Stockhausen (Part 3)
Jill Purce concludes discussions with the new music man.
In the final part of this exclusive interview, Karlheinz Stockhausen talks to Jill Purce about his feelings about the future, his personal philosophy and his recent work, Sirius
JP: Do you have any specific ambitions just now?
KS: Yes, I wish I could find an extremely rich institution to construct a building where I could perform Licht; a place with everything I need, acoustically and technically. It should be a permanent institution able to perform these works as required, with the right technical means, the right acoustics, auditorium and stage. All the traditional auditoriums are completely obsolete for this.
JP: Is this consistent with your ideas about the future of the planet? Do you think it will be a safe place for us in the next few years, don't you think there are going to be catastrophies?
KS: There will be some wars; I think I only have a few more years to bring out my scores, then it will become very difficult because everything will be so expensive, with terrible devaluation. There will be a Chinese-Russian war, then the Arabs will come and try and get everything from the Europeans because they have nothing, and then the Africans — although that is much later. I would say that until the middle of the next century we will have a lot of trouble, but finally some peace, for fifty years perhaps, through exhaustion.
JP: Do you think there will be anyone to enjoy the peace?
KS: I think so, yes — all of us — I mean, me, probably not. I will think twice before I come back.
JP: And after the fifty years?
KS: The Chinese will come, and then the Africans will make a lot of trouble.
JP: No period of joy and harmony?
KS: Not on this planet so soon. There will be a military government, because there will be no order and there are too many people. Everyone will be under control whether they want to drink or to reproduce themselves.
JP: Where must one go to find peace?
KS: Inside, at any time, any moment; or listen to music, to peaceful music. I think absolute peace comes immediately you realise how short our stay is here, in this (school), and that when you do well or do your best, then you 'graduate' into a much more peaceful, much more harmonised world — and that's on an indefinite scale. So one should not take this too seriously, this school here, this kindergarten.
JP: Where are you going now, afterwards?
KS: Oh, probably back to Sirius first, and then I'll try and take another, better job. I want to become a composer of more efficient means.
KS: To re-compose some galaxy!
JP: Are they badly composed?
KS: Well, ours is in terrible disorder, naturally.
JP: How would you recompose it?
KS: I would make everything more musical. I would work with different vibrations, not just with the acoustical vibrations of one planet or with all these undeveloped means we have. Our instruments and performance conditions are so terribly primitive on this planet that it's a constant struggle to accept what I have to do. My intuition, my fantasy, is so much more developed than what I can do. I am constantly hitting my head against a wall, because everything is so slow. I have so many ideas, and really brilliant ones, that I can never realise.
JP: What do you need to realise them?
KS: Much lighter means; and not loudspeakers, for example, which are so heavy. I have to carry loudspeakers for two hours before I can start playing somewhere, or put up music stands and all that stuff myself, and do organisation for concerts which takes me five or six hours, sometimes, a day. Like today for example, for three hours I have been organising the next concert.
JP: Would you start with our own galaxy?
KS: I would like to find a place which is much more cultured than this one; this place is terribly underdeveloped, it's a place of barking dogs and deaf lizards. It's not very enjoyable to make music of this kind because you find so few spirits who are willing to hear it and who can appreciate it. I will try to get a mission to a place which is more advanced, where music is far more developed. A place where I can work directly with the vibrations, where the atmosphere is adapted to the kind of vibrations that exist where the people are so sensitive, that I can make music right out of my consciousness and where the translation is not so primitive. I have to go beyond writing, and using erasers which don't work, bad paper and all this, you see, it's all very primitive here.
JP: You mean 'In the beginning was the word' — or rather the vibration — it's a bad translation!
KS: It's a very bad translation. In the beginning was the melody. But not the word, because the word is a tag, it's a sign for something.
JP: Maybe it's the differentiation of entities by words or concepts? When you find your new job, will you create forms with your vibrations?
KS: Just on a larger level, it's like a boy who starts with piano and finishes up with a large orchestra, so now what next? That's my next stage, you know.
JP: Have you begun it already, with your new piece Sirius? I love this piece — could you tell me about it.
KS: Sirius is based on a formula — it has six parts in three sections that I call the Presentation, the Wheel and the Annunciation.
In the Presentation, the four soloists present each other and themselves. Bass, trumpet, soprano and bass clarinet represent the four seasons, the four elements, the four cardinal directions, the four main times of the day and the different stages of life - man, adolescent, woman, friend and beloved. They are the night - the one that is not yet revealing itself - the seed, and then the bud - the adolescent - and then comes the blossom and finally the fruit. The adolescent is the spirit of youth, friend and beloved can be man or woman, they are the two that are between the man and the woman. The four are represented by the four melodies of the Zodiac: of Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, which means Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn.
The twelve melodies of the Zodiac I had already composed for another piece which is called Musik Im Bauch (Music in the Belly) - that is the music that you find in the belly of the Birdman — but I also published Tierkries (Zodiac) separately. I used its four main melodies for Sirius, representing the four seasons and principles, to build the four main sections of the wheel.
The four melodies represent the 12 months of the year and therefore also the twelve components of the wheel, or cycle of the seasons. The Man, the bass, is winter and has three months; the Adolescent is the trumpet player and has the three spring months; the soprano, the woman, has the three summer months and the bass clarinet has the three autumn months. Whenever you have one melody in its pure state in the centre of each season, the other melodies are present in the form of a transition, either coming or going — there is a lot of reference to Nature. When summer is less obvious but still there, then you are more aware of the underlying winter, autumn, and spring — autumn more towards the end, spring towards the beginning, but even in the middle of the summer section there is a moment when the winter occurs all of a sudden. The bass threatens and then goes away again. This is when summer says 'Go away, this is my season'.
The entire composition has been built from the four melodies. I have derived all the sounds, the transformations, and superimpositions of layers from these four main melodies. The other eight melodies occur only once in each section. There is the main melody and three others, which occur only once in one or two strokes, but I develop them. So in Sirius that is the main compositional idea, to build a big piece which lasts 92 minutes without a break, based on four melodies, or 'formulas' I call them, containing the entire material for the structure. All the electronic work for Sirius was composed with the Synthi 100. I fed the sequence of the main four melodies into it and then used it for all the different musical parameters needed to make the electronic tape.
The soloists then come together with the tape. I composed counterpoint, but mainly reinforcements of the lines in the tape, which itself is always a kind of 4-layer counterpoint. Sometimes it is reduced naturally to only one layer, the pure state of one season, but then it spreads out again and becomes more polyphonic. The piece is extremely polyphonic, as I think nature is. The seasons are polyphonic; they are not one after another, they are simultaneous, but always with different intensities superimposed. So the work refers very much to the cycles and rhythms of nature - of the seasons - with all their characteristics, and to the planets, animals and to the twelve main characters of human beings.
JP: How does the star Sirius relate to the seasons?
KS: Sirius is the centre of our local universe; about 200 million suns are rotating around it, including our own. Sirius is the central sun. All the principles of our local universe which can also be found on the individual planets, in particular our own, are related to the mother sun, Sirius. The main characteristic on Sirius is that everything is music, or the art of co-ordination and harmony of vibrations. This is music in a much higher sense than on our planet. The art is very highly developed there, and every composition on Sirius is related to the rhythms of nature. This is the place where all of these principles are combined, the seasons, the rhythms of the stars. This is always the theme of a musical composition. So my particular composition, Sirius, simply reflects this principle of music on Sirius, that musical composition automatically has to contain the essence of nature and rhythms.
JP: Can you say how you know about Sirius?
KS: It would lead to a misunderstanding and false interpretation. It is an inner revelation that has come several times to me, that I have been educated on Sirius, that I come from Sirius, but usually people laugh at this and don't understand it, so it doesn't really make sense to talk about it. It is alright to talk about such things privately, to one who is willing to understand and has similar visions, it doesn't make sense to talk about it in public.
JP: The piece seems to me like a combined invocation and visitation.
KS: That was my idea. On Sirius art, and in particular music, is the language. I see music as the language of more highly developed beings. The language, really. Ordinary speech, with its undeveloped pitches and dynamics, and its relatively determined rhythm, is only a transition towards a higher language. Music - even the most sophisticated music — will be the universal language, one day, when we are more developed. And Sirius, the heart of the local universe, the mother sun, I clearly see as the school and main centre of music and musical education.
Interview by Jill Purce
mu:zines is the result of thousands of hours of effort, and will require many thousands more going forward to reach our goals of getting all this content online.
If you value this resource, you can support this project - it really helps!