Stockhausen Edition no. 36
Part 6/8 of the review

(Photo: Lelli & Masotti, Archivio Fotografico, Teatro alla Scala)

(Act II scene 4)

Scene 4 is a sequence of four situations:



The title of the first part of scene 4 is a play on words. “Cor” is exchanged for “Coeur”, meaning “heart” in French. “Basset” is the French word for “basset-horn”.

(Photo: Lelli & Masotti, Archivio Fotografico, Teatro alla Scala)

The distinct call “Och Eva!” starts the scene, right away followed by the foghorn of a ship.
EVA’s breast begins to glow red-pink, while the rest of her body is silver-green. An opening widens in her chest. The figure called QOEUR de BASSET shows herself with a basset-horn. She is proud, radiant silver-green and decisively erotic. The costume of QOEUR de BASSET makes her look like a big heart with head and extremities. She comes descending slowly down a glass stairway.
The girls with the candles recede and disappear.
Some of the women tend to the boys, cleaning and combing them, dressing them in the fashion and color of their weekday.
All the other women move in slow-motion until the end of
EVE’S SONG, i.e. until the conclusion of the last of the four parts (situations) of scene 4 of Act II. They sometimes freeze in a pose for a long time, but they also melt chunks of ice in the steaming vats.
The women also bring large glass sculptures made to look like greatly enlarged laboratory vessels, such as can be seen in any chemistry or physics laboratory. The steam from the molten ice is fed through transparent hoses to the glass sculptures, wherein the steam cools and condenses into water. (Watch the beautiful transformation of the substance between its three common states; the plasma state unaccounted for, from ice to steam to the center state of water [0° Celsius to 100° Celsius]). This procedure of melting ice and cooling off steam keeps up until the end of the second part (situation) of the scene;

Mchael Obst 1988

The foghorn is panning right and left after the call for EVE, until a sudden percussion; metallic or ceramic, shrill, fills the center of sound with a feeling of thin rods of steel or wind chimes or plate bells.
The synthesizers act up good, in a manner and fashion not unlike Morton Subotnick (“
The Key to Songs” on New Albion Records) or Michael Obst (“Crystal World” on Wergo Schallplatten), and Obst for sure is one of Stockhausen’s synthesizer players in this recording.
A dense, hopscotch synthesizer interplay follows, which is very surprising when one considers the almost purely droning function of synthesizers up till now in the opera.
The group of synthesizers even manages to sound like twelve midnight in a fairytale watchmaker’s shop!
The basset-horn starts playing with the synthesizers in an awkward alliance, bulging and swaying through micro scales, and this almost wretched tonal vinegary holds pure beauty; good medicine, curing venom!


The seven boys, properly dressed up in their individual colors – one boy for each day of the week – are entrusted to QOEUR de BASSET. She arranges them in an ellipse, and starts teaching them their Songs of the Day:

(Photo: Lelli & Masotti, Archivio Fotografico, Teatro alla Scala)

Moon-light (humourosly: hot is the start of the week…)
EVE-day – Birth of the children
tsch_____________Rushing – Courage
Green silver-green – Soprano
Water – Smelling
Ceremony and Magic

Mars-light (comically:) bang bang!
uie! Yelling – Bravery
Red – Trumpet and Trombone
Earth – Tasting
Ideals – Devotion

Mercury-light Peace – Singing
Friendliness (roguish: God willing!)
Yellow – Soprano-Tenor-Basds
Air – Seeing
(overtone glissando:) ha – ä – e – o – i
Harmony – Art

Day of learning – MICHAEL-day
Speaking – Industry (humorous: without industry no reward, you don’t say…)
Blue – Tenor
Ether – Hearing
Love – Wisdom (distant echo:) MICHA – Tromba

Temptation – (voiceless ex – and inhaling:) [: tü hü hü hü hü hü hü hü hü :]
[reviewer’s note: breathing should come in this sequence: ex in ex in ex in ex in ex]
Yodel – Stability
Orange – Basset-horn – Trombone
Flame – Feeling – Touching
Knowledge – Reason

Day of death – LUCIFER-day LUCIFER
Weeping – Fearlessness
Black – Iceblueblack – Bass
Fire – Transformation – Thinking
Mind – Intelligence – Fire-intelligence… gence

Mystical marriage EVE-MICHAEL
Sighing and jubilating – Faithfulness
Gold – Basset-horn – Trumpet
Light – Intuition
Will-power – GOD’s sound HU - SUNDAY

In my text on Volume 32 of the Stockhausen Edition I said this about the version of WOCHENKREIS for basset-horn and synthesizer arranged by Suzanne Stephens and Simon Stockhausen on the basis of the original score from MONTAG AUS LICHT in 1988, provided here for the convenience of the reader, though it may have no definite bearing on the opera, written, as it is (in its visionary parts), as a quick jotting-down of a fleeting atmospheric imagery that rose in myself when listening, just listening:

Simon Stockhausen & Suzanne Stephens
performing a concert version of WOCHENKREIS
in Berlin 1991
(Photo: Karlheinz Stockhausen)

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”.
Here’s 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.

Simon Stockhausen & Peter Eötvös 1988

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…
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 Stockhausen’s 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

Simon Stockhausen & Suzanne Stephens
performing a concert version of WOCHENKREIS
in Berlin 1991
(Photo: Karlheinz Stockhausen)

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 Stockhausen’s 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”!

Michael Svoboda 1988

As I listen to WOCHENKREIS today in its opera-integrated original state, I hear other things still:
A baby cries, and the synthesizers sound like tools of the shamans of distant times; past or future – or in a very distant now, in a very far-off here! It’s
Monday prelude. A cuckoo clock is heard just once. The basset-horn and the synthesizers work a hard interplay, and water is bubbling, rippling.
The boy’s clear singing, the rippling water (or boiling water, perhaps, from the molten ice being heated to steam) and the synthesizers make for a wonderfully lively sound world.
The clear voices of the boys and the magic of these songs take me very far off in time; perhaps to the valleys and mountain-passes of the IcemanÖtzi – who was found after 5500 years on high altitudes on the lofty border of Italy and Switzerland.
There is something childishly wise and freshly ritualistic about these songs of
WOCHENKREIS, placing their spiritual atmosphere (in spite of some obviously current sound-scenes) far beyond and before the rise of modern Europe, in a more pristine state of affairs, more childishly God-near.
Sometimes, like in index 40 of CD C, the dance of synthesizer and basset-horn becomes especially intricate, displaying combinations of grinding and frictioning, bending sounds and rhythmic values seldom encountered, like rare alpine flowers.
A final comment on
WOCHENKREIS has got mention its cleanliness; the total clarity through all the intricate timbral- and rhythmical weaving; a special characteristic of Stockhausen’s music. There is never anything dull or blurred in his art. It may be complicated and intricate, revolutionary and obsessively creative, but the crystal clarity is always present, which is why I often get associations from his music to early spring aspen slopes with clear blue Anemone Hepatica and some remaining snow under a sky of fresh, breezy air. There is only one other artist that has had this healing, freshening effect on me; the Swedish aphorist Vilhelm Ekelund. Stockhausen, Ekelund and clear water to drink! That is nourishment, sustenance through these ages!
… and
Sonntags-Lied 2 (Index 46 of CD C) being especially clear-bubbled, elf-wavy, magic-gleaming; the vibrato-free, clear child voice sing-talking out of a state of the young one’s old wisdom, ever fresh – like the recurrence of violets each year by mossy rocks!


When this part of scene 4 of Act II begins, the steam is dissolving and the women pour the condensed water into transparent watering cans, sprinkling the soil.
QOEUR, surrounded by the boys, multiplies herself. When the boys don’t see it, the right breast of the EVE-statue opens, and a figure called Busi, shaped like a right breast, comes down from EVE’s breast to COEUR with a basset-horn.
Somewhat later a figure called Busa descends similarly from EVE’s left breast, and a figure named Muschi comes out of EVE’s womb. These four EVE-figures – COEUR, Busi, Busa and Muschi – play seductively with the boys, moving about and varying their number.

BASSETTINEN; Kathinka Pasveer, Rumi Sota,
Suzanne Stephens
(Photo: Henning Lohner)

As this goes on, a second – transparent – EVE-figure emerges in 7 stages inside the ellipse that the boys have formed. The figure stands up in a gracious dance pose, looking down at the boys. The figure is gradually composed of illuminated body parts, emerging out of the big EVE-statue; abdomen, feet, breasts, throat, head, womb, legs, arms and hands. Meanwhile, a seated EVE-figure, looking just like the transparent, standing EVE-figure, darkens gradually.

Jerkily the music starts; the basset-horn distinct, persuasive in a brownish tone color, pleasurably rounded. A dog (?) moans, something crashes down and splinters, the dog barks, and the week-boys are all heard, some making mouth-sounds in addition to the talk-singing.
The synthesizers almost sound like harpsichords at times, suddenly flipping me through a time-switch again, into a social gathering on a lawn in a castle garden in the 18th century, perhaps in France a few years before the Revolution in 1789… when the noble were like light-hearted butterflies fluttering about across the well-kept lawns in the geometrically correct gardens… and the boys play, the music plays with them…
When the boys’ voices, the synthesizers and the basset-horn sometimes appear in unison or near-unison, and drifting in and out of that state, the sound is charged with a slightly off timbre, as if torn by inner tension, rendering the sound a slightly alien, venomous fragrance; very exciting; ice and vinegar!
The boys’ voices at times remind me of the boy of
GESANG DER JÜNGLINGE, and I’m sure artistic truths that Stockhausen found back in the 1950s still stand.
His choral mastery – his complete understanding of the vocal tool – is as evident here in
BASSETTINEN as ever. You will not hear voices, choirs – and interplays between voices, choirs – in a splendor and brilliance like this outside of the Stockhausen oeuvre; there is something vividly original to Stockhausen’s vocal approach and realization. It’s sweet as honey and bitter as snake-venom; ice and fire, sunlight through springtime snow flurries… sudden shifting patterns of light across valley floors in the Lapland mountains…


The water fountains that the women inter-connect move about in different configurations, serving the purpose of lawn sprinklers. The women disappear, and a green lawn grows throughout the INITIATION part of the scene.

INITIATION; Kathinka Pasveer, Rumi Sota,
Nele Langrehr, Suzanne Stephens
(Photo: Lelli & Masotti, Archivio Fotografico, Teatro alla Scala)

COEUR and the Basset-teases - Busi, Busa and Muschi – start dancing synchronously. Arms and hands of the EVE-spirit appear, as she moves jerkily through seven poses to the music.
COEUR and the Basset-teases work themselves into a more intense dance around the boys, who get confused and infatuated.
Single nude, transparent women appear in the body of the EVE-apparition, until finally EVE’s whole body is composed of nude women bodies!
Finally COEUR and the Basset-teases lure the boys away, behind the EVE-statue. The EVE-apparition moves with COEUR and the boys behind the statue, and dissolves.
All kinds of erotic sounds are heard from behind the EVE-statue, as a distant thunder rolls in.
One of the boys shouts: “
Turn off the lights!”, and the lights go out… hm… so that is the initiation!

This section opens very lively, with hollers, carousel-swirling synthesizers, a baby’s panned cry, a lamb bleating. The sound grows even denser as almost brutal progressions move in, the voices glued to relentless basset-horns and synthesizers, machete-cutting through the sonic underbrush like expedition-members searching for Dr. Livingstone!
Sounds punch like a boxer hitting the sack, like a Muhammed Ali dancing, jabbing heavy brown punches at the sand-sack!
Birds chirp, and so much is happening in the sound-texture that it is impossible to take it all in at once – but the sound is still clear and transparent (though crowded!) – so a few re-spins will do the sorting-out trick!
In index 56 of CD C it sounds like someone is whetting a scythe, again causing a time-switch to occur, transporting me to the pastoral 1930s of rural Sweden, where my father was cutting the grass with a scythe with the other men at the farm on sunny, warm days of late July, while the women followed with rakes, gathering the grass.
Purring sounds out of the electronics hint at a watery, translucent, sensual atmosphere of a lustful trance, as the light shimmer of girls’ delightful little erotic exclamations are heard, until the synthesizers ease out into… silence!

to part 7 of the review