Stockhausen

LUZIFERs TANZ (LUCIFER’S DANCE), 1983

This text was edited by Jerome Kohl



Third scene of the opera SATURDAY from LIGHT, for bass voice, piccolo trumpet, piccolo flute / stilt dancer, ballet (or mimes) / wind orchestra (symphonic band) of ca. 80 players; duration approximately 51 minutes

The vertical orchestra – a face dances

Lucifer causes the wind orchestra to appear as "a giant human face with broad, open mouth. The facial expression is a humorous smile" (the composer). Orchestral groups are assigned to left and right eyebrow, left and right eye, left and right cheek, the wing of the nose, the upper lip (for the Upper-Lip Dance, in which Michael protests against Lucifer’s delight in the grimace with a piccolo trumpet solo), and the left and right parts of the chin – thus forming a total of 10 orchestral groups. At a certain stage, a piccolo flute player appears in the tongue for the Tip-of-the-Tongue Dance.

The dances travel down the face from the top to the bottom. The 10 dances are:

Left-Eyebrow Dance
Right-Eyebrow Dance
Left-Eye Dance
Right-Eye Dance
Left-Cheek Dance
Right-Cheek Dance
Wing-of-the-Nose Dance
Upper-Lip Dance
Tip-of-the-Tongue Dance
Chin Dance (both left and right parts of the chin)

Between these 10 individual dances there are 9 tutti dances in which all the parts of the face, which thus far had danced on their own, now dance against each other. For example, after the Left-Eyebrow Dance and the Right-Eyebrow Dance, there is a dance of Brow against Brow, after the Left-Eye Dance there is a dance of Left Eye/Both Eyebrows, and so on. Therefore, more and more forces accumulate in the tutti dances as the music progresses.

The composer:

"During [these tutti dances] the groups increasingly dance against each other, bearing out the following monition:

"If you, Man, have never learned from LUCIFER
how the spirit of contradiction and independence
distorts the expression of the face,
how brow can dance versus brow,
– eye versus eye,
cheek versus cheek,
nose versus cheek,
lip versus nose,
tongue versus lip
and chin versus tongue –
you cannot turn your countenance in harmony
towards the LIGHT."

There are also physical dancers in a staged performance: a stilt dancer and a ribbon-dancer. In Milan, two stilt dancers were used in alternation, so that Lucifer would sometimes seem to stride out of the hall in one direction, only to "re-enter" a few seconds later from the other side. A ballet (or mimes) are meant to appear in the Tear Dance, a part of the Upper-Lip Dance, "dropping as tears" out of the left eye of the giant face; in the Milan performance they were omitted, however.

Physical dance movement is realized by the orchestra musicians as well, meaning to make the eyebrows move up and down, the eyes to roll from side to side, and so on. Their patterns of movement are synchronized to the relatively slow, periodic pulses in each of the ten dance layers.

General characteristics of the music

Next to slow periodic pulses and quasi-regular patterns, irregular rhythmic events continuously play a dominant role, as they do in all of Stockhausen's music.

The constant recurrence of prominent, lively and dynamic rhythmic accents, and the particular dynamism of rhythmic accentuation heard in the music, leading for example to rocking or swaying rhythms, immediately evokes the dance character. The strong interspersion of irregular rhythm in the music imbues this character with a unique atmosphere.

The dance character is further reinforced – throughout long stretches of the scene – by constantly recurring sets of gestures that make the music move in patterns. This circularity of gesture in itself of course is also found in other music and, specifically, in other scenes of SAMSTAG. In conjunction with the particular rhythmic accents found in LUZIFERs TANZ, however, the continually recurring sets of gestures internalize the physical manifestations of dance – people moving in patterns – in musical motion.

All the dances follow one another without pauses. Each of the successive dances evokes different associations with physical movement in dance. The first one, the Left-Eyebrow Dance, introduces complex "rocking" rhythms, the subsequent Right-Eyebrow Dance features "leaping" motions of merrily upward-striving melodic figures, the Right-Eye Dance and the Left-Cheek Dance with their strange musical motions and their rushing noises suggest shuffling of feet on a dance floor, the Wing-of-the-Nose Dance (for percussion) comes with an upbeat "hopping" motion, in the Tip-of-the-Tongue Dance with solo piccolo flute the lively, gracious swaying of the piccolo melody and/or the orchestral accents evoke imagery of people elegantly swaying over a dance floor, and so forth. Often the dance has a strange obstinate quality, fitting for an association with Lucifer.

Going from one section to another almost seems like walking through an art gallery and stopping at a picture for a while, absorbing its characteristics and beauty, then moving on to the next picture, stopping there for a while, and so on. As Stockhausen explained in an interview with Jerome Kohl ("Stockhausen on Opera", Perspectives of New Music 23/2, Spring-Summer 1985, p. 25), the opera consists of four moments (the four scenes, with this being one of them), and these different dances within LUZIFERs TANZ can be seen as a most perfect example of one aspect apparently possible within moment form: moments within a moment.

*****

There are three discernable large-scale processes spanning practically the entire scene.

First, on a rhythmic level, from dance to dance there is a gradual relaxation from initially complex meters and shorter periods to simpler and longer ones (see the composer’s remarks in the CD booklet, p. 81).

Second, there is a shift from darker tone colors in woodwinds (located in the upper parts of the face) to brighter, sharper ones in brass instruments (located in the lower parts of the face). This shift of timbre culminates in the solos, first of piccolo trumpet in the Oberlippentanz (Upper-Lip dance) and then piccolo flute in the Zungenspitzentanz (Tip-of-the-Tongue Dance), solos played in interaction with the orchestra and spanning the entire, extended duration of the respective dances.

As a third process, there is a gradual development in the nature of musical movement, from strictly circular motion towards linearly expanding directionality.

In the first dances the gestures are constantly repeated – albeit with continuously evolving variations – in a circular way, and there is no overarching, directional large-scale motion. Therefore, lively as they are, the gestures appear to "run in place". At first this leads to a strong sensation of stasis. From dance to dance, however, an ever more pronounced articulation of the forward momentum within the figures becomes noticeable. This gradually lessens the impression of stasis in the music, even though a strict circularity of gesture is maintained quite far into the scene – up to the Upper-Lip Dance – due to which the forward momentum within the figures does not extend beyond them into a directional narrative.

To a large degree, the greater perception of such forward motion as the scene progresses is due to the above-mentioned development of timbre towards brighter colors, while the subdued tone colors in the beginning suggest more stasis. That a timbral effect is at play becomes evident when a comparison is made with the derived work RECHTER AUGENBRAUENTANZ (Right-Eyebrow Dance), which is an arrangement of some of the dances from LUZIFERs TANZ for 6 clarinets, 2 bass clarinets, percussion and synthesizer (on CD 59, duration about 36 min.; the work draws its name from the fact that its instrumentation closely matches that of the second dance, the Right-Eyebrow Dance, in LUZIFERs TANZ). In this work, the lesser differentiation of timbre between the individual dances makes the forward momentum within the gestures of the diverse dances appear to be more alike.

Finally, after preparation by the gradual process described above, in the Upper-Lip Dance the musical momentum is set free, as a linearly expanding directionality of forward movement is introduced. This forward momentum will reach an intensified and unrelenting level in the Tip-of-the-Tongue Dance. Either circularity of gesture is abandoned or, as happens particularly in the latter dance, directionality of movement is superimposed on circularity of motion.

The following devices are employed to create or allow for overarching, directional lines across varied repetition of gestures: Change to another gesture after a series of repeats of a given figure occurs frequently and in a fluid manner, figures are transposed to different pitches during sequential recurrences (instead of usually beginning on the same pitch, as had happened in the first dances), or there are accelerandi and ritardandi through such sequences (this holds for the development of the diverse trills as well). Also, figures are shortened or expanded during a sequence of repetitions by omission or addition of notes, or by changing their durations.

The combination of all the above features (the development of rhythm and timbre, as well as the development of motion towards linear directionality) increasingly opens up the music and its gestures. Together with the progressive accumulation of tutti dances following each dance of a new part of the face, LUZIFERs TANZ thus shows a very gradual, yet pronounced and multi-layered large-scale evolution of musical parameters over most of its length.

This large-scale evolution does not contradict the impression that – on a different level of organization – LUZIFERs TANZ consists of a sequence of moments, as described above.

*****

The great complexity of the music is immediately evident. In the first several dances, leading up to the Upper-Lip Dance and the Tip-of-the-Tongue Dance, the following events take place at the same time:

Several musical strands play against each other. Within a given strand, sets of mostly small gestures are constantly repeated, leading to circularity (recurrent return to the origin, including the initial pitch of the gesture). In most instances the repetitions of gesture within a given strand are not literal; rather, the gestures are slightly varied from one occurrence to the other. Since either the repeats differ in duration, or they are separated by varying pauses, irregularities of timing within the pattern of a given strand result. And, finally, since several strands of such circular repetitions play against each other, their internal irregularities of timing constantly cause subtle shifts in time between the strands as well. The sum of all these things is a complex and often highly dense polyphony.

Later, in the outer parts of the long Upper-Lip Dance (featuring a piccolo trumpet solo) and throughout the equally long Tip-of-the-Tongue Dance (with a piccolo flute solo), the polyphony of orchestra and solo instruments is intense, leading to intricate patterns as well.

Overall, the great complexity of the music is strongly reminiscent of the famed complexity of GRUPPEN. Certainly, in some of the most dense passages of the latter, where swarms of tones ("Tonschwärme") play against each other, more notes are played within a given time segment than in LUZIFERs TANZ, but the aural complexity of both works is quite comparable. Whereas the swarms of tones of GRUPPEN produce a textural density in which the individual notes cannot be, nor are supposed to be, heard as discernible entities (cf. Stockhausen: "Von Webern zu Debussy – Bemerkungen zur statistischen Form" (1954), Texte zur Musik I, pp. 75–85), the gestural or melodic complexity of LUZIFERs TANZ is usually transparent enough to allow most notes to have an audible structural function in the polyphony. Density of a score and subjective density of the sounding music are not necessarily correlated.

Furthermore, in GRUPPEN the moments of great complexity alternate with moments of more simplicity or even repose. As such, the work is not continuously complex throughout, whereas in LUZIFERs TANZ the complexity is more unrelenting (the only moments of repose are found in the center of the Upper-Lip Dance and in the solos of the bass voice towards the end). In a sense, this makes it subjectively an even denser work.

It certainly pays off to listen to the scene on a high-resolution system at loud (i.e. realistic) volume, or over headphones: then the multitude of details of voicing – in both foreground and background – will be best appreciated.

Some of the timbres developed in LUZIFERs TANZ are extraordinary. Since the polyphonic texture is so dense, and strands played by instruments of related timbres show tight friction against each other, the overall timbral envelope is able to produce unique colors. This happens particularly in the first few dances, due to the polyphonic interaction between diverse woodwind timbres among themselves and with certain percussive colors. The effect is as impressive as the magical, homophonic fusion of colors in INORI. In addition, some homophonic layers in LUZIFERs TANZ produce amazing colors as well, such as the swelling opening chord and the orchestral chords that support the bass voice in track 24 (see below).

Guide through the music

The scene begins with a four-note chord, over A-flat in the bass, played by all the instruments. Together they encompass a wide registral range of four octaves plus a major sixth; in color this chord is beautifully supplemented by high-pitched metallic percussion. It gradually swells over the course of one minute, with dynamic oscillations that are a synopsis, in time lapse, of the rhythmic process which will develop over the duration of the scene. Finally, the chord momentarily recedes to the background, yet will remain present and again surge in dynamic level after each of the three phrases now sung by the bass voice:

"Wenn du Mensch nie von LUZIFER gelernt,
wie Kontrageist und Unabhängigkeit
den Ausdruck des Gesichts verzerrt,..."

("If you, Man, have never learned from LUCIFER
how the spirit of contradiction and independence
distorts the expression of the face,...")

The vocal line is a forcefully directional, upward striving melody. An attractively composed enhancement of the words’ meaning occurs when, towards the end, the melodic line deliberately exceeds the bass voice’s normal upper range, and the strain as he breaks into falsetto tellingly corresponds to the phrase "den Ausdruck des Gesichts verzerrt" ("distorts the expression of the face").

The first dance, the Left-Eyebrow Dance, then begins (track 2). It immediately introduces a strong character of dance, albeit a very strange one, with its complex, rocking rhythms – made up of an 11-beat pattern with superimposed accents – and its exotic sounds. The instruments located on the left eyebrow are 3 basset-horns, six flutes and percussion. The flutes are divided into two different strands, and the low-register tone colors they produce are unusual in their dark, dim gleam. This timbral character is intensified by the simultaneous playing of the basset-horns in a separate strand and by the metallic, relatively low-registered percussion (the Keisu), which also has this dim tone. Already here we encounter a high level of polyphonic density.

The impression of stasis with regard to large-scale motion, introduced with this dance, is heightened by the contrast with the strongly directional, ascending vocal line immediately preceding it.

Towards the beginning, the bass voice announces the dance by name. He will announce the following dances as well, sometimes with a delayed entrance; in a few instances this delay is considerable.

The polyphonic density acquires a high degree of liveliness in the following Right- Eyebrow Dance (track 3). The instruments located on the left eyebrow are 3 bass clarinets, six clarinets and percussion. Just as the flutes before, the clarinets are divided into two different strands. The combination of tone colors elicited by the playing of clarinets in diverse registers (clarinets, bass clarinets) is beguiling, and there are rather low registered, quite sustained tones from metallic percussion; these are Keisu from instrumental-group 1, gong from group 7, and tam-tam from group 9. There are also rather high metallic percussion: glockenspiel in group 2, antique cymbals in all the other groups. They all blend into and enrich the texture of tone colors. The overall timbral effect is dazzling. In this dance, the obstinate character that will pervade large portions of LUZIFERs TANZ is heard for the first time.

The ensuing dance Brow against Brow (track 4) combines the previous two dances in simultaneous polyphony, leading to the utmost textural complexity.

Next is the Left-Eye Dance (track 5). Apart from percussion, the instruments located on the left eye are saxophones of diverse register: one instrument each of bass, baritone and tenor saxophones, two each of alto and soprano saxophones. In addition to the left-eye instruments, muted trumpets and trombones, horns, euphoniums and tubas are also heard, together with murmurings from other instruments. The dance prominently features the soprano saxophones playing in unison; their constantly repeating (albeit with variations) main gesture revolves around three notes played in descending order. On each of these notes the music rests for a bit. The circularity of gesture, so prominent in this scene, reaches a climax here.

Obviously there is a humoristic dimension to this dance, since each return to the drawn-out high initial note, upon repetition of the gesture, adds to the impression that the music gets "stuck" on this note – showing Lucifer at his most obsessive-compulsive (the figure played is the one from Lucifer bar 4 in the superformula). However, at the same time a musically engaging gradual process unfolds, in which the gesture becomes more and more extended, with varying relative durations and different rhythms on every note during each new pass through it. Also, short gestures frequently occur as "spacers" between the repeats of the descending Lucifer figure, and these become more and more elaborate. Finally, around the one minute mark, the descending figure disappears, and the "spacer" figures start to lead an independent life for a while. The rhythmic background comes more to the fore as well. Eventually, the main motif reappears, yet it does not regain the momentum that it once had; rather, it fluctuates between hesitation and assertion, and there are substantial deviations of melodic line, making the music meander in a fascinating way, in search of itself. All this is enhanced by variations of dynamics.

The dance Left Eye/Both Eyebrows (track 6) combines all the dances so far, according to the principle of accumulation outlined above. At first, all or most of the parts from the three different dances appear to play simultaneously, resulting in even more complexity than in the dance Brow against Brow, but soon particular elements from each of the dances are singled out, alternated with one another and woven into a new texture of changing colors and varying density.

Already in the Right-Eyebrow Dance rushing noises had been heard. These noises are generated by blowing over or to the side of the instruments’ mouthpieces. In this dance they return and are, starting at 1’07", expanded into a sea of overlapping sounds which, in a kind of reversal, is soon more and more densely countered by returning strands of normal instrumental playing.

The Right-Eye Dance (track 7) ensues. Apart from percussion, the instruments located on the right eye are the double reeds: oboes, English horn, bassoon and contrabassoon. A fragment derived from bar 5 of the Eve formula is played and "broken" in varying ways during repetitions. Other than this, the music is made from a multitude of rushing noises, more so than from "normal" tones. Also "smacking" noises are prominent. The constant shifting of patterns makes for absorbing listening.

The dance Both Eyes/Both Eyebrows (track 8) again singles out elements from all the previous dances which are then combined into a new, everchanging polyphonic texture. The resulting polyphony is dense but still transparent enough – simultaneous playing of all lines from all dances is avoided.

With the Left-Cheek Dance (track 9) the dancing now moves into the lower regions of Lucifer’s face. The instruments located on the left cheek are 3 trombones, six trumpets and percussion. All the brass instruments play muted. The repetition of a descending major third in the trumpets is prominent. Below this constant repetition of bright color (later with variations), the music moves in restlessly shifting patterns. Superficially the dance seems monotonous, since at first hearing the repetitions of the simple motif are the most striking, but upon closer experience it is a dazzingly complex, fascinating composition.

Left Cheek/Both Eyes/Both Eyebrows (track 10): This is a very short dance. After the announcement of the bass voice a cadential line from the Michael formula in the trombones becomes noticeable which, below polyphonic tumultuousness, leads in measured steps to the next dance:

The right cheek of Lucifer’s face accommodates the same set of instruments as the left cheek, and in accord with this, the Right-Cheek Dance (track 11) features similar musical material as its previously heard counterpart (the descending major third, D#–B, in the trumpets, is now joined by a second descending major third, A–F, in the trombones); however, an ascending line between short gestures in the trumpets leads to more connectivity and points towards the directionality of the later dances. The material is presented here in considerably brighter timbre than in the Left-Cheek Dance. The sounds from some of the trumpets even verge on the comical.

The out-of-synch polyphonic clashing of contrasting gestures in the dance of Both Cheeks/Both Eyes/Both Eyebrows (track 12), where all six dance layers are played together throughout, makes the music like a smorgasbord of shifting patterns, while a remarkable level of transparency is maintained.

The "hot" atmosphere organically leads into the Wings-of-the-Nose Dance (track 13) where the percussionist sitting in this part of the face has the solo part (in the CD booklet, "Nasenflügeltanz" is not quite correctly translated as "Nostril Dance"; in other Stockhausen publications the translation is amended). The solo sounds less overtly spectacular than some percussion solos in the areas of jazz and rock, but it is highly virtuosic and features intricate, irregular and concentrated patterns.

The brass play sustained tones which are gesturally close to the repetitions of descending intervals that are so prominent in the Left- and Right-Cheek-Dance. These stretched-out tones show pronounced swelling and deflating in volume. The marked dynamic breathing supports the tense vividness of the moment.

The subsequent dance of Wings-of-the-Nose/Both Cheeks/Both Eyes/Both Eyebrows (track 14) begins with quick alternations between two notes in the brass, foreshadowing a signature gesture of the upcoming Upper-Lip Dance. The combination of nebulous textures in the brass with tumultuous percussive playing creates an intriguing, diffuse atmosphere. After a while it is sharply contrasted, in a captivating way, when at once a solo piccolo trumpet emerges with clear, cutting tones. With this, the piccolo trumpet solo of the Upper-Lip Dance begins.

The Upper-Lip Dance, featuring piccolo trumpet with orchestra, and the Tip-of-the-Tongue Dance, featuring a piccolo flute solo with orchestra, are by far the longest parts of LUZIFERs TANZ. Up to this point the dances had lasted mostly between one and two minutes (with a maximum of 3’28" in the Left-Eye Dance); in contrast, the Upper-Lip Dance and the Tip-of-the-Tongue Dance each last more than 10 minutes.

The solo versions and the versions for solo instrument/ensemble bearing for their entire durations the names Upper-Lip Dance and Tip-of-the-Tongue Dance are subdivided in LUZIFERs TANZ. The piccolo trumpet solo with orchestra of the Upper-Lip Dance begins, as described above, within the dance Wings-of-the-Nose/Both Cheeks/Both Eyes/Both Eyebrows and then is further subdivided into Upper-Lip Dance/Tutti of Upper Lip, Nose, Both Cheeks, Both Eyes, Both Eyebrows/Cadenza/Tear Dance (forming a continuum). The piccolo flute solo with orchestra of the Tip-of-the-Tongue Dance is subdivided in LUZIFERs TANZ into the sections Tip-of-the-Tongue Dance/Ribbon Dance/Chin Dance. These also follow one another without break.

The composer:

"At the UPPER-LIP DANCE, MICHAEL appears and protests against LUCIFER’s delight in the grimace with a piccolo trumpet solo. He is kicked to beats of the tam-tam, causing the Giant Face to be moved momentarily and to weep a TEAR DANCE. But then immediately it produces by magic a black cat playing a piccolo flute, who ridicules MICHAEL and the audience with a TIP-OF-THE-TONGUE DANCE and a RIBBON DANCE culminating in the meow: SALVE SATANELLI (‘Greetings, Satan’s kiddies!’)."

Michael thus plays against the orchestra, facing it during most of his solo. Robin Maconie points out that having Michael play on a piccolo trumpet emphasizes "the puny effort [. . .] literally ‘in the face’ of the collective might of the symphonic band" (Other Planets, Scarecrow Press, 2005, p. 453). Though Maconie asserts that this also applies to the subsequent Tip-Of-The-Tongue Dance, the piccolo flute there is never in opposition to the symphonic band, unlike Michael before. The black cat who plays the piccolo flute, with its amplified sound towering above the symphonic band, acts as an agent of Lucifer and leads it in exultation at Michael’s defeat, after he has been kicked by the stilt dancer to beats of the tam-tam; the player Kathinka keeps her back to the band throughout. As outlined above, the employment of piccolo instruments is also part of an overarching timbral process.

The piccolo trumpet solo of the Upper-Lip Dance (middle of track 14 through track 18) makes a dramatic entrance with pairs of short repeated notes, where pitches change from pair to pair. Eventually, the trumpet settles into a repeated alternation of just two pitches. At first it holds on to the gesture of short note pairs, played only on the higher of the two pitches. Soon, however, the note pairs are stripped from the two-pitch pattern, and a plain zigzag motion between single notes on each of the two alternating pitches ensues. The organic transition from the initial trumpet gesture to this latest one is striking. The circular character of the music is now replaced with a forward striving, linear, expanded narrative (see above, section "General characteristics of the music").

The repeated pitch alternations are transposed to different pitches, tempi and timbres. Remarkable textures are created from those variations of basically a single musical gesture. Sometimes the pitch alterations are compressed to trills, in another organic musical transformation.

At two moments (track 15, on the tremolo and trills at 0’37" and on its repetition a few seconds later) timbre glissandi are heard which are created by gradually opening and closing the "wawa" mute used here. These timbre glissandi sound strikingly similar to the "vowel" changes produced by filtering in electronic music. They are in fact notated in the score with vowels: "a–u, o–u–a", etc.

The rushing noises in the trumpet here had been announced with a similar timbre in several successive strokes of the hi-hat (track 15, 0'12'"). They are often forceful and, in the words of the composer, resemble "the sweep of wind and storm" (booklet to CD 35, p. 22). Like the normal trumpet playing, the rushing noises often appear to signify protest. The sudden attacks of series of bright short tones following intermezzi of rushing noises have a powerful effect.

At the onset of track 17 of the CD a solo cadenza of the unaccompanied piccolo trumpet begins. Repeated ascending figures of semipitched rushing noises are played. Occasional single tones are interspersed at first, but then, with rushing noises only, continual repetitions of a five-note figure (compounded of a higher three-note and lower two-note ascending chromatic segment) are heard. At first these become faster and faster, but later they slow down again. It almost sounds like an accelerating and decelerating steam locomotive. An appealing feature of the music at the center of this passage is the combination of the most rapid activity with the lowest dynamic level.

Once the rushing noises have slowed down the most, there is a splendid transition where tones awake by taking over the half-scale repeats from the noises. This is the introduction to a serene solo of slowly unfolding golden-glowing tones on the instrument. This solo shows an expansive breath, yet it is made up only of elemental musical gestures. In fact, almost in its entirety it appears to be composed of the few main gestures heard thus far – the zigzag repeats of pitch alternations, at times flowing into trills, the chromatic-scale segments which ascend as before or, in their inversion, descend, and at a few points the short-note pairs. The way in which the composer weaves the intricate large-scale musical narrative from just a few basic elements is astonishing.

A moment of special beauty is the gradual contraction of the zigzag pitch alternation that starts in track 17 at 1’22" until much later, at 1’47", it flows into a trill. Over time the solo acquires a mournful tone, aided in part by the descending chromatic-scale segments. These are taken from the beginning of the THURSDAY segment of the Michael formula, which is not quite completely chromatic (there is one whole-tone step), and the first SATURDAY segment (Luzifers Traum) of the Eve formula. They join up to cover a continuous descending scale of nearly two octaves, from high D down to the F above middle C.

At last, however, after the music had entered its moment of greatest repose, it slowly awakes again. Rhythm becomes more lively and, starting at 5’39" in track 17, a succession of several – now again ascending – chromatic-scale segments, each one reaching towards a higher final note, leads to a return of the zigzag pitch alterations. These become more and more agitated until the orchestra sets in, first with gentle brass and a little later with force. With natural ease the music resumes the fiery and furious character that it had possessed before the solo cadenza.

The gradual awakening from the repose of the cadenza’s center to the resumption of agitated, polyphonic music is reminiscent of the equally organic awakening of the music in SIRIUS from the center of the section ARIES onwards, even though here it happens on a considerably smaller scale than there. It is another impressive example of seamless, slow processes of growth found in Stockhausen’s music.

After the piccolo trumpet’s arrival on a long, screaming high F at the end of its solo cadenza, seven blows on the tam-tam mark the "seven kicks" delivered to Michael (the trumpeter) by the stilt dancer. This was not mimed (as specified in the score) at La Scala, probably because it would have been too risky to have the stilt dancer swing a stilt at the trumpeter. This passage is the transition to the Tear Dance (see the composer’s comments above), the last passage of the Upper-Lip Dance.

Finally, the solo of the piccolo trumpet ends on its signature gesture of zigzag note alterations, and the piccolo flute takes over right away, beginning the Tip-of-the-Tongue Dance. In this dance a piccolo flute solo plays in dense polyphonic interaction with the orchestra (track 19 through 21). The solo unfolds in a single continuum, only towards the end interrupted by a few longer pauses.

The numerous short figures in the flute tend to form strings of varied repeats, leading again to pronounced circularity of gesture. The strong directionality introduced with the Upper-Lip Dance continues nonetheless, and the forward momentum is further enhanced.

These characteristics are superimposed on the circularity as follows: Series of varied repeats of a given figure usually develop at a fast pace, and subsequent change to another figure takes place frequently and with fluidity. Within sequences of figure repetitions there are often elegant changes of pitch and register from one presentation of a figure to another, accentuating fluidity and overarching momentum as well. Across a sequence of figure repeats, directionality and forward thrust is often increased by progressive elongations – sometimes in the form of embellishments – or truncations of figures. Quite frequently, the kinetic energy of the flow is further intensified by gradual accelerations or decelerations through a succession of repeats of gesture.

Not just the momentum and organic fluidity, but also the expansiveness of the musical narrative created by the employment of all these devices is astonishing.

*****

This particular music approaches a kind of Beethovenian forward momentum, with its hallmark combination of extreme and rapid contrasts within the musical motion on one hand, and nonetheless a continuous, or almost continuous, flow that exhibits great kinetic energy on the other. So high a degree of fusion of these attributes is not often found outside Beethoven’s music.

It is impressive that Stockhausen creates this kind of forward momentum in a very personal, completely distinctive way – the characteristics are reminiscent of Beethoven, but not the texture.

It is all the more striking in Stockhausen, since his music most often focuses on motion features which are opposite to Beethoven’s world – with textures that rest more in themselves, are devoid of pronounced forward momentum, proceed from moment to moment and sometimes even lead to apparent suspension of time.

(I do not mean to imply by this comparison that Beethoven’s music actually served as a model for Stockhausen.)

*****

Trills are heard in the piccolo flute solo even more than in the preceding piccolo trumpet solo. It is once more amazing how a single, simple gesture can be given such variety, by presenting it in different transpositions, tempi, timbres and modes of playing. In several instances such variations of trills sound in close succession.

The solo part in itself is so intricate that even the version for piccolo flute alone (CD 28) provides a dense listening experience. Add to this the polyphonic interaction of the layered orchestral playing with the flute solo, and a high degree of complexity is generated.

A prime gesture in the orchestra are up-and-down "rolling" figures (derived from the glissandi of the Eve-formula). These once more introduce circularity of gesture without superimposed directionality, as had been heard in the first few dances. The contrast between the forward-driving motion of the flute part and an orchestral part in which to a fair extent the gestures rest in themselves, is a beguiling feature. Drums lay down intricate accents from the Ribbon Dance (track 20) onward.

The solo cadenza in the middle of track 20 culminates with the cat/piccolo player’s meow "Salve Satanelli!" (see the composer's comments above). Leading into this is a remarkable sound texture created on the flute: against a tone held on constant pitch, a fusion of voice and flute tone exhibits a very slow downward glissando over a duration of more than ten seconds (starting at 4'17"). The beautiful and captivating timbral friction created by these two simultaneous events is reminiscent of certain glissando effects caused by electronic ring modulation.

Towards the end of LUZIFERs TANZ (during approximately the last 10 minutes), beginning with the Chin Dance, a powerful symbolism recurs several times. The last two bars of the MICHAEL formula (see superformula) appear prominently in the low brass (the instrumental domain of Lucifer) and the cadential effect in these phrases gives a sense of finality – in this case, defeat: Lucifer has triumphed over Michael – for now, at least.

In the Chin Dance (CD track 21), right after the bass's announcement ("Kinntanz"), the piccolo alludes to this final MICHAEL phrase while the low brass have already started to play it in temporal expansion. However, at 43" the brass stay shy of the very last tone – as if Lucifer is relishing Michael’s impending defeat. The penultimate note of the phrase, which sounds at this point, is held and recedes into a very low dynamic level. It is almost silenced during the bass’s singing "Und Kinn gegen Zunge tanzen kann" ("And chin can dance against tongue"; the melody in the bass voice is also derived from this MICHAEL phrase), only to subsequently resurge at low dynamics again, around 57". At 1’01", after 18 seconds (!) "on hold", finally the low brass bursts out with the last tone, "finishing off" the MICHAEL formula.

This defeat of Michael in music sounds spectacular, and is unique in its execution. It is notable how Stockhausen’s large-scale thinking, continually practiced in the vast expansions of his formulas over entire operatic scenes and on even larger scales, prompts him to arrive at solutions which would normally not seem within the temporal realm of music (here the 18 seconds during which the formula is "on hold" on a single note). Despite being so stretched-out, the above process became quite obvious to me upon close listening, without looking at the score, by virtue of expectation of the final cadential note.*

*) Score study is practically never necessary to grasp the essence of Stockhausen’s music, even though of course it can deepen perception – just as with all great composers. One exception is, paradoxically, the recognition of the "simple melody" in the fifth and last formula cycle in LUZIFERs TRAUM. Another rare exception that comes to my mind is following the form scheme needed to understand the proceedings in the integral version of SPIRAL, even though pure enjoyment of the music is easily possible without this, certainly in the immensely engaging – and intelligently entertaining – interpretation by Michael Vetter on Stockhausen-Verlag CD 46 (the form scheme is reprinted in the booklet).

After the Chin Dance, the bass sings (track 22): "…kannst du dein Antlitz nicht in Harmonie zum LICHTE wenden" ("can you not turn your countenance in harmony towards the LIGHT").

The TUTTI Chin/Tongue/Upper Lip/Nose/Both Cheeks/Both Eyes/Both Brows (CD track 23) ensues, and features another rendition of the final phrase (the last two bars) of the MICHAEL formula in low brass, while in the beginning the higher brass buries it under the initial eleventuplet from the LUCIFER formula, and expands to other gestures from there.

A longer solo passage for the bass voice follows, supported by orchestral chords (track 24):

"Hast Du dein zehngeteiltes Angesicht in allen Dissonanzen, Rhythmen von Grimassen ausprobiert, wird es zerfallen, [leer und ausgehöhlt (2 x)], bevor es im Seelenreich, für Menschenaugen unsichtbar, am SONNTAG aufersteht."

"As soon as you have tried out your countenance – divided into ten parts – in all dissonances, rhythms and grimaces, it will disintegrate, [empty and hollowed out (2 x)], before in the realm of souls, invisible to the human eye, it will resurrect on SUNDAY."

Also found here are cadential phrases reminiscent of the final MICHAEL phrase, and the music on the repeat of "leer und ausgehöhlt" appears to be directly derived from it. The chords of mixed brass and woodwinds, played at low dynamic level, are of a stupendous tone color – they sound almost like electronic music.

After the bass solo, the TUTTI continues (track 25), again with the final phrase of the MICHAEL formula in low brass. As in the previous part of the TUTTI (track 23), the hostile takeover of the MICHAEL formula by the forces of Lucifer could not be more impressive and majestic. Now the formula is countered polyphonically, and devastatingly, in trumpets that play the repetition of a descending interval, as in the Left- and Right-Cheek Dances.

The cadential closing of the Ending (track 26) completes the defeat of Michael (’s formula).

*****

The composer:

"In an opera performance, LUCIFER’S DANCE is broken off by an orchestra strike and ends in a fracas. In concert, it should be played to the end."

The orchestra strike is an allusion to Stockhausen’s diverse experiences with collectives of musicians. First, it refers in orchestral guise to the strike of La Scala's choir during the world première of DONNERSTAG, which caused the omission of the scene FESTIVAL of the third act from several of the performances. Second, it reflects the experience that some orchestra musicians seem to have a "union mentality," and to view their profession as a mere "job", rather than as a joyful service to great art.

The CD of LUZIFERs TANZ (Stockhausen-Verlag CD 34C, part of the 4-CD set of SAMSTAG) features the alternative ending with the orchestra strike as track 28, heard after the "normal" ending. The strike is funny, with the playing of the music simply falling apart, with Stockhausen beseeching the orchestra to play on and with the director of La Scala (played by the popular Milanese actor Piero Mazzarella) and the orchestra director arguing, all this in a mixture of English and Italian. When finally the director of La Scala exclaims in desperation "Sodom e Gomorrha!" the comedy of the whole thing goes hilariously over the top. The best of it all, however, is the irony of the entire undertaking: the orchestra strikes because they are "over the time limit", while their playing had fallen apart and finally stopped less than a minute before the actual ending of a scene of 50 minutes duration! (Compare track 26 with the end of the orchestral playing in track 28.)

*****

The University of Michigan Symphony Band (Ann Arbor) under the direction of H. Robert Reynolds is first-rate, and Markus Stockhausen in the piccolo trumpet solo of the Upper-Lip Dance, and Kathinka Pasveer in the piccolo flute solo of the Tip-of-the-Tongue Dance, are exemplary in the energy, liveliness and nuance of their playing. Also the bass, Matthias Hölle, sings vibrantly. Amplification has been used to modify sound balance during performance, such as in the parts of the bass singer and for the piccolo flute solo.

The recording is relatively close-up but not excessively so. It is clear in detail, and timbres are portrayed well. My only reservations are about the dynamics. While in the first half of the scene the recorded dynamic development is convincing, the nuance of sound level in the piccolo trumpet solo of the Upper-Lip Dance is less than in the version for piccolo trumpet and small ensemble on CD 35; there the shadings in loudness (and timbral effects) resulting from the spatial movements of the soloist are better incorporated in the recording. Of more concern, however, is the apparent dynamic compression that affects the last tutti, possibly as a result of problems to capture the entire wide volume range of the performance. This diminishes the visceral impact of these passages in an otherwise powerful recording.



© Albrecht Moritz 2007


Home