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Stockhausen Mittwochs-Gruss

21/02/11 15:17

This is the electronic music of the opera MITTWOCH aus LICHT (Wednesday from Light), with a duration of ca. 52 min. It is intended to be played at a half-loud level as music in the foyer, when people arrive for the opera. Yet Stockhausen composed its sounds also for concentrated listening at loud level (cf. CD booklet, p. 25). The tape was spatialized for four-track reproduction in 2003. The same electronic composition is played live (with concrete sounds pre-recorded) during the fourth and last scene of the opera, MICHAELION, supporting the instrumental and vocal music of the scene. General characteristics This is very slow music, resulting from an enormous formula stretching like, for example, in OKTOPHONIE (Octophony), or in WELTRAUM (Outer Space), the electronic music of TUESDAY and FRIDAY from LIGHT, respectively. Here the one-minute super formula from LICHT is projected in all its three layers (Michael-, Eve-, Lucifer-layer) over the duration of the entire work. The three-part-polyphony uses different timbres for each layer. The slowness of pace is such that, even more than the aural perception of a succession of notes/sounds, the sounds themselves become all important. The electronic sounds exhibit a more or less complex inner life over their mostly considerable duration, which makes listening to them as such interesting. There are internal fluctuations of timbre, gradual variations in timbre or pitch (slow timbre and/or pitch glissandi), and gradual changes in dynamics and spatial location. Simultaneous sounds change in such ways independently from each other. Sounds are always "on the move" due to the changes within them. The timbre varies between successive sounds. Listening to sounds themselves and to their evolution, rather than listening to melodic or gestural textures, provides a completely different musical experience that can prove to be immensely attractive.
For some general comments about this kind of electronic composition, see my introduction to WELTRAUM. A difference to that work, however, is that there are less systematic, or directional, processes in the electronic music of MITTWOCHS-GRUSS.

The variety of complex electronic sounds is astounding, given the fact that only a single synthesizer is used, the Kurzweil K2500X, in combination with the sampler Akai S-2000 (both played by Antonio Pérez Abellán). This use of a single synthesizer stands in great contrast to the multiple instruments that were employed, also with success, for OKTOPHONIE and for WELTRAUM (in both cases the synthesizer player was Simon Stockhausen). The Kurzweil K2500X has been praised for its versatility and ‘depth’, see for example: Antonio Pérez Abellán knows how to dig deeply into the instrument's capabilities (as additionally evident by the entirely different timbres that he produces on other occasions). The adventurous sound fantasy developed by Stockhausen and him in this work is quite unique, creating a new and colorful sound world that draws the listener in. Especially in the first half of this music, the sound often exhibits something of a fascinating ‘industrial’ character, with a particular ‘grain’ in the complex timbres. Later on novel kinds of electronic ‘colored noise’ are heard. The recording on Stockhausen-Verlag CD 66 is outstanding. ‘Naturalistic’ sounds, mostly electronically manipulated (concrete music), play a substantial role in MITTWOCHS-GRUSS as well. The theme of animals appears at several places in MITTWOCH aus LICHT. Animal sounds occur in the tape of concrete music that is played as an accompaniment for the soloists in the second scene, Página 1 de 7

including sounds imitating or reproducing the noise of a whistling tea kettle. with the swarm of sea gulls. sounds actively move in space. and successive sounds bring ever new alterations of In MICHAELION. yet it also harbors some of the most complex sounds in the work. longer stretches of mainly electronic music will be heard as well). In MITTWOCHS-GRUSS. Female voice (Kathinka Pasveer) slowly sings on three occasions Luzikamel as a sequence of isolated syllables ‘Lu – Zi – Ka – Mel’. as MITTWOCHS-ABSCHIED (Wednesday Farewell). The combination of the particular slow electronic sounds in MITTWOCHS-GRUSS with the array of strange. the last scene of MITTWOCH. which forms the climax of a sequence of naturalistic events following one another (see Detailed Guide). p. we get the opportunity to hear a direct example of naturally occurring swarms of tones in one of his works. however." The last one-third of the work may appear to be somewhat sparser in texture. the spatial projection in three layers is more important than ever before. Given the recurring animal theme in the opera. The tape of the work is spatialized for 4-channel projection. emulating sound phenomena found in nature. naturalistic sounds gradually coalesces into an intensely surreal atmosphere. They differ in timbre. two or three strands of this sequence are molded into an intricate polyphonic fabric. and on repeated listenings. All this is performed with great taste. The synthesizer sometimes mimics noises of animals.htm Página 2 de 7 . The idea to process voice in such a manner. or sounds related to animals. and on its own at the very end of the opera. There are two CD tracks. as mentioned above.earthlink. often their decay acquires a strangely ‘warped’ character (for details. and to such an extent it is rarely found in other music as well. There is also a range of other concrete sounds. and then another few minutes of music where concrete sounds are present but play a less prominent role (later on. related to this. Also in the stereo version it is possible to follow each movement for extended periods of time. there is female voice electronically processed in order to emulate the sound development of bells which. The voice also imitates a cat’s meow. and the fact that MITTWOCHS-GRUSS also forms the electronic music of MICHAELION.Stockhausen Mittwochs-Gruss 21/02/11 15:17 ORCHESTER-FINALISTEN. either as rapid swelling and deflating. either coming from female voice or from other sources. show attack and a prominent decay phase. see below). as if a bell or other metallic instrument is struck. which are mostly sustained and slowly developing. one can concentrate on the movements in each individual layer. Also. perhaps even including HYMNEN. Already early on Stockhausen had used Tonschwärme (‘swarms of tones’) in his music. the electronic music of TUESDAY. This atmosphere stands out among Stockhausen’s electronic music. 19): "For WEDNESDAY GREETING. and sampled animal noises are also heard. a direct relation of voice processing to bell-like sounds is established by bringing these sounds together in the same music. especially on the slowing down. http://home. Close to the middle of the work there appears the sound of a swarm of sea gulls. There are variations in the volume of the sounds. often heavily processed. speeding up and changes of direction. The composer (CD booklet. Detailed Guide through the music (All timings are from track 2. It is part of an expression of his world of ideas that eventually. it is natural that animal sounds. They are mostly sampled sounds that are electronically manipulated. but the fade-in track 1 only lasts about 45 seconds. are heard in discrete passages of MITTWOCHS-GRUSS. The music generally carries two or three simultaneous sounds. upon being struck. the special animal creature Luzikamel (from the German counterparts of the names ‘Lucifer’ and ‘camel’) has a prominent role.) The work begins with about 8 minutes of purely electronic music. is already materialized in OKTOPHONIE. Another prominent class of sounds are bell-like.

from dark timbre to light. e. at 12’27" the sound first decays. higher pitched [o] is briefly overlaid on the just commencing [o] of the 'sho' sound before the original [o] swells up again. and thus influence the overall timbral envelope.earthlink. In a sense. At 6’31 an electronic sound is introduced that appears to mimic a whistling tea kettle. At the same time. mostly heavy ‘industrial’ synthesizer sounds. mysterious. To some extent. more explicit examples of this kind of treatment of voice will be heard later on. experienced as timbre ‘rotations’. Variations within a given sound mostly take place independently from those in other sounds that are present at the same time. wanders around spatially and its timbre continues to be altered until about 2’50". Perhaps there are some characteristics of morse code mixed in as well. but with more silvery overtones. The ‘rattling chain’ stops at 14’21". Such fluctuations. and a bit later another may be introduced. Listening into the development of each sound leads to different simultaneous experiences. (The effect may not well be audible over headphones. one sound may fade out.Stockhausen Mittwochs-Gruss 21/02/11 15:17 or as curves of slow changes. There are internal fluctuations in the timbre of sounds. the volume changes determine the relative prominence of sounds compared to with less silvery overtones. There is a sophisticated overlapping of voice fragments that makes recognition of what is spoken impossible. It keeps sounding beyond that. At 12’13" yet another succession of vocal sounds. follow the music at 2’08". almost sounding like a spinning wheel. new sounds appear that are http://home. These are. then again swells in volume. At 9’33" strange. and the ‘whistling tea kettle’ that continues now sounds the most like a recording of an actual tea kettle. The first. beginning with 'sh' and continuing on a long-stretched [o] (the vowel is slightly more open than that). for example. The sound undergoing this change begins in the center. is heard. these can undergo gradual changes in frequency and extent. in a sophisticated process in which they are added to or altered step by step. spatial rotations of individual sounds. For example. Electronic sounds continue to enter and develop during the episode. but without echo acoustics. ‘by the spoonful’ as it were. to the entrance of female voice making an allusion to the meow of a cat. slow changes from [u] to [i]. Growling sounds from modulated bass voice are introduced at 14’11" and will carry on for about half a minute. bell-like sounds enter which continue for some time. Fading out of a sound focuses the attention of the listener on other sounds that had been there for a while. Importantly. as a stream of syllables. the second occurrence at 11’31"). emphasizing their kinship. It utters the first ‘syllable’ [mi] on several pitches and with different degrees of electronically induced ‘decay’ that slightly oscillates in timbre (the decay is quite long in. it has the characteristics of attack and decay as if someone struck a bell. with both sounds now running side by side. In the occurrence at 13’07" a second. provide change within the sound field. and at 3’10" a timbre rotation in another sound follows. at 9’13". entry of voice is at 7’22". as a sustained event. The latter organically lead. At 13’29" a sound reminiscent of a rattling metal chain enters the music.) The sound also rotates in timbre until it vanishes at 9’36". while other sounds bridge these events. the sounds turn out to mimic the pattern of horse neighing. The first instance of sounds related to animals is a sequence of synthesizer sounds beginning at 9’56".htm Página 3 de 7 . will play a more prominent role later on. while present in this initial phase. perceptible in a basic way also in stereo projection. At times there are slow timbre glissandi within a sound. The ‘tea kettle’ noise continues well into the episode before it is replaced with other sounds. In addition. As an example for a timbre ‘rotation’. The electronic processing varies.g. At 8’54" the ‘tea kettle’ noise returns. Gradually. as a sudden sound wave. or vice versa. It immediately leads into a re-appearance of the ‘whistling tea kettle’. Several of these gradual changes or transformations may occur simultaneously within a sound. it is like overlapping echoes. at 11’23". Sounds overlap each other. prolonged in a dramatic sound which shows fluctuations in timbre that speed up and down. In a few instances the introduction of a new sound is dramatic. In this passage electronic sounds with a surreal ‘vocal’ timbre are heard as well.

At 18’32" ‘warped’ bell sounds are heard again. without a sharp initial attack phase (of course there are the many appearances of bell-like sounds. There are initially two strands that produce such sequences. At times there is slight voice processing as well. there are several instances where the decay phase features gradual rise and fall of pitch. not unlike what happens when keys are forcibly struck on the piano with pedal pressed down. At 21’47" there is a sound that shows a particularly interesting decay. At times the combination of sound development and timbre is so forceful that it gives an impression of ‘sound arrows’ shot off. The first four ‘beats’ are on the same pitch.htm Página 4 de 7 . from 14’47" onward. continuing into the decay but then with substantially different timbre. starting at 19’50" and lasting 3 minutes. Some others have a rather nasal tone of an intriguing strangeness. The decay phase is interjected by a few instances of sudden swelling that quickly subsides into the ongoing decay. an impression enhanced by some jerking in spatial location between the speakers during the process. The decay component of some sounds wanders about.Stockhausen Mittwochs-Gruss 21/02/11 15:17 bell-like. Some abandon the ‘industrial’ graininess. is a sequence of sounds that also show attack. It consists of an impressive sequence of electronic sounds with a pronounced attack and decay phase. There is also intermediate swelling of volume. introduces one of three passages in the work that concentrate on the word Luzikamel (the animal creature in MICHAELION. others do not. Trying to follow all of this in detail may turn out to be confusing – and engaging at the same time. Then there is a subtle drift of pitch and timbre within the sound components. The next voice entry. while that of others is spatially fixed. They decay with pronounced oscillations of timbre. with one component in each subsequent sound changing less than the other. These are heavily processed sampled sounds. It is as if the tone is ‘pulled’ at. Later on these sounds will also be part of a particularly impressive sequence of ‘naturalistic’ events. each on another pitch and with a different acoustic setting. Following this passage. Some are powerful and dark. as does the impression that the acoustic setting sometimes changes not just between the different vocal strands. but have a sustain phase followed by quick subsiding. The extent. processed as ‘morse code’. this time in overlapping fashion. see above). Movement in space provides additional variation between individual sounds. made possible by the composite nature of the sounds. Some sounds decay in a straightforward manner. The strange atmosphere is enhanced by sporadic repeats of brief electronic sounds that enter as a sudden swelling that quickly subsides again. The behavior of the decay phase is varied too. The sequences overlap. so that it all becomes mangled up – a deliberate playing with expectations and complexity. Most of the purely electronic sounds in MITTWOCHS-GRUSS enter in a rather smooth manner. closely following each other. the ‘decay’ sounds are of the same. slowly presented syllables ‘Lu – Zi – Ka – Mel’. but these mostly are processed sampled sounds. At first it seems that following the overlapping sequences might be easy. At 19’09" the female voice utters sounds in a surreal nowhere-land between laughing and crying. The word is expressed as a repeated sequence of separated. at 22’51". They develop in an intriguing manner. but then there appear to be some of the four syllables out of sequence or dropping out. speed and character of timbre fluctuation differ between sounds. and with a particularly twangy sound. with as many as three overlapping strands. emulating the pattern of church bells. starting at 29’34" (see below). at 15’37". The wandering around of syllables in space (in stereo projection. at 16’03". Yet here the ‘attack’ components especially deeply and strongly resonate through the sounds. The most intriguing is the last block at 17’03". with irregular shifting of the syllables contained in each against one another. sonic prominence. while the timbre of others fluctuates during the decay phase. yet with a gradual shift in the relative prominence of the two sound components. At 15’25" a sustained oscillating synthesizer sound is heard that forms a natural base for the re-appearance of the horse neighing just a bit later. not unlike the lower tones of a piano. They are overlaid on sustained electronic sounds. The most prominent exception to this is found in the next section. or even greater. http://home. so that listening into each sound is a new experience. rather than purely electronic ones). turning it into a swarm as it were. Additionally. between the speakers) during a sequence adds to the interest of the passage. The timbre of those synthesizer sounds is varied. At 17’17" electronically modulated quacking of ducks occurs. in an oscillating glissando as it were. but also between the syllables within a given strand.earthlink. These ‘warped’ bell sounds are a fascinating otherworldly invention. Relative to the initial attack.

An ‘echo’ effect is also evoked by the sudden receding of dynamics after the initial few keystrokes. and lasts almost as long. They are put into an interesting context. The overall timbral envelope reverts to more graininess (similar sounds had been heard before. The oscillations differ in speed from each other. The singing of ‘Lu – Zi – Ka – Mel’ ends at 34’36". Adding to the complexity of development of the sound over time is that its volume and spatial position between audio channels constantly vary. At 27’28" we hear again the utterances in the female voice in the nowhere-land between laughing and crying. instead of sounds processed into one. Finally. fuzzy shadings in between. Those glissandi in particular feature grain of a less edgy. After a while.5 minutes).earthlink. this time small sounding. This is followed by quacking of ducks electronically processed as ‘morse code’. There are also sporadic appearances. At 34’59" a new passage begins. A ‘noise’ sound is heard that is strangely rippled by fast oscillations that ‘roughen its surface’. starting at 32’35". at 32’20". At some points they recede. This sequence of events is immediately followed.Stockhausen Mittwochs-Gruss 21/02/11 15:17 This sequence of sounds forms the transition to a passage that ‘echoes’ the attack/decay sounds heard during the previous 3 minutes. often moving at high pitch. from 34’22" onward. Around 25’30" the passage transitions into a stream of sustained.g. The last few strikes. ducks as ‘morse code’. The impression of ‘stream’ is induced in part by internal vibrations within the low-registered tone. In the second phase of the ‘echoing’. which draw bold curves into the soundscape (sustained electronic sounds keep accompanying the events). with many impure. also their relative contribution to the overall sound varies. downward glissandi of darkening timbre are overlaid on the sounds so that these appear to decay with rotations of timbre. The final phase of the episode features electronic sounds that have affinity to the striking of a triangle. Laid over them are two threads of synthesizer sounds that show strong oscillations in timbre/pitch. [o]. The introduction of a real swarm of birds at the end of this sequence. is at once both climactic and liberating. leading to more orderly and easier discernable proceedings than the first time around. First. around 18. somewhat sounding like hissing. for example. there appears at higher volume the sound of a swarm of sea gulls. stepwise progression of similarity between the events in the sequence. it dramatically enters with sharper tone and at raised volume. e. The natural. yet with an own distinct character. The noise components are overlaid with components that have more of a character of vocal and they accelerate or slow down independent from one another. Yet the attack is less pronounced – the sounds in this passage enter more broadly – and the drawn-out component is a sustain phase rather than a decay phase. Sounds slowly fade in and out. and form zigzag pitch sequences. softened character that makes the sound ‘foamy’. This http://home. onto which those previously heard sounds of a ‘whistling tea kettle’ are attached as ‘overtones’ – a strangely beguiling effect (a sustained ‘tea kettle’ sound then breaks free and is heard intermittently during the remainder of the ‘echoing’ passage).htm Página 5 de 7 . and syllables mostly are presented in sequence. Not just do the ‘vocal’ components continuously change between darker and lighter colors. Different acoustic settings distinguish strands and individual syllables within them as well. Overlaid are accentuated. but quickly reverts to the softer sound level of the previous morse code recording. by timbre and as ‘swarms of tones’. At 28’16" there is another episode featuring processed bell sounds. a sequence of concrete sounds is heard that are made to relate to one another. of synthesizer sounds that are reminiscent of the horse neighing heard earlier. The individual sequences of syllables now tend to sound on considerably different pitches. morse code. feature complex behavior of the decay phase. subdued electronic sounds. there is a modulated recording of morse code transmitted through short-wave radio. is impressive in its effect and imagination. which appears to be unmodulated. [a] and [e]. at times vastly so. The ‘echoing’ occurs in two phases. and pure noise. It constantly changes in a complex manner. All the while simultaneous processes in the electronic music vie for attention. and timbre rotations in extended electronic sounds are heard. and sea gulls. The sounds are similar in that they show an attack phase followed by a drawn-out component. and there are a few more appearances of synthesizer sounds related to the horse neighing. Subsequently. eventually different sound bands of code cross one another. pronounced timbre rotations are heard in some of the sounds. separated by a short sequence of somewhat faster tones (at 23’58"). sharp electronic glissandi. is left over. almost as distant memory. at 31’35". by the second appearance of ‘Lu – Zi – Ka – Mel’ in female voice.

Next to exhibiting bell-like decay. now shows very prolonged ‘decay’ of the [o] (vowel slightly more open than that). That the prolonged sound enters with an initial. At 44’01" the rippled ‘noise’ sound re-enters once again with its complex development. An interjection at 43’32" features processed female voice as the only as in the first ‘syllable’ of a cat’s meow (compare the passage at 11’23"). at 45’25". and a little later the English equivalent. The rippled ‘noise’ sound has receded to a faint event in the background. at 40’01". "Wednesday Greeting". more slowly in a sound component at lower register. Yet as opposed to their first appearance at around 14 minutes now they take center stage. and a sustained electronic sound unobtrusively accompanies the music. and http://home. Almost simultaneously a separate 'tso' (same vowel characteristic) develops in the same fashion alongside it. but most prominently with female voice. it continues for about 3 minutes. At some points the voice appears to ever so slightly ‘double up’ with itself. The drama and processed decay form a direct parallel to the sounds of female voice just one and a half minutes before. The ‘laughing/crying’ is added at 44’20". During the halfminute duration of the event. The sound plays at moderate volume against a background of dark ‘machine hum’ that undergoes a few variations. enhanced by timbral processing. the atmosphere is gently supported in the background by electronic sounds that remotely mimic the striking of a metal plate. The complex development of the sound is overlaid with other sustained electronic sounds. these respond to the pitch of the electronic sounds from which they appear to emanate. In the following passage. The oscillations occur at different speeds. The syllable "ka" is sung (though with a softer ‘k’ than in Luzikamel). Here it becomes processed such an extent that it almost appears as an electronic sound – an impressive transformation. which had been heard earlier. It appears like a distant memory of the earlier occurrences. The combination of this split. except for several interruptions (the longest one is comprised by the next episode). entering at 35’17". It is of grainy character and. followed by a ‘sustain phase’ consisting of the now familiar noises of a ‘whistling tea kettle’. The 'sho' sound. "Mittwochs-Gruss".earthlink. features the third appearance of the ‘Lu – Zi – Ka – Mel’ sequence in female voice.Stockhausen Mittwochs-Gruss 21/02/11 15:17 ‘noise’ sound will from now on be a constant companion of the music until almost the end. now accompanied by [mi] sounds. features what is perhaps the single most complex sound in the entire work. At 42’11" an extended synthesizer sound interrupts the scene. You can comfortably ‘loose yourself’ in the complex irregularity of changes within the sound. It is a sound with internal oscillations and a metallic sheen as ‘overtone’. The processed ‘warped’ bell sounds return with their prolonged decay featuring oscillations and glissandi. After about half a minute the rippled ‘noise’ sound re-enters. It is now also a bit reminiscent of the ‘quacking of ducks’ heard earlier. due to the sounds surrounding. After a little while. At 44’56" another change of scene occurs. The next episode. sound curves ‘peal’ from it at different intervals and speeds. the vocal timbres themselves are now at times transformed to more metallic sounds. Stockhausen’s voice is heard in a somewhat reverberant. this time overlaid with metallic synthesizer sounds that mimic striking of metal instruments. He slowly announces the title of the work. ‘metallic’ attack fits into the atmosphere of bell-like sounds that pervade the music. in addition to the ongoing music. generously spaced apart due to the long decay. Electronic processing makes the sounds decay like struck bells. appropriately. albeit not pronounced. with the long decay makes this episode quite dramatic. but initiating each time well before the previous sound terminates. dramatic acoustic setting. Around half a minute after the first entry of the female voice. which leads to a subtle split of the decaying [o] into two sound components. faster in a sound band in middle register. four repeats of the 'sho' / 'tso' sound occur. At 41’09" the mixed laughing/crying sounds enter again. electronic sounds like humming of bees enter and then loosely respond to pitch changes in the voice. About one minute into the episode. starting at 36’46". with the decay exhibiting different duration. while at other moments they are more natural. The next passage. with re-entry of the female voice above the rippled ‘noise’ sound. the music from before resumes. generated by overlaid timbral processes.htm Página 6 de 7 .

While the oscillating synthesizer and bell sounds carry on. such as at 47’18" and following. The rippled ‘noise’ eventually subsides. The fading away of sounds as heard here meshes well with the general impression that the music has reached its final stages. a sound that continues here. the ‘laughing/crying’. electronically processed as a minute earlier. the last kind of event is introduced in the music. while sustained electronic sounds carry on. © Albrecht Moritz 2011 Home http://home. At times the attenuating synthesizer tone and its oscillations are quite forceful.earthlink. the synthesizer simultaneously initiates a sustained sound and one that attenuates with oscillating decay. and a low registered sound that envelops the scene. an atmosphere introduced perhaps as early as with the first appearance of the rippled ‘noise’ at about 35 the vocals – the rippled ‘noise’ sound. In a series of occurrences. and with it the music eventually dies away. This final episode extends for several minutes.htm Página 7 de 7 . It consists of heavily processed vocal sounds that are remotely reminiscent of a cat’s meow with its two ‘syllables’ (not just the [mi] heard earlier). The passage subsides into alternations of synthesizer and processed bell sounds. combined with overlaid synthesizer sounds that beautifully supplement the timbre and somehow appear to continue the vocal sounds after they fade. The bell sounds exhibit the same type of decay.Stockhausen Mittwochs-Gruss 21/02/11 15:17 partially overwhelming. at 48’26".