Stockhausen Edition no. 40
DIENSTAG aus LICHT
[Part 4/5 of the review]
Stockhausen at the controls in 2nd INVASION,
Act II of DIENSTAG AUS LICHT commences with 1st AIR-DEFENSE. This is also where the electronic music, which is called OKTOPHONIE (OCTOPHONY), begins. This is released in its pure form, without acoustic instruments or sound scenes, on Volume 41 of the Stockhausen Edition. All the way up to index 50 of CD 2 of DIENSTAG aus LICHT the indexes are identical for DIENSTAG on CD 40 B and OKTOPHONIE on CD 41. This makes it quite easy to compare the two. Since I have different stereo equipment in different rooms, I played DIENSTAGs CD 2 in one room, and OKTOPHONIE in the adjacent room, and placed myself on a chair in the doorway between the two rooms, carefully calibrating the recordings. It was quite interesting to hear how Stockhausen had inserted the opera version additions. I recommend a similar procedure for this, when possible. It is to be noted that the stereo bridge in PIETÀ is omitted on CD 41; the pure electronic OKTOPHONIE.
Those who, like myself, were fortunate enough to be present at the Stockhausen Courses of 2002 in Kürten in Bergisches Land 30 kilometers outside Cologne could hear a realization of OKTOPHONIE the way Stockhausen intended it, as much as the limitations of the Sülztalhalle admitted, with the proper octophonic loudspeaker set-up, a hall in darkness with the exception of the projected moon, on 28th July. It was magic!
Albrecht Moritz (who also publishes Stockhausen reviews at Stockhausens official website) writes in his review of OKTOPHONIE, after having been present on 28th July 2002 in Kürten:
I have heard the composition in 8-channel reproduction at the Stockhausen Courses 2002 in Kürten, Germany, and I can testify that such experience is positively mind-blowing. The movements of sounds not only in horizontal direction but also vertically, up or down, and diagonally, are incredibly fascinating, and the spatial resolution of sounds allows you to listen into the music even more or more easily than in the stereo version. Especially slow, parallel moving sounds can be heard more easily in timbral separation from each other due to their enhanced separation in space. Yet also in its stereo version, as heard on the CD from Stockhausen-Verlag, the work is effective as a musical composition and most compelling.
With a silvery ominousity and a rumbling threat the music starts. A movement in the upper layers appears slowly and soars right to left to right to left, while the dark timbres drone lower down or further away, signaling the gravity of the situation. A crashing sound clashes through the music, and a downward glissando shoots by, only to fall in circular or spiraling motions, spinning ever faster. In the opera, this is an airplane being shot down, crashing, as Stockhausen says; four octaves below!
A plane descends and crashes
The fury goes on, in crackling, spin-off shrapnel of audio, or in bike-bell-ringing emergencies, the rumbling of the ominousity keeping its steady pace of terror and fright, and the nowhere-to-flee sensation that war brings on the population. The drone of the electronic music sometimes seems to slow down a fraction or pitch down some, bending, but Im not sure if this is due to some auditory illusion in connection with the other sounds of the music, or if this is actually happening. I know from listening to the music of, for example Terry Riley or La Monte Young, that music a drone which is rich in timbres and overtones, may appear to move up or down in pitch somewhat or vary in speed, though there is no compositional cause for this; it happens in your head, so to say, and the variations are just the results in the world of phenomena from changes in your listening, which are projected into the music. It also, of course, has to do with where in this richness of timbres that your listening focus happens to be straying, in the manner of a searchlight sweeping across the topography.
In this context I also come to think about the illusions that perceptual impressions may inflict on you in other situations: I was once in November of 1972 riding a car with my compadre Calle Trygg across the desert from Damascus to Baghdad; a fair distance! Because of the almost non-changing environment and the straight road, I sometimes got a sensation of going straight up or straight down, like riding a roller coaster, but worse. (Eventually we got to Baghdad and were put up by a police officer with a semi-automatic in a movie theater, where we slept across the seats. It was 4 AM!)
There is such a feverish intensity held back in this music that it is awesome. It feels, when played loudly or perhaps over earphones, like the overwhelming and unfathomable influx of energy through space, the drone of OKTOPHONIE manifesting the background hiss of the residue of an eventual Big Bang; that shimmering, shivering property of 2 degree Kelvin space that is always at hand, never ceases, always keeps up, in this musical work corresponding to the Rigpa synthesizer layer of JAHRESLAUF. It is a kind of constant providing the given, self-evident backdrop on which the gestures of life/music can operate, move, dance
fight, kill and love
and perhaps (John Lennon and Eve: All we are saying, is give peace a chance!) reconcile
Of course, this music is extremely spatial, and some of it does come through on the two-channel CD recording, though one has to attend a live performance to really get a hang of all the motion.
At CD 2 track 5 the second downing of an airplane takes place, as you feel and hear that falling leaf of a plane in a descending dance towards death and destruction. I can hear how the desperate pilot tries to pick up the plane and level it out it is audible in the way the synthesizer spiraling for a moment stops its descent of destruction and almost levels out, pitch-wise - until the downward spin towards assured oblivion continues without a fragment of hope. At the end of this track the synthesizer pitch rises in a cry of anguish from the pilot, as I envision it.
A plane is hit, and spins towards destruction
Stockhausen pours all kinds of tingling and murmuring war afflictions into the music at this stage, shovel after shovel, dump truck after dump truck of broken wrist watches, hovering doomsday feelings and human debris, spooky legions from a shady and chilly Necropolis reaching out for the dispersing crowds of the living.
Some lighter bird-chirping sounds trickle through the horror the way song birds were still singing in the days of destruction of Sarajevo in the 1990s, only magnifying the sense of a world gone wrong. More explosions, further anguished sweeps of the synthesizers and the 1st INVASION starts.
(Photo: Stefan Müller)
The hectic beginning, in which crashing noises as well as fateful voices can be heard, immediately moves over into a silvery wizardry of conflicting feelings, the murmur of the drone moving back slightly, only to return to closer proximity. Michaels voice is whirling and swirling in short vocal gestures, exclaiming unintelligible spurts of morphemes, yet to be deciphered. Trombones and trumpets clash, diagonalities sharp as icicles or asbestos fragments entangle each other in tepee-shaped battle formations, the vapor of transpiration rising from shiny faces in the smoky dominions of horrendous taboo-breakings and hot blood-flows.
The music is amazingly speedy, moving in cubes and rectangles of sound, shifting faster than the shadows of shreds of clouds on the high plateaus in a storm.
The voices of the two main antagonists lead the forces of fighters in treacherous movements across the sound space, in and out of the sound space, up and down, in a roller-coaster, merry-go-round carnival of death and resistance, of hidden life and obvious destruction; a hide-and-seek of ill and benevolent intentions everything carried to extremes; only the raw powers of will at work, clashing like the waves of the Pacific and the Atlantic at Cape Horn; the albatrosses shrieking on the wind.
At track 32 a serious serenity calms the waves of agitation and aggression, as if the hand of the Great Spirit casts its shadow over the battlefield. Dreamy, gluey flows of synthesizer bliss permeate the veil of sorrow and the post-battle fatigue, as vision after vision is projected on the inside of the eyelids of Michael troops and Lucifer troops, as in a trance. There is nowhere to escape from oneself, and the truth is hard to hear, to see, to feel
to accept. What one sees is what one is. What Lucifer sees I dont know. What Michael sees I dont know
and yet these mighty ones fight their fight in me, in you every day
and when there is some rest there are
on the inside of ones eyelids
and nowhere to go.
In wide orbits around the perimeter the long layered timbres of introverted remorse move, slightly ascending, slightly descending, sharpening its pitches as the score opens the 2nd AIR-DEFENSE.
This section kicks off with a bang and a shattering noise, within which a voice can be detected, filling the rumble of war from inside with a slow, extended counting, with sometimes rrrrrrrooooliiiing Rs, that sound like corrugated sheet metal that the events thud along, violently, like riding a car along a rough gravel road, everything shaking out of place, vision getting blurry, as you half-stand, holding on to the steering wheel in a mad dash.
As the counting stops on eins (one) and the deep rumbling of OKTOPHONIE ceases temporarily, the s of eins is held out (einssssssss) electronically or carried over to the synthesizers, in a sharp, wheezing sound of hiss, and a circling, spiraling motion is sensed inside the timbres surrounding the hiss, leaving you in perceptual doubt as to whether this is moving slow or very fast. Again it has to do with your listening, because it can be either way; slow and grave or madly fast, spinning out of control!
Towards the end of this passage I get a vision of an industrial process, dust and smoke inside a huge hall and giant contours slowly moving in vapor and steam, and I realize that it is an industrially efficient death process at work; a calculated and cold war, where death is to be maximized, efficiently and speedily, like in venomous recollections of the Third Reich.
Another plane is hit and shot down, clearly audible in a downward glissando.
A heavenly soprano voice grows out of the rumbling OCTOPHONIE and the rumbles of war, in a shrill ti-u from on high, in stark contrast to the flesh-consuming acts below
The awkward sounds of synthesizers in short blocks whirl about the space, appearing in all sorts of directions, and whistlings like the dancing upper, second song of a Tuvinian khoomei singer swirl about.
Bottomless pits of raging audio open, out of which all the charged spirits of war fly up like bats, swarming the sound space with shreds and residue of existence, torn up in the fight of these spiritual giants Lucifer and Michael and their troops.
A voice from out of nowhere utters altered, twisted names, revealing the distorted order or things in a universe where GOOD and a little bad feverishly fights BAD and a little good, perspectives twisted and bent under enormous strains:
Ti-us tak from Light
Flight Fright Fight
An exchange of utterances is heard between different voices, as plane after plane is shot down, whirling off towards destruction, while the music is intense and dense, full force ahead. Clear strikes of percussion sound incredibly beautiful inside this maze, and the voices, male and female, continue to appear.
A clear and bright trumpet in a mini-fanfare is followed by a bass voice and a tenor voice and a soprano, and trombones fight for what theyre worth in gluey garlands of gold.
Throughout the 2nd INVASION the battle wells back and forth, as the antagonists apply all their strength, through rocketing, exploding percussion, bright trumpets and elastic trombones. It is fierce, unforgiving.
The music is incredibly inventive, myriads of gestures on the OKTOPHONIE backdrop; an OKTOPHONIE that is receding and approaching under Stockhausens supervision.
At track 50 something happens, someone calls out loud. From the booklet it is evident that it is a trumpeter of the Michael-troops that has been wounded. This happens in the part called CASUALTY. The music thunders on in its OKTOPHONIE guise, while a soaring overtone occurrence softly ascends and descends rapidly in a whistling kind of way, until ceasing into the thundering drone that extends through our hearing in a wrangling manner, like were we traveling fast down an endless pipe, spiraling its circumference on the way down the line.
I think it is valuable to explain exactly what is happening at this stage, as an example of how Stockhausen may work with a scene. I quote Stockhausen from the CD booklet:
A piercing scream [
] tears through the turmoil, and the sound cannons abruptly cease. All music combatants of the LUCIFER-troop retreat to the right side of the bunker, those of the MICHAEL-troop to the left side. On the socket of the bunker a trumpetist is lying, heavily wounded.
A white flag is extended from one of the trumpet bells of the crystal wall. Shortly afterwards, the wall opens. A Red Cross nurse of glass emerges, accompanied by two other glass beings. All those standing around freeze. The woman looks towards the trumpetist, her two escorts carry him to her. His hand is tightly holding his flugelhorn. She sits down on a protruding crystal. The trumpeter is laid across her lap, she supports his head, and inclines her head towards him.
Then his body, standing upright and holding the flugelhorn, appears raised behind the woman, looking down at her. Out of this second body grows a third, ethereal, transparent form of his body, also with flugelhorn, until it is standing around and above him a huge magnification of his human form.
All those watching silently withdraw and disappear, the LUCIFER-troop to the right, the MICHAEL-troop to the left. The womans two escorts can no longer be seen.
(Photo: Andreas Birkigt)
This is where PIETÀ starts. I continue to quote a section of the booklet:
The trumpeter plays a flugelhorn solo. All movements of his etheric body are identical to those of his human body. The woman soon joins in, singing. The two of them play and sing a moving duet in which it is revealed that, in the wounded flugelhorn player, MICHAEL has become visible, and that, in the consoling nurse, EVE has become visible.
These are the words of the soprano [without the sounds that are phonetically reproduced in the booklet]:
MICHAEL-trumpeter has been hit in the heart, wounded.
LUCIFERs trombone invasions.
This life death the Beyond
Earth sleep Heaven
You fight for Heaven.
May love heal your wounds.
Wonderful Son of God
MICHAEL musicel dearest
rest rest rest
sound in my heart
let the man die
await you, Master of Heaven.
GOD, your breath,
gives you new life.
The flugelhorn enters in a deep murmur on a backdrop of a thin, soaring layer of Rigpa synthesizers, but very soon wakes up into flowering gestures, eventually sinking back into the depths of the murmurs momentarily, after which it again rises like a bean stalk up a castle wall. The Rigpa synthesizers are panning, stroking their transparency in wide sweeps across the entire sound space.
Eve begins her singing, entangled in the Michaels flugelhorn playing, and musically the voice and the flugelhorn dance around each other.
At track 55 entry of BRIDGE the playing and singing continues, but now with a growing and very ominous thunder of a drone deep down. Extraneous mouth sounds are heard, and different kinds of Eve vowel sounds, as the instruments play a dangerous game in front of the wall of thunderous rumble that hovers in the background like the shuddering frontline of war.
Eves beautiful soprano voice paints brightly colored signs on the window of war, as the music talks to itself in fright of what is to come
A whistling incident occurs, like an absentminded soul unknowingly walking the trenches of endless battlefields.
As the music reaches track 58, Eves incredibly beautiful voice meanders and flows in serpentines of vocal serenity, in the touching part where she calls on love to heal the wounds of Michael.
The late Annette Meriweather as Eve excels in her brilliance through these sections of DIENSTAG AUS LICHT.
The music vibrates like a spinning top on a rough surface as it moves towards the 3rd INVASION.
With a strong and sudden thud the 3rd INVASION commences, the bass and the tenor (Lucifer and Michael) sing and sing-talk in the noisy and threatening environment of war, planes being hit, tumbling down around them. The troops on either side gather all their spiritual strength to fight one another, and great explosions scatter debris all around, the wall to the Beyond attacked feverishly.
The voices of the two grand spirits lash out in non-speech exclamations, which have the unusual and eerie quality of those extraneous sounds one perhaps makes when exercising hard, biking up a tough hill, lifting something heavy, or perhaps wrestling - or even when one works with something technical, trying hard to put something together.
During these alternate bass and tenor bursts, the music flies and flows around the opponents in intricate, hectic gusts of the two ensembles, like water in a bowl, flowing from side to side as you rock the vessel, or like the sea water gushing in on the car deck of the ship Estonia before it sank with more than 800 people on the Baltic Sea in a September storm of 1994. Indeed there is something of that urgency and sense of doom over this intensely crammed and invasive music of the 3rd INVASION.
At the end of the 3rd INVASION Lucifer laughs maliciously, and the view into the Beyond opens.