Sunday, April 26, 2009

Karlheinz Stockhausen


To be perfectly honest, I do not know much about Stockhausen's work.  Most of my knowledge is incomplete, i.e. he wrote a piece that requires a string quartet to perform while in helicopters.  As far as I do know, he was able to stretch the boundaries of what music is, or can be considered as, and wrote music that delved into more conceptual ideas, as well as improvisations.  As I am doing more research I am realizing he was a student of Oliver Messiaen, which explains some of esoteric ideas on music. Before I write more and risk sounding completely un-educated on the subject I will get into the point of the post.  During the Open Space Festival at UNC this year, Stephen Drury was talking to me about different pieces to play with the student ensemble that had been assembled for John Zorn's Cobra, and he mentioned two pieces.  These pieces are both text pieces written by Stockhausen the first being, "From the seven days" and the second being "For times to come."  I have not spent much time with them so far to study them and their history, but while I have the scores now (thank you interlibrary loan) I was going to write out on the blog the pieces I think we could perform.  One of the pieces from the seven days involves starving yourself for four days, so I will not be writing those out, or the ones that are more poetry than music.  So what follows is selected pieces from Stockhausen's "From the seven days"


FROM THE SEVEN DAYS

Right Durations
Play a sound, play it for so long until you feel that you should stop
Again, play a sound, play it for so long until you feel that you should stop
And so on
Stop when you feel that you should stop
But, whether you play or stop, keep listening to the others
At best play when people are listening

Unlimited
Play a sound with the certainty that you have an infinite amount of time and space

Connection
Play a vibration in the rhythm of your body
Play a vibration in the rhythm of your heart
Play a vibration in the rhythm of your breathing
Play a vibration in the rhythm of your thinking
Play a vibration in the rhythm of your intuition
Play a vibration in the rhythm of your enlightenment
Play a vibration in the rhythm of the universe
Mix these vibrations freely
Leave enough silence between them

Meeting Point
Everyone plays the same tone
Lead the tone wherever you thoughts lead you
Do not leave it, stay with it
Always return to the same place

Night Music
Play a vibration in the rhythm of the universe
Play a vibration in the rhythm of dreaming
Play a vibration in the rhythm of dreaming
And slowly transform it into the rhythm of the universe
Repeat this as often as you can

Downwards
Play a vibration in the rhythm of your limbs
Play a vibration in the rhythm of your cells
Play a vibration in the rhythm of your molecules
Play a vibration in the rhythm of your atoms
Play a vibration in the rhythm of your smallest particles
Which your inner ear can reach
Change slowly from one rhythm to another, until you become freer 
And can interchange them at will

Upwards
Play a vibration in the rhythm of your smallest particles
Play a vibration in the rhythm of the universe
Play all the rhythms that you can distinguish today between 
The rhythm of your smallest particles and the rhythm of the universe
One after the other and each one for so long until the air carries it on

Intensity
Play single sounds with such dedication until you feel the warmth that radiates from you
Play on and sustain it as long as you can

Set Sail for the Sun
Play a tone for so long until you hear its individual vibrations
Hold the tone and listen to the tones of the others
To all of them together, not to individual ones
And slowly move your tone until you arrive at complete harmony
And the whole sound turns to gold to pure, gently shimmering fire

Think Nothing
Wait until it is absolutely still within you
When you have attained this begin to play
As soon as you start to think, top and try to retain the state of non-thinking
Then continue playing




That is roughly half of the pieces from the seven days...  I will post again soon to write selections of "From things to come," which are similar text compositions for indeterminate ensembles, and hopefully try it out over the summer with some local musicians.  I will post any new music results and hopefully links to audio files when that occurs.  I will also try and add more enlightening information of Stockhausen when i complete this two part posting on the great composer. 

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