Stockhausen Edition no. 36
(MONTAG aus LICHT)
Part 3/8 of the review
Stockhausen conducting a seminar on LICHTER-WASSER
in the Sülztalhalle in Kürten during the
Stockhausen Courses 2001
(Photo: Ingvar Loco Nordin)
KNABEN-GESCHREI (BOYS HULLABALOO) (ACT I scene 4)
This scene with all its numerous actions has got to be the most psychedelic and seriously freaked-out scene in operatic history, dizzying even the most blasé and jaded avant-garde professional out of his self-assured wits!
The scene begins with the roar of the Lion-boy, the voiceless ho of the women, the uncomfortable laughter of a soprano, the smacks of the Swallow-pair, more sounds of the women (ts-ts-ts-ts in a downward pitch-drift) and embarrassed laughter from all the sopranos.
Then a baby cries six times. The women gaze up towards the sky, where a giant cows udder appears; a womans hand pulling a teat!
This is like something out of Dylans Rainy Day Women Nos 12 & 35 or Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again or maybe even more like Ballad of a Thin Man (
and something is happening here, but you dont know what it is; do you, Mr. Jones
A cow moos seven times over, and all the boys shout along. The hand in the heavens pulls the teat seven times, and milk squirts out of it each time.
Fast as lightning the women rush off to the beach carts; 12 of them grabbing one cart each. The other women run off to the boys, sticking milk bottles in their mouths.
A gong beats, and all the boys start crying. The women with carts drive to the boys, and place them in the carts; the Swallow-pair together in one cart, and of course the two grown-together Heinzelmännchen Sack and Sock in one.
At this point the three sopranos call out, in sequence. Formation (in German) Formierung (in German) Formation (in English), like military orders.
The beach carts now proving to be fantasy prams line up in a row. With enthusiasm and decisiveness the women kick off, singing, heading out parallel, left and right and left again, in an uncanny baby carriage ballet! They form two groups of six prams each with the animal children and the Heinzelmännchen.
The sopranos exclaim: Ba-by Bug-gy Boo-gie! which is the sign for a choreographic show to commence, of a kind hitherto not seen on the ballet stages of the world! The six animal-children prams in a large square and the Heinzelmännchen prams in a large triangle begin a pram-dance which races on in a 4:3 rhythm, with a slow beginning but an accelerating continuation. Visually it almost matches the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, when the soldiers march to and fro, crossing each others lines, rotating their bayonet-equipped guns in blinding motions of perfect timings, without ever causing any damage to each other.
The Pram Dance of BOY'S HULLABALOO
during rehearsals at Teatro alla Scala 1988
This is Stockhausen in his best spirits, letting his own humorous wit pass the line well into the surreal absurdities of an operatic slapstick havoc, albeit never loosing it, but, like a trapeze artist, always landing on his feet, keeping the beat; the timing perfect and the effect is astounding, overwhelming, wonderfully fun and theatrically like a sarcastic comment on American song-and-dance shows of the 1940s with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire in an Alice in Wonderland setting
Wow! Keep-on-keeping-on Mr. Stockhausen!
It gets sincerely vocal about here, since an invisible male choir has joined in with the women, and in addition the boys too sing, in animal voices and baby voices, sometimes screaming and shouting.
The sopranos are involved in this illustrious scene too. At the start of the big accelerando, when the prams start moving faster and faster, the sopranos lean far forward, waving to the women. Their platform now rotates in time with the changing position of the pram dance. The sopranos song is polyphonic in the double rhythm 4:3 of the women.
Pram Dance of BOY'S HULLABALOO in 1988
(Photo: Lelli & Masotti, Archivio Fotografico, Teatro alla Scala)
Here are a few samples from the text of this section, wherein the lower voices, the upper voices and the Mens choir sing simultaneously, dispersed in the sounding space, again making it very convenient yes, necessary to have the text in the CD booklet handy when listening, at least the first few times:
3 sopranos, womens choir and children:
Rush, o sea
in my ear:
How EVE did
you beget them
brought by the sea
taken from us by the
turn in circles,
come back again!
Rush, oh sea in my ear:
How did EVE bear seven animal children
and seven Heinzelmännchen?
Ocean, why did you beget them as boys?
Sailors, red carrots ears of corn
Mariner Mahatros Maradé Marée
Sea-EVE Mondeva Micheva Luci Lucefa
Sea-efa Efa Mondeva Lucefa
Ridda per leone Leo,
ridda per le rondini,
cavalluccio pappagalli cagnolino,
sette nani, gnomi
Three sailors brought you by the sea,
scent, fruits, juices and flower bouquets.
Three sailors taken from you by the sea,
takes the sea, takes the ocean
On several occasions the pram dance is stopped for one of the two groups, but not for both at the same time.
At other times the three sopranos interrupt their rotation, exclaiming Out with the bananas! Carrots for the journey huhu _____________ ! and Ears of corn, corn-cob food!
Responding to the bananas exclamation all twelve prams stop. Women bring bananas, peeling them in time with the rhythm of the hummed glissandi, feeding them to the children.
At the carrot exclamation the women with the six Heinzelmännchen prams halt and thrust carrots in the mouths of the goblins.
At the corn call, the prams carrying the animal children stop. The boys are consequently fed.
At this stage the sopranos stop their rotation, lean out and point to the EVE-statue, singing:
Beautiful is EVE,
beautiful is the sea,
fruit and juices
and even much much more
Stockhausen at IRCAM, Paris 1985
(Photo: Guy Vivien)
Here the Gargantuan surrealism of this danse fantastique picks up considerably, as Stockhausen throws all considerations aside and allows every haphazard whim of the composing moment to acquire domiciliary rights in this grand work, in an immediate intuitive application of artistic decisiveness; the composer acting on the impulse but of course, after the rush, evaluating the result and probably making some (minor?) adjustments here and there, though still retaining this wonderful feeling of complete spontaneity of the creative moment! Ah
it feels so good to let a brainstorming catharsis produce a massive result, which can be dealt with a little later, when the sorting out of all those impulses is done.
Well, perhaps these feelings of mine have at least some bearing on how these sections in MONTAG aus LICHT were born.
The prams carrying the animal-children are halted, then pushed back and forth along the shore in a short, uncomfortable stroll (like a comic enactment of scenes on old, turn-of-the century [1800 1900] postcards from summer seaside resorts on the German North sea coast!), until the women line the vehicles up again in a lively and brusque way, to restart their movements, which now pick up energy, speed and intensity.
The woman who drives the pram with the goblin MOCK all of a sudden shouts: Stop! Stop!
Everybody stops, the woman taking care of MOCK gesticulates and points to her Heinzelmännchen, who is crying and appearing uncomfortable. She lifts him out of the carriage and he urinates in the sand, accompanied by the humming of the other boys! Yes! Ive said it before; this is a very mirthful Mr. Stockhausen at the score!
After this pee session a sequence follows which even Professor Stockhausen himself presents in the booklet with some reservations, stating that the action described should be experienced first hand; not read in a programme note (for the events to be fully appreciated in all their drastic slap-stick commedia del arte qualities and ballet mécanique showcases [reviewers phrasings!]):
A young goat bleats and the fanfare of a special radio announcement drones. Confused birds whistle, only to be drowned out by a budgerigar, which attempts whistling the Marseillaise!
The three sopranos are affected by this, inspired to sing: Allons enfants de la Patri_____e!
The women cry: Allons!, while the children calls: Allez!
The woman expeditiously sticks the Heinzelmännchen that urinated into his pram. The women now push their prams in another direction. Each boy makes 3 happy sounds! The pram dance continues in the opposite direction as the children break out in shouting, sighing and cheering exclamations. The pram dance becomes a pram race.
The sopranos rotate to the right, in synchrony with the pram rhythm. After a while they begin to rotate their heads, torsos and forearms in circles. The untie their long hair, let it hang out and play with it.
At this point the women and the prams with the boys reach forbidding speeds, and the women show signs of fatigue.
Here I again quote a sample of the texts sung by the 3 sopranos, the womens choir, the children and the Mens choir. I quote from a few consecutive places in the texts, and it is to be remembered that the lower voices, the upper voices and the Mens choir all sound simultaneously in the opera and on the CD, spatially placed at different places in the sounding space:
among the nice
his little banana
ear of corn?
in the puddle
are the first-
Who wants to
have these whipper-snappers?
Children of distant
cavalluccio little horse
Micheva Moonefa Sea
ears of corn
why begotten just as
how did you
Stockhausen has a way of sometimes inserting quirky little signatures into his compositions as unostentatious, frolicsome pranks, pointing back into the composition, towards its performers, as he has done with Peter Eötvös, Michael Bogdanov [director], Chris Dyer [scenographics] and Mark Thompson [costumes] in the text above.
Stockhausen at rehearsals in Kürten August 2001
(Photo: Ingvar Loco Nordin)
A little later in the scene the singers are 3 sopranos, womens choir and children, plus tenors and basses.
The text is now more cut-up, more fragmented, with recurring repetitious gestures. Everybody sings, now and then gasping for breath:
One line of singings goes:
[: Luci-cat Luci-cat :]
[: Peni-schatz Peni-Scatz :] (5x)
Heinzel-spitz :] (2x)
[: Männi-kit Männi-kit :] (3x)
[: Büble-fitz Büble-fitz :] (2x)
Another line of singing goes:
[: Lu-ci Lu-ci :]
[: Pe-zi Pe-zi :] (5x)
[: Hein-zi Hein-zi :] (2x)
[: Männ-zi Männ-zi :] (3x)
[: Büb-zi Büb-zi :] (2x)
The Tenors and basses go:
[: Lu- ce- va- :] (10x)
[: Sa- mu- dra:] (10x)
(Actually the tenors and basses sing one syllable each, so that the sequence turns out: Lu- Sa- ce- mu- va- dra. The same principle is applied in my last quotes from the songlines of BOYS HULLABALOO):
Lu- ce va
A- di- ti
[: Lu- ci- va :] (2x)
[: O- ce- an :] (2x)
Lu- ci- va
E- fa- de
[: E- fa- de :] (4x)
[: Lu- ci- va :] (4x)
[: O- ze- an :]
[: Lu- ci- de :]
The drivers of the baby carriages become more daring still, overdoing their act by stretching and crouching; they run stiffened, hold on with just one hand, tighten the curves - until they experience an inevitable crash, in which they get all entangled, shouting and screaming and causing a rancid hullabaloo of noise.
At that moment an ice-cream vendor shows up, ringing his bells, calling everybodys attention, circling the lot, yelling: Ice-cream ice-cream fresh ice-cream! (reminding me of that old song I scream, you scream; everybody wants ice-cream!).
Many women and a few boys call for ice cream, and the vendor stops here and there, handing over his cones.
Suddenly a giant otter screams terribly, in a sound that curls your hair. At this everybody stops stiff and turns silent. A chain saw starts up and fells an invisible, large tree, crashing to the ground. A woman exclaims: Rho-don-den-dron!
BOYS HULLABALOO is really an absurd theatre of Stockhausens, worthy the most intricate and mind-blowing traveling theatre company or French rural absinth vaudeville one can imagine, and as the case often is with Stockhausen, this work too this raging scene number 4 from Act I of MONTAG aus LICHT harbors the seeds for innumerable other works of art of different kinds, charged, as it is, with so many potent and original and downright hilarious ideas. This could be a surrealist Salvador Dali / Kurt Schwitters road show, acting out in barnyards and small town squares all over the populated areas of this sphere and surely the spirit of Samuel Beckett would hover over such a road show too, and the Marx Brothers are along for the ride! BOYS HULLABALOO is a mind circus, a ritualized brainstorm!
Stockhausens cut-up sentences in the texts I have quoted above, from his libretto, are pure sound poetry to my eyes and ears, reminding me of aforementioned Kurt Schwitters, but also of Raoul Hausmann, François Dufrêne, Brion Gysin and
why not Jaap Blonk, the true contemporary master of sound poetry - but Stockhausen doesnt sound like the above-mentioned small-talkers; of course not! I can detect an intellectual-cultural lineage through these sound sourcerers... but Stockhausens sound poetry is not fenced in by any sound-poetic traditions, and his sound poetry is truly Stockhausenesque, original, fresh from morphemes of language and from fragments of morphemes of language! .
This sound poetry of Stockhausens, however, has all the characteristics of the idiom as such; the tongue-loosing regression to a sort of primeval expressive state, before and beyond syntaxed language, in the saliva-dripping, pre-conscious verbal state of non-intent, where seeds of morphemes float in a plasma-state of language, where thought remains free of the limiting definitions and discriminations of grammatical language.
Stockhausen reaches this pure sound-poetic atmosphere by de-constructing and re-constructing his words, and by repeating these de- and re-constructions until they loose their attached meaning in the ears of the listener; the words and the morphemes and the letters suddenly liberated, tasting very different in the oral cavities of the speaker!
This is one aspect of Stockhausens focus on language that I havent read much about, but which I think is one important factor among all the other important factors of his art. Hardly any composer is as free as Stockhausen when composing. Sometimes it seems that his freedom of creation is complete and unlimited, and yet he always brings it all back home, in an artistically viable, festive guise! These are the workings of a genius!
The music of BOYS HULLABALOO takes off in an atmosphere of a long, continuously spreading chord, into which sound scenes are introduced. We hear a woman or women in aha-expressions of surprise and jolly expressions of amusement, kissing sounds even stereophonic kissing sounds! humming, an infant crying, cows and other farm animals blurting and then a gong
and so much more
This sound-environment is very dense with all these different sound sources all at once in the score and on the recording, and we may remember or re-read! the plot of the scene as described above.
At this point this sound-scene is a veritable menagerie, a whole McDonald farm, with a moo here and a meow there, and human voices as well! Its ecstatic!
As the singing picks up, it amazes me how transparent and clean the voices come across out of the recording, even though three songlines, three textual progressions, are in motion simultaneously. The passage is exceedingly beautiful, a little dark, a little
frightening but enchanted, spell-binding, when youre sitting back, closing your eyes and just hearing the timbres of the sound, without regard to anything but the sound. You soar and hover!
With the textbook or knowledge of the text it also becomes intriguing in other, intellectual ways, in addition to the feelings of enchantment and age-old myth that the fabric of the sound itself instills in the perceptive listener.
The transparent layers of voices, super-imposed on top of each other, from the deep colors of the male choir to the light nuances of the upper female voices, achieve a peculiar, irresistible forward-moving force.
The peeing sequence is as hilarious in the music as it is in the descriptive text. You hear the child cry, and then the urine splashing and the children humming! Extraordinary! (Index 41 of CD 2)
The following sound-scene, with the swaying radio transmission of the dramatic Tchaikovsky music from 1812, the fragments of the Marseillaise and the twittering birds, is outrageous one of the most unexpectedly magnificent crescendos of any staged musical work!
As a concluding remark on BOYS HULLABALOO I have to volunteer my firm conviction that this scene could and should serve as a lesson of artistic freedom to any artist of any kind who has fallen victim to tradition or convention to the point of boredom and cowardice. Study this piece, read this score, listen to this music and when possible; experience this opera and understand that freedom is always here, always at hand, always ready! Its you, we, who have to make ourselves ready for it! Stockhausen has been ready, and freedom has equipped him with gifts making him fit and suited for such grand stands as MONTAG aus LICHT! There is a valuable lesson to be learned here, and not just for artists who have succumbed to loss of artistic courage, but for anyone who may have reached a dead-end in life. Freedom is right here!
Stockhausen on 12th August 2001 in Kürten with
organizer Dettloff Schwerdtfeger,
presented with a gift from the participants at
the Stockhausen Courses 2001
(Photo: Ingvar Loco Nordin)