Karlheinz Stockhausen in conversation with Ken Hollings, Kurten, Germany, 12 March 1999
Ken Hollings: I notice in the programme booklet notes for 'Aus Den Siebden Tagen' that you have created a time line of your compositions from Fur Doris through to the Licht project and that you allowed this spiral to go completely off the page in the same way that the wave for 'Unlimited' goes off the page and comes back. Could you maybe give us an idea of what's beyond the page on that line?
Stockhausen: Yeah, the next life.
H: The next life? And what are your expectations?
S: At the moment I am composing a work which is called Lichter-Wasser and this morning before I went for the daily work in the studio, I adjusted a few lines which I had written last night after the work and I am studying very carefully now all the moons of our solar system, the names. I also let a soprano sing in this work, Lichter-Wasser; what she offers Michael who is a tenor in the new piece. They are in the same hall where the musicians will be. She offers to prepare these moons and also the other planets which seem to be at the moment inhabitable for human beings who will travel there in the future and who will try, and certainly some day transform, these satellites of other planets and of our Sun into beautiful places. I would like to go in my next life more into the centre of the galaxy and do more compsition - work of composition, but possibly with other means.
H: You speak of moving onto your next life and this actually brings me to something I was going to ask you later but I'll ask it now. I was reading some of the comments you wrote about Trans concerning the idea that it would help people who are not dying any more but were actually dead to begin a new journey. One of the things that struck me about that comment was that although there's a large amount of music that has been written to commemorate people or to celebrate their lives after it is over, there isn't actually a great deal of music that has been written that could be played to people either as they are dying or in the moment after their death in the way that, say, the Tibetan Book of the Dead would be read, and I wondered whether you had any comments about that deficit?
S: I have composed, as a part of Lichte, 'Kattinke's Song'. 'Kattinke's Song' is for flute and for six percussionists. The six percussionists make their instruments according to my instructions, very unusual instruments, attached to their bodies and they represent the six senses and, as a matter of fact, these six senses leave during the performance of the piece, one by one, and walk to the tomb of Luzifer who has died, an apparent death. 'Kattinke's Song' is Luzifer's requiem in this certain way because the flautist plays, together with the percussionist, 24 Ètudes for the soul after the physical death and I have said that, if possible, this work should be performed at the place where someone has died, if he wished so while he was still living in his body, for 49 days after the physical death. The music is composed in such a way that the Ètudes or exercises - it is a better word - these exercises should protect the leaving spirit from being caught by other spirits who hover around the planet so that the leaving spirit could reach the white light. It is, as a matter of fact, according to my knowledge, the only requiem for spirits who have died, though other traditional requiems are the last music to be performed when they wish that the parting spirit should reach Heaven. But the work I have composed very consciously is a series of exercises one should listen to after the physical death. Trans was another attempt to compose music which clearly is invisible, the main orchestra will never be seen by the public. About 50 string players, who sit behind a mauve gauze, are like puppets and move like puppets, but the large orchestra in several groups is hidden and yet projected through microphones and loudspeakers into the auditorium.
H: An interesting thing about Trans as well is that it introduced the sound of a shuttle passing through a room which, I believe, is a childhood memory of yours.
S: The sound itself?
S: But in this work the shuttle is a sort of irregular metronome and it is a click track if I may say so for the orchestra because the orchestra has no conductor and all the musicians play synchronized; that is very unusual.
H: I also notice that when you spoke of Luzifer's Requiem you spoke of six senses rather than the traditional five. What sixth sense has been identified?
S: Well, they are even drawn on sound plates which are at either side of the percussion players and there are two pairs: there's a pair of ears and then eyes and then the nose and then an open mouth so it's a face and then hands, touch, and then a brain, a drawing of an open brain which is thinking. That is the sixth sense.
H: What, thought itself?
S: Yes, thinking it is a medium of perception, you see, like the other senses.
H: One of the things that I was going to ask you about in relation to your childhood is the significance of radio and the piano as parts of your early development. I wondered whether you cared to comment on those memories, you know, radio in society or radio in the home...?
S: Aha. Well, the very first memory which I never forget stems from the time when I was about three-and-a-half years old. My father was a school teacher and he had bought a small radio - I can still see that box in front of me - and my mother liked singing so she liked to listen to this small radio. It was one of the first radios in 1931/32. And she would then talk to the speaker of the radio and when she didn't get an answer she became very furious and she couldn't understand that there was a one-way box, a one-way message, that she had no chance to talk to this voice. I have never forgotten that. I think she was right that the radio from the start is an invention which is incomplete. If someone talks to me, I should have a chance to talk back. Theremin, the Russian scientist, tried to help this very primitive situation and he invented a device which was used as a matter of fact by people. I have experienced the Theremin device myself in America. The device was as if he had invented a radio which you can influence with your hand. When you make movements in front of the radio, then you change the dynamics of the radio so you could shape of the music which you hear. It was an early possibility to be alive yourself rather than being exposed to such apparatus. And then later when I was about six years old, when I had my first piano lessons, I listened to the radio in order to learn new tunes. When I was 8 or 9 years (old), my father took me sometimes into a small restaurant where we lived in Altenberg, and the people would come and drink something, eat something ... cake, at weekends in particular ... and coffee, whatever it was, chocolate ..., and I was asked by my father to go to the piano. The owner of this restaurant was my piano teacher who was also the organist in the village, Mr Klort, and as I was able to play folk songs and what we call the schlage in German, the hits which were in fashion. Then the people would regularly sing along with what I was playing and I got some money and I got cake and chocolate and so I understood that when I would be able to play a lot of songs then I would be successful. This is my more creative relationship with the radio.
H: You said that you encountered the Theremin in America; about what time was this?
H: That was in 1958. It was in the private home of Karl Hauser, the man who had arranged an American tour for me. But then later, in the early 70s, I met an Australian dancer, and she came here. Nearby is a barn, where we gave concerts regularly, and she brought a Theremin device from Utrecht in Holland which meant you have an electro-magnetic field around on a plate of metal and whenever you move you can influence sound if the plate is wired with a synthesiser. And in the synthesiser you can pre-plan the different parameters, as we say in music, which means you can influence the dynamic levels of what the synthesiser produces but also with certain movements you change the pitch and even timbre if you could get the electro-magnetic field act to act in a three-dimensional way. And it was quite interesting to see how a dancer can shape sounds and produce a sort of music, a simple music, but there is a potential in this invention.
H: You are probably aware that there has a resurgence of interest in the Theremin in the last few years, and I was thinking of that interesting connection with a statement you made in a recent interview when you talked about the fact that there was more and more hard technology in music and less and less inspiration or insight. At the end of the statement you said 'a great cause for hope' and I wondered whether you cared to comment on what is happening with technology and the music it can make?
S: Well, I have been working in the studio for the production of sounds and for the combination of sounds with the help of technical means since 1952, that makes now 47 years. And in the beginning this work was extremely hard because I had to decide every duration of sound by measuring them with the ruler and cutting the tape with scissors and then glueing pieces of tape together, and very slowly during these 47 years, this method has become more flexible. Today I worked eight hours in the studio with Protools and I can influence the dynamic curves of eight channels simultaneously or very smoothly without physically cutting something or physically putting it together. In the recording which I mixed today there are twelve channels which I mixed down to eight and then to four. I am going to mix them down to a stereo version for Compact Disc. All the individual channels can be shaped dynamically with devices that are invisible, purely electrical. That means that my musicality can be used more directly in forming the music and the same applies, if I want also, to other parameters when I work in an electronic music studio with Faylipps (?), I can change the pictures and the timbres, etc. So there is hope that the contact between the musical person and the sound which the person is shaping can become more direct and this is, as a matter of fact, a result of a long evolution and it will improve.
H: Do you think it will reach a stage where electronic instruments would exist in people's home in the way that the piano once did?
S: Oh, yeah. They do already! Here you are: you are in a private room. There are several synthesisers, there is a mixing console, a simple one. Nevertheless, this is a small studio and I can make a whole composition of electronic music here with a collaborator who knows how to programme the synthesisers. This year I will work here the whole month of August on electronic music which will be played together with the orchestra and the two soloists which I mentioned for my new work Lichter-Wasser.
H: How you approach the translation or transposition of electronically generated music to a live stage or hall, and what considerations do you take into account?
S: There are two aspects. One aspect is that in live performance, soloists, are transmitted in halls by transmitters. It needs a sound projectionist who sits in the middle of the hall with a mixing console and who controls and shapes the dynamics of what the soloists are performing while they are moving on stage. In my works, they usually perform from memory. They don't sit like in traditional music. The gestures and the movements are conducted. The other aspects is that I use music which is programmed before the performance. Many electronic works of mine exist only on tape, most of them on multi-channel tape, and this music then is projected into the hall with tape machines. To bring these two together is a historical process which is also improving more and more because I think in the future that what is pre-formed ... what is programmed ... does not necessarily need to be only on tape or on a hard disc or something like that. It can also be shaped, influenced by special performers who are players of the new electronic keyboard instruments, keyboards that are nothing but devices which trigger sounds and sequences. This makes a very flexible performance combining the music of voices and certain instruments which will certainly in the future be still important to have electronic music.
H: Do you think there will come a time when the pen and paper are no longer part of the composing process?
S: Well, I wouldn't recommend that because when working, it's not important if it's on paper or a screen where you have a light pen or something like that. What is important is that, working on paper, to take what you say means spending time, unlimited time, on composing. And if you don't use paper, you might use a monitor which is fed by a computer or whatever it is. It is necessary that the spirit of the composer can concentrate on what he sees so that his eyes can help organise it into symbols which are used for other human beings to produce the sound. Even if he is his own interpreter, like I am in many cases, I need that process. What I wrote last night I have changed this morning because during the night I woke up and I changed something. So this compression of unlimited time into the time of a performance gives a quality which I think we will never achieve because when we look at the universe, then we see that it takes a lot of time to develop a solar system or planet, and it is essential that the creative process can use this method. I don't know exactly what the paper of God is, or what His plan is, but I am sure He also needs time to go with what must be an indescribably faster than my time, which is determined by my body and my brain. Nevertheless I think He makes His plans and His goals.
H: This reminds me of a quote from William Blake who is, I think, one of the few poets whose work you have incorporated into your own.
S: Not only poet ...but a beautiful painter.
K: It's one of the Proverbs of Hell: 'The roaring of lions, the howling of wolves, the raging of the stormy sea, and the destructive sword, the portions of eternity, too great for the eye of man.'
S: 'Too great for the eye of man....' Yeah, but that is very creative isn't it? Because the limitation causes progress and invention, and that is the whole meaning of the universe.
H: I am also interested in it in terms of notions of scale of events. For example, I found it interesting that Kontakte begins as an electronic score on tape and then it develops into a work which not only incorporates percussion instruments and piano, but that the performers themselves are performing ritual gestures like the scraping of the tam tam and then it's transformed a third time to 'Originale' where it becomes more of a theatre piece. Hymnen seems to have gone through a similar transformation process but is, I understand, an unfinished work in the sense that there are still anthems you have not used and that you implied that it could be used for a ballet or an opera or a film piece. Is there ever a fixed point for a work like that, I mean does it just become complete historically, or are there works that you look back on and you wish to change in any way or amplify?
S: That is different for several works. Kontakte is open. The end which exists now could have been different, and the plan of the work is longer. Gesang der Jungelinge is the same. But Punkte, for example, which I wrote in 1952 is complete. Gruppen is complete. Maybe I could have made a few more inserts in Gruppen because these are not determined by the first form plan, but that was determined I think by the timing of the first performance as Gesang der Jungelinge. Hymnen is certainly open because I have already realised several longer parts of Hymnen which are in the studio, but finally I decided to stop at two hours and a half. Also because the performance was planned a long time before, I wanted to reach that agreement. The works which I have composed in Licht could naturally be longer but not much longer because there's a form plan 22 years old which determined all the parts of Licht into the seven days of the week and their sections. But when I compose now, for example, Lichter-Wasser, I have already felt the need to compose six bridges, and the bridges are between the parts of Lichter-Wasser which are part of the super formula which I used for that work. So I always find a back door to go into the forest and this is my personal freedom in relationship to myself. So I make myself sort of an architecture, a building, but then with a lot of doors and windows.
H: So you can get outside?
H: I listened to Hymnen again recently and what struck me hearing it now, particularly the opening with the shortwave signals, is how much they now sound like voices or fragments from civilisations that no longer exist. They actually sound as though they are the remnants of some apocalypse that has occurred. This is not so apparent when you hear the improvising over them but when they are alone there's a strange sadness about them.
S: But I hear it differently. I hear it as if a lot of transmissions were superimposed and that causes another sort of chaos which is not an end but it is a situation of our planet, because you are to hear it, to listen to so many transmissions at the same time. That's how I did Hymnen, but there is secretly always that strange hymn underneath when this is happening, 'The Internationale' - Communist anthem, during all this mishmash and all this chaos of different shortwave programmes. It leads very slowly to 'The Marseillaise' a direction secretly audible in spite of the apparent chaotic situation.
H: This leads to me a question I would like to ask you about the creation of the first performances of Aus den sieben Tagen. I notice even in the very cover design of the booklet for the Stockhausen Verlag release you make a point of highlighting May 1968, and, if I am correct, the pieces were performed the following year in Paris.
S: A few of them
H: I wondered what your impressions were of May 1968 and what your impression of Paris was the following year?
S: My impression of Paris? I was in the Teatre National and I didn't see Paris. I saw only that hall and I gave a whole week of concerts and the parts from Aus den sieben Tagen were part of the programmes. I think there were eight or nine different programmes so I don't know anything about the city during that time.
H: Maybe I'm being overly opaque, what I was thinking about was this moment historically where ...
S: Ah ha, I haven't seen that. You mean the protests and all that? I haven't seen that.
H: As an observer, as someone looking back, there is this moment where there is this fantastic, massive upheaval going on in Paris in May which includes artists as well and students taking over concert halls, and there is Karlheinz Stockhausen withdrawing...
S: Not withdrawing! I was working! But all my work is withdrawal, if you like. My whole life is work. I am a child of the war and I have learned not to pay too much attention when other people lose their time in going on the streets and protesting and throwing stones and that all that. You see, I want to continue working and not to be involved too much in these public affairs. Though it has very funny aspects when I was in Paris and one of my French friends, Maurice Fleuret, who is dead now but who was then a little later the director of the Festival du Ton and then became even later and the Director of La Musique of France. He liked very nice shoes and clothes etc., and he was sort of awfully excited by these uproars of students. He had a friend who was an aristocrat and he would go on the streets in his nice dress and then come back when I was there and was very very excited and suffocating. He said 'No, no, no Jean Louis, you don't believe it but I threw a stone! I threw a stone! He said 'Oh you are brave, Maurice. That is fantastic.' (laughter) So I think there was a lot of this humour in the whole situation. Naturally De Gaulle seemed to be a tank who had to be attacked, but there was no possibility to attack this tank because he was a general and France believed that De Gaulle was almost a Tsarist himself so I think it didn't really change the situation.
H: Hence the translation from 'The Internationale' to 'The Marseillaise'.
S: Yeah, exactly - because that was successful and then the Marseillaise was transformed as you know into wild geese and finally to boys shouting in the schoolyard then before the German anthem comes in. It becomes very very slow and black. I mean Bruckner should pack his things and go home. He has no idea how slow and dark and black I could go. Not to talk of Mahler.
H: OK we won't .... Hymnen was also performed in Osaka at the Expo?
H: I was looking at the photographs of the installation and the dome with its lights was very suggestive of the designs by Charles Fourier, the revolutionary architect.
S: I don't know. I think the German architect who built the sphere, according to my proposals, had used the technique of Buckminster Fuller's Geodesic dome with all these wonderful connections and, as a matter of fact, the whole skin of this dome was this plastic material and acoustically it was very successful. We had a very good acoustic sound. Mr Bornimann (sp?) was his name. From Berlin.
H: The mention of Fourier was entirely arbitrary...
S: Oh, you mean Fourier who did the spectral analysis?
H: No, the Utopian architect from the time of the French Revolution, who drew up designs for buildings based on spheres. He also drew set designs for a production of Mozart's Magic Flute which looks like the interior of a dome lit with stars.
S: Oh, but it's true that if one plays as much electronic music as I did in Osaka, the stars - you see, these many many small bulbs could be dimmed at different degrees, particularly when people came in and sat, and you could shut down all the lights and it could get dark, only very small lights remaining. And this belongs to my music. I prefer even to play, if possible, outdoors with the stars like I do in Sternklang, when you look at the stars. Sternklang should be performed in the summer on a full-moon night as we always did, as a matter of fact. And then these bulbs are start to glow...
H: I believe you have done quite a number of performances of your music in a various kinds of Planterium?
S: Not quite a lot, but the world premiere of Sirius took place in the Einstein Spacearium in Washington which is a planetarium, a very modern one with the most modern-sized projector And then I performed in Berlin also Sirius a whole series of performances, and not so long ago I performed in Amsterdam the electronic music of Friday from Light which is called 'Outer Space', Vertraum. Last year I worked a whole week in the Planetarium in Paris and performed my electronic music in Paris, Hymnen also. What was interesting in Paris was that I could decide the speed of the firmament rotating. So for 'Telemusic' the duration of one rotation of the firmament was 18 minutes, but for Hymnen 113.5 minutes. They could plan this with the computer and I like that very much.
H: Could they also pick particular moments in the planet's history to go back to in the past so that the constellations would be, say, the way they would be over Paris 4,500 years ago?
S: I don't know about that. No, they have the firmament and scenes of the southern sky and the northern sky, and I use both for the different programmes, but that's it. Then they can change the speed. Actually, they have other projections with the whole zodiac occurring all of a sudden as pictures but I don't what that.
H: At Osaka, and I still find the statistics fantastic, there was this moment when a flow of people from all over the world go through this one space and there was a million people who heard your music over a period of three months...
S: Six months
H: Six months, my apologies, and you were performing your recent compositions...
S: Not only recent, we have even performed earlier works like Gruppen four-track with the tape played back and ... well, I couldn't perform the works other than those which I had composed until 1970.
S: But yes, we performed also with live performances. Twenty-one soloists were with me for over six months, and we always combined live performances with tape.
H: Was there a moment when you thought 'Well I just want to pack this all up and take it home with me as this is how I want my music to be heard'?
S: Yes, I suggested this even during the time when I was there to several representatives of the German culture who came to Osaka. I said one of the bigger cities in Germany should use this sphere. The transport of the sphere with everything inside would not have cost anything. Several cities like Cologne, or Essen, Hamburg, Munich were contacted, but none of them wanted this sphere because they started immediately calculating the yearly costs for the personnel. It is true that the sphere in Osaka didn't have any heating in the winter time so it was sometimes, you know, very cold, but nobody objected to this. As a permanet auditorium, it would have needed improvement that would have cost another few million. But, strangely enough, the representatives - the responsible people - who were asked, didn't want it so it was destroyed.
H: I always find it fascinating this notion of these organisations get together, they create these enormous structures to celebrate their globality, their sense of communion, and then they knock them all down again afterwards. It's almost as if they have to keep reinventing a new image of themselves for the future.
S: Yeah, of course, it is always the case. I read yesterday that some of the asteroids would just bang on this planet and a few years ago it was quite dangerous that it could have happened and the whole planet would go to pieces. And this happens regularly. So we would have to start somewhere else.
H: Speaking of somewhere else, I would like to ask you about the work you did around Sirius and, you must forgive me, I know the piece Sirius but I also remember a review of the book by Robert Temple, The Sirius Mystery and this review was outlining the background to the Dogon tribe in Africa, its connection with the Sirius Star Systemand, and the fact that Karheinz Stockhausen was born in Sirius.
S: No, I don't say I am born in Sirius, I don't know if that was ever reported, but I said that I was trained as a musician in Sirius and this occurred to me in the time when I was making the plans to compose the work Sirius which I composed and realized during several years. The book you mentioned was given to me still in a manuscript form, not yet published, by Jill Purse, an English lady who specialised in spirals. I have spent a long time together with Jill Purse. And she had heard about this book, and what is very interesting is that this book was conceived and written during the time when I was working on Sirius. So there, find an answer.
H: Had you ever heard the music of the Dogon tribe?
S: I have, on a record once
H: What does it sound like?
S: It was about, just a moment, it was I think in '69. I listened to several African recordings because I was interested in extra-European music. This interest had been caused by my work in Japan, and I heard for the first time this old Japanese music and on the trip to Japan and back I heard music, folk music from India and Cambodia and also in Thailand and Sri Lanka. In Japan I had heard certainly African music on the radio, recordings which I used, some of them I used in Telemusik. So I became during that time, after Hymnen in particular, interested in the music of the whole planet. I remember one recording of the Dogon but I didn't discover any connection with Sirius.
H: My other question is to do with a period in the early 50s, where, for example, the first report by the French anthropologists about the Dogon tribe had been published.
S: This I don't know.
H: It was in 1950, at a moment when there seemed to be an interest in cosmic matters and notions of the earth no longer just being an isolated thing but as part of something bigger. So at the same time that this is happening in France with the Dogon tribe, you have Adamski, in California, George King in London in contact with what they called the Space Brothers and the copyrighting of The Book of Urantia etc. Were you aware at that time that these kind of forces were developing?
S: Yeah I did, naturally in a different form because, you know, German rocket specialist like Von Braun, who had emigrated to America, planned to go to the Moon. It was clear to me when I was studying that this was now part of the coming development not only of astronomy but also of space travel, and the publications of that book of Heisenberg and Einstein all had to do with a complete new consciousness about the Cosmos. Yeah, that was very much in the air when I was finishing my studies. My first piano pieces I have myself called 'Star Music'. One piece of Messiaen for piano I have also called 'Star Music'. And it is true that in many letters which I exchanged at that time, in 1952 when I was living in Paris with a friend of mine, in many letters I have written that I would like to make music which is concentrating on the stars, and the way the stars are composed is a model of my music.
H: Following on from what you were saying about the German scientists who were in America, like Von Braun and Willy Ley at White Sands, I was thinking about the comments that you made at early performances of Hymnen when you talk about it as space music. You even footnote one of your comments to say this statement was made before man had walked on the moon, and that there was a process of transformation happening: that space, this kind of cosmic background, as it were, was isolating things and making people look at them in a different way. At the same time, however, there was this kind of historical trajectory from Von Braun through NASA to the Apollo programme which has ground slowly to a halt, that we are not going into space anymore, we are just orbiting the outer part of the atmosphere.
S: No, it's absolutely clear. I don't know if you know the new books from the Hubble telescope, publications from NASA? It's absolutely clear that they will be on Mars by 2012, and that it will cost 800 billion dollars. I know that they are going to go very quick now into the solar system; that will take, I would say, not more than 100 years until they have gone even to Pluto. You see, mankind will not stop now discovering the solar system and all the moons because Stockhausen has composed a work in 1999 which says that it should go on to all the moons. As I said, the last few days I have discovered myself all the rotation, velocities and diameters of the 60 moons of Jupiter, and tomorrow I will continue to study more carefully all the moons of Saturn, which is even more work to do. But I am very interested in all the rotations and rhythms of these globes because these are models for compositions. If you compare the speeds and the sizes and the rotations around the Sun and the rotation around themselves and you try to make sense why four of the moons of Jupiter turn backwards, they start in the West and rise and then they descend in the East, whereas all the others do the opposite. This is a fantastic school of teaching that you can use as a composer, to think: how are my rhythms, my speeds, my tempi? And I am doing now a piece in the large hall which is 40 by 40 metres and the world premier will take place in such a hall which is a sport gymnasium in Donnereshing (?) in October of this year. The musicians stand placed in a square and diagonal lines and across, 29 musicians in different places. The sounds are moving from one musician to the next with different speeds and I am always now making designs how to make these movements of sounds in that given space, and the score describes exactly how this string of pitches, of melody of timbres, etc, is developing in two lanes simultaneously in the work and the speeds change always. But that's why I am so interested now in comparing what I am doing with the speeds of - how do you say? - space
S: No, not satellites, well, maybe...
H: I meant satellites of other planets.
S: Yes, exactly
H: Perhaps you would care to talk about the work you have been doing for the past month in this mobile studio because we are actually talking at the end of a working process.
S: In June 1995 I finally succeeded in realising a project which is called Helikopter String Quartet. It was commissioned by the Salzburg Festival, not for helicopters but for string quartet. It happened that I wrote a work for 4 helicopters and the 4 players of a quartet playing inside of the helicopters who are flying in the air when they are performing. What they play is transmitted by transmitters into an auditorium where the public is listening to four columns of loudspeakers and watching on four groups of screens which are television monitors, very big ones, what is happening inside of the helicopters because in each helicopter is a camera. This is the dream I had and I composed it. And then there were three trials the day before, I think on June 5 something like that. On June 6 1995, three performances took place above Amsterdam at the Restagaus (???) Factory auditorium. People watched and listened three times to the Helicopter String Quartet performance and after each performance they met the players, the pilots, etc. And then I had recorded on twelve tracks for each player the voice - because they also shout numbers while they are playing and each one had a microphone in front of the mouth - and they had special instruments with built-in contact mikes, so there is a second channel for each player. The third channel is the noise of the rotor blades which was picked up by very special microphones. After destroying a lot of microphones, and experimenting we finally found the right ones. These miscrophones were outside to pick up the noise of the rotor blades while they were flying. I have this twelve-channel recording and did not find the time afterwards to mix it down to a four-channel version which would correspond to what we heard in the auditorium so that I could make people listen to this recording.
As a matter of fact, this afternoon at six o'clock, I finished finally after four weeks of mixing to make a four-channel version and I am going to make now two-channel version. After this live performance in Amsterdam, the Arditti Quartet wanted to make a studio recording and I didn't object because I had, after the performance of Amsterdam, added another three minutes toward the end, so I was myself interested in hearing this. And we made a studio recording here in this school complex in Kurten in four different rooms, recorded them on a 24-channel machine. I mixed this down to a version which can be broadcast on radio but also as an eight-channel and four-channel version, so I can play this now for people who are interested. Nevertheless, the real thing is the performance with helicopters because that is also a window of our consciousness, you see, that for the first time there exists a musicial composition in which the performers do not meet any longer to be in the same space. They could be on four different planets and perform synchronously, perfectly synchronously, down to the 1/10th of a second.
H: I came across a reference to a Christmas Eve broadcast that took place in Germany in 1942 in which the different fronts during the war - the Black Sea, Africa, Finland Leningrad - were actually exchanging greetings over the radio. It started, I think, in the Black Sea. They were singing 'Silent Night' and they were actually tuning in all the different groups just for this one momet...
S: No, but I didn't know that they had already.... no but they didn't satellites at the time.. so how did they do it? They don't have a wire from the Black Sea to Berlin?
H: I was curious as well. I know that conflict tends to expand technology in strange ways.
S: What they must have had are naturally like radio stations so I am sure they played in a radio station or somewhere. Naturally you could sing by 1942 and record it, but if you want to do it live, then you need microphones and a wire going at least to the radio where there are already the big towers for transmissions. Then you can do it.
H: I also understand that last year you did for the Cologne Rotary Club...
S: Yes. It's called the 'Rotary Wind Quintet'.
H: ... and that they really enjoyed it.
S: Yeah, yeah. As a matter of fact.
H: And I wondering whether, over the years, you had seen a change in your audiences. Do they still surprise you in their responses?
S: Yes. Every time. I think mankind is not a static combination of spirits but always new spirits enter, others leave, so it is unpredictable and the freshness of unusual works remains the constant, permanent factor. It is not only when you go to countries where you have never been before. Yesterday I had an invitation from Turkey for the first time to give concerns in Turkey, Istanbul, etc. I can't go there in September but I will go later. I have performed in all countries in Russia for the first time after the change of political system in 1992. We went there for five concerts in the Lomonosov University with musicians from here and a big truck transporting all the equipment, etc. Fantastic concerts, one of the best publics of my life because it was all fresh and new to them. But it is also true when I give a concert in Cologne, we performed, for example, 'Orchestra Finalists' this year - no, last year for my 70th birthday - or in Frankfurt. For most of the people it was completely new - they had never heard or seen that before, and the reaction was accordingly very alive and mixed, against and for it. So there are always people who are unprepared, and others who are knowledgeable, specialists and fans.
H: Like The Helicopter String Quartet, The Rotary Wind Quintet is part of Mittwoch aus Licht.
S: Michaelion? It just had its world premiere in Munich. Very interesting. It is a work for choir and five soloists, and the choir sings for a whole hour from memory with movements, and the movements are really new. There's barely a moment when the same number of performers is on the stage,and also the gestures are very characteristic and change during the performance. There are Spanish partitions, thirteen panels. The performers come from between these panels, sometimes very short or sometimes in slow motion, onto the place which can be seen by the public and between the moments, when there are 41 performers packed on the stage, more or less slowly moving, then suddenly rushing and then moments when nobody is on the stage, then one person, then 20, 12. These changes of density are unique in my work, and I have never seen something like it, or never heard also something like it. And there are microphones everywhere, above the area of the performance, and this is transmitted then through speakers, which are also suspended above the stage area. And some of the sounds of the performers, the synthesiser for example, are also rotating around the public. No, this is very special as a space composition.
H: What you've described reminded me of your comments concerning drama and musical performance: the notion of transforming relationships. You once said something like as if Macbeth became Lady Macbeth then became a lion, then became an angel, then became whatever. Are these ideas being expanded or extended here?
S: Well, Licht is, I think, scenic music in so far as the actors are the notes of the score; better what I call the limbs of the formula. They're proportions and movements and what we see then represented by human bodies and their actions is a transformation into the visual of what is musically composed. So my protagonists are these musical forms, and these forms could be represented visually in many different ways. So I think one scenic realisation is just one version of what is written in the score. This I call 'scenic'. If the musical proportions are composed that way that they can be transformed into the visual perception. It is also how I compose the text. Naturally there is always for a part of Licht, a main theme like now our solar system, when I composed Sternklang with star constellations far away and talking about not talking, singing the names, commenting the names of stellar constellations. Then in 'Sirius', which is already more concentrated on one star. And then the zodiac at the time of Sirius, conentrating on the zodiac constellations. Then comes Licht for 22 years, which is concentrating on the week and the week is combined naturally with the main planets which are connected with the weekdays. And now I am interested in the solar system and maybe I end up with being extremely interested in what's inside the molecules and the atoms and use this as a scenic representation of the musical composition.
H: I was wondering how the figure of Luzifer is used in this project. He's not someone that I would automatically have associated with Karheinz Stockhausen.
S: No, I am not automatically indentifiable with any of the protagonists in Licht. I have that name now but I would not dare compare it, me as a composer, with those cosmic spirits who are so intelligent and so powerful, so omnipresent that I learn from their existence. Eve is another of those cosmic spirits to whom I have dedicated parts of Licht. Michaelion is dedicated really to my master Michael, the ruler, or as I always say, the master of our local universe. So if I compose and use the name of Michael and of Luzifer and of Eve, then it is more in the universal sense then that these are spirits who are known under these names and, in many other cultures would have a different name, but they are the same cosmic spirits. They are called differently in different cultures and in different times of the past. So Luzifer is one of the spirits I mention a great deal and I try to compose music according to his spirit, like also I compose music according to Eve's spirit and to Michael's spirit. In some way I feel like being a radio apparatus or television set receiving from those cosmic spirits what is transmitted. Though whenever I reflect for a moment about my work, I know that I want to go with Michael which means I'm a spirit who is very enthusiastic about the future, who believes in progress every second. I think that Luzifer in the end is going to be transformed into a ... or he probably is already ... a collaborator of a cosmic composition rather than putting the fire of doubt into the heads of so many other spirits because nobody, he claims, has seen God in person. But this is a sort of a strange statement. What he really wanted is to have as many people going with him and, for for his own universal sake, he wanted to be the master himself.
H: The pride of the beautiful angel.
H: In'Downwards', from Aus den sieben Tagen, I was surprised by the intensity of your voice ..... it almost sounded as if you were scourging yourself, you could hear this like cracking .. almost like a penitent as if you are trying to push yourself into an extreme state at the beginning of that work. And it does seem to me that in Aus den sieben Tagen there are moments into very dark intensities of pushing the envelope of experience into areas where people may not want to go.
S: But I am not reflecting about people. I can reach ecstatic moments when I am no longer aware of myself, this can happen sometimes.
H: There's a statement you make about 'Communion' that 'war,
struggle and annihilation are sublimated forms of communion as if
in mutual destruction even extermination the unifying spirit
S: Yeah, that's true because all are possibilities to get out of the prison, of body, of senses, of the mind. All these are prisons. And to express our cosmic nature which is unlimited and only for the life as a human being, imprisoned. But the deepest desire is to get out of this prison. All models and all systems and all limits defined by human beings are practical to make this machine work on this planet and make society work. But they are are only valid for a certain time. They are not absolute.
H: I wonder whether this would be a good time to finish, or do you want to go on?
S: No, I feel we have said a lot of good things but I wonder what a musical magazine would make of an interview like this?