Stockhausen Edition no. 32
(Musik für Klarinette, Baßklarinette, Bassetthorn)
Karlheinz Stockhausen Musik für Klarinette, Baßklarinette, Bassetthorn; Suzee Stephens spielt 15 Kompositionen (Music for clarinet, bass clarinet, basset-horn; Suzanne Stephens plays 15 compositions):
Laub und Regen for clarinet & viola (1974) Tierkreis for clarinet & piano (1975/81) Libra for bass clarinet & electronic music (1977) In Freundschaft for bassethorn (1977) Tanze Luzefa for basset-horn (1978) Bijou for alto flute, bass clarinet & tape (1978/82) Mondeva for tenor & basset-horn (1978) Mission und Himmelfahrt for trumpet & basset-horn (1978) Xi for basset-horn (1986) Wochenkreis for basset-horn and electronic keyboard instruments (1986/88) Evas Spiegel for basset-horn (1984) Susani for basset-horn (1984) Ypsilon for basset-horn (1989) Sukat for basset-horn & alto flute (1989) Freia for basset-horn (1991)
Participants: Suzanne Stephens [clarinet, bass clarinet, basset-horn] Joachim Krist [viola on Laub und Regen] Majella Stockhausen [piano on Tierkreis] Kathinka Pasveer [alto flute on Bijou and Sukat] Julian Pike [tenor on Mondeva] Markus Stockhausen [trumpet on Mission und Himmelfahrt] Simon Stockhausen [synthesizer on Wochenkreis] Karlheinz Stockhausen [electronic music, sound direction, mix-down]
Stockhausen 32 A - C
Durations: CD1: 70:00, CD2: 75:00, CD3: 75:00.
These three CDs feature Suzanne Stephens [clarinet, bass clarinet, basset-horn] in fifteen compositions.
Suzanne Stephens in "Wochenkreis"
in Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, 1991
(Photo: Karlheinz Stockhausen)
1. A carefully threading clarinet sways forth in brownish garlands of melody, picking up intensity, getting livelier, its hushed color rubbing off on the surroundings in sweeps of full, rounded sound, until eventually it is joined by a scraping, hesitant and hoarse viola, sounding remarkably similar to the Soundings that Vermont fiddler Malcolm Goldstein has diffused since the 1980s.
The brownish, polished clarinet converses with the grating, hoarse viola, like in an unlikely scene of a noble lady stopping on the sidewalk to talk to a drunkard lying in the gutter, bearded and dirty.
The clarinet and the viola take turns, making their opposite individual characteristics very apparent to the listener.
However, their different tones of voice merge into near unison, as they start taking on each others colors, blending into something else, something new that retains some of their own characteristics while simultaneously taking on some shades of the others personality. They reach a common attitude; a bond of sorts
They have agreed on something, and
fallen in love!
That was Laub und Regen (Leaves and Rain), the final duet of Herbstmusik (Autumn Music), wherein Clarina awakens her mate, who lies buried beneath the leaves of fall. He wakes up, grudgingly, as Clarina corrects his hoarse playing, until the twosome harmoniously move away in a spiral motion and disappear.
There are circumstances surrounding Herbstmusik or leading up to it that have been
crucial to Stockhausen and much of his life and music thereafter, making it necessary to recapitulate some of them:
In 1971 Peter Eötvös, Stockhausens assistant at the Studio für Elektronische Musik in Cologne, moved to a farmhouse that Stockhausen found for him in Oeldorf near Kürten. A small number of other musicians moved in, amongst which was Joachim Krist, who plays Laub und Regen with Suzee Stephens on this recording from 1994, as he also did at the premier in 1974. The musicians called themselves the Oeldorf Group, and as such arranged regular Summer Night Music series in a barn close by their farmhouse, where they performed works of their own while also inviting guest musicians.
Joachim Krist & Suzanne Stephens
performing "Laub und Regen"
at Palais des Sports, La Rochelle, 1974
(Photo: Bernard Perrine)
Stockhausen took to the barn to rehearse his new work Herbstmusik in 1974. In this piece Stockhausen wanted to express musically the atmosphere of the rural scenes he had grown accustomed to as a child and youth, like the crackling wood, the rustling of leaves and so forth. As if by pure coincidence (a term I judge meaningless, since I hardly believe there are any real coincidences per se) the fourth participant of Herbstmusik, in addition to Stockhausen, Eötvös and Krist, showed up. It was the American clarinetist Suzanne Stephens who appeared for the first time in Stockhausens life, primarily to partake in one of the Summer Night Music concerts in Oeldorf. Stockhausen promptly wrote a few pieces in which Stephens was to participate. One of them was a duo for clarinet and viola; Laub und Regen.
From that initial meeting an intensified and close friendship and artistic collaboration in full swing till this day grew.
Suzanne Stephens grew up in the U.S.A., Germany and France. Her father was an American officer. She was a full-fledged chamber musician already on arrival in Germany, where she actually came on a Fulbright grant. She had already harvested many awards, such as the 1972 Kranichstein Chamber Music prize at Darmstadt for clarinet and ensemble playing.
2. The second work on the first of the three CDs of Volume 32 is Tierkreis (Zodiac) in a version for clarinet and piano. This piece - being one of the most widely known compositions by Stockhausen - has been performed in numerous versions, one of the most original being one presented by Japanese singer Matsudaira Takashi at the Stockhausen Courses in Kürten 2001. Of course, it was originally written for music boxes; a version that can be heard on Stockhausen Edition Volume 24, which I have commented on in a review elsewhere on these pages, quoted here for convenience:
|Once again this lightheartedness and seriousness simultaneously, this light touch and penetrating gaze; music boxes and the Zodiac! On a backdrop of the brownish-grayish underbrush of yesteryears mouldering leaves in aspen and birch slopes of early spring the scattered, dispersed showers of naked, luminous, blue Anemone Hepatica shine like brittle tones out of the music boxes, and the white pre-summer clouds on high, torn by fresh winds from the sea, drift past, while the thrushes up in the branches signal their territories
your being at rest in the center of itself, in the sounds of the thrushes, of the music boxes and the wind in the crowns of the trees, as you travel your inward spiral to a restful and completely aware center of centers, where your mind hovers over the clear and reflecting pond of your spirit
accompanied by this music box music, wherein crystal prisms slowly circle each other, emitting clusters of many-colored light
revealing the Buddha-nature of enlightenment
Once again I pick up this vague feeling of magic that so rarely spreads like incense
as I listen to the three-fold Aquarius music box melody that opens Tierkreis; maybe because I was born under those stars myself
in the dawning of the age of Aquarius
The origin of Musik im Bauch and Tierkreis, as far as can be traced, goes back to 1967, when Stockhausens daughter Julika was around two years old. Stockhausen explains that all kinds of minute sounds were coming from the little girls insides, and Stockhausen joked with her and said: Julika, you really have music in your belly! The startled little girl looked up in amazement at the thought, finding it so hilarious that she burst into an escalating fit of laughter, which wouldnt stop, almost choking her with shattering laughter, finally worrying the concerned father so much that he crawled to her on the floor, trying to calm her, and when that didnt succeed he tried to break the fit by yelling her name out loud. After Stockhausen carried his daughter to her room did she finally recede from her fit of comic realization, while she kept repeating, between sobs and giggles; Music
(This reminds me of stories Ive heard of children fainting from looking at art with impossible geometry, like some of the paintings by Maurits Cornelis Escher [1898 1972]).
Seven years after the incident with his daughter Julika, Stockhausen woke up from a dream about Musik im Bauch, i.e. a dreamed performance of the dreamed piece, which he jotted down. He explains, though, that many details occurred only after he started to compose, after he had written down the initial notes on the dream.
In the dream three music boxes had been found inside the belly of a birdman, and to further his knowledge about the possibilities of music boxes Stockhausen looked around for expertise, finding it in the Jean Reuge music box factory in Sainte Croix in Switzerland. (He had previous good experience of instrument makers from Switzerland through his dealings with the Paiste Company, which built him his tam-tam for Momente!). He studied the possibilities and limitations of music box composition for a week, and in the process he also discovered that no compositions especially made for music boxes were in existence, but that only arranged fragments of already existing melodies were being adapted for music boxes.
(Again, to make an analogy, one might remember the plight of Conlon Nancarrow [1912 1997] in Mexico, who spent his life composing intricate compositions for the player piano. That had not been done, either, before Nancarrow discovered the inherent possibilities in such an idea.)
At about the same time Stockhausen began to study the Zodiac and the 12 human characters of it more thoroughly, contemplating people he knew who were born during the periods of the different star constellations. As he composed the melodies for each sign of the Zodiac he applied the characteristics of the star signs to the compositions. The succession of the star signs adhere to the months in which they start, which is why they appear as follows:
January 21 February 19
February 20 March 20
March 21 April 21
April 21 May 21
May 21 June 21
June 22 July 23
July 23 August 22
August 23 September 23
September 23 October 22
October 23 November 21
November 22 December 21
December 21 January 20
Music boxes with the melodies can be ordered from Stockhausen-Verlag.
It is the composers intention that each melody of Tierkreis be played at least three times in succession. This applies whether they are heard on music boxes or performed any other way. There are many recordings of Tierkreis around. (Myself, I have a recording with lute on Alice Records ALCD 004 and another one with piano and bassoon on Nosag 042). The melodies can be performed on any melody instrument or chordal instrument, and even sung, and Stockhausen has arranged them for a variety of ensembles. There are versions for high soprano, soprano, alto, tenor, baritone, bass with chordal instrument; a version for octet or chamber orchestra (clarinet, horn, bassoon and strings), which can be performed with soprano and/or bass; a version for clarinet and piano and so on. The versions with voice exist in German, English and Italian, with possible other language versions to come. In Texte zur Musik Volume 4 the descriptive texts on all the characters of the signs of the Zodiac are printed [p. 306 309], and these are the texts used in the vocal versions of the work.
Tierkreis has become one of Stockhausens most widely known and performed works.
There is a special magic in a work that is so short and concentrated, i.e. each melody is very short and concentrated. An entire performance of the whole piece, with each of the 12 melodies appearing three consecutive times lasts about 25 minutes. The value and significance of the melodies, and the concentrated energy that has been focused into each of them, drawing on the inherent characters of the Zodiac star signs and the fine-tuned qualities that have been refined over eons of time, result in a music which is as filled and loaded with energy as the atoms of matter, and weve seen from the procedure of splicing atoms, what kind of energy is inherent in matter. This means that Tierkreis in its apparent carefree expositional flow of melodic events actually holds a series of melodies carefully and meticulously carved out, from the age-old passage of refinements of the knowledge of the Zodiac characters as well as from Stockhausens studies and his finely attuned intuition, which he applied in combination with the sense of the diverse characters of people he knew under the twelve star constellations.
Tierkreis, therefore, is one of the most distinguished and clear-cut pieces Ive ever come across, to be likened to Japanese calligraphy on rice paper, or to the jojk (yoik) of the Saami people of Sapmi (Northern Scandinavia and the North-East corner of Russia) which is a vocal tradition of shamanistic origin of singing people or things; not singing about people and things, but actually singing them.
|To play ZODIAC, it is necessary to make a version. Different ways of working out a version have been stimulated by the composer in numerous lectures with analyses and examples, through publishing the sketches (Texte zur Musik Volume 4) [
] and in correspondence and rehearsals with interpreters. After attending seminars about ZODIAC at the Centre Sirius in Aix-en-Provence (1977), the flutist Christel Stockhausen who performed ZODIAC in a concert there wrote a guide for the working out of a version. This is entitled Stockhausens ZODIAC, Introduction and Instructions for Performance Practice. It is published by the Stockhausen-Verlag and is included in all scores of ZODIAC.
You might not think about the spell-binding and groundbreaking work Sirius as a version of Tierkreis, but the fact is that it in effect is, and as such, as Stockhausen puts it, the most far-reaching realization of Tierkreis, again - as so often with Stockhausen and his organic, life-supporting way of composing - demonstrating the richness of his material, which can be developed indefinitely. A text on Sirius (Stockhausen Edition Volume 26) can be read elsewhere on this site.
Suzanne Stephens & Majella Stockhausen
filming "Examination" at the WDR, Cologne 1990
(Photo: Atelier New Age, Köln)
Suzanne Stephens and Majella Stockhausen worked out their version for clarinet and piano in 1981. They performed it at a concert in The Hague on 18th November 1982, starting, because of the date, with Scorpio, and when they somewhat later recorded this version at the WDR (Westdeutsche Rundfunk), they retained this order of the star-signs.
Their version produces a magnificent contrast between the pointillism of the piano and the sketchy tonal lines of the clarinet. The clarinets lofty motions offer satin and velvet for the coral reef clarity of the piano.
In some of the parts the clarinet of Suzanne Stephens talks softly, as would you at someones sickbed, while at other instances Majella Stockhausen rolls out long, winding beads of gleaming pearls; in fact adorning the distant horizon with these clear deep sea treasures
and you as the listener are immersed in these complementing musical voices, coming together in the refinery of Stockhausens scalpel-sharp accuracies of Tierkreis.
These two instruments work Tierkreis like sun and wind respectively work the appearance of the tall, shiny grass of the savannah, causing a perceptive impression of soft and fast wavy movements across the open landscape
and the feeling this joint effort of Suzanne Stephens and Majella Stockhausen evokes transmits through the network of our nervous system like the minute midnight ripples on Lake Saimaa in Finnish Karelia a June of bliss, in white nights of sensual and erotic sensory notions
Then again, this clarinet/piano version of Tierkreis projects like well oiled, exactly measured and weighed ball bearings in perfect equilibrium, in an astounding grace of musical motion!
3. The last work on CD1 is Libra for bass clarinet & electronic music.
Again we have a reason to look back to Sirius, and consequently to Tierkreis. The main section of Sirius is the Wheel (of the year) with the seasons Aries (spring), Cancer (summer), Libra (fall) and Capricorn (winter). In this setting the bass clarinet represents west, wind (air), friend/beloved, evening, fruit and fall. The melody of Balance of Tierkreis constitutes the main formula out of which Libra (the music of fall) was developed.
In Libra of Sirius the bass clarinet has a dominant role, and consequently Stockhausen arranged a solo version for bass clarinet and electronic music, which he dedicated to Suzanne Stephens; the piece presented here.
Stockhausen describes the emergence and development of Libra:
|This version [Libra for bass clarinet and electronic music] begins already at 10 minutes 14 seconds in CANCER (summer) of the SIRIUS score, with initial announcements of the Balance melody in the bass clarinet. Then it plays a complete and an interrupted Balance melody, followed by a long development with limbs of the Balance melody and unexpected pauses.
Two strophes of the last summer melody VIRGO (the Virgin) are inserted, before the complete Balance melody is gradually formed again out of fragments. The process ends with a large cadenza; the conclusion of the transition from summer to autumn.
This is followed by the autumn proper, a three and four layered polyphonic connection of various forms of the Balance melody with the Ram melody, which dissolves in extended lines. The Balance melody falls out of tempo, suddenly speeds up and slows down, is abruptly confronted twice by the Scorpion melody and explodes in this conflict.
Afterwards the Balance melody collects itself in the low register. The bass clarinet cheerfully plays the Archer melody, alternates its fragments with those of the Balance melody and obviously falls into controversies with mixtures of the Sea Goat and Crab melodies. Then it really fights with the Sea Goat (CAPRICORN), the main melody of winter which intrudes much too early. It momentarily regains its humor in the optimistic Archer melody and shoots down from the shrill register into its cozy Balance region, in which it repeats itself several times, drawn-out and content in rhythm of three and then lets itself be mysteriously blown away in the autumn wind.
Karlheinz Stockhausen & Suzanne Stephens
at the Leipzig train station in May of 1993
(Photo: Kathinka Pasveer)
Ringing, bulging bells of interstellar force fields or of the anonymous pearly drops of dew on a farm fence around the meadow an early rural morn of attentive deer and hopping hares open the purely electronic beginning of Libra for bass clarinet and electronic music. Into this ringing percussive uncertainty the bass clarinet moves in gravitational grace, again producing the striking feeling of a progression of pointillism and curving lines, like in the version of Tierkreis with clarinet and piano which precedes Libra on this CD.
Shortly the bass clarinet and the electronic sounds start appearing in erratic unison, in sudden violent gushes, making the music dramatic, jerky, bouncing, in a wonderfully humorous way. The sense of erratic motion and out-of-control gushes is contradicted by the unison of the acoustic instrument and the electronic sounds, creating a very strange feeling of uncertainty and wonder at a seemingly impossible equilibrium.
This shows Stockhausens complete control of the smallest fractions of sound - rhythm, pitch and timbre - of Libra, as he has the sounds dance before him like a fairytale congregation of magical circus artists and given the spontaneous vision of a circus arena, I can almost see him in the manège with a whip, white horses rushing around him in a circle, sawdust flying around their hooves!
Pauses of intense thoughtfulness or maybe of the charged, frozen attitude of a hunting cat about to jump its prey are interspersed.
The bass clarinet plays a gentle, reassuring melody, as the electronics remain comparably silent, until returning full force in a staggering, forward-falling motion, leaning on the more stable bass clarinet.
Events shift through this rather long work, as you can plainly deduct from Stockhausens own description, quoted above, but a striking quality throughout is the beauty of sound, the sheer magnificence of the electronic music and the glistening sonority of the bass clarinet, shaping a sounding environment in which one likes to dwell long. The brilliance of musical ingenuity in Libra and the corresponding beauty of sound is the refined result of a work arising out of the compositional act of the man that invented electronic music Karlheinz Stockhausen -, in a collaboration with one of the most gifted musicians of our time; Suzanne Stephens.
The piece dissolves into the eerie, cold wind of autumn, and the rest is silence
4. The second CD starts with In Freundschaft (In Friendship) in a version for basset-horn. In Freundschaft has already been featured on Volume 27 of the Stockhausen Edition with Suzanne Stephens on clarinet, and on Volume 28 of the Stockhausen Edition with Kathinka Pasveer on flute.
For convenience my text on In Freundschaft from those earlier volumes is inserted here (with a few minor changes to fit this issue on Volume 32):
In Freundschaft (In Friendship) was in fact composed as a birthday gift for Suzanne Stephens in 1977. It was already from the beginning envisioned as a solo piece for different instruments. On this CD Stephens performs on a basset-horn, but the piece can also be played on bass clarinet, flute, oboe, bassoon, recorder, saxophone, violin, cello, horn & trombone! This makes it as applicable and easily utilized as, for example, Tierkreis, which has also been performed in numerous instrumental versions.
Stockhausen works with three layers in In Freundschaft. He calls his method here horizontal polyphony, and indicates that it requires a special art of listening. This is surely true, but you can also dip into the flow and enjoy without any special preparations. Any set of sensitive ears hooked up to a sensibly sensible brain and mind will open up the world of In Freundschaft to the splendor of Stephens garlands of spiraling basset-horn tones, in waves and vibrations of compressions from the shifting pillar of air inside her instrument.
The special art of listening that you can practice and train, leads to a deepened and furthered act of hearing, though, and is strongly recommended to those who care very much for music and their perception of it - and I suppose you wouldnt read this if you werent one of those! It is rewarding on many levels. As always in Stockhausens music, there are many different levels of possible listening, and like the characters in Herman Hesses novels you can develop a deeper understanding by evolving through level after level. This quality of Stockhausens music, which always inspires to deeper study and more attentive listening, separates it from all other compositional acts that I have come across, and makes his music so much more meaningful, with implications that go well beyond any purely musical border lines that restrain most other composers, making Stockhausens music a universal music, opening up unknown worlds and connecting them in intricate, transparent patterns to our immediate local intellectual, emotional and spiritual neighborhood, in experiences wherein the distant and unknown feels familiar, and the familiar and well-known, on the other hand, strange and wonderful. His music is always, in a way, an educative event; a spiritual refining act. This quality immerses his compositional work, his rehearsals with the musicians - and the minds of those who listen!
The beginning of In Freundschaft exposes the formula for the whole work. The formula has five limbs, separated by pauses.
A trill is developed in the middle register by a gradual accelerando on the last interval of the fifth limb; the minor second. This trill is entrusted the modus operandi of the whole composition.
The Formel the formula enters in three layers, and the circumstance that demands a special art of listening mentioned above is at hand. An alternation between the limbs with a tranquil, soft and high layer, and the limbs with a fast, loud and low layer takes place around the trill segments residing in a middle layer. All pitches relate to this middle layer.
A trained ear, combined with a focused attention, will discover the relations of the layers. The high and low layers are indeed reflections of each other in time and space. A score at hand is very helpful to determine this at the first run-throughs. Stockhausen describes in the CD booklet how the layers move chromatically towards each other in seven stages, exchanging limbs and uniting to form a continuous melody in the same register. At two points the musician breaks out in enthusiastic cadenzas. Stockhausen also says that in some places the tempo is slowed down so much, or a pitch constellation repeated so fast, that it becomes possible to perceive the finest details of the formula, and the beauty of the sound causes one to forget the development for a moment.
Then Stockhausen summarizes the piece in this sentence: Clear differentiation, relation to a common and constant center, exchange, approaching one another, movement of lively ascending elements towards the end of the formula: IN FRIENDSHIP.
A wind instrument like the basset-horn or the clarinet is very closely connected to the body of the performer, of the human being. It works simply as an extension of the person and the personality, and the spirit of the person playing. It is the breath of the player that pours into the instrument, and therefore the active force of that human being, her spirit, is especially apparent, as is also the case with vocal music, with singing. There is an immediacy here, very tender, almost vulnerable, always close-up.
For those especially interested in In Freundschaft I warmly recommend the lecture The Art, to Listen (A Musical Analysis of the Composition IN FRIENDSHIP) which was given by Stockhausen at the University of Mainz on October 25, 1980. The lecture was subsequently printed in German in Texte zur Musik Volume 5, but has now been issued separately in an English translation by John McGuire, available from Stockhausen-Verlag.
5. Tanze Luzefa! (Dance Lucefa!) for basset-horn springs out of Thursday from Light, Act I; Michaels Youth, where a little female dancer comes out of a slit in Michaels mothers (Eves) skirt, dancing and singing:
||LUCEFA dance, dance! Dada dadada dance
for sweet little Michael.
Dance, my little body, dance, my little body.
I love him,
you love him,
he she it loves him
yes he is our lover
Michael, sunny boy,
I am so happy yes!
and so forth.
Tanze Luzefa! was written as a Christmas present for Suzanne Stephens in 1980.
It opens lively, and remains so throughout. The sound moves between the speakers, tracing the movements of the dancing, sparkling little being Luzefa. Its a triumphant, jittery, obnoxious piece of music, played with relaxed ease by Suzanne Stephens, the dedicatee.
Sometimes she handles the valves of the basset-horn in a percussive manner, accompanying herself, and then again the clicking of the valves portrays little Luzefa as she trips hastily along the stage.
Some of the sounds of the recording are actually Stephens stamping her feet, since she has the ability to dance and play simultaneously, which she genially showed in Harlequin early on in her collaboration with Stockhausen.
6. Bijou for alto flute, bass clarinet & tape has Suzanne Stephens [bass clarinet] joined by Kathinka Pasveer on alto flute along with a tape prepared by Stockhausen. Again we have to do with a work that rises out of the immense richness of another work; Thursday from Light, and more specifically from the first scene (Childhood) out of the first act (Michaels Youth), where Michaels mother Eve and father Lucemon sing a duet (Michaels Youth score, bar 188 until the conclusion of the scene).
Invisible Choirs (which can be heard as an individual work on Volume 31 of the Stockhausen Edition) appear at the onset, after which they recede into the distance, from whence they soar in waves.
The bass clarinet and the alto flute commence simultaneously, but then engage in a conversation with each other, as in a friendly chat by the breakfast table. Blowing sounds nasal sounds are heard, and after a while the alto flute breaks out in birdlike trills, while the bass clarinet paints darker colors of restraint and more somber thoughtfulness. Invisible Choirs well forth, gaining strength and presence, until receding into the background again, always rendering the music a strange, or maybe somber, feeling of more serious inclinations.
The gushing sounds of air being blown through nostrils are strong at places, and the mouth-clicking sounds of parts of Invisible Choirs come to their assistance.
Mainly, though, Bijou boils down to a varied and generic duet of the alto flute and the bass clarinet in the beautiful timbres that these anatomy-close instruments are capable of.
Stockhausen indicates that the title of the piece means that Bijou is a jewel, a treasure, from Michaels Youth.
7. Mondeva (Moon-Eve) for tenor & basset-horn is the second scene of Act I (Michaels Youth) of Thursday from Light. The version presented here is the original version written as a birthday present for Suzanne Stephens, whereas Stockhausen developed the work when he composed Michaels Youth for Thursday from Light, adding other vocal and instrumental parts, Invisible Choirs and an instrumental tape. The larger version can be heard on Volume 30 of the Stockhausen Edition.
For convenience I submit the part of my text for Volume 30 that deals with Mondeva:
In Moon-Eve (Scene II of Act I of Thursday from Light; Michaels 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 Stockhausens 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.
While Michael has his encounter with Mondeva, he picks an Iris flower, which he sticks into the bell of her basset-horn. He sings:
||Eve, help me fulfill the mission!
Love in your sensuous, bodily beauty:
Bearer of more beautiful human children.
As Mondeva recedes into the skies Michael wants to follow, but is rejected. Mondeva dissolves, and Michael sings:
||Moon-Eve, you star-woman:
I hold you in my heart,
Michael is awkwardly left standing on the Earth, waving, as he hears the key clattering of her basset-horn disappear.
The soundscape of this recording is very theatrical, vividly portraying the two participants Michael (tenor) and Mondeva (basset-horn) as they appear in your imagination in this music.
Michael (tenor Julian Pike) comes in from the left, merrily whistling, as he encounters Mondeva and asks who she is, after which the whole plot of the work unfolds. Suzanne Stephens amply adds to the traditional sounds of the basset-horn with clicking valve-sounds and so forth.
This little piece is a most delightful fairytale story, surely well fit to be performed by itself as for example a shadow play. Stockhausen also indicates that it indeed can be performed by itself, staged, or as a quasi concert performance, meaning a performance without theatrical scenery, but with all the prescribed movements and gestures.
Suzanne Stephens & Markus Stockhausen
at the Stockhausen Courses in Kürten 2001
(Photo: Ingvar Loco Nordin)
8. Mission und Himmelfahrt (Mission and Ascension) for trumpet & basset-horn is found in Act II (Michaels Journey Round the Earth) of Thursday from Light. The version on this CD the last work on CD 2 of the three CDs of Volume 32 - is the quasi concert performance for trumpet and basset-horn, whereas the original, operatic version from the full-fledged staging of Thursday from Light features a second basset-horn, a clarinet and an orchestra as well. This quasi concert version also leaves out some parts in between Mission and Himmelfahrt, heading directly for the Ascension.
The quasi concert staging goes like this:
Michael (Markus Stockhausen in this recording) enters from left, and sits down at the right end of the stage. He plays a lonesome tune on his trumpet. In a while a basset-horn can be heard in the distance, playing the beginning of the Eve-formula from Light. Michael stiffens, alert, and begins playing in a similar manner, trying to make a connection. The basset-horn gets ever closer and performs the continuation of the Eve-formula. Michael gets on his feet and heads for the source of the basset-horn sound. At that moment a star-maiden (Suzanne Stephens) with a basset-horn appears. As Michael approaches the wondrous star-maiden he bows and plays the ascending fourth of the Michael-formula. The star-maiden picks up and imitates him, and consequently the two players begin learning each others formula. This is done in the most illustrious way, as they sway and dance around each other and finally merge into a brilliant and masterly synchronicity. There is a notion and flair of sensual courtship embedded in the movements and the music, making this part tense and charged with eroticism.
The star-maiden summons Michael to dance away with her, and from afar the long and drawn-out melodies of Michael on trumpet and Eve on basset-horn are heard, sounding together. As darkness falls on the stage the players by virtue of sound alone approach, synchronously playing a loud lamenting sigh
the falling sixth-scale of the Michael-formula.
Then begins the Ascension. The trumpeter now plays the Eve-formula, while the basset-hornist performs the Michael-formula. They soar through the skies, encircling and spiraling each others entities. They start anew, and the trumpet plays the Eve nuclear formula. After indulging in a complicated sequence of duet playing they emerge completely synchronous, slowing down and coming to a standstill.
This bare-stripped, naked version for but two instruments glares and gleams with the force and power of Stockhausens concept as such, holding so much inherent structural strength that Suzanne Stephens and Markus Stockhausen can make every second of the performance exciting! The two soloists reach a blessed state of complete identification, which, through their expertise and head-on accuracy - through their sharpened and heightened intuition and artistic awareness - makes this recorded performance of Mission und Himmelfahrt a gem among gems in the Stockhausen Edition.
At the Stockhausen Courses in Kürten in August of 2001 the participants could experience a wonderful staging of this quasi concert version, featuring Markus Stockhausen on trumpet and Barre Bouman on basset-horn.
Barre Bouman & Markus Stockhausen
performing "Mission und Himmelfahrt"
at the Stockhausen Courses in Kürten 8th August 2001
(Photo: Ingvar Loco Nordin)
9. Xi with microtones was composed in 1986. This version for basset-horn is separate score and includes a realization made by Suzanne Stephens was composed in 1987. Its the first work on CD 3.
The title is Greek, meaning unknown quantity. The beginning is straight out of the playing of a Greek god, no doubt, as the Mediterranea - golden and blue and a warm-breezed call up the contours of the composition inside yourself, inside the listener. The illusoric sensation of a wave-motion, of rising clouds, down-drifts, soaring sea-birds, billowing sea-movements and glary horizons with dark, heavy outlines of passing ships arise from the utilization of microtonal glissandi through-out.
|The MONDAY-segment of the super-formula for LICHT, consisting of three synchronous formulae, is stretched to a melody which jumps from formula to formula, and lasts circa 6 minutes. The dominating character of MONTAG aus LICHT is melody EVE-character and thus also gliding melody, glissando. The connections between the pitches of the three super-imposed formula-segments are prescribed as glissando scales of microtones. The number of micro-steps in each interval differs from instrument to instrument [Xi can be played on any wind instrument having keys or valves, or on a synthesizer having variable micro-scales], and each player must discover for himself in the course of numerous experiments how many intermediary pitches are possible in each micro-tone glissando on his instrument, taking into account the tempo, interval, and individual playing ability.
These are the unknown quantities of an interpretation.
Stockhausen points out that the sense of time and space is lost inside this music as a result of a few main pitches being extended and stretched to about 9 minutes in the version for basset-horn. Another reason for this is the subdivision of the intervals into up to 12 steps within a minor second. Herein rests the glassy foundation of the transparent suspension of this piece.
Stockhausen has also prescribed unusual fingering combinations, which in themselves produce wonderful timbre changes and dynamic shades.
The microtonal glissandi move in meteorite trajectories across the score, or sometimes in clearly terraced motions, as if trickling down a Mayan pyramid, hidden in the greenery of the jungle
and then the music may move in mumbling syllables of the basset-horn, stirring rejected thoughts and intentions that whirl up like autumn leaves in a brisk gust of wind through the park
10. Wochenkreis (Circle of the Week) for basset-horn and electronic keyboard instruments originates in Monday from Light, and more precisely from the scene Evas Lied (Eves Song).
Suzanne Stephens (basset-horn) and Simon Stockhausen (synthesizer) worked out their version, basing it on the original score of the piece. They then rehearsed their version with the composer, until it reached its final apparition.
The basset-horn involves itself in a dialogue with the synthesizer.
For each day of the week Stockhausen has written a Prelude, which is then followed by the Song of the Day, an Interlude and finally a second appearance of the Song.
Heres how Stockhausen explains it:
|In each Prelude, the SONG which follows is sketched out, then the SONG OF THE DAY begins. Characteristic elements of a SONG are pronounced in the Interlude, and in the repetition (SONG 2) the basset-horn plays a pointed reminiscence of the SONG, in which the electronic voices become clearer.
Each song has its own intervals, figures, timbres.
The 7 Songs of the Day form in a long phrase the three-layered musical formula out of which the entire work LIGHT is developed.
With a deep murmur, seasoned with snowy sparkles, the music starts, like a grand opening at the Hall of the Mountain King.
I can see awkwardly long, drawn-out shapes of creatures moving with their giant shadows deep inside the mountain.
The basset-horn player in the foreground steps in bold motions into the depths as the shadows are at play way inside the cave, deep inside the granite, in this tale about something hidden, forgotten, age-old
The sounds of the synthesizer glitter like diamonds along the black walls of the lofty cave, which opens up into a giant, smoky hall where the shadowy creatures slowly swirl about with their shadows, almost but shadows themselves
Simon Stockhausen & Suzanne Stephens
at Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, 1991
(Photo: Karlheinz Stockhausen)
The vibrant ebony pillar of air trembling inside Suzanne Stephens basset-horn generates myriads of similar ebony pillars echoing under the canopy of the mountain hall, rattling and clattering, jingling and jangling, letting beauty and beautiful feelings - loose in these damp quarters
The deep murmuring vibrancy of the synthesizer, which at first appeared in a threatening guise, gradually merges with the feelings of the basset-horn, and some kind of truce of stone, rock, pebbles, sand and the swirling basset-horn beauty is reached, far inside the core of the deep forest mountain, under the moss, far below Time.
Suzanne Stephens yells and clicks her teeth and blows air down her nostrils like an angry kitten or a venomous dragon an impudent mountain intruder but the Mountain King, voicing himself through Simon Stockhausens synthesizer, understands that she is just anxious to retain her dignity and to show some pride, so as not to seem completely done in by this unexpected love affair beneath Rock and Time
Well, this can be one way of fantasizing inside Wochenkreis, inside this precious music, so lively, so full of wit, of whim, of intellectual games and jolly humorous quirks as well as of the deep seriousness that always lives inside all true humor.
The music of Wochenkreis as absolute music is very beautiful, startling, shining in brilliant colors on a tonal backdrop of all the shades of gray and brown. The sounds are gleaming, shining in blue and gold, as well as with all the shades and nuances of the earth colors.
The electronic sounds from Simon Stockhausens synthesizer blend so well with the acoustic bravery of Suzanne Stephens basset-horn beauty. Even though this music does come to an end, for practical reasons, I still feel that I can justly say, quoting the Incredible Stringband: Be glad, for the song has no ending!
11. Evas Spiegel (Eves Mirror) for basset-horn originates in Message, which is a scene of Act III (Eves Magic) from Monday from Light. The original version of Message is scored for basset-horn, alto flute, choir, and modern orchestra. A famous third version of Message is Ave for basset-horn and alto flute.
Stockhausen describes Evas Spiegel thus:
|EVES MIRROR is an inversion of the melody and the dynamics of the EVE-formula. Eve appears as a basset-horn player wearing a silvery, light-green gown. With instrument in playing position she moves to the center of an open place, slowly looks round in a circle, sees her figure reflected in a rear mirror wall and contemplates herself. After pausing, she turns to the front and plays the solo, self-absorbed and with eyes closed.
The first gentle tones seem risen out of a Debussy or Ravel impressionism, but very shortly Stockhausen climbs afore with his scored vocals and nostril gusts interspersed by Suzanne Stephens in the fluency of her basset-horn brilliance.
This is a very short incident, but beauty and elegance and wit! has not to do with time!
12. Susani for basset-horn also originates in Botschaft (Message); Scene I of Act III; Evas Zauber (Eves Magic) of Montag aus Licht (Monday from Light).
|SUSANI is a three-voiced composition for basset-horn.
After a brief, dancing introduction, the first falling figure of the mirrored (inverted) EVE-formula commences in the low register on C (sounding). It is immediately linked to the climbing beginning of the EVE-formula in the middle register, likewise on C, followed by the MICHAEL-formula in the high register. Although the latter begins on an A (sounding), its continuation, however, makes evident that its highest pitch, D, is the initial note of the formula, and thus the first ascending fourth A-D effects an apparent mirror (inversion) by interchanging the pitches (A-D-B-flat instead of D-A-B-flat).
When listening, one should concentrate on the three voices, and in the course of the circa 7 minutes re-compose the three formulas, in the minds eye, out of the fragments in the three registers, and let their different characters and moods evolve into a unified experience.
SUSANI, imaginary child of Earth, clouds and the heavens, is an ancient name for the child who, thanks to EVE, descended to Earth for the Festival of Light. It is also a playful name form of Suzanne, the name of the basset-horn player for whom SUSANI was composed on December 24th 1984, and to whom it is dedicated.
The contour of the fluency harmonizes with the distinct and almost palpable body of the music, of the swaying pillars of ebony basset-horn beauty, with added nostril gusts, click sounds, vocals and toneless wind.
Sometimes the blowing sounds form a mimicry of a storm wind sweeping across the room horses galloping across the Mongolian plains! while at other places the basset-horn paints with a delicate sables hair pencil the outline of figs, dates and a Christmas tree shining with the good will and warmth of family and friends gathered in a mid-winter festivity of human fellowship.
13. Ypsilon for a melody instrument (with micro-tones) - here for basset-horn - was composed by Stockhausen on July 26th and 27th 1989 as a birthday gift (28th July) for Suzanne Stephens.
Ypsilon is a Greek letter symbolically used to indicate variable quantity. Stockhausens composition with the same name from 1989 is scored for a melody instrument with micro-tones. The composition can be performed on any wind instrument that has keys or valves. Stockhausen has given the piece a graphical score in 16 pitches. He has indicated that the intervals between the pitches should be as small as possible but clearly perceivable. That is what he means by variable quantities, since the steps of the intervals depend on the instrument and the player. Ypsilon in a realization for basset-horn was worked out by Suzanne Stephens in 1993. Again the melody is that of the Eve-formula, here starting with the central pitch of Dienstag aus Licht (Tuesday from Light) but stretched to 9 minutes and compressed spatially into approximately a minor third.
The rattling of bells startles at first. The costume of the player is saturated with Indian bells (compare the costume of the birdman Miron of Musik im Bauch!). The clicking of the valves adds another dimension to this fabric of sounds, and the human sounds of kissing, combined with other human vocal sounds, further the impression. Small pauses are inserted into the progression of events, and sometimes the shaking of the Indian bells reign in supremacy. The player achieves this by shivering!
This is one strange piece of music, which easily transports the suggestive listener into alien levels of experience!
Suzanne Stephens & Kathinka Pasveer
performing the world premier of
at the Stockhausen Courses in Kürten 10th August 2001
(Photo: Ingvar Loco Nordin)
14. Sukat for basset-horn & alto flute was written for the breathtaking duo Suzanne Stephens and Kathinka Pasveer; a genuinely genial twosome, whose joint explosive performance of this piece leaves anybody short of breath and full of marvel! I can bear witness, because I saw these extremely gifted and fully matured musicians perform the world premier of Sukat at the peak of their ability at the Stockhausen Courses in Kürten in the evening of 10th August 2001.
It was an amazing performance of an amazing work. The two women appeared in a kind of narrow opening at the back of the stage, in tight dresses, in a specially designed lighting of many colors, and then they began their intense performance, playing like it was a furious outbreak of rock n roll or some medieval Black Death rite of utter joyful desperation. Ive never heard or seen anything quite like this from Stockhausen. He really managed to surprise me with Sukat. Suzanne Stephens with her basset-horn and Kathinka Pasveer with her alto flute and both with their long, natural, beautiful hair conveyed the impression of wild horses snorting and neighing under a starry sky, bowing their heads, waving their manes around, stamping their hooves in a furious expression of freedom!
Suzanne Stephens & Kathinka Pasveer
performing the world premier of
at the Stockhausen Courses in Kürten 10th August 2001
(Photo: Ingvar Loco Nordin)
Stockhausen says about the work:
|For Christmas 1989, on December 21st and 22nd, I wrote a duet for Kathinka Pasveer (alto flute) and Suzanne Stephens (basset-horn) entitled SUKAT.
This begins with a Ringing In of circa 2,5 minutes, during which in 7 large steps the alto flute descends, glissandoing in micro-intervals, from the highest D-flat (sounding A-flat) to slightly more than an octave below. To this, the basset-horn plays 15 irregularly climbing, loudly over-blown tremoli.
In the middle section (four staves), which follows SUKAT proper , the two instruments exchange long, sustained notes (beginning in the alto flute) and climbing tremoli (which begin simultaneously in the basset-horn). The long sustained notes are the inverted TUESDAY-fragment of the MICHAEL-formula of LIGHT. The tremoli notes are the TUESDAY- fragment of the LUCIFER-formula.
Then the two players perform a Ringing Out lasting circa 2 minutes: the alto flute plays a rushing-noise glissando in micro-steps from high G-flat (sounding D-flat) to the highest D-flat (A-flat) with flutter-tongue, and to this the basset-horn plays a descending glissando in micro-steps from high A-flat (sounding D-flat) to low D (sounding G) in 8 zigzagging curves with ritardando. Both make various voice glissandos when inhaling.
SUKAT is performed in an unusual theatrical manner, which is precisely described in the score (including costumes, lighting etc.)
15. Freia for basset-horn is the last entry on the third of the three CDs of this magnificent Stockhausen collection devoted to the mastery of musician Suzanne Stephens.
Stockhausen says about this piece:
|FREIA for basset-horn (and a different version for flute) contains the nuclear formula of Friday from Light three times. Wherever two notes are connected by a diagonal line, the interpreter should play as many micro-pitch steps as possible. The published score includes the original score and a realization by Suzanne Stephens with fingerings.
Aiming your dreams and visions in the direction of Old Norse mythology and fruitful rites of fertility in incantations of survival, Freia lands you amongst old bronze age burial mounds in a summers meadow, where the atmosphere of complete identification with nature and total nature reliance in an almost animistic attitude restores our very much needed respect for the nature of which we are an organic part, indivisible from fern and dragon fly, swallow and birch. Wild pansies and cowslips grow below the rune stones of these basset-horn sceneries. I can feel the fragrance of the meadow flowers rise through my nostrils in the light summer nights and in these sweet fragrances on the wind, and the dizzying closeness of generation upon generation before us, this Stockhausen collection on the three CDs of Volume 32 of the Stockhausen Edition ends with a fading tone that simply extends into nature and continues there, soundlessly