Stockhausen Edition no. 22

Karlheinz Stockhausen – “Inori”; adorations for one or two soloists and orchestra.
Elizabeth Clarke [soloist], Alain Louafi [soloist], Suzanne Stephens [Japanese rin], Maria Bergmann [piano], The Symphony Orchestra of the Southwest German Radio, Karlheinz Stockhausen [cond.]
Stockhausen 22. Duration: 72:35.

HU is the most sacred of all sounds.
The sound HU is the beginning and end of all sounds, be they from man, bird, beast or thing.
The word HU is the hidden spirit in all sounds and words, just like the spirit in the the body.

HU belongs to no language, but every language belongs to it.
HU is the name of the Most High, the only true name of God; a name that no people and no religion can claim as its own.

HU means spirit – MAN or MANA means mind.
A HUMAN is a man conscious of God, realized in God.
Human (German) – Human (English) – Humain (French).

HU, God, is in all things and beings, but it is Man by whom HE is known

It was September many years ago, and I lived in a large military tent on a small island in the Baltic archipelago on the Swedish coast. The tent was protected from the winds of the sea by a ridge of rocks. I stayed there a few weeks with my wife and some friends. We were out there to ring mark migrating birds. We were ornithologists. Our thoughts soared like gulls high above us, the sea was raging and the waves out there had white rims… The thunder from the sea working at the other side if the rocks felt like a deep murmur of the ground.
Then there were other days when the waters were completely calm, without a ripple. Those were the Halkyon days, as poet and writer Vilhelm Ekelund called those bleak, calm seaside days of fall…
At night we walked around the island carrying flashlights, through brush and across rocks, to examine and empty the circa 80 Japanese veil nets that we hade erected for the catch. It was an owl-invasion year, when the Aegolius funereus (Boreal owl) amassed from Finland all across the Swedish coastline.

They clicked their beaks and looked straight at us as we liberated them from the nets, and above us the starry sky glittered and glistened with the stars. That far out in the archipelago no lights from civilization disturbed the dark September nights, and sometimes the foghorn from the lighthouse Gustaf Dahlén signaled in repetitious awareness calls from ten kilometers out at sea, as fog banks rolled in. It was pure magic; the stars, the Boreal owls, the fog horn, the sea…

Inori” called up my memories from those weeks out in the Baltic archipelago nights. “Inori” conveys that same feeling of adoration and awe that those nightly treks brought on, through the cold air and the stillness, vibrating with stars! Parts of it have that lighthouse night sea feel about it, in my mind.

The “
Inori” music is frightenly beautiful, scary in its relentless progression towards communion (“…it frightens me, the awful truth of how sweet life can be…” [B. Dylan])

Inori” means “prayer” or “invocation” in Japanese, and the way the work comes across, if you are able to perceive all its aspects, is as a total prayer, a total openness of human spirit flowing back to the Great Spirit, here called by the name HU.
When I talk about perceiving all aspects of “
Inori” I actually mean seeing as well as hearing. “Inori” is partly music, partly sign language; a sign language of the whole anatomy created by Karlheinz Stockhausen, who in a seemingly endless outpour of energy, seeping down through his composition, has formed complex, intricate patterns of movements of fingers, hands, arms, head – yes, indeed the whole body, in a pattern of movements which all – down to their finest minute details – have a special function, a special meaning, as well concerning the gestures of the musical technicalities as their spiritual significance. I have heard “Inori” before, but not until I could watch a video film of a performance could I fully appreciate the complexity of the piece, which moves towards a simplicity that focuses in a ray of hope and gratitude, that shoots like a laser invocation towards the stars out if “Inori”.

Stockhausen conducting INORI in Paris 1974
(Photo: Bernard Perrine)

Inori” is resting on a foundation of expressive recognition of that which is higher, and of which we are a part, and which is a part of us, here called HU, but which could be called God or Jahve or some other name of adoration for the highest of the high, the source, the Giver and Taker of that which is given and that which is taken, the one principle and force that equals mass and energy in an everlasting reformation of shapes and sounds.

The origin of “
Inori” goes back to a visit Stockhausen did to Australia in 1970, when he befriended Philippa Cullen; a young dancer. When Stockhausen three years later got a commission to write a large orchestra piece that would have a “lasting value for posterity” in the culture of Japan, he started to envision “Inori”, in the guise of a great musical prayer. Stockhausen remembered the gifted Australian dancer, which induced the idea of having a dancer/mime express gestures of prayer with the orchestral music.
Thorough as always, Stockhausen went about studying prayer behavior of different religions. He commissioned American anthropologist Nancy Wyle to make him a collection of illustrations in the vein from all possible cultures. You may recall that she earlier also collected the names of Gods from all different cultures and religions for Stockhausen’s composition “
Stimmung”. From all these gestures and bodily postures from all over the human world Stockhausen created a harmonious merger of music and movement in a “chromatic scale of prayer gestures”.

The INORI prayer gestures
(Drawing: Nancy Wyle)

It is an advantage to read or hear (or better hear and see; I’ve watched it on a video film) the preparation for “Inori”, which is called “Vortrag über HU” (“Lecture on HU”). I’d even go so far as to say that it is a necessary preparation for fully taking in “Inori” in all its aspects. Of course it is possible to just listen, and that is rewarding too, but since “Inori” is a dance/mime adoration or invocation, just listening without seeing can – in the case of “Inori” – be like standing on a mountain top, watching the view blindfolded; you can sense the elevation and feel the winds, but you cannot make out the landscape or see the horizon or the drifting clouds. For those who will want to learn some of the gestures and postures, seeing is necessary. You can see the basic gestures in the CD booklet, but not the bodily postures and how they change, or the innumerable variations of the prayer gestures, with all kinds of meanings, pertaining to the characteristics of the music, like dynamics, pitch etcetera.
It is possible to order the “
Lecture on HU” (Musical analysis of “Inori”) from Stockhausen-Verlag. In it you can study the prayer part of “Inori”. It has 152 bound pages with 224 black-and-white photographs of the prayer gestures. The cover has a color rendition of the form scheme of “Inori”.

The video-filmed “Lecture on HU” that I just saw was brilliantly conducted by Kathinka Pasveer in front of the enlarged form scheme (7 m x 2,40 m) at the Technische Hochschule in Darmstadt on 5th April 1998. Kathinka Pasveer has worked closely with Stockhausen since many years. It is amazing to see how she has managed to master every last detail of “Lecture on HU” (which of course was written by Stockhausen). She guides you through the entire composition of “Inori”, explaining the different parts and their characteristics, and how they connect. She explains the structure and the form of the work, as well as the most important relations between prayer gestures and the acoustical events. She does all this the way she would perform a musical composition, and indeed Stockhausen calls this lecture “an analysis in the form of a musical composition”.
(It is possible to order a video film of an English version of “
Lecture on HU” performed by Kathinka Pasveer at the Stockhausen Courses 2000 from Stockhausen-Verlag, and I certainly urge any interested party to do so!)

Inori” is a ritual, a sacred offering of recognition, in communion with the Great Spirit through music and gestures, to which the bodies of the performers – the dancers/mimes – fully lend themselves, as they fully obey, fully accomplish. In the more than 70 minutes that the piece lasts, the bodies and minds of the dancers/mimes are devoted totally to the “Inori” rite.

The whole composition “
Inori” is developed from – built upon – a formel; a formula. The formula has 13 different pitches, plus two that are repeated at the conclusion. Associated with the pitches are 13 tempi, 13 dynamics, thirteen timbres, and 13 gestures of prayer, with two added gestures at the conclusion.

The formula consists of 5 segments, divided by echoes and rests.

To better grasp the construction of the piece I advice any particularly interested reader to purchase a copy of the score from
Stockhausen-Verlag (You’ll find the address at the introductory page of this Stockhausen site; just click “intro” on top of the navigation bar!). If you have the score you’ll see that the echoes and the rests in the form scheme have different colors; red for echoes; green for rests. The score – as always with Stockhausen – is a piece of art all by itself. These scores can in fact be viewed – if one wishes – as separate works of art, in clear and bright colors. I’ve found at least one site on the Internet announcing works by Stockhausen; works that seem to be derived from scores. Check in at Galerie Inge Baecker at, where you can see Stockhausen art works.
On Stockhausen’s homepage you can also read that Stockhausen was awarded the German Music Edition Prize in the category of "Scores of Works of the 20th Century" for the score of the

For those of us who have to sustain ourselves on a low budget, but nonetheless cannot live without the arts, I might give the somewhat bleak consolation that the form scheme of “
Inori” is printed on the cover of the CD booklet, but of course (that is the bleakness…) the size of the booklet is too small to be really beneficiary in this sense. It gives you a good idea, though, of the formal construction. The form scheme is also given in better detail inside the booklet, but without the colors of the original artwork.

The real life-size exposition of the formula (which in its original form has a duration of just a minute!) lasts about an hour – actually in this recording it is about seventy-two and a half minutes. The extended duration is not due to the piece being conducted slower, but has to do with slight lengthenings occuring as a result of ritardandi and fermata-like section endings in the final elaboration of the score. There is also a (planned) insert before the final note - an invocation of HU - with a timing not measured.

The five segments or sections of the form scheme are projected on durations of the large form of roughly 12, 15, 6, 9 and 18 minutes. An unmeasured so-called transcendental movement appears in the last segment (“polyphony”). In addition the extended ending, played by solely Indian bells, has to be taken into account.

The five segments are named (with sub-divisions and the durations of the CD version):


1. Genesis (7:25)
2. Evolution (3:17)
3. Echo (1:46)
4. Orchestra pause (1:40)


5. Genesis (2:50)
6. Genesis (3:33)
7. Evolution (6:09)
8. Echo (2:58)
9. Orchestra pause (0:33)


10. Genesis ( 0:58)
11. Genesis (2:03)
12. Genesis (2:50)
13. Orchestra pause (1:03)


14. Presence (1:16)
15. Orchestra pause (2:18)
16. Echo (6:46)


17. Evolution (4:48)
18. Evolution ( 3:23)
19. Spiral (5:20)
20. Adoration (4:27)
21. Orchestra pause (7:12)

As you can see from this, the music develops through these progressively emerging characteristics. As the music and the dance/mime evolves and unfolds, it is obvious how detailed and worked-through it all is, as “
Inori” slowly opens like a magnificent lotus flower, until the holy scent encompasses one and all.

The multi-dimensional formula presented in the very beginning has – as pointed out above - 13 notes, each of which are associated with a certain dynamic, duration, tempo, vowel timbre and prayer gesture. It must be noted that the developments are very precise and delicate. The dynamic property, for example, is divided into a dynamic scale of 60 degrees between the extremely soft and the extremely loud. Have in mind that these levels are expressed in the way the dancers/mimes perform their prayer gestures. When you contemplate that, you begin to get an idea of the complexity and the delicacy of this composition!

An example of how the piece works, in an admittedly very condensed form, is shown in Michael Kurtz’s book “
Stockhausen – A Biography”, where a gesture close to the heart, with hands closed, is explained like this, in a quote from Stockhausen:

When this gesture is performed in a forward direction, moving away from the body, this corresponds to a crescendo from pianissimo to fortissimo… When the hands rise or sink, this corresponds to changes of pitch, … when arms or hands drift apart stepwise… to a sequence of regularly shortening durations.”

That was just one little example out of the overwhelming number of variations of the initial gestures and postures that “
Inori” requires from a performer. Reaching a masterly performance of “Inori” must involve an overwhelmingly tough period of intense practicing and rehearsing, and the video film of “Inori” that I just saw, filmed at the Technische Hochschule in Darmstadt on 5th April 1998, is a wonderful end result, featuring Kathinka Pasveer and Alain Louafi as the dancers/mimes in a version for 2 soloists and tape. It works very well to perform “Inori” with a tape part instead of a live orchestra. The tape part is simply a recording of the orchestra, distributed through loudspeakers. “Inori” on tape is a 16-channel recording.

The various prayer gestures are used as timbres and tempos. By means of these close connections between prayer gestures and musical degrees or intervals, even purely musical alterations are, as the length of the work increases, experienced as prayer”.

That is when the whole event, audience included, is elevated into an almost trance-like awareness of communion with the Great Spirit. “
Inori” then becomes the ladder of Jacob, on which angels climb up and down in the vibrant light.

In an apparent response to the folks who couldn’t follow Stockhausen all the way into the spiritual dimension, which his compositional act was directed towards, he said (again quoted from Michael Kurtz’s book, but originally appearing at the third seminar on “
Stimmung”, 3d August 1972 at the Internationales Musikinstitut Darmstadt):

The essential aspect of my music is always religious and spiritual; the technical aspect is mere explanation. I have often been accused of vague mysticism. These days, mysticism is easily misunderstood as something vague. But mysticism is something that cannot be expressed with words, that is: music! The purest musicality is also the purest mysticism in a modern sense. Mysticism is a very incisive capacity to see right through things. To this end, the intellect is a piece of equipment that serves intuition. Intuition, clearly, is not innately present in man, but constantly infiltrates him, like the rays of the sun. Thinking is a way of formulating things, of translating intuition in terms of our equipment, and our practical world – an application to the realms of perception”.

Dress rehearsal of INORI at the Italian Radio 1975

The orchestral set-up of “Inori” is also very special. The complete set-up is explained in the CD booklet. I’ll just give a couple of examples of the significance and importance of the placements:
The principal players are situated at the outer edges of the orchestral stage. This has to do with the way Stockhausen composed the variable strength of the dynamics of the orchestra in such a way that the fewer musicians who play, the softer the music gets. That can be compared to how a traditional harpsichord – a cembalo – works, where you get a denser, louder sound by playing more keys, and vice versa.
This also gives the music of the orchestra a spatial effect, as a crescendo moves from the outer edges into the middle, and a decrescendo in turn moves the other way, from the middle on out.
The percussion is placed so that the sounds of the highest metallic instruments – in this case small Indian bells, antique cymbals and a vibraphone – are heard coming from the right rear of the stage. The middle range metal instruments – a set of Japanese rin (metal cups for temple ceremonies) in a chromatical tuning – sit right in front of the conductor under the prayer podium [see below]. The low range metal instruments – 14 sound plates of metal alloy, chromatically tuned – are placed at the far left.
The dancers/mimes are placed on a prayer podium in the middle of the stage. The prayer podium is about 2,5 meters high, with a bridge leading from the back (not in the picture from the Italian Radio above, due to lack of space) and two stairways leading down to the stage at an angle from the front.

INORI at Herodes Atticus Theater, Athens 1978.
At the podium: Alain Louafi & Elizabeth Clarke.
Stockhausen at left, conducting.
Suzanne Stephens at the rin.
(Photo: Ralph Fassey)

I’ve only seen the videotaped performance of “Inori” for two dancers/mimes and tape, and I can only imagine the strong impression a complete performance with an orchestra with Stockhausen’s detailed player and instrument placements and a specially built stage must give the audience or anyone involved in the event. Stockhausen leaves no stone unturned, no possibility untried, concerning the whole concept from idea or dream to the radiant end result, which in itself is only a beginning; a start of a spiritual journey, for which the composition “Inori” with the dancers/mimes, the prayer gestures and the prayer postures, and the orchestra and the sounds it achieves… is just a vehicle:

HU is the most sacred of all sounds.
The sound HU is the beginning and end of all sounds, be they from man, bird, beast or thing.
The word HU is the hidden spirit in all sounds and words, just like the spirit in the the body.

HU belongs to no language, but every language belongs to it.
HU is the name of the Most High, the only true name of God; a name that no people and no religion can claim as its own.

HU means spirit – MAN or MANA means mind.
A HUMAN is a man conscious of God, realized in God.
Human (German) – Human (English) – Humain (French).

HU, God, is in all things and beings, but it is Man by whom HE is known


Volume 23