february 12, 2008.
When Cosmo of the parisian free Radio Aligre FM's Songs of Praise asked me if I would contribute to a special edition of their fine program, in tribute of Karlheinz Stockhausen (who, as you will remember, passed away early december 2007) of course I was happy to oblige. And it was because of Songs of Praise's request that it occurred to me that, being the compulsive archivist that I am, I might still have filed away somewhere the original audio cassette that I used to record the interview with Stockhausen that Martijn Padding and I did for the dutch Vinyl Magazine ( * ), on the occasion of a five week period that Stockhausen and his band (pretty much literally) took over the Royal Conservatory in the Hague (the Netherlands), twenty five years ago, in 1982 ... I could not be completely sure, because at the time I often re-cycled the cassettes that I used for interviews, for the simple reason that I was too short of money to keep on buying new ones. I knew, for instance, that I had used the same set of tapes that one day had on it the full recording of a wonderful afternoon spent at Robert Wyatt's house in a London suburb, one morning the next week to record the Furious Pig's a cappella new wave chanting at the Rough Trade offices, and a somewhat awkward chat with Fred Frith that same evening at the ICA, after a joint concert with Bob Ostertag; and then again some days later to 'eternalize' an early morning pub drinking and lyrics-on-napkins scribbling session with Nick Cave, who around that time had come flying in from Australia with his Birthday Party to conquer the world, starting in London bars and similar hang-outs; only in turn to make place for Scritti Politti's Green's ramblings on Derrida and the politics of deconstruction in a Camden Town ice cream parlour; which then eventually again had to give way to the Cabaret Voltaire boys fiddling around with their many machines in their Sheffield 'Western Works' studio. Well, no regrets. That's how it is, and I do remember what much of this sounded like ...
I did manage to dig out the Stockhausen tape from my Amsterdam
archives, complete and unabridged. I found it on the bottom of a cardboard
box, a TDK D-C60 cassette amidst many more cassettes, reel-to-reel tapes,
and bits of paper, labeled 1982. On the cassette's label originally
in black there was written Thomas deel 1 (meaning "Thomas part
1"), but I barred
Thomas, and put 'Stockhausen' in red. Which probably
means that for the Stockhausen interview, I used a cassette that earlier
on had served in taping Pere Ubu's David Thomas ... [ Some day I
will make a complete inventory of the interview tapes from that period that
did survive. While unfortunately, far from being complete, it must
remain a pretty interesting collection of documents sonores. What,
of course, more than 25 years later makes them of special interest to me,
is foremost all the surrounding sounds, the bruits accidentelles,
that were caught along with the interviewee. For these are simple 'lo fi
field recordings', full of crackles and sounds 'between the lines'.
And also, of course, after a quarter of century, one hears things differently
now, and I am convinced that phrases and remarks that at the time I passed
over as 'irrelevant' now will strike me as, on the contrary, being
essential ... ]
Songs of Praise's émission en hommage à Karlheinz Stockhausen aired on monday january 21st, live from Aligre FM's underground studio in the rue de Montreuil, Paris XI. In the picture you see the Songs of Praise editorial and presenting team (fltr Nicolas Schoener, Bimbo's Franq and Cosmo Helectra) towards the end of the emission, in what you will recognize as a pastiche on a Deutsche Grammophon record cover. All three being passionate record collectors, they brought a large selection of Stockhausen vintage vinyl editions from the 1960s and 1970s, many of which come with covers that seem - here and now - little less than ... mind boggling :-) ... The following are two of my favorites: the left one is the cover of the Deutsche Grammophon release of Prozession (DG 2530582, 1971); on the right, with the upside-down picture of a tanned Stockhausen on an empty beach, that's the cover of the double LP release of Sirius (DG 2707 122 (2LP), 1977). ( ** ) (You can click the pictures to see them bigger ...)
The interview that Martijn and I did on wednesday november 24th, 1982, took place in The Hague, at the Royal Conservatory, where, as said, Stockhausen and his family/collaborators had settled, between october 27th and december 1st, and for a period of 35 days re-scheduled daily life at the music school in the best of teutonic traditions, imposing an unceasing series of daily rehearsals, concerts, lectures and courses, led and 'composed' by Karlheinz himself, and executed to the letter by his équipe, that way back then included his son Markus, daughter Majella, his companion Suzanne Stephens, as well as the hungarian composer/conductor Peter Eötvös, a longtime collaborator.
I do not remember much of the precise circumstances under which the interview took place, but the recording on the cassette suggests that we did it in two parts. It must have been in the morning or afternoon, probably before and after rehearsals for that evening's concert, which was in two parts as well: first there was Examen (from Michael's Jugend, which is part of the first act of Donnerstag aus Licht), performed by Markus, Majella, Suzanne, tenor Frieder Lang and dancer Michèle Noiret; then the second part of the concert was the four- or five track playing of the classic tape composition Gesang der Jünglinge.
For Songs of Praise's program en hommage à Stockhausen I chose three extracts from the interview tape, and used these to compile a 30 minutes reportage, where parts from the interview alternate with a couple of extracts from my dictaphone recordings of the first (1998) summer courses in Kürten, part of my (also dictaphone) recording of Klavierstück XIII (Luzifer's Traum), as it was performed on june 11th 1984, as part of a quasi-concertant version of Samstag, in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw (with Majella playing the piano; probably Matthias Hölle was the bass singing Lucifer's part, but I should check that somewhere), and a series of short tape montage that I found on a reel-to-reel tape dating from the same period (december 1982 - january 1983), in which I mix a couple of labour-intensive tape cut-ups of acoustic piano-sounds with (manipulations of) several of the parts during the interview where Stockhausen, to illustrate a point, or to mark a certain passage in a piece, starts humming or singing.
It was a nice conversation we had that wednesday, or rather - as you will hear - it was a fine lecture ... Stockhausen never needed much encouragement to divulge his opinions and views on all, and particularly music related, subjects that at a particular moment in time were on his heart. At the time of the The Hague project he was composing Samstag, and only recently had finished his Klavierstück XIII. And Martijn Padding way back then was at the conservatory training as a piano player, with a very special interest in Stockhausen's piano pieces. Which explains why one hears Karlheinz talking at great length about the techniques he used in composing that piece, and in particular about how in Luzifer's Traum he extended his method of serialization to include the 'compression and expansion of figures', expressing - as so often - his obsession with the nature of that elusive 'thing' we call time and which - whatever else it might be - is the very sine qua non of music and the art of sound.
"The method never changes, it only becomes more and more rich. It doesn't apply for example, in the 13th piano piece, only to measures, to melodic and harmonic construction, and to the density, like in previous works, but in the 13th piece I have discovered something very special. [I always had the feeling that ... the goal of Lucifer's dream is:] to annihilate time. To make time disappear. Because he thinks that beings in time, that objects in time, is a misunderstanding. He thinks this is mediocre. So his says: 'Time must be com-pres-sed ...!' And what happens when you compress - as he says - human figures, or human music? When you compress it, then you gain ... emptiness ... void. And this is what's happening increasingly in the process, in the 13th piano piece. I have adapted now the work of serialization to the proportion of compression and expansion in time. And the figures which are presented in ordinary time of listening in the beginning are increasingly compressed [...] I was very happy when I discovered this method to compress figures until the figures are practically ... verticalized ... and become so compressed that you can not hear them anymore ... as figures; and they become sound. That's the 13th piano piece."
Most interesting in the cassette recording are the couple of short passages in which for a while it is not so much Stockhausen-the-name ( **** ) talking, but Stockhausen-the-man, e.g. when he is describing John Cage's reaction after having witnessed the world premiere of Luzifer's Traum in november 1981 in Metz. And do listen carefully to the last couple of minutes, when Karlheinz tells us, nay orders us as if we were a couple of schoolkids (which, of course, actually in a way we were :-), to write down his postal address and to send him some copies of the magazine with the printed interview.
The Songs of Praise tribute took the form of long passages in which we freely mixed favorite passages from the pile of Stockhausen vinyls, CD's, from some of my dictaphone recorded tapes from the summer courses, Luzifer's Abschied as captured live by me on dictaphone in and around the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam on june 14th, 1984; and all of this interspersed with the reportage, that for use in Songs of Praise I had cut in three separate pars, together with a longer compilation of extracts from the daily, very insightful, rehearsals of Mikrophonie, at the 1998 Kürten courses. ( ***** ) And indeed ... all put together that is the very sort of improvised collage that Stockhausen himself so deeply abhorred.
During the moments in which the studio's microphones were open to receive and transmit the sounds of our voice, accompanying the announcements and comments I randomly played a couple of cassette tapes from my file of 'Kürten field recordings', as well as a cassette containing a recording of Vicky reciting 'Mosquitos', which, as you may remember, is a story that has the 1998 summer courses in Kürten as its setting. Thus the Songs of Praise en hommage à Stockhausen came to include the 15th rendering of Vicky's Mosquitos (thank you Nicolas, Franq, Cosmo for this contribution to VM).
Preparing this contribution to Songs of Praise, I spent quite some time listening back to the many, many hours of cassette (and MD) that I made in Kürten over the years. Much of it I never had listened back to before, and also this time around it was not possible to go through all of it. Parts surely will continue to surface, among the sound sources I use as part of those performances where I bring my dictaphones. As for instance when, just before christmas, I joined Rébus in a short set as part of the second Agence XP Placard, for which I brought no more than one dictaphone, and one 1998 cassette recorded in Kürten. Rébus had launched one of his fine sound processes based on certain types of interference, and - curiously - the precise part of the cassette from a morning rehearsal in the Sülztalhalle that passed along the playback head of my dictaphone when I joined him in the performance, has Stockhausen and some of the musicians involved in a discussion of interference effects with respect to the wireless microphones they are using ... Here, as one more tribute to Karlheinz, is a registration of part of that performance, as it appears among Rébus' matchless YouTube video chronicles.
Karlheinz Stockhausen on the SoundBlog:
(august 19, 2004) - alLicht
(september 06, 2004) - vicky's mosquitos
(february 12, 2008) - Karlheinz's Song of Praise
(march 30, 2010) - on-g'luk = un-luck, that is: malheur, twice ...
(october 12, 2013) - "At 19:07 the four helicopters flew over the Pont Neuf"
(march 08, 2014) - "12 - 11 - 9 - 10 - 3 - 6 - 7 - 1 - 2 - 8 - 4 - 5"
About the Placard international Headphone Festival on the SoundBlog:
(june 20, 2003) - live chronicles
(july 13, 2003) - gaité lyrique
(may 13, 2004) - tafelmuziek placard
(may 31, 2004) - old bears new tricks
(june 18, 2005) - zandoog placard & cd
|→ (july 27, 2005) - tafelmuziek: placard & cd
(july 31, 2005) - tafelmuziek: paradiso placard
(july 07, 2006) - de_'tails of lite house keeping'
(july 30, 2006) - "le zida ne passera pas par moi..."
|→ (august 14, 2006) - placard : la générale
(october 20, 2006) - Funky Shit!
(november 05, 2006) - Cellarlar Heroes
(february 12, 2008) - Karlheinz's Song of Praise
|→ (august 08, 2009) - (Le) CLeUb, Placard, CLeUb
|→ (august 04, 2012) - 72 Hours of Post-Nuclear Survival
notes __ ::
(*) "Twintig jaar voor Licht", Vinyl 22, february 1983 (pag. 28-31). [ ^ ]
(**) A complete-as-one-can-get online discography (vinyl, reel-to-reel (!), cassette, CD ... ) of Stockhausen's work is provided by Bernhard Pulham on the discography pages of his 'unofficial Stockhausen web site' ... [ ^ ]
(***) You are welcome to use this audio file in any way you see fit, provided that you clearly acknowledge its origin, preferably by hyperlinking to this page. I do not allow its use, nor that of obviously derived works, for commercial purposes (i.e. you making money with or because of it) without you contacting and clearing this with me first ... ( creative commons: attribution - noncommercial ) [ ^ ]
(****) "It is impossible for people who up to now have played something that bore my name to think that I do not exist. The fact that they know I exist and that that which they are doing has something to do with my name, leads them to very specific things. There is no question about it: all the musicians have told me as much. As a name, I am a myth [... I]'m a myth of myself, also to myself," it reads in the Questions and answers on Intuitive Music, a transcription of a talk/discussion at the ICA in 1971. [ ^ ]
(*****) An mp3 file of the full Songs of Praise En hommage à Stockhausen is available for download. You will find details together with the emission's complete playlist on the Songs of Praise web site. [ ^ ]
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