Stockhausen Edition no. 7
Karlheinz Stockhausen Momente for solo soprano, 4 choir groups and 13 instrumentalists (Europe Version 1972 [1962 1964/1969] + excerpt from Donaueschingen Version 1965)
Europe Version 1972: Gloria Davy (solo soprano), the Choir of the WDR Cologne, soloists; Rita Fischer (soprano), André Peysang (tenor), Werner Engelhardt (baritone), Arno Reinhardt (bass), Roger Smalley (Hammond organ), Harald Bojé (Lowrey organ), instrumentalists from the Ensemble Musique Vivante; Jean-Jacques Gaudon, Claude Vassé, René Caron, Louis Roquin (trumpets), Jacques Bolognési, Bernard Camus, Pierre Goasguen, Maurice Cevrero (trombones), Gaston Sylvestre, Patrick Guise, Willy Coquillat (percussion), Karlheinz Stockhausen (cond.).
Donaueschingen Version 1965: Martina Arroyo (solo soprano), the Choir of the WDR Cologne, Aloys Kontarsky (Hammond organ), Alfons Kontarsky (Lowrey organ), instrumentalists from the Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra, Karlheinz Stockhausen (cond.).
Duration: CD 1: 65:56, CD 2: 76:55.
For a few months in the beginning of 1962 Stockhausen and Mary Bauermeister lived in a palazzo provided for them by Baron Francesco Agnello in Siculiana; a small village in southern Sicily. In the coldness of winter the couple retreated to one room that they kept heated with gas, to be able to stay tolerably warm. Stockhausen had at his disposal a piano, and in those austere conditions he worked on a piece that would have immense significance for Western art music and compositional thinking; Momente for soprano solo, four choir groups and thirteen instrumentalists. The piece was completely planned in January of 1962, and he kept working it out in that chilly winter palazzo in Sicily but completion of the finished work took place in 1969.
Mary Bauermeister circa 1960
Mary Bauermeister kept working on pictures for an exhibition in Amsterdam, and the two artists kept influencing each other in a fruitful way. Mary Bauermeister said (cited from the book Stockhausen A Biography by Michael Kurtz, who in turn has cited from Mary Bauermeister: Frühe Aktivitäten in Köln, from an exhibition catalog called Fluxus; Aspekte eines Phänomens, for Museumverein Wuppertal): For my paintings, Stockhausen meant structure and form
Something like the >Sand-Stein-Kugelgruppe< would be inconceivable without Stockhausens Momente
Conversely, what he saw in my work was the possibility of loosening rigid structures. He was really drilled in strict composition. So I brought a certain freedom by saying: if you have made a schematic form, you can unmake it too.
Stockhausen himself said in a conversation with Michael Kurtz (Stockhausen: Texte zur Musik Vol. VI), referring to the new method of composing that emerged through Momente: All the conceivable aural images flew to and fro inside me. In my imagination I constantly shuffled them around, interchanged them
until I found whatever pleased me most. Then I would hastily try to get it down in notation. Often it would slip my memory. So I simply lay down once more, until I found it again, and finally wrote it down.
It might be a good idea to see how a moment can be defined, discerned, discovered, since the idea of moment-form may be somewhat complicated for the layman to fully comprehend. The source is the lecture Moment-Forming and Integration, that Stockhausen gave in London in 1971, printed in Stockhausen on Music Lectures & Interviews by Robin Maconie:
When anything about a sound is at hand for a while; be it a register, a certain dynamic, a certain speed, a limited number of chords, certain timbres, a pitch, a certain duration etcetera, a moment is happening. Given this, any characteristics of the music that last for a while can be grouped into moments (Momente), and handled separately and in interactions with each other. These interactions, on the other hand, are not limited to separate moments reacting to each other, but a moment may inside itself contain parts of the preceding moment or the following moment, in reminiscences of the earlier moment and expectations or hopes for the next moment. When the characteristics briefly accounted for above (there are many more possible characteristics) suddenly change into something else, a new moment begins. As what is said here about reminiscences (or remnants) from earlier moments and expectations or hopes for coming moments indicate, a change from one moment to another may be gradual. Stockhausen says that the degree of change is a quality that can be composed as well as the characteristics of the music that is actually changing. I can compose with a series of degrees of change, or we can call them degrees of renewal. Then I can start with any musical material and follow the pattern of change, and see where it leads, from zero change to a defined maximum. That is what I understand by moment-forming.
Stockhausen lecturing on "Momente" in London 1972
(Photo: Chris Steel-Perkins)
As is well understood by this stylized definition of the flexible, yet well defined, compositional method of Stockhausens, innumerable possibilities rise out of it. This is the beauty of it. You have a quite rigid system, but by means of that system you can arrive at a multitude of possible soundings, leading to the fact that the rules of composition here even though completely defined in fact lead to a great freedom, and a wonderful flowering of versions of any composed piece. This is truly revolutionary in the development of music, and of course this thinking can be applied to almost any artistic or even just human activity. The world that emerges through this moment-forming-thinking is so beautifully rich, so generous, that I feel it actually justly reflects the richness of life itself and the countless possibilities that are inherent in the mystery of existence! It will surely set about a revived and flourishing thinking process!
The piece presented on this double CD; Momente for soprano solo, four chorus groups and thirteen instrumentalists, is dominated by three different kinds of moments, called K, M and D. K stands for Klang (timbre, verticality, regularity, homophony, percussion, male voices, noises). M represents Melody (horizontality, monophony, heterophony, randomness, pitches and noises equally mixed, trumpets and trombones, soprano solo). D means Durations (diagonally [ vertical plus horizontal ] polyphony, irregularity [ syncopated ], pitches, electric organ, female voices).
When planning a performance, after the moments and their order have been decided by the conductor, excerpts from certain moments are applied as Einschübe, i.e. inserts, into neighboring moments, to different degrees. This means that there are strong moments, which retain their absolute individuality by not having any inserts inserted into them, but who give influences to other moments by being cited inside them, and counter-wise that there are weak moments which have many inserts inside them, almost erasing their individuality. The possible subdivision of the piece does not stop here. The pure K-, M- and D-moments can be and are altered into additional moments by influences from other groups, indicated in the score by a small letter inside brackets after the big letter of the dominant moment, like M(k), D(k) and so on. When capital letters are placed aside each other, like MK or DM and so forth, it indicates moments wherein the group characteristics are united in an almost perfect balance.
Ill leave it at that, to indicate how extremely diverse this piece really is. There are many more aspects for the curious listener to explore, and a good starting point is the 72-page CD booklet.
Concerning the performers it can be noted that each of the four choir groups has at least three sopranos, three altos, three tenors and three basses. The choir members are not limited to vocal expression, but are also instructed to utilize felt and wooden beaters, to roll drumsticks on the rims and heads of tom-toms, to drum their fingers on cardboard tubes and to play simple instruments (pictured in the booklet) as well as to clap hands and stomp and shuffle feet, slap their hands on their knees, click their tongues and fingers and more
The score calls for a scale of vocal sounds from voiceless consonants to clearly audible vocals. Starting with voiceless exhalation the sounds required are defined as breathing, whispering, giggling, murmuring, speaking, calling, screaming, laughing and singing!
The instrumentation looks as follows:
- 2 electric keyboard instruments constructed in such a way as to enable very gradual timbre
modulation (a Hammond organ and a Lowrey organ are used here)
- 4 trumpets
- 2 tenor trombones
- 2 bass trombones
Three percussionists play
- 1 large tam-tam (diameter 160 cm)
- 1 smaller tam-tam (diameter 85 cm)
- 1 vibraphone
- 3 tom-toms
- 5 large cymbals with diameters between 40 and 82 cm)
- 5 small cymbals
- 1 kidney-shaped drum on which all pitches within a range of one and a half octave can be played
- 3 tambourines with jingles
Kidney-drum with calf-skin head
The textual material that Stockhausen uses in Momente comes from a number of sources;
1. The Song of Solomon
2. Passages from a letter written by Mary Bauermeister (to whom Momente is dedicated)
3. Exclamations from the Trobriand Islands, British New Guinea
4. A quotation from William Blake (He who kisses the joy as it flies, lives in Eternitys sunrise
5. Names from fairy-tales, invented names, shouts, calls
6. Audience reactions (shouts, phrases)
7. Invented onomatopoetic words and phonetic nonsense syllables
The texts are uttered in four languages; the majority in the predominant language of the ensemble.
The Swedish-Italian writer and critic Guido Zeccola wrote about the vocal events and some of the other events created by the choir in Momente, reprinted here with permission in a loosely translated, highly condensed and excerpted version:
With >Momente< a turning-point is reached in the composing act of Karlheinz Stockhausen, and in the 20th century musical history as a whole. The choir seems to convey the final solution the same solution that Mauricio Kagel so elegantly had foreseen in >Anagrama<. The voices are naturalized Singstimmen, i.e. restored to the original magma; whispers, speech, murmurs, shouts, laughter etcetera. The sound is hart wie Kruppstahl, splintering, shattering, icy in its relentlessness for example the sounds of the hands, utilized like a percussive mudra in all different kinds of ways.
This piece is striving for the moment when man is genuinely touched by his own life. Life is the deciding element in >Momente<; the elementary, the complicated, the terrible all the attributes of life move into the score with the seal of necessity, abiding to a categorical imperative.
Stockhausen integrates the peripheral environment of the concert situation in Momente, in a wonderfully humorous way. He even collected shouts and comments blurted out by a sometimes disapproving audience in the score, such as Stop it!, Ugly!, Terrible and also positive remarks like Beautiful!, Bis! and so on. This way he brought the audience into the score, erasing the dividing line between audience and performance, integrating the two.
Sometimes this is done in a really hilarious way, like when Momente starts with the applause of the whole choir, as soon as the conductor comes on stage (the applause moment!). For sure this bewilders the unsuspecting public! Soon the applause from the choir takes on a structured guise, as it stops and starts, sometimes as ordinary applause, sometimes as rhythmically defined claps. Its a fantastic experience to hear the applause take the leap from audience noise to composed music, disappearing into the fabric of Momente. Here Stockhausen has invited the applause, hitherto always allotted a peripheral role in the concert arena, to take part in, and be part of, the actual performance, and to take up residence right in the notated score. Everything is turned inside out in that moment.
Stockhausen demonstrates with awesome brilliance his ability to take anything into his hands and turn it into an artistic significance of surprising and mind-bending quality! He is a magician!
The way in which Stockhausen found some of the textual material for Momente in itself gives a clue to the composers/philosophers way of seeing the world. For a few months he lived in an apartment in New York. The former tenant had left behind an assortment of books, which Stockhausen browsed through. In the process he found material in those books that filtered right into Momente! For example he used some of the contents in a book called The Sexual Life of Savages by a Russian scientist by the name of Malinowski. In it Stockhausen found transcriptions of tribal rituals of the Upper Amazon and the Pacific Islands. Stockhausen says that the most lyrical, subtle material he used was found by him in that apartment too, in a left-behind book of the collected poems by William Blake. Stockhausen says (in the lecture Moment-Forming and Integration 1971, printed in Stockhausen on Music Lectures & Interviews by Robin Maconie):
There is one phrase which is heard very quickly, and later sung again very slowly and clearly by the solo soprano, undisturbed by anything else, which somehow expresses the essence of what I mean by moment, instant, now, here, the fulfillment, the degree of presence:
He who kisses the Joy as it flies
Lives in Eternitys Sunrise
Noteworthy here is the influence William Blake has had throughout the 20th century. We can for example think of the songs that beat poet Allen Ginsberg made and recorded of Blake-poems, like Voice of the Ancient Bard and The Nurses Song, released in the CD-box Holy Soul Jelly Roll on Rhino Records.
The way that Stockhausen instantly utilized found objects (here texts of different kinds) in a major and revolutionary work of art, clearly demonstrates the true state of affairs in the world; that points of importance may rest anywhere and everywhere, and that the start of something as well as the end of something may emerge in a time and a place least expected. Stockhausen truly sees the world in a grain of sand, and heaven in a wild flower, as it were. This almost nonchalant, almost indecent demonstration of the riches of life easily found and recognized by those with seeing eyes reminds me of an authorship with the same inherent visionary outlook on the possible meanings of the randomly encountered; that of the French writer J. M. G. Le Clézio, who really surprised and thrilled me in younger years with one of his books which almost entirely kicks off from scrap papers and other objects found along a short stretch of street in a small French Mediterranean town. Stockhausens Momente is spiritually liberating in the same way that Le Clézios writings are. Astonishing!
Maybe Momente could be called a modern visionary musical theater. Others, like Vinko Globokar (Les Émigrés) or Alvin Curran (Crystal Psalms) and many others, have written works that on the surface may appear like distant relatives of Momente, the difference important! being that these others have not applied the Stockhausen method, the Momente method, which turns each performance into a version within the framework; a brilliant idea! Therefor these epigonal works appear in the same shape each time, whereas Momente keeps on living and developing, sparkling with and endless display of dynamically changing colors each time it is performed. The basic structure of Momente assures this ever-changing survival quality of this music! That is the difference between art and ART!
Stockhausen rehearsing Momente in Turin 1973
Momente this ever changing, many-colored tapestry of controlled randomness, is a wonderfully exciting event for the ear and the intellect. A listener can immerse himself in the fabric of sounds, in gliding and transforming moments of different characteristics, of glittering passages, as if of reflections of sunlight on the summer horizon of the ocean, or starlight amplified and dispersed by snow-crystals on nocturnal winter fields of a northern land. Blocks of heavier and more accentuated sounds appear like icebergs adrift in an Inuit setting of barren circumstances. The bodily sounds with human origin, like words and handclappings, establish the human species - homo sapiens in this time/space existence, as the eyes of the Universe looking at itself. Floating images appear like mirages, and disappear just as fast, and memories and hopes share the same bandwagon of human conscience. Momente is a never-ending story, told again and again, each time revealing new aspects on the prospect of living!
President John Kennedy once said that happiness is to fully use your powers along lines of excellence. If you become, in the slightest, aware of the intense and unremitting zeal of Karlheinz Stockhausen throughout his work, youll see that he truly and fully uses his powers along these lines of excellence. Study his example; study some of the compositional procedures that he has developed, and some of the works he has built from these methods, and youll understand that most composers soon would have given up and resorted to simpler matters. It must be appreciated that none of the wonders that Stockhausen has achieved would have been possible without his uncanny ability to lay down his full heart and soul into his work, and enjoy really enjoy working this hard. Combine that with a free intellect and a seemingly bottomless source of original ideas and a precise intuition, and the result is the oeuvre of Karlheinz Stockhausen, which is unparalleled in 20th century art music. He is our Beethoven; he is our Goethe and he is still here TODAY with us! You may approve of him or not you cannot get past him you have to take him into account!
Remember how Mozart was put into his unmarked poor mans grave in a snow flurry, and yet he moves the hearts of millions and millions in the 21st century! I urge the cultural establishments of the world today, beginning in Germany, to move swiftly and see to it that Stockhausens works can be performed regularly. If not, you will all stand there with your shame when he is gone. It is due time that this is recognized outside of a circle of initiates, in a more earnest and appreciative way than today. It renders me some anxiety that people anytime, anywhere have a tendency to be home-blind, i.e. not really fully appreciating what they have until they lose it
It would break my heart if it was to be the case with Stockhausen, that he - in a hopefully distant future - would be missed and mourned by all those music administrators and opera house executives who today barely can find it in their will or power to even premier some of the most important musical and philosophical enterprises of contemporary culture; the operas from Licht!
Its no use crying crocodile tears when that time is here. Its much better to invest efforts in embracing and performing these works now, while we have the composer here to lead the process! Wake up! We must appreciate what we have, right here in contemporary Europe, contemporary Earth, where that original voice rises out of Kürten, loud and clear to this day!
To cite and paraphrase John Kennedy again, you might observe that Stockhausen does what he does, not because it is easy, but because it is hard!. Had he been a scientist which, of course, in a way he is he would have worked in the same meticulous way, Im sure. He would have earned the Nobel Prize in any field of science that he would have applied his ambitions to. There is a prize that should have been his already from the start; the (Swedish) Polar Music Prize. This prize is rightly Stockhausens, anytime. Bob Dylan got it, Iannis Xenakis and Pierre Boulez got it now Stockhausen must get it! This is the wrong order of things. Of course Bob Dylan should have had the prize first, ahead of Joni Mitchell and Bruce Springsteen, and likewise the man who actually IS contemporary art music Karlheinz Stockhausen should have had it long before any other composer or art music personality. While writing this I took the liberty to call up the Polar Prize Committee and check their views with them. They told me that Stockhausen indeed is on the nominee list, but from other sources Ive heard that for example Luciano Berio is on the same nominee list. However, if Stockhausen doesnt get this prize very soon, the Polar Prize is in danger of compromising some of its stature and authority.