Stockhausen Edition no. 40
[Part 5/5 of the review]

Synthi-Fou & Those In the Beyond
(Photo: Stefan Müller)


Since this section of the opera so clearly demonstrates the ingenious witticism and dark humor of Professor Stockhausen, I will quote his description of the BEYOND from the booklet in connection to my own listening observations:

Calm chords of strong humming resonate out of the opening. The snow-crystal dust disperses. A glass world in white light becomes visible. In the middle, a glass conveyor belt floats at mid-height, and as it rolls from the depths to the front, silver and glass soldiers, tanks, airplanes, battle ships on it approach. Some of them are marked into groups by colored dots or stripes.
Bluish glass beings with bright male voices are seated, to the left of the conveyor belt. To the right are similar beings with dark voices. All stare at the war material as it slowly glides past, and with glass croupier rakes, pull – at irregular intervals – one war toy or several or a little pile towards themselves, whereby the objects fall between the glass conveyor belt and their bodies onto a lower conveyor belt moving in the reverse direction. During this, glass stock-exchange clocks behind them tally the wins and losses in columns of colorful numbers.
The humming becomes singing.

The BEYOND begins – and continues - soft, smooth, compassionate, the choir wordlessly sounding in multi-layered consolations of the inevitable, from a dimension of existence where the strain of coming to terms with life is long since passed and dissolved in the fragrances of forgotten dreams; from a situation in the passage and coming where hurt is evened out, where mind is clear; a clear Rigpa - and in Stockhausen’s opera this Beyond is leaking out through the disintegrating crystal wall between this world and that holy Beyond.
I am fully aware that this vision in no way corresponds to the actual setting of the opera, which is described by Stockhausen above – but the music itself gives me these feelings of consolation and… Beyond; Beyond in the meaning of beyond the bewilderment and evil cultural habits of this world; a Beyond where forgiveness and light renews the spirit, purifies it – so I submit these feelings of mine, as my spontaneous emotional response to the music, because the music here in
BEYOND really is wondrously woven in a timeless light of radiant consolation, and I feel like a little boy being consoled by his loving mother after scratching his knee while playing in the forest. This music of BEYOND has me recall my own mother’s loving care when I was little and helpless, and it reminds me to get on the phone with her – now 91 years old – to talk with her for a while. This music gets to you. Stockhausen’s music addresses something deep inside.

A mother at 91;
Viola Nordin 2003
(Photo: Ingvar Loco Nordin)


Also the SYNTHI-FOU part and the final part, FAREWELL, are so magnificently composed and staged that nothing can replace Stockhausen’s own description of them. Here it is, from the booklet:

At the words ‘löscht das Lied in alle Ewigkeit’ (‘effaces the suffering in all eternity’), some of the glass men raise their arms above their heads, and wave from back to front. One after another, Red Cross nurses of glass float into the room from both sides, until behind each glass man a nurse has halted. Each woman stands half a body height higher than the man in front of her, and holds the fingertips of one or both of his hands.
A rotating disc wielding wild timbres whirls in from the left. On it sits a colorful musician wearing green elephant ears, huge sunglasses, a very long nose. He is surrounded by keyboards and loudspeakers, and is playing, absolutely happy. The wagon drives up to the conveyor belt. The war players, staring at
Synthi-Fou, slightly rise.
With élan,
Synthi-Fou begins playing a foutouristic solo, becoming more exuberant with each bar. Now the war players stop their game, and they strongly sing in chords, lightly swaying their shoulders at each chord change. Their language sounds unknown, their gestures look like hieroglyphs, but it is obvious from their expressions that they are amused by Synthi-Fou and that they admire him.
Unswervingly, the women – as well as the men – watch
Synthi-Fou, and sing along, swaying back and forth with the chord changes, synchronous with the glass men: the soprano voices in counter-rhythm to the tenors, the alto voices in counter-rhythm to the basses. One after another they toss away their Red Cross nurses’ caps, then also other parts of their glassy clothing.
War toys incessantly glide forwards, falling off the front end of the conveyor belt onto the lower belt moving in the opposite direction.

The sound suddenly changes to crystal timbres. Instantaneously, the boundaries of the room transform into mirrors, which endlessly mirror, invert, magnify, reduce and mix the beings.
Synthi-Fou becomes ecstatic, infecting everyone with happiness. In the auditorium, several tulle curtains sink to the floor, spaced at some distance, one in front of the other, and the dancing bodies can be seen enlarged on them. The view of the Beyond becomes indistinct. The choir singers depart in stylized dancing movements into the far distance.
Until the end,
Synthi-Fou dances with his long fingers on the keys, grasps, sings, switches, plays - - - happy! He is alone at the end. With the ritardando of the last 13 chords, which play by themselves, he has stood up, and as he counts backwards in a high, exalted voice, he pulls a long, cut-off finger-glove from every finger, tossing each one in a different direction: ‘Thirteen – twelve – eleven…’. At ‘three’ and ‘two’ he tosses away the huge elephant ears, and at ‘one’ he tosses the long nose into the air. Then he charmingly bows, steps down from his disc and stalks out.
For a long time, the electronic music continues to turn in sound loops, becomes softer and softer, as the lights fade out.

The Synthi-Fou synthesizer expresses tangible, watery elasticisms, as the choir spins layer after layer of secret morphemes in an intricate web of voices, a quilt of phonetics, of multi-timbral see-throughs, like curtains of the Northern Lights a January night of starry skies in Lapland.
Percussion thuds and booms in a muffled manner, while Synthi-Fou flies his fingers in speedy, erratic gestures across his keyboard, sending electrical currents through the circuits of the pleasure machinery, outlining dreams of love and affection, of ease and joy, of freedom of pain, in a morphine shot of tones, entering the anatomy of the perceiver through the ears, filling the body with a honey-shining light, golden, sweet – like maple syrup in autumn sunlight…


Stockhausen is taking his music onto a higher plane in FAREWELL, where light flows in God-given supremacy. The sweet light keeps welling forth through bird chirps and freshly rained-on vegetation, as Synthi-Fou’s synthesizer tones build spider-web domes in the dew, canopies erected across the souls of a home planet, transparent, light-allowing mind-shields of protection for purified non-evils, cleansed well-doers.
Celestial phonetic choirs raise their angelic voices through the blizzard of light that permeates a world that has been freed of the chains of grasping, the prisons of cultural habits, the veils of home blindness in customary behavior… and thoughts are let loose, sailing in the upper atmosphere like seagulls on the salty winds of open seas in a jingle jangle morning… when the nature of gravity and heavyheartedness is finally revealed to be mere bent time – as Einstein maintained - and the music opens up and dissolves into infinite space, infinite spirit…

Perhaps some think that enough already has been said about good and evil and the opposing forces of these mighty properties of life, as we are told the story every day, in computer games, great novels, not so great novels and TV soap operas - but of course this can’t be so. This dualism – archetypical - of existence constitute the fragile line we’re all walking each day, in the details of our daily choices, through the intricate web of cause and effect, in the causality which portrays our Karma, on a grander scale bending the curvature of our life through time.

Camilla Gripe, Sune Karlsson
& Lars-Erik Kjellström
25th December 1988
(Photo: Ingvar Loco Nordin)

All these choices – some infinitesimally minor – build the world for us; the obvious world of matter, shapes and forms, and the spiritual world out of which these shapes materialize.
The Swedish writer, poet, painter, sculptor and philosopher Sune Karlsson [b.1946] has described the manner in which our world of mental and material forces are extracted out of an innumerable number of possibilities into the one we at each instant find to be the chosen one:

In Swedish:

[…] Så byggs motsatserna in i helheten och krossar den till fragment, som bildar ständigt nya mönster.
Ögonblicken klumpar sig samman till stunder, som blir till livsmönster, som i sin tur bildar tidsandans vävnad, som på ett ögonblick åter slits sönder.
Perpetuum Mobile, kalejdoskop och avfallskvarn sammanbyggda till en namnlös maskin…

The reviewer’s English interpretation:

[…] Thus the opposites are built into the whole, crushing it into fragments, forming ever-new patterns.
The instants lump together into moments, which become life patterns, which in turn shape the web of the spirit of the age, which in an instant again is torn apart.
Perpetuum Mobile, kaleidoscope and garbage disposer assembled into a nameless machine…

It can be confusing. Evil often inherits an unconscious property, making it hard to discern. It is often viciously built into our habits, diverted from our concern – and each period of human history has its blindnesses, its veils shrouding the view into the heart of the matter.
Why do we, for example, find it perfectly natural to kill, cut up and eat our fellow travelers through space; the animals, which are sentient beings just like us? Why do we not mind their imprisoned lives in cages and barns before the kill?
Is that evil? Most do not think so, until they find it possible to step back some, off of the snares of their own culture, their cultural habits.
The same unconscious cultural habit made even the most feverish opponents of the Vietnam war – in a Stockholm demonstration in 1969 – recount and recite only the names of American fallen soldiers of the meaningless atrocities. There was no reciting of the names of the Vietnamese freedom fighters, who were subject to the U.S. genocide.
Is that evil? I believe so – but it was not a conscious evil on the part of the demonstrators. It was veiled, shrouded, built into their cultural habits.
Is the slaughter of life by medical doctors in abortion clinics evil? Many think not. To me it is obvious. The blueprint of a person is finished and at work as soon as the sperm has entered the egg. Right there and then we have a young boy, ready to start school, a young man beginning to conquer his world, a middle-aged family father and an old retired man, grand children on his lap; a spirit rising and shining. Who can – in good conscience – meet the gaze of this person; this aborted person?
It is an arch evil; a species turning on itself. It’s like an autoimmune illness, like rheumatism, when the body attacks itself. It is a suicide of the human species. Of course it is evil, the way
this killing is going on at the haphazard whim of the involved, as if they were gods and goddesses acting out of simple convenience… but it is still shrouded and veiled to many – to most! It is the shroud and veil of cultural habits.
Is genetic manipulation of our crops evil? Some think it is a success of our sciences. I see it as just as evil as haphazard abortion. The delicate equilibrium of the genes has been determined through millions and millions of years of evolution. How can anyone think that we can tamper with this equilibrium without ill or perhaps catastrophic consequences? The plague of old was probably nothing, compared to what the human harassment of the genes may cause… Of course this is evil, very evil – but many still think it is a scientific victory!
Some of the greatest evils of our species are hardly even mentioned in this context; cars and cigarettes. I find the constant, relentless evil effects of cars and tobacco to be the two most sad consequences of the shrouded, veiled evil of our days, and yet many take these occurrences as quite natural… and all these examples plainly demonstrate how hidden evil can be, inside our daily motions through life, how illusory veiled and shrouded inside our unconscious and automatic actions. Not even Jehovah’s Witnesses, who try to interpret
the Bible literally and relate to it in all walks of life, understand that the strophe “He shall destroy those who destroy the Earth” (Revelation 11:18) also must embrace the utilization of cars, which is one of the main sources of the environmental catastrophe we see. Jehovah’s Witnesses keep on driving their cars to and from their meetings at Kingdom Hall, even though the Bible clearly addresses their driving habits!

His Holiness the Dalai lama & Mats Jelkne
in Stockholm, June 2003

Evil is hiding in even the simplest and closest actions! I could, for example, see to it that some poor kid in the third world could get a decent education… but instead I buy myself a new lens for my camera… Is that evil? In the greater scope it probably is, yes, quite obviously is… even though my friend Mats Jelkne, who was His Holiness the Dalai lama’s body guard during his recent (June 2003) visit to Sweden, believes that this evil might be karmically counteracted by the joy and pleasure some of the pictures I may take with that lens might instill in some people… It’s complicated!

And yes, the question each of us have to ask ourselves remains: Am I my brother’s keeper?

The dualism between good and evil is always at hand, never out-dated, always nagging our conscience with new, urgent and often not self-evident choices. It is not very often completely clear to anyone what is evil and what is good. Sometimes these properties of life swap positions, faster than we can decipher, and the one often holds some of the other in a Yin and Yang contradiction.
Stockhausen - in his absolute integrity - doesn’t cease to confront these issues in
LICHT, in the outmost reaches of his art and at the core of his art. DIENSTAG aus LICHT is another example of this. I salute him.

to part 1 of the review