Stockhausen Edition no. 36
MONTAG aus LICHT
Part 1/8 of the review
Karlheinz Stockhausen MONTAG aus LICHT (MONDAY from LIGHT) (1984 1988); Opera in three acts, a greeting and a farewell for 21 musical performers (14 solo voices, 6 solo instrumentalists, 1 actor), choir, childrens choir, modern orchestra.
Interpreters on this recording:
EVE as three sopranos (Act I): Annette Meriweather [soprano] Donna Sarley [soprano] Jana Mrazova [soprano].
LUCIFER (Act I): Nicholas Isherwood [bass]
LUCIPOLYP (Act I): Nicholas Isherwood [bass] Alain Louafi [actor]
Three sailors (Act I): Helmut Clemens [tenor] Julian Pike [tenor] Alastair Thompson [tenor]
7 boys of the days (Act II): Krisztina Veress [Monday-boy] Menyhert Keri [Tuesday-boy] Eszther Marshalko [Wednesday-boy] Attila Botos [Thursday-boy] Eszther Szabados [Friday-boy] Márta Bénko [Saturday-boy] Gergely Hutás [Sunday-boy]
COEUR de BASSET (Acts II & III): Suzanne Stephens [basset-horn]
Three basset-teases (Act II): Rumi Sota [basset-horn] Nele Langrehr [basset-horn] Kathinka Pasveer [voice]
The PIED PIPER (Act III): Kathinka Pasveer [flute]
Budgerigar as pianist (Act II): Pierre Laurent Aimard [piano]
Electric keyboard instruments (Acts I, II & III): Michael Obst Simon Stockhausen Michael Svoboda
Trombone (Acts I, II & III): Michael Svoboda
Percussion (Acts I, II & III): Andreas Boettger
Invisible choir (Act I): Choir of the West German Radio, Cologne, Karlheinz Stockhausen [cond.] (Choir-tape)
7 animal-boys, 7 Heinzelmännchen (Act I): Children of the Radio Budapest Childrens Choir, Professor János Reményi [choir director], Peter Eötvös [conductor of the recording]
Girls choir (Act II): Girls Choir of Radio Budapest, Karlheinz Stockhausen [cond.]
Children (Act III): Childrens Choir of Radio Budapest
Men and women (Act III): Zaans Cantatekoor, Holland, Jan Pasveer [choir director]
Conductor of the soloists (Act I): Peter Eötvös
Sound projection: Karlheinz Stockhausen
Performers on the tape recordings:
Realization of the 8-track tapes of the choir-tape, sound scenes, Monday Greeting, Monday Farewell: Karlheinz Stockhausen at the West German Radio, Cologne
Monday Greeting: Suzanne Stephens [multiple basset-horn] Simon Stockhausen [electric keyboard instruments]
Monday Farewell: Kathinka Pasveer [piccolo flute, multiple soprano voice] Simon Stockhausen [electric keyboard instruments]
Music, libretto, actions & gestures by Karlheinz Stockhausen
Durations: CD1: 62:00 CD2: 66:55 CD3: 66:00 CD4: 58:07 CD5: 29:00
at WDR Cologne, making the sound scenes
for MONTAG AUS LICHT
(Photo: Clive Barda)
MONTAGS-GRUSS (EVA-GRUSS) (MONDAY GREETING [EVES GREETING])
MONTAGS-GRUSS is scored for multiple basset-horn and electric keyboard instruments.
|Participants of MONTAGS-GRUSS:
Suzanne Stephens [basset-horn]
Simon Stockhausen [electric keyboard instruments]
I am sitting in a fairly large room, loudspeakers at the opposite wall. On the wall itself I have a large picture of the Earth floating in black space. I turn on the CD player and listen to MONTAG AUS LICHT, the first part; MONTAGS-GRUSS (MONDAY GREETING).
With an inhaling breath the opera starts, the whole MONTAGS-GRUSS consisting of multiple basset-horn and electric keyboard instruments.
The music, fascinatingly layered and multi-faceted, glides in ascending and descending glissandi, up and down submerged, slippery marble steps in a world of crystal glass visions and submarine, flowing progressions. There is a predominant, greenish hue and luster in these timbres, the light of day refracted down in bulging, swaying, fluid curtains of photonic motions, causing shadowy figures from another world above the waters to appear in the music, like angelic messages flashing through our minds.
Being in this music is a weightless, suspended sensation of a timeless fluency, a state of mind, a state of affairs far beyond the quarrels and petty worries of daily social life and the struggle for the penny.
The basset-horn and the keyboard instruments appear in many simultaneous layers of different pitches and timbres, different colors and youre flowing through these magnificent submerged transparencies of memories, in an Atlantis of human intentions.
The gradual ascending motion and the subsequent descending motion have you rock back and forth on an incredibly extended swing in a kilometer-wide pendulum which carries you on an incline in a trajectory up through the clouds, when suddenly the sunlight hits hard as you break through the cloud-surface, giving you a vertiginous view across the puffy whipped cream cloudscape of an almost 1960s flower power psychedelic art-scape, until you sink back down on the rebound, through the clouds, swooshing across the topography just above farms and forests at the bottom of the trajectory, until you ease up through the clouds again at the other end of the pendulum and you gasp for air
Like in KATHINKAS GESANG you can also feel yourself forth through your inner circumstances in this music of MONTAGS-GRUSS. This section can be very introspective if your spiritual prerogatives are in order and favorable.
The actual concrete sounds of water places me in a Sargasso Sea of humid fields of ethic waste: a sort of karmic state of gluey, sticky remnants of un-clean dubious walks of life, which youll have to deal with, one way or another, somehow, someday
The slow motion of the music in these watery passages has a slight fragrance of old, distasteful deeds to them, and as usual, the only way to deal with these results of personal character traits is a movement gerade aus; fearless ahead!
The long duration of this MONTAGS-GRUSS pendulum music (circa 34 minutes) gives the music time to affect the listener thoroughly, transforming whatever feelings and tempi that were brought to the listening space into a sympathetic mind-flow with the sound-flow. This music tunes the listener!
At times toward the end the music sounds like an old underwater barrel organ playing by itself in the oceanic expanses.
A very personal association to the blowing noises that appear here and there is one of horses in their stable on the farm in the night of winter, just like I used to hear them when I was a little boy. It was safe, warm, enchanted
At times MONTAGS-GRUSS also reminds me of dreamy reminiscences of the persistent foghorns of maritime seascapes, as I experienced them myself from time spent way out on the remote islands of the archipelago of the Swedish coast of the Baltic Sea, ringing birds an enchanted September of many years ago. The Japanese nets were pregnant with invading Finnish owls of the Aegolius funereus race (Tengmalms owl or Boreal owl) - exceedingly beautiful - and as I made my nocturnal rounds around the dark island in the mist, searching and emptying the nets, the foghorn of the lighthouse Gustaf Dahlén, 10 kilometers due east of my position, would sound, eerie and dark across the waters, while the owls would gaze at me with wide-open, blinking eyes, clicking their beaks loudly. I was at one with the mysteries of nature and the universe, with my brothers and sisters the owls and the stars up above. MONTAGS-GRUSS brings up these reminiscent visions of one of my finest experiences, from the chest of treasured moments of this life.
It is not by chance that the opera opens up in a watery shimmer. MONTAG AUS LICHT is EVEs day, like DONNERSTAG AUS LICHT is MICHAELs day and SAMSTAG AUS LICHT LUCIFERs day. MONTAG is a musical homage to the Mother, and therefore also of course a recognition and awareness of, as well as a celebration of, Birth and Rebirth; the one that is going on all the time and always, but also one that concerns the renewing of Humanity into a nobler kind. As always in Stockhausens works, there are many levels at play simultaneously, and it is in fact possible to choose the level of abstraction you prefer at any given time, and also to sharpen and refine the act of listening, traveling further into this magic opera. MONTAG AUS LICHT is, by virtue of its theme of birth and rebirth, connected with the different aspects of water: sea rain hail ice steam distilled water watered earth verdant grass vitreous water sculptures clouds, in a typical gesture of Stockhausen to somehow encompass each and every aspect of a given theme or idea, in an almost scientific way. In my imagination I can see the composer in a laboratory of music with charts of the fundamental elements of sound in front of him and maybe this is more accurate than one might think, if one considers Stockhausens findings in the early 1950s days of the WDR Electronic Music Studio in Cologne, when his investigations took him down into the basic elements of sound, as an understanding of the nature of sound rose in his mind as a gift from on high! I dont think this attitude of basic research has ever left Stockhausen since then. I can feel this investigative, revelatory ingredient throughout his grand oeuvre, up to the works of this very day. Stockhausen is a master of the arts with the mind of a dedicated scientist and the stubbornness and endurance of an Olympic sportsman!
A staging of the opera also visually opens in a fluid, watery atmosphere, as Stockhausen explains in the CD booklet (actually the size of a book with its 202 pages and its many beautiful pictures from the rehearsals and the staged world première of MONTAG AUS LICHT at Teatro alla Scala in 1988!):
On entering the theater foyer, one has the impression of being underwater. Everything is bathed in greenish waves in which the rays of the sun are refracted, bent and mirrored. Basset-horn music is heard muted, many-layered, unbelievably stretched-out, reaching the lowest depths and from time to time the splashing and rushing of water. In the waves, a life-size womans figure with basset-horn can be discerned, and around the perimeter there are eleven more photographs of this basset-horn player in various playing positions: 12 playing poses, like the 12 pitches of the mirrored EVE formula.
The wonderful MONTAGS-GRUSS introduced the last night of concerts in Kürten at the Stockhausen Courses 2001. There was magic in action in the Sülztalhalle!
EVAs ERSTGEBURT (EVES FIRST BIRTHGIVING)
Act 1 of MONTAG AUS LICHT then commences. It is called EVAs ERSTGEBURT (EVES FIRST BIRTH-GIVING), and it is a mighty act in excess of 94 minutes, scored for 3 sopranos, 3 tenors, 1 bass, 1 actor / choir (tape), 21 women actors, childrens choir (7 soprano and 7 alto voices), modern orchestra / conductor, sound projectionist - in a sequence of 6 scenes:
1. IN HOFFNUNG (EXPECTING)
2. HEINZELMÄNNCHEN (GOBLINS)
3. GEBURTS-ARIEN (BIRTH ARIAS) (first and second)
4. KNABEN-GESCHREI (BOYS HULLABALOO)
5. LUZIFERs ZORN (LUCIFERS FURY)
6. DAS GROSSE GEWEINE (THE GREAT WEEPING)
Modern orchestra here means numerous synthesizers and samplers; diverse percussion with mechanical and electronic sound sources; multi-track tapes with pre-recorded instrumental and vocal ensembles and sound-scenes (montages of acoustical events from all areas of life).
|Participants of EVA's ERSTGEBURT:
Eve as three sopranos: Annette Meriweather Donna Sarley Jana Mrazova [sopranos]
LUCIFER: Nicholas Isherwood [bass]
LUCIPOLYP: Nicholas Isherwood [bass] Alain Louafi [actor]
Three sailors: Helmut Clemens Julian Pike Alastair Thompson [tenors]
Electric keyboard instruments: Michael Obst Simon Stockhausen Michael Svoboda
Trombone: Michael Svoboda
Percussion: Andreas Boettger
7 animal-boys: Children of Radio Budapest
7 Heinzelmännchen: Childrens Choir (choir director: Prof. János Reményi; conductor of the recording: Peter Eötvös)
Conductor of the soloists: Peter Eötvös
Sound projection: Karlheinz Stockhausen
IN HOFFNUNG (EXPECTING) (ACT I scene 1)
In summation, Act 1, scene 1 is staged as follows, as roughly quoted and summarized from Stockhausens extensive booklet text [though a CD review by its very nature deals mostly with the recording, and thus the sounds without the benefit of the visual properties of the actual staging, I will include quite extensive descriptions of the goings-on on stage throughout this review text, since they are crucial to contextual understanding, and also so original and Stockhausenesque that I wouldnt want the reader to miss out on them completely. In addition, I hope the included pictures will help the reader to make more sense out of the theatrical descriptions, which are quoted roughly albeit sometimes somewhat rephrased and summarized (please see the booklet for the original, thorough description!) from the text by Stockhausen]:
(Photo: Lelli & Masotti, Archivio Fotografico, Teatro alla Scala)
The location is a house with several stories, sporting an inner courtyard. Before the spectator a terrace that is halted by a large Venetian blind opens. The lighting is provided by small lamps emitting a dim green light. The basset-horn music of MONTAGS-GRUSS gradually becomes louder. As night falls, but two lamps remain lit.
The blind opens, and one can be indistinctly aware of a sandy beach beyond the portal. A woman is humming.
To the left one senses a tower of sorts, in which a dim, greenish light burns in a pulpit, which looks like the transparent throat of a huge female head. One can see the backs of three naked women standing in the pulpit.
Softly laughing women arrive, faintly visible, in groups and individually, bringing with them containers, pails, cloths, sponges, baskets, ladders etcetera.
The women lean the ladders against the female statue, and fetch water from the sea.
Above the horizon at left a thin crescent of the waxing moon rises. A red-green searchlight is turned on below the pulpit, beaming towards the sea like the light of a lighthouse. The searchlight slowly rotates to the right. The three pulpit women turn with it. The moon rises towards the right.
Women sing and the moon sinks. As the searchlight and the three sopranos in the pulpit turn past the audience, the moon descends below the horizon at right. Then when searchlight and sopranos face left, a slightly larger crescent moon again rises. At this stage one senses that the lighthouse has the contours of a naked womans figure. She sits in the sand on the beach, her back to the terrace, looking out to the sea.
In the meantime the gathered females have begun attending to the woman statue, cleaning and rinsing her, and finally even perfuming her.
The sung texts make it obvious that this is an EVE statue being readied for a celebration of birth, for a veneration of the Mother, of Birth, Motherhood.
At the stage when the moon is at its highest point, the womb of the statue and the sky start glowing. An embryo in its first month of life can be seen in the womb, and simultaneously in a much larger vision in the sky.
The moon rises and sets nine times, waxing each time to finally reach its full state. Simultaneously the fetus in the womb and as an apparition in the sky grows through its nine monthly stages.
Right before the beginning of the second month, the women rush down the ladders, then grab them and hold them off the statue. A few of the women run to the arms and legs and turn the statue slightly to the right, jerkily. The action is taken right before each consecutive month, gradually turning the EVE-statue around, until, at the coming of month nine, the figure sits in profile in relation to the terrace, with legs slightly pulled up. The statue now is revealed as a beautiful and noble woman, who is looking towards her womb.
The music that flows through these 9 periods is heard as 9 cycles, wherein a musical formula grows and takes shape, becoming increasingly more alive.
Some of the lines sung by three sopranos, in an extended, drawn-out manner:
Urd Werdandi Skuld
Lachesis Klotho Atropos
Simultaneously the women sing. Some of their lines are:
Holy be Eve
Mondahak Moonlight (hot is the start of the week)
LUZEVA MONDEVA MICHEVA
Small is the earth,
small is her universe in the infinite number
Tue-hus-dak Mars-light bang bang!
Thank you EVE, for your help
At the first birth and rebirth of man.
We your interpreters
sing and play and dance!
Fri-hi-hi-day Friday Venus-light
hühu temptation LUCIFER EVE
Friday EVEs temptation
All the time through the nine periods the women are progressively more lively, and the ocean more unrested. Day breaks in the ninth period. The light changes from nocturnal hues to morning colors, from permanent blue via cinnabar green, ultramarine violet, permanent violet, purple-violet, magenta to dawn-red.
A cock crows towards the middle of the ninth period. The women rush about, staring at the opening of the sculptures womb. A detonation is set off. The sea and the woman become still. A steam-powered train travels from the right through the apparition in the sky of the embryo that has now grown into a child, still in the womb, fully matured and ready to be born. The train has seven cars with two windows each. Seven pairs of childrens eyes are looking out through the windows, with an astonished expression. As the train that is passing through the heavens disappears into the distance, a far off whistle echoes.
The flood tide begins all of a sudden, the women hurry about their chores again, and a vehement labor pain of tones starts. The moon climbs to its highest passage.
Layers of voices, spread out like angelic or subconscious timbral fields, bulging like giant carpets in a world-wind, elastically extended over long durations, paint the sky with gleaming, glittering grains of morphemes, while the sea rustles beneath, across the curvature of the Earth. These are the central pitches presented in index 2 of CD 1.
The voices then well forth in grain-like trickles as well as in accelerating glissandi-like motions as the scene unfolds. A cock crows at the beginning of most of the consecutive month-sections, shifting its pitch each time, sometimes high-pitched, sometimes growling like a puma, which can be heard clearly if one jumps from month to month with the remote control! Considering all what is happening in this scene, the duration of it seems short, like these nine months of the embryonic development to fetus to child are passing in a dreamlike state of recollection, or perhaps in a ceremonial enactment of the beginning of life.
The cook-sound and some sounds of the sea as well as kissing sounds and other occurrences are integrated in the choral music with the natural sensitive mastery of Stockhausen. I know of no one else who can utilize these concrete sounds which he calls sound scenes as naturally and fluently as Stockhausen and for me this is one of the great joys of his music; this endless variety, again and again proving the unfathomable richness of life, of existence, from the widest, over-arching concepts down to the faintest atomic jitter! This goes right to my heart, and I have benefited greatly from this aspect of his music, which though I consider myself an open-minded and curious person has opened the world for me many times, as if Stockhausen were speaking to me through the music: Look, look and see the splendor of life; the un-ending adventure of existence!
The sound world of EXPECTING appears old, aged, medieval to me, in its magical, symbolic outpour. The choral textures sway and dance like curtains in the wind, or like the Northern Lights across dark winter skies of the northern hemisphere. They feel like slices of alienated time layers of past centuries, who have kept much of their secrets of the soul hidden from latter-day humans. These voices, just their sounding appearances taken into account, rise like spiritual beacons out of a dense and dark age, in a diamond-edged clarity through the shimmering web of sounds in Stockhausens score.
A general impression of EXPECTING along the duration of the scene is one of increasing intensity, increasing unrest, a towering force, a havoc in the making, an amassment of energy, eventually to be unleashed in one grand event of immense meaning and significance, in a formidable, physical, fleshy expression of life.
HEINZELMÄNNCHEN (ACT I scene 2)
The booklet explains the nature of Heinzelmännchen thus:
Heinzelmännchen were the folkloristic nocturnal helpers of the good and industrious citizens of Cologne. No bigger than 4-year-olds, with over-large heads, cunning eyes, knobby noses, long gray beards under wide mouths, very wrinkled faces which betrayed their great age, pot bellies and thin legs, and they wore pointed red hats that made them invisible. Always busy, when they had finished their own work in their homes under Cologne, they would sneak into the homes of deserving humans after midnight and complete their work for them.
(Photo: Lelli & Masotti, Archivio Fotografico, Teatro alla Scala)
When I was biking home late last night, coming out of the dark Scandinavian spruce forest on a descent into some fields, a flock of seagulls (Larus canus) had flown in from the coast to feed on worms on the ground. I faintly saw the white birds spread out on the ground in a pointillist perception in the light from an almost full moon in the chilly spring air, but I was gliding along so silently on my bike that the gulls didnt hear me until I reached them. Then they all flew up, and I found myself right in the middle of a flock of hundreds of sea gulls, fluttering around, calling. It was wonderful, like I was one of the birds myself! The sounds of their calls and the rustling of their wings, plus the white-colored spatial sensation of the birds rising and sinking around me, passing this way and that way above, in front and behind, all the time calling, gave me a sensation, a feeling, similar to what the vocals in HEINZELMÄNNCHEN evoke in me, wherein the voices of the three sopranos flutter up and around like those gulls on the bike-path last night! It is astounding how well these two experiences fit together, the gulls and this Stockhausen piece, the one amplifying the other in a surprising and yet obvious poetic working of the mind, establishing connections and relations where there werent any.
I think this is an example of the intuitive workings of creativity, made aware to me by my constant involvement with the letters and the music and the arts and nature, now and then granting me such revelations as this connection between my impressions of this Stockhausen passage and my sudden placement in the center of a flock of seagulls. These are rewards from layers of the mind which we sometimes involuntarily tap into, when our minds are rinsed from the noise of daily trivia. Im sure these unexpected and surprising yet perfectly logical and poetically scientific creative revelations occur to Stockhausen all the time, and that much of the core fundamentals of his works stem from them and we know for a fact that he has composed certain works TRANS (Stockhausen Edition Volume 19), for example, or MUSIK IM BAUCH (Stockhausen Edition Volume 24) directly from dreams he had while sleeping. A composer like that really is in touch!
In HEINZELMÄNNCHEN scene 2 of Act I of MONTAG aus LICHT - the birth of 7 plus 7 beings is bestowed on the EVE-figure; a Lion-boy, a couple of Swallow-twins, a Horse-lad, a Parrot, a Budgerigar and a Dog, and then finally 7 Heinzelmännchen.
The three sopranos sing these texts over and over, simultaneously, in a joyful and fast way, which opened the analogy for me described above with my visit inside a flock of seagulls.
[: Hahahaleo leo swallows Schwalben leo Mohonday haleo horse
Parrot love-bird rondini horse parrot bird of paradise wau!
Mondays children :]
[: Haleo haleo lion haleo Mondays child
swallows rondini swallows swallows
first birth lion swallows horse
parrot budgerigar wauwau! :]
[: Haleo lion haleo leo Mohonday
swallows swallows rondini horse
parrot budgerigar wau!
Haleo haleo :]
The first birth brings forth a Lion-boy, which falls out of the EVE-statues womb. A lion is heard a Stockhausenesque sound-scene concretion! a man shouts and several detonations are followed by enthusiastic calls. The Lion-boy, just out of the womb, runs forth and accidentally hits a glass jug, which comes crashing down, splintering loudly. The women catch the boy, bring him to the terrace and tend to him.
True to the cyclical wave-shape of this piece, a second tidal wave swells in from the sea, as the music builds up in a second labor pain of tones. Again the women look apprehensively and curiously towards the womb of the statue. The sopranos sing their lines, now a semi-tone higher.
A roller coaster hurries across the sky. A woman jumps forth, blowing a typhoon-horn but once, gazing up at the sky. The Swallow-twins are born and brought to the terrace, tended to by the women.
The scene is repeated as a third tidal wave rolls in and a third labor pain commences, even as the women are still taking care of the first needs of the Swallow-twins.
The sopranos sing their lines continuously, but now two semi-tones higher, and this time around they vary their tempo, slowing it down and speeding it up.
Another vision is projected in the sky; a circus scene with a Try-your-strength-stand, in front of which spectators are gathered. This is when the Horse-lad a boy with a horses head - falls out of the EVE-statues womb. A horse is neighing loudly. The Horse-lad tries to escape, but is caught and held by the women. The Horse-lad tries to resist, kicking and biting, as the fourth tidal wave from the sea gushes in and the strongest labor pain yet kicks in.
The sopranos now sing three semi-tones higher, slowing down considerably before picking up speed again. The vision in the sky is a large concert grand piano flying across the expanse, flapping its lid. A parrot and a small dog are holding on to the lid. A budgerigar is sitting at the place of the pianist. As the roll of a snare drum rises, a fanfare signals the importance of what is to follow. The birth of three consecutive beings take place; a Parrot, a Budgerigar and a Dog. Accordingly, sounds of the newborn are heard, such as the screeching of the parrot, the twittering of the budgerigar and the barking of the little doggy. The three little boys are taken to the edge of the terrace, where they sit on their heels: one boy with a parrots head and feathers, another with the head and the wings of a budgerigar and the third one with the head and the paws of a dog.
The fifth and heaviest tidal wave roars in with the worst labor pains. The wind is picking up and a dark cloud grows in from the right.
A woman calls out in Dutch: My God, am I tired! The rotating light of the lighthouse stops. All concentration is on the womb of the EVE-statue. As rain begins, seven little beings fall out of the womb in rapid succession, rolling and tossing about like balls of yarn. The women grab them and hold them, as thunderclaps distract. A black, ominous figure has entered from the right without having been spotted. The vision in the sky portrays seven grinning Heinzelmännchen side-by-side, bald and bearded.
As the rain ceases, a babys laughter is heard.