it is, to be sure, Michael’s signature instrument.
The wall of sound produced by voices and instruments in the third examination is panning from steel to glass, rendering it an impenetrable density, nonetheless allowing for quickly opening windows of opportunity where the light of passage gushes through on radiant rays of bliss. It’s a masterly addressed musical idea that unfolds!

Thereby
Act I of “Thursday from Light” ends, as does CD number 1.


Participants of “Michael’s Youth”:
Michael: Robert Gambill [tenor], Markus Stockhausen [trumpet], Majella Stockhausen (accompanist on piano in "Examination"), Michèle Noiret [dancer].
Eve: Annette Meriweather [soprano], Suzanne Stephens [basset-horn], Elizabeth Clarke [dancer & speaker (speaker in the Jury)]
Lucifer: Matthias Hölle [bass], Mark Tezak [trombone], Alain Louafi [dancer-mime & speaker]
Invisible Choirs: The chorus of the West German Radio (WDR), Cologne, directed by Herbert Schernus in a 16-track recording directed by Stockhausen.
Sound Technicians: Volker Müller & Günther Engels from the WDR, Cologne.


Act II of “Thursday from Light” is called “Michael’s Journey Around the Earth”. It consists of one, long single scene, wherein hardly any human vocal parts are present – except at a few instances where guttural vocal noises are heard -; the whole act being presented instrumentally, but you’ll hear different blowing sounds, often adopted by Stockhausen in his wind music.

The plot of the second act is of course Michael’s journey and subsequent return. A giant globe is placed on stage, revolving around its axes eastwards. At different places in the globe are openings; balconies, where Michael appears, playing his trumpet, instrumentally conversing with the orchestra, which is placed at the south pole of the globe. These openings are identical to the “stations” of the score, and they are Germany, New York, Japan, Bali, India, Central Africa and Jerusalem.
A couple of birdlike creatures, a blend of penguins and swallows, move comically through the orchestra a number of times, playing their clarinets.
As Michael reaches his 6th station – Central Africa – he perceives a basset horn, and signals the reverse movement of the globe, which indeed causes the Earth to turn backwards. At station 7 he hears the basset horn once again, and stops the globe to climb out. At long last he encounters the basset hornist, who is Eve. She is a very attractive and even seductive female being, who takes Michael for a dance, swirling off. As this seductive dance sweeps Michael away, the two clownish birdlike creatures move in, playing a clarinet and a bassett horn respectively, making fun of Michael and Eve, getting into the globe, appearing on a balcony, finally getting into a fight with the trombones.
From the distance extended, lingering sounds from Eve’s bassett horn and Michael’s trumpet are perceived. These sounds increase in volume, eventually filling the space as the light on stage is dimmed and finally completely turned off, as silence spreads its dark wings. In the darkness that has fallen from on high, the trumpet and the bassett horn are elevated in quiet melodies, accompanied by sparse sounds from the orchestra, until the act closes into a gradually slowed down trill.

It is a fantastic feat to write a long act of an opera without vocal parts, but if anyone could do it, it would be Stockhausen, who ever since his first composition included theatrical, visual aspects on his pieces in the scores, confiding in the musicians’ acting capabilities as well as their purely musical skills, probably through this awakening slumbering actors inside his musicians.
This way of presenting
Act II of “Thursday from Light” makes the attending audience immensely aware of the sounds of the instruments and the choreography being carried out on stage. The varying lightings of the stage further the impressions even more. Audiences at performances of this opera are unusually attentive and aware. The music itself, and the way the operatic story is presented, makes for this.
Readers of this text, who are not as yet familiar with this opera, may be led to believe that the music, then, cannot be experienced without an actual opera attendance – but this is in no way so! I’d say that especially the second act, with its musical brilliance, even if the plot is not taken into account, constitutes a wonderful listening experience. The act could be said to be a trumpet concerto, and as the trumpet is Michael’s special instrument, this is very fitting.
It is probably unnecessary to state that the Michael formula is predominant in this part of the opera. Thursday is Michael’s day, and in the second act of “
Thursday from LightMichael’s trumpet resounds in ever so many different musical revelations. He is joined by Eve and Eve’s formula in the basset horn that she plays.

The music is intricate, yet at the same time flowing like a river, like Time, like energy waves through space. Stockhausen masters the act of composing, and his son Markus masters his instrument, the trumpet. The purely musical result is solid, yet transparent, thoughtful, yet powerful, in a golden luster of lush skill. We hear meandering impressionism in the watery reflections of rivers through towns, and we visit smoky jazz clubs of Manhattan where dark faces sweat behind protruding horns of gold, seeping their sounds out onto the dark streets of Harlem – and we’re right in the central European art junctions of latter day art music ensembles, aloof and intellectual. In short, Stockhausen – through Michael – travels the trumpet traditions as well as the globe – and of course every “station” along the way colors the music considerably.


Markus Stockhausen
(Photo: Manfred Melzer)

Markus Stockhausen’s incredible mastery of the trumpet elevates his father’s composition to levels probably not expected even by the Maestro! Markus Stockhausen’s perfection of the nuances of the mutes achieves variations in the microtones of timbres that are glowing with suspended balance and scary passages along knife-edge traverses of intervals with the abyss of the void all around! Magnificent!

Even though Markus Stockhausen’s trumpet playing is very much predominant here, I must also especially mention Suzanne Stephen’s expertise performance on the bassett horn, in inspired spirals of the moment.

Act II of “Thursday from Light” is one of those rare moments in the history of music that somehow makes it all worth while; all the toil and sweat and anxiety of this existence, dissolved in the gaze of the golden Buddha of Markus Stockhausen’s trumpet on the backdrop of this Stockhausenesque fabric of silvery threads, all woven together in an orchestral tapestry of the world, of the Family of Man under the stars, among the stars!


Participants of “Michael’s Journey Around the Earth”:
Markus Stockhausen [trumpet] as
Michael.
Suzanne Stephens [bassett horn] as
Eve.
Alain Damiens [clarinet] as one of the two birdlike, clownish creatures.
Michel Arrignon [basset horn] as the other clownish creature.
Ensemble InterContemporain.
Karlheinz Stockhausen [conductor]


Act II is the sole content of CD 2.


Michael's Return Home
(La Scala, Milan 1981)
(Photo: Lelli & Masotti, Teatro alla Scala)

Act III of “Thursday from Light” is called “Michael’s Return Home”. It is divided into two scenes; “Festival” and “Vision”, occupying one CD each.

The characters of “
Festival”, in addition to Michael, Eve and Lucifer in their three-fold manifestations, are 2 youths playing soprano saxophones, 1 visual artist with 3 compositions of light, 1 old woman, 1 messenger, 5 live chorus groups, 1 orchestra.

The
Invisible Choirs are singing all around. Their four texts are:

1. “Judgment Day” from “the Ascent of Moses”, sung in Hebrew:

Then shall My reign begin
over all My creatures
and then shall be the end of
Satan,
and when he goes, with him will go all sorrow
because
the Lord in Heaven will rise up
from His throne
and the earth tremble
the sun no longer bring forth light,
the points of the moon shatter
and the circuits of the stars be thrown into confusion
and Thou Mankind shall be content
and
God shall raise ye up
.

2. “The End of Time” from “the Apocalypse of Baruch”, sung in German:

In their time
shall appear miraculous things.
They shall see the world
that was first invisible to them.
They shall also see the time
still hidden
when they shall live in the heavens
like the stars
clothed in beauty
as splendid as the light,
as brilliant as the rays of the sun
.

3. “The End of Time” from “the Apocalypse of Baruch”, sung in Hebrew:

Mercy shall fall like balm
and the pains and sighs of affliction vanish from mankind
and joy shall cover all the earth.
The wild animals shall come forth from the forest
and allow themselves to be led by the small children
.

4. “Hymn” from “Leviticus” sung in Hebrew:

The heavens shall rejoice
and the earth exult
and the clouds be glad
and
He shall open the gates of paradise
and cast away the sword
and fears from mankind
and then
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
shall rejoice
and I too shall rejoice
and all the saints will be arrayed in joy
.


Scene I of Act III - “Festival” - is the story of Michael’s ascension in three appearances (tenor, trumpet, dancer) to his spiritual home. Eve welcomes him in her three guises; soprano, bassett horn, dancer - and greets him with a hymn, performed by her, the chorus and the orchestra.

Eve furthermore presents Michael with three gifts; three plants, three compositions of light and a globe of the Earth.
The devil – Lucifer – in the guise of a tap-dancing trombonist, get into a spiritual fight with the good powers of Michael.
Two youngsters playing soprano saxophones steel the show for a while, when they get everybody’s attention.
Lucifer – in a bass singer’s appearance – roars, ridiculing everyone.
When Michael finally asks Lucifer: “
Can’t you – just once – allow us to celebrate a festival in peace?”, Lucifer leaves, sickened.

The immediate feeling – after the very first chords, which cut through the silence like some section out of an Allan Pettersson or a Moishei Vainberg chamber piece from the drafty coldwater flat of Stockholm or the fear stricken Stalin years of Moscow, the music moves into an atmosphere of a timeless kind of mass. I can see the great domes of Europe, including the Kölner Dome, marching through time in pride and mystery, through the shifting miseries of Man; a physical creature which none the less raises his arms in a longing gesture towards the spiritual realm, being, as
the Scriptures determine, “a little lower than angels” – and the Invisible Choirs in Stockhausen’s work also render the music a flavor of salty tea with rancid yak butter from the lofty plateaus of Tibet; in short; the dark and mystical vibrations from the chanting of the Invisible Choirs give off a timeless, unifying scent of right livelihood in a spiritual realm of bliss!

Eve’s welcoming chant is returned by Michael:

Thursday – celebration of the incarnation of Michael:
let us unite our lights
to renew the days of the earth
.

The combination of the
Invisible Choirs on tape – louder in Act III than before – and the live singers (tenor, soprano and bass plus 5 choral groups) plus the 5 orchestral groups, makes for a solid, shiny sphere of intensity which encompasses the listening space of “Festival” in a radiance of spellbinding creativity and balance of the moment, re-created each time one listens to the CD.
The web of sounds that Stockhausen has woven is so intricate, so detailed and yet so unified; over-arching. I believe this skill of his, to have an enormous variation of details move and shine inside an over-arching, all-encompassing gesture of unity, is one of the creative qualities that so clearly distinguishes him from his contemporaries. Sometimes – and certainly in “
Festival” – his music is like sunlight through a castle of ice, the rays fanning out through the prisms of the blocks of ice in the colors of the rainbow, spreading ethereal vibrations of spirit and music throughout the mind of the listener.
The vocal might of “
Festival” focuses the mumbling at the Wailing Wall with the chanting of the monks of Potala, the invocations of the priests of Western churches and the sounds of the millions circling the Kaba of the Saudi peninsula in one Earth-strong ray of spiritual longing, shooting through Time and Space and all the spiritual realms.


Participants of Act III Scene 1; “Festival”:
Michael: Michael Angel [tenor], Markus Stockhausen [trumpet], Michèle Noiret [dancer]
Eve: Annette Meriweather [soprano], Suzanne Stephens [bassett horn], Elizabeth Clarke [dancer]
Lucifer: Matthias Hölle [bass], Mark Tezak [trombone], Alain Louafi [dancer-mime]
Two youths: Hugo Read [soprano saxophone], Simon Stockhausen [soprano saxophone]
Visual artist: Mary Bauermeister [film]
Live chorus: Radio Choir Hilversum. Rehearsals: Robin Gritton
Orchestra: Hilversum Radio Orchestra, Peter Eötvös [conductor]
Invisible Choirs: The chorus of the West German Radio (WDR), Cologne, Herbert Schernus [director]. 16-track recording directed by Stockhausen.
Sound Technicians: Volker Müller & Günther Engels, West German Radio (WDR), Cologne.
Sound projection: Karlheinz Stockhausen.


The fourth and last CD of the “Donnerstag” box from Stockhausen-Verlag contains Scene 2 of Act III and the “Thursday Farewell” (“Michael’s Farewell”).
Scene 2 of Act III is called “Vision” and is scored for tenor, trumpet, dancer, electric organ, magnetic tape and shadow play.

Michael is present in three apparitions; voice, trumpet, dancer. Let me quote from the booklet:

Michael […]
turns to the audience. The tenor sings the Michael formula on E flat stretched over the entire duration of VISION. The trumpeter begins with the Lucifer formula in staccato, into which, at each new pitch of the tenor, he inserts one more pitch of the Michael formula as a held note during the process of 15 cyclical transpositions, until it is complete. The dancer connects the two with a series of gestures which illustrate the spirit of the notes and words: left hand and left arm go with the tenor who stands behind him on the left, right hand and right arm go with the trumpeter who stands behind him on the right.”

Michael, turning to the audience, sings:

Lucifer, the most noble among the angels,
rebelled when Man was created.
He put on the disguise of the serpent
and took part in creation himself.

For a universal era
Gabriel
has bound the dragon
Lucifer in chains
along with all the leaders of the rebels
and banished his minister
Satan
to the center of the earth.

Since that time the sons of light have struggled
against the sons of darkness.

I – spirit of the spirit of
Michael
became a human.
I wanted to know the meaning of being a human.
I wanted to feel everything that only a human feels.
I have known human suffering, pettiness, foolishness.
I have felt human innocence and joy, happiness
.


7th shadow play

Towards the center of “Vision” the shadow plays take place, wherein Michael visions seven moments out of his life. Michael elaborates on the seven visions, and seven words of his text are illuminated. The initials of those words make up the name Michael:

I experienced the Melodies of CHILDHOOD with mother and father
Intensity of love through MOON-EVE
Chromaticism of the soul during EXAMINATION
Harmony of the languages on the JOURNEY AROUND THE EARTH
Audiogrammar of the emotions in CRUCIFIXION
Ecstasy of polyphony in the ASCENSION
the
Light of the resurrection at the RETURN HOME.

Finally Michael addresses the audience as a tenor, with the trumpet underlining and contouring the singing, sometimes in a complete shadow play of the voice, appearing in the exact same line of melody, achieving what otherwise usually is obtainable only by means of electronic treatment:

Lucifer, prince of light
never wanted that an angel lower himself.
That one of his brothers – especially not a direct son of
God
should be incarnated in a dark human body.
Lucifer despises the world of humans:
that is why
Lucifer causes problems.

And yet I became a human,
for one world day,
to live in ignorance
- only suspecting what an angel is,
a creator angel
a deity
God of the universes –

as child born from a human mother’s womb
to grow, learn, aspire
childlike to invent games with sounds
which, even in human form, can still move the souls of angels:
that is the meaning of
Thursday from Light.

I became a Human
to see myself and
God the Father
as a human Vision,
to bring celestial music to humans
and human music to celestial beings,
so that Man may listen to
God
and
God may hear his children.

And I know that many of you will ridicule me
when I sing to you:
I am immortally enamoured of the humans,
of this earth and her children –
in spite of
Satan
in spite of all…


The intimacy and timbre of emotion is radically closer in “
Vision” than in any other part of “Thursday from Light”. The singing is softer – at times very soft, on the verge of having somebody leaning towards you in confidence with his mouth to your ear, revealing mysterious tidings. The music – for example the trumpet – is in accordance with this, caressing and fondling in character, swirling in and out of the verbal phrases, lifting the morphemes of speech and song as in the shape of a lotus flower, careful as the hand of God, which is a soft summer’s evening… and the bleak light whispers at your window…

The instrumentation of tenor, trumpet, electric organ and magnetic tape makes “
Vision” a piece that stands out as an unusually clearly contoured and etched event, almost surrealistic in appearance, like had you a pair of compasses out of a youngster’s geometry toolbox walking about like stilt walkers across the score, drawing somnambular circles and semi circles of perfection, into which the music organizes itself in a perfect order of things, the way the solar system and the galaxy rests in a perfection of necessity, thereby confirming itself.

Markus Stockhausen’s playing of the trumpet is spectacular in its razor edge balance, its clear cut intensity and exact force, nuances inside nuances, timbres inside timbres, light bending around force fields of utter concentration!


“Holy be your works, Michael!”

When the whispers of the tenor are contoured and sharpened by Markus Stockhausen’s trumpet, which emits golden tones in exact parallelisms with the whispers, the music balances on the edge of the inconceivable, and I stop the CD in the player and go back and listen once again. It is astonishing. Once again we get to experience one of these truly golden moments of Stockhausen’s music, where he outshines even himself. The beauty and mystery of this tenor-whisper-and-trumpet line of events suddenly elevates the whole experience to higher levels of perception!
Stockhausen is a Japanese master calligrapher in “
Vision”. His music here can only have risen out of an Eastern meditation; a thousand-year-strong resolve released in a laser light focus of creativity, flowering in the present moment!


Participants of Act III Scene 2; “Vision”:
Paul Sperry [tenor], Markus Stockhausen [trumpet], Michèle Noiret [dancer],
Peter Eötvös [hammond organ], plus the interpreters of Act I in the 7 shadow plays.
Frank Lipp [recording supervisor], Günther Kasper [sound engineer], Karlheinz Stockhausen [musical direction].


The last part of “Thursday from Light” is the vibrant and immensely beautiful, shattering “Thursday Farewell”, which is also entitled “Michael’s Farewell”, scored for 5 trumpets. In this recording Markus Stockhausen plays all five parts, which are played back simultaneously, producing a restful but almost eerie web of sounds that weave in and out of each other in a kaleidoscopic manner, sometimes almost blinding you in the intense light of crisscrossing and bulging tonal displays in microtonal divergences between the five recorded trumpet parts, adding to “Thursday Farewell” a northern lights’ friction of minuscule dissonance which seasons the hovering music with the spice of ear-bending attention, leaving you with the sounds inside your mind, colored by Stockhausenesque magic.


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