October 1997 Report From Suzanne Stephens

Because today - September 29th - is Michaelistag (Michael's day) in Germany, it is appropriate that I write an up-date about Stockhausen's activities since Easter.

April found us preparing the comprehensive prefaces to FRIDAY from LIGHT (which will be published this year) and the prefaces to the four scores of MONDAY from LIGHT (which will be published in 1998). In addition, a preface supplement was made to GRUPPEN, and the translation to the preface to HELICOPTER STRING QUARTET was completed. The parts of the soloists' version of MICHAEL'S JOURNEY ROUND THE EARTH were corrected and a version of PIED PIPER from EVE'S MAGIC (Act 3 of MONDAY from LIGHT) is being made for alto flute, tape and synthesizer.

The first of a series of recordings of the complete PIANO PIECES with Ellen Corver took place at the Hessen Radio in Frankfurt. Before starting the actual recording, which is on 8-tracks, Stockhausen set up the microphones in a completely new way (much to the dismay of the recording technician who had, after all, written his thesis on how to set up microphones for recording piano). With this set-up, Stockhausen was attempting to arrive at a recording which reproduces the piano as only the pianist can hear it. Once these recording are released on our label (next year), you can judge for yourselves if he succeeded. We think so. I won't say more: either Stockhausen will give a detailed description in the CD booklet of how he set up the microphones, or he will keep it secret and you will have to guess!

The further sessions in June and July were also successful, but an additional 3 days at the end of October will be necessary to complete the series. In the meantime, Ellen has decided to also record PIANO PIECE XV (SYNTHI-FOU) and PIANO PIECE XVI (which will be premièred during the final round of the Micheli International Piano Competition in Milan by the three finalists on October 20th).

PIANO PIECE XVI will be a shock to most of the competitors (not to mention the jury) because it requires imaginative, creative musicality, with or without fast fingers. Of course an electro-acoustical set-up is necessary as usual, and Stockhausen will do the sound projection after rehearsing with the three finalists. Daily faxes full of questions from the international final round hopefuls include a Japanese pianist who has asked for an extra microphone so that he can also sing some of the parts, (in keeping with the earlier PIANO PIECES XIII and XIV) and who plans to use some Sumo gestures in interpreting the music, an Italian pianist who has asked if it would be possible to improvise during the sections which are so full of notes that they are impossible to play anyway, and a Chinese pianist who has asked what role the pianist is to play. This is what happens when musicians are suddenly faced with a little freedom! I will report the results in my next newsletter which will be around New Year.

The preparation of the MOMENTE score and new material for the European tour next fall is going according to schedule. It is being done by scanning the score originals and then cleaning them up and correcting them. The same will be done for preparing the orchestra and choir parts. One of the advantages of doing this by computer is that different sets of the material can be easily assembled for the various possible versions of MOMENTE.

Speaking of MOMENTE, at the end of April, Bernard Kolberg a German manfacturer of percussion instruments was here with his new kidney drum, which is one of the special percussion instruments required for MOMENTE. The old kind, which is actually shaped like a kidney and which allows a continuous gliss of 2 and 1/2 octaves is no longer manufactured and it has been an adventure to find someone capable of imitating the capabilities of the old one, without having to imitate its shape, which seems to be too costly. After many experiments, a few failures, and Stockhausen on video comparing one of Kolberg's attempts with the original model, Kolberg has finally come up with a good solution, and will be including this drum in his new catalogue.

We had a similar experience with Robert Paiste, the Swiss gong maker, several years ago, after discovering that the new Paiste 1.5 m diameter tam-tams were no longer what they used to be and could not be used for MIKROPHONIE I or MOMENTE or any of the other Stockhausen works requiring special handling of the tam-tam. They were too thick and thus could not react to treatment using special instruments and objects. In February 1994, after years of experimenting, Robert Paiste came up from Switzerland with a truck full of new tam-tams after having been here with his technicians to measure the characteristics and specifications of the original tam-tam which Stockhausen had discovered and purchased in 1961 at the Frankfurt Music Fair. He has used this tam-tam in many works since then in a very specific way (listen especially to MIKROPHONIE I (CD 9), but also to MICHAELs REISE UM DIE ERDE (CD 30) and MOMENTE (CD7) and HYMNEN with soloists (CD 10), KURZWELLEN (CD 13), PROZESSION and CEYLON (CD 11). Luckily, Stockhausen found that all of them were again similar to his original one and upon Robert Paiste's request, gave his approval to officially name this tam-tam the Stockhausen MIKROPHONIE symphony gong. So, slowly but surely we are making progress in making sure that all of the instruments necessary for performing certain works can be obtained. The physical effect of such instruments cannot (yet) be imitated with synthesizers and samplers.

We are also progressing with the corrections of the transcriptions and of the prototypes for the new edition of the ZODIAC music boxes which are being manufactured again by Reuge in Ste. Croix, Switzerland. It is not easy to arrive at perfection with music boxes, but the Reuge collaborators are doing their best and, if all goes according to plan, we hope that the music boxes will again be available early next year. One of the major problems seems to be the difference in altitude between Ste. Croix and Kürten: since the air is so thin up there, the tempo is slower here than there.

Also in April, the score of WOCHENKREIS was published.

The only bad news I have to report for April is that some mysterious beast decapitated many of the clematis which Stockhausen had planted in the woods. This was very distressing and we still do not know who it was.

In May, the scores of ELUFA, MONDAY GREETING, FREIA for flute, and FREIA for basset-horn were published.

There were some important concerts in Cologne during May as part of the Cologne Triennale: (almost) the complete cycle of PIANO PIECES was presented, played by Majella Stockhausen, Pi-hsien Chen, Herbert Henck and others.

GRUPPEN was performed four times by the WDR Symphony Orchestra conducted by Péter Eötvös, Arturo Tamayo and Jacques Mercier: twice on May 31st and twice on June 1st at the venue of its world première in 1958, the former restaurant the Cologne Fair Grounds. Although the space is quite small, the acoustics proved to be almost perfect. Everything was audible from the most delicate solo passages to the gigiantic tuttis. Between the two performances of GRUPPEN each evening, Ellen Corver magnificently performed PIANO PIECE IX.

On May 28th, the ELECTRONIC MUSIC with SOUND SCENES of FRIDAY from LIGHT had its world première at the Philharmonic Hall in Cologne. Due to the amphitheatre construction of the hall it does not lend itself well to the loudspeaker set-up necessary for the work (see booklet of CD 49), but due to the huge volume of the hall, the spatiality was breath-taking anyway, even though it was not exactly what Stockhausen had in mind.

During the Triennale there was a huge exhibition documenting new music in Cologne. As part of this exhibition, MIRON II of MUSIK IM BAUCH rode the open elevator in the main building of the WDR for a solid month without getting sea-sick. We are proud of him.

In June MÄDCHENPROZESSION was published.

The score of WELT-PARLAMENT, which was published last year, received the German Music Publisher's Prize. This is the third time that the Stockhausen-Verlag has received this prestigious prize: the first time was for LUCIFER'S DANCE in 1992, the second time was for JAHRESLAUF in 1994.

On June 27th, Stockhausen gave the lecture "The Art, to Listen" with examples from IN FREUNDSCHAFT played by me (as usual) at the Cologne University. This was one of the series Dialogue between Composition and Musicology organized by the Musicological Institute of the University .

The first few days of July, Stockhausen finished mixing down the three versions of the Russian Bridge of HYMNEN with Orchestra at the WDR. Despite about 60 re-sets in one afternoon because the computer kept announcing "deadly error" he finished. Luckily, he does not scare easily. In the meantime, the CD has been released (CD47).

At the Hessen Radio in Frankfurt, we were not so lucky. Upon our arrival in the studio to start a four-week mix-down of LUCIFER'S DANCE which Stockhausen had conducted and recorded with the symphony orchestra of the Hessen Radio in December 1995, we were told by the recording engineer that the newest Capricorn mixing console (the same kind that Stockhausen had used just a few days previously at the WDR) had just been installed and that he had never operated it before. We held our breath. The next two days, despite the help of a friendly recording engineer who had experience with the console for recording light music, not a single minute of music could be mixed, and when the computer started announcing "deadly error: you better go home", we did.

That was the bad news: the good news is that the four weeks which had been planned for mixing could now be used by Stockhausen to begin composing MICHAELION, the final act of WEDNESDAY from LIGHT.

On July 26th, LITANEI 97 for choir had its world première in Schwäbisch Gmünd, performed by the choir of the South German Radio which is the same choir which premièred WELT-PARLAMENT in 1996. It will also première MICHAELION next year, together with 5 soloists ( Michael Vetter, voice, Kathinka Pasveer, flute, Suzanne Stephens, basset-horn, Marco Blaauw, trumpet and n.n. trombone) on July 26th in Munich. In the same programme in Schwäbisch Gmünd, ES from AUS DEN SIEBEN TAGEN was performed by a free-lance ensemble from Stuttgart. The first half of the program was Mozart.

BIJOU for alto flute and bass clarinet was published in July.

August was completely dedicated to the composition of MICHAELION. On August 31st we gave our yearly concert for the community of Kürten, in exchange for the free use of the school for rehearsals. The programm was: BIJOU played by Kathinka Pasveer and Suzanne Stephens, the world première of IN FREUNDSCHAFT for trumpet played by Markus Stockhausen, and LIBRA for bass clarinet and electronic music played by SS. This concert was attended by a delegation from the Chinese Embassy in Bonn, because there are plans for a Stockhausen China Tour in 1999, and they wanted to see what they are getting themselves into. They seemed to like it because they said afterwards that our performances reminded them of the Peking Opera. In addition, a team from Radio France spent the whole week-end in Kürten to interview Stockhausen and dub parts of the rehearsals and concert. They will be making a 3-hour broadcast about Stockhausen in early October.

On September 5th in Cologne, SPIRAL was performed for the first time in its entirety, by Michael Vetter, voice (see CD 46) . It was very moving. What a feat! Anyone who has attemted to perform just one segment of SPIRAL, as I have, knows what an accomplishment this is, artisically, mentally and spiritually.

On September 18th, Stockhausen read excerpts from the book Music by Hazrat Inyat Khan (recommended reading for all Stockhausen fans!) at a book store in Cologne for about 350 listeners. Since he never agrees to speak without music, he decided to insert short works between the excerpts he had chosen to read. After the first 15 minutes, Kathinka Pasveer performed TIP-OF-THE-TONGUE-DANCE (from LUCIFER'S DANCE) for piccolo flute. After the next 20 minutes, a student and colleague of mine, Rumi Sota (Japanese) performed DER KLEINE HARLEKIN, and after the final excerpt, which lasted about 5 minutes, Kathinka and I performed AVE for alto flute and basset-horn.

An unexpected treat for all wood-wind quintets: on the spur-of-the-moment, due to a spur-of-the-moment request from a local Rotary Club, Stockhausen composed the ROTARY WOOD-WIND QUINTET based on the final section of MICHAELION, which actually rotates, by the way. It will be premiered in October by a young local wood-wind quintet, if they manage to learn it in time. I am not allowed to say more at the moment.

The rest of the year will be spent composing MICHAELION and getting some of it ready for choir rehearsals, which begin in January. In October, Nicholas Isherwood will be coming to Kürten to rehearse CAPRICORN for bass and electronic music which will be premièred in Orléans on November 15th. In the same program, I will perform LIBRA for bass clarinet and electronic music. Both are excerpts from SIRIUS.

Directly following that, Stockhausen will go to Stuttgart for rehearsals of MIKROPHONIE II and STIMMUNG which will be performed on November 22nd. On November 26th and 27th he will rehease KONTAKTE at the conservatory in Essen and give an introduction to the performance on November 27th.

Volumes 7, 8, and 9 of TEXTE ZUR MUSIK (TEXTS ABOUT MUSIC) which cover the years 1984­1991 are now in the final stages of preparation for publication next year in German. Jerome Kohl plans to finish the English translations of Volume 1 by the end of this year, and he is editing Volume 2 which has already been translated by Richard Toop and plans to finish that work by mid-1998. Translation of Volume 3 will be started at the end of this year. Jerome Kohl will be sharing the translation work of all volumes as of Volume 3 with Tim Nevill, translator of Towards a Cosmic Music (Element Books), which is a compilation of excerpts of TEXTE III-VI. We hope to start publishing the English translations of the TEXTE in 1999, and we plan to catch up with the German in the not-too-distant future.

2,500 bulbs for daffodils, crocusses, lilies-of-the-valley, hyacinths, irises, and snowdrops have arrived from Holland and will be planted according to an exact plan drawn up by Stockhausen in an attempt to fill the flowerless spaces from last year.

Applications for the Stockhausen Courses Kürten are arriving from all over the world. We look forward to being able to welcome long-time and new friends of Stockhausen's music.The community is making a great effort to make everyone who comes feel at home.