Stockhausen Edition no. 47
(HYMNEN - Electronic Music with Orchestra)



Karlheinz StockhausenHYMNEN (Third Region); electronic music with orchestra
The Gürzenich Orchestra, Karlheinz Stockhausen [cond.], Markus Stockhausen [sound projection]

Stockhausen 47. Duration: 64:00




Stockhausen in Kürten 2003
photo and treatment: ingvar loco nordin

Here we come, the Humans!

I often contemplate – force myself, even, to think about – our several layers of simultaneous consciousness:

1. The apparent here and now of “trivia” – of daily chores, cleanliness, sustenance of anatomy, the one foot before the other kind of life that we all lead; the expected politeness towards other people, the stronghold of the codex of social life; the homeblindness of self-evidence (that becomes real strange when we start to observe it)

2. The larger view, the perspective of this close “trivia” in the awareness of the huge “trivia”: our gravitational situation in a thin layer of breathables in the surface of a celestial body, on a planet that moves through space; our dependence on the upholding of nature laws, of cosmic orderliness – though Einstein’s famous remark about God not playing dice may be challenged by quantum physicists and string theorists -; our dependence on the electromagnetic shield protecting our life form from cosmic radiation; our dependence on the big watchdog against stray meteors and other cosmic debris: large looming Jupiter, catching threatening intruders from Deep Space in its vast gravitational net. (There seems to be no end to the precautions taken to save our domestic rock!)

3. Our bottom-line awareness of our situation outside space and time; our spiritual existence; the original existence – which is the core existence, of which the “trivia” existences are mere physical manifestations of a temporal kind; images painted on the face of the void, illusory circumstances appearing and receding, from and back into our spiritual existence – which, in the end, turns out to be our ONLY reality; timeless, spaceless. The rest, though wonderful or terrible, is… trivia.

When I listen to Stockhausen’s
HYMNEN with Orchestra, with all its sounds from around the Earth, for example in various expressions of anthems that are agreed-upon caricature characteristics of peoples, of nations, I feel like Stockhausen is presenting our species to the vast family of extraterrestrial beings that are spread all through the mystery of space (of which we are an integrated part) in a summation through music:

Here we come, the Humans! Or like John Cage had it: “Here comes everybody!”

Let me quote five brief sections of my text on
Stockhausen Edition No. 10: HYMNEN (Electronic & Concrete Music) (1966 – 67) / HYMNEN (Electronic & Concrete Music with Soloists) (1967):


Stockhausen’s intentions – to simplify it – with the composition of HYMNEN, were to incorporate people of all races and nations in a work combining electronics, vocals and instruments, making it a universal piece. In HYMNEN about forty national anthems from the far reaches of the Earth combine forces in four “regions”. Stockhausen wanted to compose new pictures out of known pictures, much the way Jasper Johns did with the Star-Spangled Banner, except that Johns did it with just one original picture, whereas Stockhausen uses many “pictures” (anthems). Stockhausen did not consider the anthems as composed art music, but as something general, commonplace.




Before getting into any details about how this actually comes about, through the extreme labor of Stockhausen, it is interesting to note the effect this piece has on you.
The dreamy, kaleidoscopic pattern that emerges in your brain tissue is a swelling realization of the nations, of the people of the nations, of the human race in all its innumerable and shifting groupings – the actual imprint of Homo Sapiens on a background of space-time, like an occurrence around which light and time bends, the way light (and, according to Einstein; time!) bends around gravitational objects, like stars. Here we sense the collective mind – or consciousness, be it fully aware, sub- or unconscious – revealing its forceful presence through (among many other things) the mystical waves of short-wave transmissions, not only by way of fragmented or clear national anthems, but also through the faint or harsh noises of groups of people and many other iconistic sound objects. The way the sounding objects materialize themselves in this dreamlike sphere of
HYMNEN, they become much more important than they otherwise would seem. In the combinational pattern that Stockhausen lets these sounding objects – filled with meaning even before Stockhausen’s composition; especially concerning the well-known national anthems – appear, where all objects amplify each other, they collect and store importance, like holy places do in our geographic world, such as old churches or other ritual places like Stonehenge or the Maya temples or the mounds at Old Uppsala in Sweden. Here in HYMNEN the loading of importance and force actually builds up to icon-like proportions in sensual dreamy visions of a collective human spirit, speaking many voices that eventually, in your own mind’s summarized conclusion, all appear as one voice, one vision: the voice of Homo Sapiens, the vision of Man!




There are many fairy-tales of trolls and giants and other semi-human beings in our folklore and in our conceptions, and it is my firm belief that all these conceptions are hereditary memories of the Neanderthals, with whom we shared Europe up until at least 38 000 years ago, which is the time that the youngest bones, found in a cave in Brittany, are dated to. This is just a very short time span in the prolonged perspective of ourselves on Earth, so these comrades of a brother human race have just recently left us. I do not know if Stockhausen has had any thoughts along these lines, but I sense – through my own reactions to HYMNEN – that there is a mournful adieu to these extinct fellow men of a neighboring human race in the fabric of HYMNEN, in addition to all these other aspects of the multifaceted music. It is to say that now we are alone – the only human race – and what do we do with our loneliness? Do we even consciously realize our loneliness as a race… or is it just on a subliminal level we feel this?



Man's marks (2007)
photograph and treatment: ingvar loco nordin



It should be underlined that the anthems are so finely interwoven in the overall sound pattern, and treated in so many ways, appearing within or around so many other events - like some spoken parts, a recorded discussion between Stockhausen and David Johnson, breathing sounds, short-wave static, sine-wave sounds, modulated sounds, fragments of a political student demonstration, fractions of other traditional musics besides anthems and so on forever – that they sort of just add the almost subliminal feeling of recognition, right through the maze of sounds, in a perhaps shamanistic, even altruistic, sense.
Even so, some people, for example Maurice Flevret, who attended the premier of the work in Cologne, regarded
HYMNEN as a work of social realism, because there were repeated occurrences of the Internationale in it! This may seem absurd today, but in those revolutionary days of Europe – especially in Germany and France with icons like Daniel Cohn-Bendit and Rudi Dutschke, eventually leading up to the desperate forming of the Red Army Faction (Baader–Meinhof) – a conclusion like that wasn’t that far-fetched. Add to that the unrighteous and absurd Vietnam War, where the land of Coca Cola spread death far and wide with agent orange and napalm for the pure Dinky Toys pleasure of it, and you’ll appreciate the social unrest and the outcry of the young better. The only leader in the West who really spoke out against the American Holocaust in Vietnam was Olof Palme, and since that flaming criticism came right out of the family, it hurt the American administration all the more.




I’m sure many of us have experienced those young years of short-wave browsing, when we sat up all evening in our rooms, into the night, turning the dials of our short-wave and AM receivers, catching glimpses of countries across the oceans, on the other side of the globe, where voices appeared, faded out and reappeared, speaking languages we never heard of. Maybe some of us went further and started DX-ing, i.e. listening to identifiable stations, and reporting to them about the quality of the transmissions, establishing new connections across the globe through letters. In my youth this was true, and I went even one step further, starting to correspond with pen pals, until – when I was 13 - I regularly corresponded with about forty people spread from Korea to Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) to South Africa, Mauritius, New Zealand, Jamaica and Scotland. Eventually I decorated a whole wall of my room in the house way out in the Swedish countryside with envelopes from all over the world. The memory of that wall, as well as the memory of the smell of those old radio sets, stay clear until this day, and I can vividly recall the smell of soldering, as my older brother – a technician – mended broken radios and other equipment. I was 12 – 14 years old, and the years were 1961 – 1963. I had no knowledge of Stockhausen at that time, and not until 1967 – when I was 18 – did a knowledgeable record store assistant – Stefan Rüdén - in the little rural town of Nyköping, Sweden try to sell me a Deutsche Grammophon LP of Gesang der Jünglinge, and that was my first Stockhausen encounter – but Stockhausen was already on the cover of the BeatlesSgt. Pepper, and I went to Israel to work on a kibbutz.



This is, then, Stockhausen’s third version of HYMNEN. For the larger audience – even the one without any real interest in art music – HYMNEN (in the previous two versions) has become THE work by Stockhausen that they know about. It has received status as a cult work in obscure circles, from generation to generation, and even today people talk about Stockhausen as the HYMNEN composer. More people have heard of HYMNEN, even, than Gesang der Jünglinge. A drag, as this restricted knowledge is – demonstrating the one-eyedness and stubborn rejection of development of the greater crowd (like knowing Bob Dylan for Blowin’ In The Wind) –, it may still encourage the few more curious to go on and discover the greater Stockhausen world.

Stockhausen composed this third version –
HYMNEN, Electronic Music with Orchestra – in 1969 on a commission from the New York Philharmonics, to be premiered in 1971 in New York.

This version picks up inside
the Second Region, with African anthems, alternating and mixing with the Russian anthem. A solo section for the orchestra, called Russian Bridge, carries over into the Third Region

Out of the three centers of
the Third Region, the unmixed continuation of the Russian Anthem commences. It’s the only section of this version of HYMNEN completely constructed from electronic sounds, “with the largest harmonic and rhythmic expansion which I had composed until 1966”. Then comes the American (US) anthem as the second center. The final center carries the Spanish anthem.

Think of this said, and think of a big symphonic orchestra, and then also think of “scraps of speech, sounds of crowds, recorded conversations, events from short-wave radio receivers, recordings of public events, demonstrations”. Then you may be able to get an idea of this version of
HYMNEN, though you’d really have to immerse yourself in it to really appreciate the visionary quality of it; the transforming property of it.

Here we come; we’re the Humans!

I happen to be reading a science fiction novel by Sir Fred Hoyle (1915 – 2001) presently (which I happened to find in the basement at work not long ago!), dealing with the concept of time, of reality: of the basis of our perception of Self and World and Existence. It’s strange, sometimes, how various forms of influx merge to cause a greater effect; to focus your attention on something, vastly amplifying the effect thereof, supplying a crash course in whatever is at hand. This happens now to me, as I study Stockhausen’s
HYMNEN (Third Region); electronic music with orchestra in parallel to Fred Hoyle’s October The First Is Too Late (1966). Even the years of creation of the two different works (Stockhausen’s and Hoyle’s) coincide; 1966 – when Hoyle wrote his book and Stockhausen composed the first version of HYMNEN.



In Hoyle’s book strange things occur. Time breaks up, so that the I of the story – a musician speaking of contemporary music in Cologne in the first chapter! – who happens to be in Hawaii with his friend, a quantum theory physicist, gets disturbing news of an attack on the West Coast of the USA. However, when he gets the chance to join his scientist friend in a military flight towards and across California and the rest of the USA, they find that the cities are gone, as is the whole infra structure, but they find no sign of a military attack. The air is completely clear – no smog! – and they find forests and grasslands where you’d expect to find Los Angeles and Bakersfield. Same thing where Chicago used to be; just sparse indications of habitats, trails and so forth, and smoke from campfires. Same on the East Coast. They get short wave transmissions from Britain, which seem to indicate normality, so they go for the long haul across the Atlantic, and reach London, but when they land they find it’s the wrong date, off with about a month, but at least within the right year; 1966. Then they get news of boats landing on the English Channel Coast with soldiers from 1917, in full 1917 gear, and at night they can even hear the bombardment from the Flanders.

Time has broken up in such a way that different parts of the world appear in different time frames, different ages – mixing at the borders of those frame sets. The I of Hoyle’s story and his quantum physicist friend come to the conclusion that they had flown across a USA that existed in its 1700 guise, and that Europe was breaking up in various time frames as well.
Then comes a discussion about the real property of consciousness, in which the physicist argues the idea that the sense of you and I, of I and Thou (as Martin Buber had it) is false, just superficial, and that all consciousnesses are different manifestations of ONE consciousness, and that our sense of time too is false in that sense; that events don’t follow one upon the other in causality, but that all times exist “simultaneously”, and that the illusion of causality is caused by how the beam of consciousness is directed. This physicist view is summed up quite well by one my own adages: All Places Are Here; All Times Are Now.

Anyway, this reasoning fits hand in glove with my reactions to, and experiences of, Stockhausen’s
HYMNEN (Third Region); electronic music with orchestra, in the fleeting moment of listening.
Fragments of nations, of peoples, and fragments of time fly up like flakes of time-space soot in an existential whirlwind, slowly settling in new patterns in the music; the orchestral sounds providing a latticework of strange familiarity in this bewildering, multi-facetted reflection of sentient beings across the Earth:

Here we come; we’re the Humans! Or: Here we come, we’re the Beings!

And I suppose you know what God said to Moses, when Moses asked God (
Exodus 3:13, 14):


Suppose I am now come to the sons of Israel, and I do say to them, ‘The God of your forefathers has sent me to you, and they do say to me, ‘What is his name?’, what shall I say to them? At this God said to Moses: “I SHALL PROVE TO BE WHAT I SHALL PROVE TO BE.” And he added: “This is what you are to say to the sons of Israel, ‘I SHALL PROVE TO BE has sent me to you’.


This is quoted from The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. Other translations have God’s name slightly different; “I AM THAT I AM” or “I AM WHO I AM”, though, literally, grammatically, The New World Translation comes closest to the original text.

Interpret as you wish. “Being” is the key concept anyway, and that, of course, is the mystery.

Karlheinz Stockhausen’s music can take you far, much farther than you expected when you turned on the CD player, and when the music is amplified not only by a stereo amplifier but also by the lucky chance – if there is any such things as luck or coincidence; I doubt it! – of Fred Hoyle’s science fiction reasoning, you may even end up in Moses’ conversation with God about God’s name; a name which seems to reveal the key to existence, in a mysterious way.


Stockhausen in Kürten 2003
photograph: ingvar loco nordin

Since coincidences – i.e. apparent coincidences – turn up ever so often, sometimes in ridiculously fitting contexts, I’ve started wondering about the origin and true property of these head-on combinations of events, and more and more I’ve come to the conclusion and belief that there indeed are no coincidences. These events present themselves according to a “hidden” agenda, according to a pattern that we either see or don’t see, or which we may sense in certain situations, take advantage of or pass off as… coincidences. Since then I’ve read several books by Deepak Chopra, who has thought this out extremely well, in books like SynchroDestiny, in which he argues that apparent coincidences in fact are messages for us, to make us aware of something or guide us in a certain direction. It carries too far to further dwell on this, but it opens up even further perspectives on our place in the Universe, in life – and in this moment, for me, the coincidence of Stockhausen’s HYMNEN (Third Region); electronic music with orchestra, and Fred Hoyle’s October The First Is Too Late, constitutes such a message. If one is really aware, one soon discovers that these coincidences/messages are quite common, in fact part of our daily life. It’s just a matter of awareness of a natural part of the make-up of existence.



A few direct impressions of the music, without stating exactly where in the composition we are:

There is a bubbling ripple of short waves, as if leaking out of a vessel under pressure, immediately sucked up by a silence that has an ambience to it, whereupon the orchestra blossoms like a flower in an estranged garden, surrounded by whisking, wheezing, winding sounds that fly by and up and around like metallic insects out of a world of humanoids and robots, in which the familiarity of the sounds of the orchestra feel alienated.

Electronically altered orchestral sounds bend reality somewhat out of shape, perhaps achieved by ring modulators, at times in gravely permuted constellations; brief encounters appearing in sounds akin to vicious craws or jackdaws, beaking by in too close a proximity, black wingtips smacking human cheeks before seeping out of reality into the utter wilderness of uncontrollable sonic fantasies!

In a gush of short-wave gray-scale moraine sonorities of barren lofty altitudes, sweet reminiscences of Dutch barrel-organs swirl about, like inward thoughts of someone residing in an old and fading body, or like dream shreds behind the curtain of time – brought about by Stockhausen in his sound painting, utilizing the many colors on his palette: the orchestra, the short wave receivers, the electronic devices – outright masterly here!


Albrecht Dürer: Selfportrait (1500)
("Thus I, Albrecht Dürer from Nuremburg, painted myself
with indelible colours at the age of 28 years")

A violent spray of mean, incising, piercing glass beads across a light metal surface immediately transform into a calm orchestral elasticity that takes on the atmosphere of a foggy seascape at night, heavy hulls of dark ships heaving out there somewhere, calling out with their fog-horns inside the music, well hidden inside the orchestral bars, but nonetheless coloring your senses with misty mystery.

A jingle jangle morning bears down heavily on the hinges of dawn, screeching through dead end time of rusty wrecks in a Murmansk shipyard – as Stockhausen jots down the trans-reality of the sounds that bring me all these dreamy visions from inside myself. Stockhausen is a painter of visions inside the spacious halls of my mind, opening, one after the other, infinitely, as long as space has room enough and time enough duration!

For a while there, I feel the sonic atmosphere of Gavin Bryar’s
The Sinking of The Titanic; that soft, melancholy melody and those banging sounds of metal on metal, like someone locked inside a sinking vessel, trying to attract attention from his dark and final descent…

As national anthems grow out of this auditive essence of the human habitat, the effect is ghostlike, in that special eerie musical language that makes the familiar feel strange and otherworldly, and which is a Stockhausen hallmark: showing us the many unknown properties of the known; the danger side of safety; the dark side of sainthood – and an existence – do not forget! – that harbors infinite possibilities of improvement, of redemption and even enlightenment… and quantum leaps into the unknown!


Giuseppe Arcimboldo: Winter (1563)

Drone-like passages seem to reflect distant ages. I see the campfires across 18th century America in Fred Hoyle’s account in his novel October The First Is Too Late, but I also seem to pass through the dark alleys of European villages of the Middle Ages and on ahead, where defenseless inhabitants succumb to the dark forces of the Black Death; Le Mort Noir; El Muerto Negro; Der Schwarze Tod – all in a brief passage of multi-layered drones of orchestra and electronics in Stockhausen’s HYMNEN (Third Region); electronic music with orchestra. This passage – and certainly other sections, too, of this version of HYMNEN – brings up sentiments and atmospheres of the times of Albrecht Dürer (1471 – 1528), François Rabelais (1494 – 1553), Pieter Brueghel the Elder (1525 – 1569), Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1527 – 1593) and certainly Hieronymus Bosch (1450 – 1516); the latter’s painting The Last Judgment coming to mind as I hear Stockhausen out through some especially evoking moments of the third version of HYMNEN; gravel-harp moments, grave mementos of human dignity that rises above the moment, clearing the tower, ridding itself of guilt and shame: dissipating in unselfish thoughts that swirl up into the skies like a flock of gulls on rising thermals…


Hieronymus Bosch: The Last Judgment (1490)

Like these painters in oil and the one writer mentioned in words, Stockhausen – in sound, in music - visualizes the painful beauty and happy violence of a species swarming the Earth, at the brink of self-destruction, but bearing forth grand dreamers of stubborn, curious peace out of the rivers of blood and injustice:

Here we come, the Humans!




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