The composer (CD booklet, score):
"The First Hour of my new cycle KLANG (SOUND), The 24 Hours of the Day, was a commission of ArtAche Milan, an institution of the Milan Cathedral with its artistic director Don Luigi Garbini. I named the work KLANG – Erste Stunde: HIMMELFAHRT (SOUND – First Hour: ASCENSION) because it was world premierèd on May 5th 2005 for Ascension Day. The score is composed for organ or synthesizer, soprano and tenor (CD 83).
"Following this première, Don Luigi asked me if I could compose the Second Hour of KLANG for Pentecost 2006. I happily accepted the offer and innerly heard and saw a work for two harps. While composing, I imagined the two Dutch harpist-girls Marianne and Esther, both 21 years old, who live and perform together and are true idealists. One of them is the niece of the flutist Kathinka Pasveer for whom I wrote so many compositions for flute.
"At first I chose the title Pentecost and decided to have the two harpists also sing – alternating or together – the main text of Pentecost, Veni Creator Spiritus, while plucking, picking, caressing, stroking, pinching, rubbing, striping, striking, pinking, jubilating. In accordance with the 24 lines of this hymn I have composed 24 musical moments like the 24 hours of the Day, so that the Second Hour of KLANG is like a whole day within one hour of the Day.
"In the course of composing, I changed the title to FREUDE (JOY). My basic feeling was Freude (joy). Again and again I imagined the première in the Milan Cathedral, the enthusiasm of the two girls, their playing, singing. The score certainly must have preserved this fantastic joy of my mind and soul during the many months of composing this work. There is something unique about the adventure of uniting two harps, which are normally tuned in diatonic scales, into one large chromatic harp.
"Now I also have understood why I sent a drawing of an angel playing a Greek harp to Don Luigi to remind him of the divine role of this instrument. Pentecost unites what was separated. My work FREUDE too.
K. Stockhausen, February 15th 2006"
"a. T. (am Tisch = near the sounding board): In the traditional literature for harp, a.T. (près de la table) is played at the bottom of the strings, but in FREUDE it is played approximately between the middle of the string and the sounding board."
In a number of Moments, mainly in the first half of the work, the two harps create a continuous melodic thread in alternating playing. Since the two instruments are tuned differently this allows for a chromaticism in the melodic line that is not possible on a single regular concert harp; in such instances it is most clearly heard what the composer has called the extension of the two harps into "one large chromatic harp". The effect is quite astonishing.
While a good amount of the music mainly uses the middle register of the harps, some Moments or passages use the two instruments in their lower or upper register range, and at times at the register extremes, which are relatively rarely explored in other harp music.
Some Moments contain music that is rather dark in timbre, with emphasis on the lower register range, such as Moment 6. In conjunction with the chromaticism the dark tone often results in a mysterious character of sound. A mysterious character is also evoked by uncommon forms of playing that are sometimes heard, such as playing with plectrum or "quickly rubbing both hands forth and back, smoothly" (Moment 20).
Unusual playing includes also, among others, "beat ca. in octave with hands held flat" (Moment 5), "glissandi with several fingers and sometimes fingernails" (Moment 9), "glissandoing with flat hand" (Moment 18). Fascinating sounds are created with all of such techniques. ‘Extended techniques’ that go beyond playing of the instruments’ strings with fingers (including plectrum) or hands, such as excitement of the strings with a violin bow or a mallet, as in Cendo’s Tracts for example, or the knocking on the wooden body of the instrument in Berio’s Sequenza for harp, are absent.
While there are very dense Moments, rather sparse ones are found as well. It is astounding how effectively Stockhausen creates tension, with just a few notes or chords cutting through the silence, or playing against a continuous line. In some of the sparse Moments, the deep resonance with which chords are sounding creates a strong impression. Towards the end of the work continuous, and in particular, forward driving, motion becomes more common.
Stockhausen is an extraordinary and highly original composer for voice, and also here the vocal textures are utterly unique, as well as organic. In fact, it was the singing rather than the harp playing that initially struck me most with this work. The singing employs wide interval leaps and quite frequently emphasizes consonants. It is also often syllabic, and uses speech-song. Yet while the singing sounds unmistakably avantgarde, at the same time it is also deeply human in its expression. In that sense it reminds me in particular of MOMENTE, but the textures and character of singing are very different from that work.
By avoiding almost all solemnity, the singing sidesteps the usual kind of reverence towards sacred texts. The singing is composed to be youthful and often very playful, and may in this manner sound almost irreverent at times, yet the expression could often be called, in a sense, child-like in its innocence, wonder and joy (while the singing is much more sophisticated than that of actual children). This quality gives a distinct voice to the idea that we humans are God’s children, that we are like children before God our heavenly Father. Thus the character of singing appears to directly express our metaphysical relationship to God, as it is envisioned in Christian religion that is the source for the sung text, Veni Creator Spiritus, a hymn to the Holy Spirit. In this way the reverence, even if it may not be immediately obvious, seems to play out on a deep, existential level.
Often the singing contrasts with the harp playing, or is laid over it as an independent strand. On the other hand, there are times when vocal and harp sounds show unexpected and riveting correspondences with one another, for example in Moments 4 and 10, discussed below.
The work is a fascinating study in musical motion. A constant game of moving forward – holding back, while found in much other music, including Stockhausen’s own, is explored in FREUDE in novel, pronounced ways.
To an extent that is uncommon for harp music, there is frequent tension between more static textures and flowing motion, or between otherwise contrasting motions. The presence of two harps certainly expands the possibilities of composing in such fashion, as the tension between motions often develops between the two simultaneously playing instruments.
A number of devices that are instrumental in creating contrasts, either as brief gestures or as more or less extended fields of motion, sound both particularly distinctive and natural in harp playing. Among them are tremoli, trills, glissandi and sequences of rapid repeats of small figures (interestingly, arpeggios are quite rare). While they are natural to the harp, they are often used in an unconventional manner. In their function to create contrasts of motion, these devices are not just ornaments or ‘accompanying figures’. At times they even form distinct and extended planes of sound, developing as rather independent strands – quite unlike, for instance, arpeggio accompaniments of a melodic line in more conventional harp music. Glissandi form extended planes of sound in Moments 8, 9 and 18, sequences of rapid repeats of small figures are prominent in Moments 7 and 20, among others, and Moment 21 would be a striking example featuring an independent strand formed by tremoli and trills.
In the Moments where the two harps create a single melodic thread in alternating playing, with added chromaticism due to the different tuning of the instruments, the contrast of motion mostly plays out within this single melodic line, or in disturbances thereof. While the playing of harps alternates in shaping the continuous melodic line, there is polyphonic playing in these Moments as well.
In other Moments there is more of a playing of simultaneous contrasting musical strands by the two harps; they may alternate in their roles in realizing these strands developing in parallel. The employment of the two instruments also allows for similar simultaneous motions that rhythmically are just slightly out of synch, yet as such capable of creating considerable tension.
While the individual Moments of the work differ in the degree to which a single main melodic line or independent simultaneous strands are created, the overall character of the Moments shows a wide diversity as well. The level of energy of motion varies greatly, from quite static textures that feature pronounced pauses (e.g., Moment 4) to, at the most extreme, the wild and expansive glissando curves of Moments 9 and 18, or the forward storming motion of Moment 23. A number of the 24 Moments show a mixture of simultaneously developing fluid and static textures. Whatever the contrasts of motion within any given Moment may be, they often create a striking subtlety and elegance of musical flow.
Guide through the music
(A traditional English translation of the sung Latin text is in the form of a poem, reprinted in score and CD booklet, and also found in this link. This translation is cited here. Track numbers on the Stockhausen-Verlag CD correspond to the 24 Moments. )
Tension between two archetypes of motion, a texture of spread-out tones and a quite vividly flowing one, is introduced right at the beginning of the music, in Moment 1. At the outset the two harps play, first alternating, then simultaneously, full-sounding, resonant chords (played ‘a.T.’) with dramatic pauses in between them. The texture at first appears static, but then reveals a strong underlying momentum as groups of notes start to form. This section is then contrasted with a flowing passage of irregular tremoli repeated over a span of about 20 seconds that gradually diminish in volume. Subsequently, the juxtaposition of these contrasting motions is mirrored in the harpists’ singing, with at first "Veni Creator Spiritus" sounding on notes separated from one another, and then a more flowing chant of "Ora Seconda" (Second Hour) with overlapping voices, which upon repeat diminishes in volume.
Moment 2 enhances the basic momentum over the rather static beginning of the first Moment into a moderate flow. In a striking manner it is, especially in the initial stages, locally contrasted with the insertion of tremoli that act as small fields of stirring, dense motion. A continuous main melodic line is played in alternation between the two differently tuned harps to yield the chromatic effect, a feature that will also be prominently employed in the subsequent Moments 3, 5 and 6. The ambivalent character of the small fields of stirring motion in this Moment is fascinating. On one hand they locally accelerate motion, on the other hand they also act as temporary ‘stopping points’ for the continuous main melodic line.
The basic flow of the music is further accelerated in Moment 3, yet kept at a modest pace as well. Also here fields of agitated, dense motion are heard, this time somewhat more expansive and created by strings of repeats of small figures. They locally precipitate motion beyond the basic flow (mostly in alternation with it, but partially overlapping as well) and shape a game of moving forward faster – holding back again. Within the basic flow itself a similar, albeit less pronounced, game also takes place, with several occurrences of patterns that feature 3 or 4 times repeated successions of: poco ritardando (or ritardando) – a tempo (at 0’30", at 1’09" and at 1’27" in the track). There is also a jump to faster tempo, immediately followed by a ritardando (at 1’59"). The calm singing in the middle of the Moment provides a quiet contrast in the music.
Moment 4 returns to stasis with a texture in which single chords are separated by pauses. The harpists sing isolated syllables from the text "Quae tu creasti pectora" over those chords, and the sounding together of syllables and chords yields some arresting effects. In particular, the somewhat hollow resonances of the chords accompanying the "as" of "cre-as" and the "pec" of "pectora" correspond in an uncanny manner with the vocal sounds. ("Quae tu creasti pectora", together with "imple superna gratia" from the previous Moment, means "come with Thy grace and heavenly aid to fill the hearts which Thou hast made".)
Moment 5 picks up momentum again, yet now the push-pull of motion is located just within a single flowing line, without insertions of small fields of dense motion as in moments 2 and 3. The particular successions of note values result in small accelerations and slow-downs in the melodic line that, together with the rhythmic accentuation, produce an almost ‘swinging’ effect. The moment ends with a descending cascade of sounds produced by playing specified as "beat ca. in octave width with hands held flat, pitches approximate (hold fingertips and fingernails of hand closer together in the higher register)" and a fast-cascading sequence of vocal sounds specified as "loudly exhale – inhale".
With the music descended into low register, Moment 6 stays there, with tones and chords that are allowed to decay for considerable durations specified in the score. The dark tone and resonances create a mysterious atmosphere, and a sound world far removed from normal harp timbres. Towards the end, the voice of harpist I sings "donum Dei altissimi" ("gift from God the highest") and ascends to high register. This text and singing forms a maximal contrast to the low register in which the harps are playing in this Moment.
In Moment 7 the music returns to the contrast of successions of notes and chords developing at measured pace with fields of agitated, dense motion that are now even more extended than in Moment 3 and also here are sculpted from strings of rapid repeats of small figures. Yet now the way the contrast is presented changes. The fields of dense motion do not disrupt a basic flow, but the different motions in the music run in parallel. In fact, the fast moving string of small figures is only briefly interrupted a few times, and the resulting ‘windows’, where for a short time the slower parts take sole center stage, beautifully contrast with the remainder of the music. These ‘windows’ also highlight the irregular rhythm of the slower parts, whereas the strings of rapid repeats of small figures form patterns of regular rhythm. These fast moving figures play in high register, while the thread developing at measured pace at first somewhat continues the playing in low register heard throughout Moment 6. As Moment 7 unfolds, the music, both in the low and high registered threads, overall slowly rises in pitch, in a trend that was alluded to already in Moment 5 and will be found in some later moments as well.
Fast flowing motions, now in the form of glissandi, take over the music even more in Moment 8, to the extent that they almost push the slow parts into the background; yet these form a firm backbone along which the music develops. The speaking of far separated syllables, alternating between the two players, of the word "spiritalis", followed by "unctio" from harpist I, creates another slow moving backbone, as well as vivid contrast (the two combined words are translated as "and sweet anointing from above"). The glissandi are played with plectrum.
In the next Moment 9 the glissandi (here played with both hands and "with several fingers and sometimes fingernails") are even more expansive, now forming extended ‘free envelopes’ (freie Hüllkurven) around the slow harp parts. These become ever sparser and towards the end are silenced, finally allowing the glissandi to run free, after the harpists have sung, in low voice, "joy!" (after 1’21" into the Moment; in the score that passage is designated [9 EXTRA]). Only dispersed syllables shout-sung by the harpists accompany the glissando runs, accentuating their wildness, and at the same time now they are the only ‘anchor points’ amid the free-flowing, wave-like motion. The singing, in exalted tone, is of "dextrae Dei tu digitus" ("you finger of the right hand of God") in a sometimes used alternative to "digitus paternae dexterae" ("finger of the fatherly right hand") from the more common text also reprinted in CD booklet and score.
After the buildup of motion has reached this climax, in the following Moment 10 the motion is suddenly reigned in again and restricted. Yet it strives to reassert itself by assuming pitch directionality. Harking back to Moments 1 and 4, once more chords separated by pauses are played. The singing of individual syllables from the text over each one of these chords is slowly ascending in pitch, on a gentle and not too steady slope. The sporadic interspersion of brief glissandi or compact groups thereof once again inserts small fields of contrasting motion.
While the contrast between this Moment and the preceding Moment 9 could hardly be greater, there is a correspondence in the singing of the same text ("dextrae Dei tu digitus"), but now with vastly different, much calmer expression. As in Moment 4, there are beguiling timbral connections between sung syllables and harp chords.
Moment 11 starts with a slow descending motion from high register in harp I, accompanied by sporadic brief figures in low register. The descending motion briefly accelerates at the singing of "promissum Patris" in unison with the harp. After a fascinating short phase of ‘re-orientation’ an ascending countermotion is initiated in harp II, starting from low register. Soon this motion is locally doubled in brief phrases of harp I that considerably accelerate the pitch ascensions over those of the much longer line in harp II, which meanwhile continues its ascent at an undisturbed measured pace. The slow descending and then ascending lines that are overlaid with other processes are somewhat reminiscent of track 5 (Stockhausen-Verlag CD) in MANTRA.
Moment 12 begins mysteriously with alternation of two notes between the two harps, one single pitch in low register played by each instrument, with great resonance (played ‘a.T’). Alongside this pattern, the two harpists speak with deep voice "sermone dittans guttura" ("who dost the tongue with power imbue"). After this initial period the Moment is dominated by the marked rhythms of distinct two-note groups of sixteenth-notes (all ‘notes’ are actually chords), two of those groups bound together into four-note groups, or similar configurations. Soon the threads played by the two harps diverge in their spacings of the rhythmic groups, and the asynchronicity between the two instruments leads to a gripping friction. The episode developing over the span of 2 minutes makes the impression of a ‘chase’, with precipitated, forward pushing motion. Yet even more dramatically than in Moment 5, there is also a constant tug between pushing forward and holding back, aided by sequences of (poco) ritardando – a tempo. After 1’05" the overall pitch starts to descend, and soon after the music decelerates to almost half of the original tempo; from there a long accelerando leads back to original tempo and pitch register, while sporadic tempo variations continue to be heard.
At the beginning of Moment 13 the music vigorously comes to a halt with irregular tremoli played ff, and forceful gestures continue in up or down glissandi with emphasis on each respective end note. These are interspersed with the equally energetic groups of sixteenth-notes as continuing ‘memory’ from the previous Moment. All this is greatly contrasted by the much calmer, intermittent singing of "Accende lumen sensibus" ("kindle our senses from above"). A long tremolo in harp II, diminishing in volume from mf to pp, leads into Moment 14.
During the initial tender singing ("infunde amorem cordibus" – "and make our hears o’erflow with love") of the slow Moment 14, continuous quiet tremoli in harp II (bisbigliando playing) contrast the slow arpeggi and chords in harp I. Shortly after the singing ends, harp II is silent as well, and harp I keeps on playing slow chords, countered by more extended motion in a few trills.
Moment 15 carries continuous motion in slow tremoli in the low register of harp II. Harp I plays a more ‘broken’ line. Stretched out over this Moment, "infirma nostri corporis" is sung by the harpists. A downward glissando in the singing of "nostri" beautifully initiates a ritardando in which both instruments play in the lower register; the ritardando in the tremolo playing of harp II sounds remarkable. At the following "corporis" the tremoli become irregular, and will remain so until the end. ("Infirma nostri corporis", together with "virtute firmans perpeti" that will be sung in the next Moment, means "with patience firm and virtue high the weakness of our flesh supply".)
Immediately striking in Moment 16 are repeats, kept at almost constant pitches, of a signal-like descending two-note motif in high register played by harp I. It sounds almost like a teasing exhortation of "come on" to establish forward momentum. While initially the repeats of the motif are isolated, they still form a point of constancy against partially flowing, partially halting lines in harp II. The playing of harp II repeatedly descends into lower register, sharpening the contrast to the signal in high register. The signal gains in strength as it is repeated in quicker succession, at one point against an, in a single flow, eight times repeated descending figure in the low register of harp I (at 0’24"). Unexpectedly, and at the same time arising in an organic manner, finally there is a splendid confluence of repeats of the signal in high register and of glissandi by harp II (at 1’00"), partially reaching into the higher register as well, into a joint forward motion. This paves the way for the combined singing of the two harpists ("virtute firmans perpeti") that closes the moment. On the last syllable a harp chord sounds with long decay, preparing the dramatic change of mood that will occur with the entrance of the next Moment.
Towards the beginning of Moment 17 the harpists sing "Hostem repellas longius" ("Far from us drive the foe we dread"), with a dark, mysterious, almost conjuring tone. This Moment features extensive counter motions in pitch between the two harps. There are continuous runs both up and down the scale, at first only by harp II, while harp I intermittently plays upward rising gestures. The on-and-off support of the scalar runs of harp II by harp I is grippingly composed. Subsequently, both harps engage in scalar runs, generally in counter motion; around 1’45" there are a few general pauses that provide sharp halts to the simultaneously developing motions of the two harps. An arresting tension is the result in this passage, which forms another incisive variant on the game moving forward – holding back that so often plays out in this composition. At last (from 2’03" onward) the scalar runs by the two harps are in the same up or down direction. Except in these last scalar runs, throughout this moment the rhythms of the runs in the two instruments constantly show delicate shifts against each other; the asynchronicities in rhythm make for a riveting experience. In particular this moment is also beautiful ‘eye music’ – the complex motions of the music through the scalar runs just look splendid in the score. The extensive scalar runs can be seen as a continuation of the text’s "longius" ("far from us") in harp sound. The Moment ends with the vocal line corresponding to the first one towards the beginning, "pacemque dones protinus" ("and grant us Thy peace instead").
Moment 18 returns to expansive glissandi, as we already had encountered them in Moments 8 and 9. Countermotion is now reduced to single, incisive chords which ‘stop’ the music each time for a brief moment before the next glissando begins. The contrast between expansive glissando curves and ‘stopping’ chords is perhaps the most extreme example of the game of forward motion – holding back in this work. Glissandi are played in mode specified as "rub the strings mp, glissandoing with flat hand, fingers closed (width: ca. sixth)".
Moment 19 begins with mysterious sounding, somewhat hollow tones in low register that are generated by playing with plectrum. Subsequently, there is a captivating hesitancy in the music, shaped with remarkable elegance and tension, which perpetuates all throughout the ‘broken’ lines in this moment. Yet at the same time a firm directionality develops as the pitch motion reaches, in a statistical manner, ever higher regions. This is reminiscent of the proceedings in Moment 7, as is the return to small fields of continuous, agitated motion as the music progresses. As had been the case earlier, these consist of trills and/or strings of rapid repeats of small figures.
Moment 20 has sporadic successions of slow chords play against a continuous tapestry of agitated, stirring motion, woven from two kinds of texture. One kind consists of the already heard, yet now even more expanded, strings of rapid repeats of small figures; here they sound in low register, with mysterious tone. The other kind are zig-zag glissandi produced by quickly and smoothly rubbing both hands forth and back against the strings. Each of these textures paints a remarkable timbral color. In a passage of brief singing, they are the only harp sounds heard, under omission of the slow chords. The passage of singing introduces a vocal tone as "slightly voiced whisper, quasi synchronous [between the two harpists]" that corresponds to the mysterious tone of the harp sounds. The text featured is "vitemus omne noxium" which, together with "ductore sic te praevio" from the previous Moment 19 means "so shall we not, with Thee for guide, turn from the path of life aside". The moment ends with a ritardando of the two kinds of agitated motion in the harps together.
In Moment 21 there is a sound continuum created by successions of slightly irregular, slow tremoli from harp II in very high register. The motion of this sound field is frequently enhanced by trills laid above it, and countered by figures in high register of harp I. The singing compliments the leisurely pace evoked by the sound field of slow tremoli and trills. The complex layering of different motions atop each other is captivating.
Chords and irregular, firm tremoli alternate at the beginning of Moment 22. After a marked pause, around the half-minute mark, ascending figures accompany the alternation of chords and tremoli (with the latter now receding into ‘piano’ dynamics) and then, with urgent forward momentum, take over as the sole music in both harps. This occurs as the proclamation of the text "noscamus atque filium" is ending, sung in a manner specified as "call happily with changing pitches". This text, together with "Per te sciamus da patrem" from the previous Moment 21 means "Through you may we learn to know the father and also the son". While the ascending motion in the harps is answered by some counter movement in pitch, including a temporary overall slide to lower pitch (at 1’01"), on the whole its urgency continues to pervade the music. The rhythmic asynchronicity between the two harps adds to the tension; in character at first it emulates the textures of Moment 17, and gradually the music approaches and starts to relive the character of Moment 12.
Continuing on this trend, the urgency of forward motion is further intensified at the beginning of Moment 23. Another overall drop to lower pitch (at 0’12") occurs, upon which temporarily the harps’ strings are excited by "cluster beats with flat hands", producing an intriguing ‘rubbery’ sound. During this passage the pitch drops once more. Normal playing resumes as the voices set in. They jubilate in mode "quasi sing, high, like head voice" the second to last verse of the hymn, "te utriusque spiritum" which, together with the last verse "credamus omni tempore" that will be sung in Moment 24, means "and Thee, through endless time confessed, of both the eternal spirit blest". As the verse is repeated several times, in this most climactic passage of the work, the music accelerates to almost double tempo. Yet eventually the chords become more isolated from one another and, after a ritardando, the music that rhythmically had continued to emulate Moment 12 ends in dense tremoli just as that Moment had done (at the beginning of Moment 13).
At the start of Moment 24 the music briefly accelerates once more over scalar runs, but quickly subsides into a level of lower energy. Small scalar runs continue, but are now more separately spaced. Only a, beautifully timed, intermittent burst towards once more faster tempo (at 0’42") briefly interrupts the process of decline of energy, and the Moment ends in ritardando with a last repeat of the verse, "credamus omni tempore", that had been sung in a drawn-out manner from the beginning. Chords separated by pauses are struck at the onset of every syllable of this final solemn proclamation.
Performance and recording
The performers on the CD, Marianne Smit and Esther Kooi, are the same who gave the world premiere. Their playing, which results in a lively realization of the score, stands out in sensibility of tone, as well as in accuracy and sense of flow when it comes to navigating the often complex rhythmic structures. The singing is beautiful in its expression.
The recording sounds immensely detailed yet natural at the same time. As Marc Medwin writes in his review, "Every stroke and glide is readily apparent, even transparent when necessary, and yet the whole is pleasantly but never overly reverberant." While the sound quality can right away be recognized as superb, the spatial presentation may require some mental adjustment. As described in the score, the instruments are miked at several spots, and in this recording the diverse mike feeds for each harp are somewhat spread in the stereo image, with some of the sounds from the two harps almost merging spatially. Apparently Stockhausen wanted to convey the impression of "one large chromatic harp" also in the spatial outlines of sound. This presentation sometimes allows for easier discernment of different textures coming from the same harp, while at other times it makes it less easy to distinguish if sounds come from harp I or II. In general, however, it is quite clear which sounds come from which instrument.
© Albrecht Moritz 2015