WELTRAUM(OUTER SPACE), 1992/94
DETAILED GUIDE THROUGH THE WORK
This text was edited by Jerome Kohl
The music begins abruptly at high volume, as a rounded outburst of sound. A downward noise glissando in the middle register and sound fluctuations in the bass gradually settle out, like a prolonged phase of attack transients, and several simultaneous "steady state" events emerge, moving at drastically different rates of speed: (1) the slowest moving is a sound texture beginning in the high register, evocative of frogs or cicadas on a tropical summer's night, (2) a diffuse and hazy sound, in the middle register, having more the character of a noise band, (3) eruptions at regular intervals of a little more than twenty seconds in the bass and (4) a melody unfolding in a slow wide-leaping motion, with notes changing at periodic time intervals of about ten seconds.
The first strand, audible through large portions of the entire first half of WELTRAUM, is a fine-grained sound structure that harbors a string of distinct notes of varying pitch that are extremely short and follow each other very closely. The notes fly by with such speed – individual notes become almost indiscernible in the process – that any perception of forward momentum becomes impossible: the structure is rendered completely static. Thus it blends effortlessly with the slow motions elsewhere in the music, even though these mostly do show clear momentum. This strand, due to its fine micro-structure, adds a strong flair of alien subtlety to the music. On a large scale, it will slowly fluctuate in overall pitch level throughout different passages in the work.
The static nature of the strand is emphasized by its only occasionally changing dynamics. In fact, seeming changes in its dynamics may often be only apparent, due to the varying exposure of the strand as a function of the changing loudness of the other layers of the music.
The evocation of frogs or cicadas on a tropical summer's night in this strand may have an autobiographical dimension. On p. 210 of Jonathan Cott's 1973 book, Stockhausen: Conversations with the Composer, Stockhausen describes the nearly four-hour-long performance of UNBEGRENZT ("Unlimited"), from AUS DEN SIEBEN TAGEN, at the Fondation Maeght in St. Paul de Vence, in Provence:
"We started at 6:30 p.m., and when the people began arriving throughout the next hour they could already hear the music from far away. We played until about ten o'clock, integrating not only our instrumental and vocal sounds but also those of the frogs and cicadas and all the other animals which woke up to the rising of the late summer moon."
It seems plausible that Stockhausen was deliberately recreating this experience in the music of WELTRAUM. In the summer of 1977, also, there were open-air performances of SIRIUS at the Centre Sirius in Aix-en-Provence. These performances must have been adorned with the nocturnal sounds of cicadas and frogs, as well.
Strand (2) also consists of a fine-grained sound structure, yet is rather diffuse and hazy, having more the character of a noise band. This strand will fluctuate in dynamics far more than the first.
These two strings of sound frequently give the impression that the music is gently boiling and, for about the first eight minutes, this "boiling" will be enhanced by (3) the periodic dark erupting surges in the bass (the Lucifer formula's opening repeated-note figure, in extreme slow motion).
The melody (4), which is the slow-motion presentation of the initial flourish of the Eve formula, features an extraordinary tone color from the synthesizer: the timbre of floating synthetic electronic sound is fused with just a slight suggestion of an accordion. Meanwhile, the bass eruptions swell and fade, almost as if a living organism was lurking underneath.
After this synthesizer melody has come to a rest on a sustained D, at about 1'10", a new process begins that will extend over the next six minutes. A metallic timbre in the high register is added to the melody's final tone and this fused sound rises and falls in volume, in periodic oscillations that become faster and faster, until it sounds like the throb of a running engine. From this point on, the oscillations of the tone decelerate again until they become extremely slow once more, with approximately one "revolution" per second. Gradually, another similar tone, launched from an upward glissando, becomes faster once more, and the process repeats itself. Four cycles of acceleration/deceleration of these oscillations occur during those six minutes.
An important feature is the association of timbre composition with this process. The tone changes its spectrum of overtones constantly, so that its sound ranges from very bright to more subdued, giving the effect of varying its quasi-vocal "vowel" color (comparable to [i], [e] etc.).
The combination of accelerating/decelerating oscillation in volume with constantly changing timbre of the tone is fascinating. Oddly enough, listening to just this combined process alone makes those six minutes fly by quickly, yet it is only one component in the musical scene, which is made even more captivating by the other constituent events.
Most strikingly, at regular intervals of about 23 seconds (up until 8'27") bass sounds appear and disappear in dynamic surges – sometimes as "volcanic eruptions" – with varying timbre, strength and decay. The diverse timbres of these sounds, often with a pronounced noise component, are powerful and intriguing.
This early passage sets the stage for what will happen throughout these more than two hours of music – timbre composition and timbral processes become all important in WELTRAUM, and being aware of them is paramount. It can make all the difference between utter fascination or incomprehension.
Eventually, the process comes to an end and the high-registered sound band fades out. The music rests for a while in its other components, the finely rippled structures and the bass sounds.
At 8'39" a bass drone commences with a timbre glissando that makes this sound seem to peel off from the musical background (the note opens with strong overtones yet quickly closes in again). Gradually the overtones regain strength and from there become even more prominent. This both brightens the tone as a whole and raises its volume in an extremely drawn-out process. Extra tones are added shortly before the ten-minute mark and, while the entire complex swells further in brightness and volume, the urgency of the motion is enhanced by a slow alternation of two pitches branching off from the main swelling phenomenon. This entire expansive process of two minutes (!) ends at last with the sudden emanation of an extended bright tone. This tone (a G#, the same as the lower of the two alternating pitches found towards the end of the swelling process) has a peculiar, nasal timbre and quickly darkens again in spiraling changes in color.
The extremely slow, gradual swelling in brightness and volume of the bass drone over a period of two minutes – with other tones added towards the end – unfolds with an uncanny, unstoppable power. The entire episode of swelling, with the subsequent emanation of the bright tone, seems to depict in sound a slow volcanic eruption, in a tremendous magnification of the shorter "volcanic eruptions" heard previously in the bass. Now we are experiencing the process from within, from its very beginning: the mass of molten rock makes its long journey from the depths up through the mountain and, finally (as a sudden emanation of bright sound), it shoots out from the mountain's surface as red-hot lava.
The next subsection, as a continuation of the previous eruption of the bright tone, is rung in at 10'47" by high-pitched electronic "percussion" (such "percussion" is heard at the beginning of many new sections in the work). The bright tone is smoothly displaced by a sound of the same pitch – and very bright in timbre – that exhibits a very fast rhythmic, "trembling" activity. This internal activity is so fast that it is not experienced as a succession of tones but as a single sound band (its inner motion, however, is of a lesser speed than the one heard within the strand of fine-grained structure – the "frogs" or "cicadas", described above). The rhythmic patterns are not quite regular, and there are irregular and rapidly cycling internal timbral fluctuations.
The sound band slowly mutates in overall timbre and volume, meandering through the music in all kinds of colors. At first it may seem that the pitch varies continuously, yet that actually is not the case. Rather, the sound band undergoes constant filtering that either represses upper partials or, in the opposite process, emphasizes these by suppressing the lower part of the spectrum. The gradual changes in volume enhance the drama of the timbral processes.
(At some points, such as around 12'20", 12'40", 14'15" and 14'45", there initially appears to be particularly heavy filtering, yet the effect seems to be produced in large part by sharply reducing the volume of the bright band and concomitantly increasing the volume of a lower pitch that fluctuates in timbre, with "vowel" changes that are the result of less drastic filtering.)
These variations in color and volume are accompanied by movements in space (spectacular in eight-channel projection but partially audible in stereo as well) and stretch over a duration of more than four minutes.
Such gradual filtering of pulsating sound bands or patterns is not uncommon and may also be found, for example, in the sequenced rhythmic-motivic patterns in "Rubycon Part I" from Rubycon by Tangerine Dream (1975), or in the tracks "Pulstar" and "Nucleogenesis (Part I and II)" from Albedo 0.39 by Vangelis (1976). Yet it is seldom if ever heard in so expansive a process as in this passage of WELTRAUM – along with other instances in this work, including the previous section featuring the accelerating-decelerating band, and in other electronic works of Stockhausen, for example the frequent filtering of the sequencer-governed melodies in SIRIUS (1977). Two rare examples in other music would be the slow filter processing of the pulsating glissando sound bands in "Bayreuth Return" from Timewind by Klaus Schulze (1975) and the filtering over several minutes of the moderately paced sequencer melody in "Silene" from Substrata by Biosphere (1997); in the latter, pronounced volume changes also enhance the process.
Since the sound band in this segment of WELTRAUM consists of a single sound within which a very fast and forward-pressing activity occurs, the gradual changes in volume and the slow, global variations of timbre that are laid over the constant, rapidly cycling internal timbral fluctuations produce a unique outcome.
They give rise to two different, apparently contradictory effects: on the one hand they set free the forward momentum inherent to the fast inner activity of the sound band, so that it translates into actual motion (without these gradual changes, the activity would likely freeze into stasis) and promote the impression that the sound band undergoes an extended, restless journey within the music – it is always on the move, at a considerable speed that relates to its high inner activity. Paradoxically, however, since the gradual, global variations of timbre and volume of the sound band occur at a slow pace, they also make this band of very fast inner activity fit well into the general atmosphere of slow motions in the music.
A visual analogy to this sound band might be the view from a helicopter of a train traveling on a mountainside. Though the train is moving rapidly, it may seem from the point of view of the equally fast-moving helicopter to be moving slowly or not at all. Furthermore, it may often gradually recede from view and come closer again, according to the contour of the mountainside around which it is travelling or, from time to time, it may be temporarily concealed from sight as it passes behind a group of trees.
The combination in this process of WELTRAUM of the high level of restless activity within the sound band on the one hand, and of the slow transformation on the other, is reminiscent of the episode in Region III of HYMNEN where a short-wave signal thins out and is slowly transformed into whistling (see my text). This combination of characteristics creates magic here as well.
The sound band is closely interwoven with the fine-grained noise band that had been present from the beginning. Variations in relative volume levels between the two bands contribute substantially to the nuancing of the music.
Several times smooth-textured, bright drones – sometimes making a slow glissando – blend into the music, beginning mainly at a low volume and staying that way for a while before swelling for a brief, radiant statement and receding again. The last of these drones gives the section a sense of closure. This is rather unusual in the first half of the work, where most sections do not conclude but rather are simply displaced by a "jump cut" to the onset of the next one.
So far the music has fallen into two distinct passages (the first up to 8'38": "melody" + cycles accel. – decel.; the second from 8'39" to now: slow rise with eruption + pulsating sound band emerging from eruption) that appear to simply follow one another without clear dramatic-directional relationship between them. This structuring will continue through the first half of WELTRAUM (CD 50A) including the first 11 minutes of the second half. Each such passage corresponds to a gesture (segment) of either the Eve or Lucifer formula in the form plan (these segments range between half a bar and two bars; for examples, see further below).
The subdivision of the entire first half of WELTRAUM is as follows, with sections between 4 and 19 minutes long – though most are less than 6 minutes:
1. beginning to 8'38"
2. 8'39" to 16'06" (7'27")
3. 16'07" to 21'26" (5'19")
4. 21'27" to 25'42" (5'15")
5. 25'43" to 32'06" (6'23")
6. 32'07" to 36'18" (4'11")
7. 36'19" to 40'34" (4'15")
8. 40'35" to 47'02" (6'27")
9. 47'03" to 66'14" (19'07")
10. Disc 2: 0'39" to 11'18" (10'39")
(There is a bit of overlap between discs 1 and 2; passage 10 fades out at the end of disc 1, the end of passage 9 briefly opens disc 2 while fading in.)
The shaping of the music into distinct, self-contained passages without any overarching dramatic development as it is found here parallels to some extent the concept of moment form (see my essay on MOMENTE). Yet just as there are associations of similarity between individual moments of MOMENTE, there are connections between the distinct passages of WELTRAUM. An obvious one is the presence of the finely rippled structure (the "frogs" or "cicadas") that ceases altogether only after 11 minutes into the second half of the work and, depending on the context, forms different interactions with the surrounding music. Another clear link between the next few passages – after the current second section – are the bass drones (from the Lucifer formula) that vary in shape and timbre from section to section considerably less than do the middle-register events. A further overarching timbral characteristic is the frequent, distinguishing presence of high-frequency drones. These are the most evident examples.
After 11 minutes into the second half of the work, a sequence of bass tones appears that will form a continuous string of nearly an hour, until 68 minutes. Near the end of this long process, the last and most expansive counting (from the Lucifer formula) overlaps the bass tones and then continues beyond them until the end of the work. All this will form one single – exceptionally large-scale – directional arch of musical development and, as such, will dramatically depart from the organization of the music in the first half of the work.
As the prominent sound band of the second section (of Part One) fades away at around 15'00", the two ever-present strands of finely rippled structure, the sound band and the noise band, are left over. Fluctuations in dynamics and timbre of the noise band, a few purposeful propulsions in the bass and variations in a high-frequency band raise the tension of expectation, and then the next passage is rung in.
This third section, from 16'07" to 21'27", displays slow-moving sounds in the very high register which, in a huge arch, descend lower and lower in pitch into the mid-high register. The slow sounds consist of wedge-like, up-down figures where the wedge character of pitch motion appears to be actually generated by shifts of dynamics within the chord that is sounding. There are forty repetitions of these figures, each one a little lower in pitch than the previous one, until at last a space of more than two octaves has been traversed.
At times bass sounds come more to the foreground, and the longer-stretched bass sounds now evolve into more linear drones.
The sound of the wedge-like figures starts with a radiant yet opaque luminescence from within. As they descend in pitch, their timbre gradually becomes less rich in overtones. Yet while the gradual descent in pitch is linear, the accompanying slow change in timbre is not. There are fascinating variations of timbre between successive wedge figures that ultimately give the impression that a strange spiral of timbre is formed in this section. The spiral has a physical expression as well, in that the string of successive wedge figures roams about considerably in space, which is also clearly audible on the two-channel CD. Upon closer inspection, the nonlinear variations of timbre are related to two things.
First, the overtone presence within the individual wedge figures varies. In particular, there is a shiny edge to the transition in the middle of the wedge that differs between figures – sometimes it is more pronouced, sometimes weaker, while then the wedge is smoother.
Second, the wedge figures actually are made up of composite sounds. The figure proper, of burnished timbre, has at its base a noise component of – relatively – lower frequency (a frequency which in the beginning, accompanying the very high-pitched chord, is itself nevertheless very high as well). The noise component is identifiable as a separate entity, yet at first fuses with the wedge figure (at the beginning it is an extremely high-pitched sizzle). The composite timbre is a complex function of the interaction of a pitch element and a noise component, an interaction that varies in terms of relative intensity of the two. This balance of strength between the two components also can shift over just the time span in which one such wedge figure unfolds. The complexity is further enhanced by the gradual dissociation of the noise component from the wedge figures into a separately evolving entity (as the pitch gradually lowers, the noise component turns into breathy, vaguely pitched whistling sounds; around 18'40", it sounds like distant, howling wind). – The composite character is explained in the form scheme of Freitag, which specifies Akk.- and Rausch Gliss., i.e. chord glissando and glissando of colored noise.
The descent in pitch of the successive wedge figures is subjectively counteracted by several elements. Since the lower-frequency noise component gradually dissociates from the figures and its subjective presence diminishes, there is less and less gravitational pull on the wedge figure by the noise component. Also, the finely rippled sound structure (the "frogs" or "cicadas") slowly ascends in pitch as the wedge figures descends, forming a counterbalance. The same holds for the bass sounds, even though their ascent is not linear.
At the end of its journey, the arch of pitch descent features a shallow, dead, closed-in timbre – a far cry from its glittering, silvery beginnings.
The arrival of the next, fourth section at 21'27" that shows a much brighter, more colorful timbre seems like a release. This segment, also lasting about 5 minutes, prominently features a sound complex in high register that consists of two components.
Apart from the "usual" kind of volume variations, the fundamental layer shows very fast yet subtle and fluid oscillations in amplitude. However, in commonly heard sound bands created by pulse generators the durations of the peaks and dips of sound are more or less similar; the oscillations here are entirely different. The layer leans toward a steady level of sound, but on the microscale there are regularly and rapidly cycling short dips in loudness (at a frequency of approximately four per second) – these dips do not last anywhere near as long as the steady-state phases of sound into which they cut. At some points the rapidly cycling drops in loudness seem more pronounced than at others.
The second, overlaid element is a somewhat silver-metallic sound which is in a considerably higher register than the first component – it serves as a kind of "overtone" – and oscillates in timbre at a fast pace. It sounds a bit like the timbre of "singing glass": a thin wineglass set into vibration by rubbing the rim with a dampened finger.
The overall result of these superimposed sound fluctuations gives the impression of a fast-propagating, shallow, rippling sound wave. The fast motion has considerable forward impetus but nonetheless the sound wave may seem immobile in one sense, because there is no pitch movement at all. Also, due to the fluidity and rapidity of the oscillations, the sound is experienced as continuous over its duration of five minutes, as a single sound with a dynamic inner life. This inner dynamism of the oscillating sound complex is dramatically illuminated and enhanced when, often abruptly, it becomes louder and then recedes in volume again. The dynamic interplay of the sound complex with the bass tones in the music is especially beautiful: sudden surges in volume occuring in response to attacks of the bass tones do so with a slight delay.
It is notable that the changes of volume in the bright fundamental sound band are not always followed (or followed to the same extent) in the silvery "overtone" band. These differences in volume between the two parts of the sound band cause slight shifts in the overall timbre.
(In general, of course, gradual timbre changes are caused by changes in the dynamic relationship between fundamental tones and overtones – by variations in their relative loudness. But here this property of sound is laid bare in a special way, in an externalization of the inner life of sound as it were, since the "fundamental" sound band and the "overtone" band are perceivable as separate entities.)
It is astonishing that this composite sound can produce such a beautiful and involving experience throughout its entire length of five minutes, given that it does not vary in pitch at all. A powerful phenomenon is created here by changes in just the dynamics – in dynamics of and within the sound complex. The development of dynamics is the musical process.
Especially in the beginning of the passage, there also is heard from time to time a "straight" drone in the very high register, without internal oscillations.
From the start of this segment, the bass sounds come prominently to the musical foreground. Extended drones are heard, while pitch changes occur in a sudden and marked manner, with an attack component at the beginning that often fades away in a timbre "glissando". Also in the steady-state phase of these drones there are variations in dynamics, but mostly not as abrupt as the volume surges in the continuous, high-register sound complex. These dynamic fluctuations contribute powerfully to the overall impression of a music in motion, in stark contrast to the static quality of most music using extended drones. Yet even in moments where there is little or no change in dynamics, the timbre of the bass drones brings about the impression of a strong forward momentum. This timbral effect is extraordinary and stands in contrast to, for example, the bass drone pervading a major part of OKTOPHONIE, which seems static (against the many other, dynamic sounds in that work). The impression of forward momentum is apparently caused by an inner harmonic friction within the bass sounds and by small, even minuscule fluctuations in their overtone spectra.
Paradoxically, the music in this episode is simultaneously slow and fast. As noted earlier, the sound complex in the high register gives an impression of a rapidly propagating, rippling sound wave but, at the same time, it seems to be an immobile, single continuous sound. This dualistic character of the sound complex is skewed towards the slow side by the presence of the bass drones and their dynamic interaction with it, which also emphasize the drone aspect of this sound. On the other hand, the finely rippled sound structure (the "frogs" or "cicadas") now is intensified, and while the ultra-fast movement within makes this strand appear mostly static, this time the rapid sound motion within the strand adds to the kinetic momentum of the rapid onward propagation of the sound complex in the high register. It becomes increasingly clear what an astounding invention this strand is – its contribution to the music and its perception is simply adjusted by its surroundings. These changes in musical function of the strand will continue in the following passages.
As with the sound complex in the high register, changes only in the dynamics are crucial to the development of the bass drones (though timbral processes are also important). It is no exaggeration to say that the development of dynamics is the main musical process in this entire section.
This supreme importance of development of dynamics in the music also holds for the next, fifth section, starting at 25'43" and lasting more than six minutes. The episode features a drone in the middle range that is rhythmically chopped by intermodulation with an interfering frequency. This generates a sort of "stroboscopic" pattern of sound. This fascinating drone undergoes only a handful of alternations between two pitches during the entire duration of the passage. There are many slight timbre fluctuations on an irregular basis. Just like the sound complex in the high register from the previous section, this sound exhibits constant dynamic variations, and the lively fluctuations in timbre and volume throughout the long episode create a marvelous listening experience.
Another sound in the middle register, less strong in overtones yet with a luminescent metallic resonance, blends into the stroboscopic drone to such an extent that it seems embedded in it. This embedded sound has stronger dynamic fluctuations than the surrounding drone, helping to create a beautiful trembling effect of the sound complex as a whole, as it vibrantly scintillates with the utmost vitality. The presence of the embedded sound diminishes after the initial stages of the passage. Magic is also created by the superposition of the rhythm of the stroboscopic drone on the finely roughened sound structure (the "frogs" or "cicadas").
An arresting effect is produced by a "glitch" in the first sudden transition of the drone to higher pitch (at 28'55"), which is the result of a momentary suspension of the stroboscopic chopping of the sound (in the second, equivalent transition at 31'03" the effect is less evident due to lower volume of the drone). In fact, this "glitch" appears to be caused by the mode of operation of the synthesizer (it is also heard at the very onset of the section). The composer could easily have spliced it out; leaving it in the music deliberately, however, is a beautiful choice.
The bass drones maintain the same character as in the previous section. The alternation of these drones with periods of silence has a majestic power, and the softened initial attack of the very low bass drones towards the end, together with the saturated roundness of their steady-state phase, is a splendid timbre.
I should like to pause at this point in order to give an idea of how some individual passages of the music relate to the extraordinary expansion in time of the Eve/Lucifer formula. Here are a few examples:
The sound band at 10'47" that constantly mutates in timbre for five minutes represents the one sustained, high bass note in bar 2 of the Lucifer formula (the Lucifer layer of the superformula for LICHT) – for the superformula, click here (PDF file).
The episode from 16'07" to 21'26" prominently features repeated figures, each one a little lower in pitch than the previous one, until at last a space of more than two octaves is traversed. These correspond to the long glissando in the Eve formula, bar 3 of the superformula, marked "Geräusch-Gliss." (noise glissando).
The following passage, from 21'27" to 25'42", matches bar 4 (the first bar of the Tuesday segment) of the combined Eve and Lucifer formulas. The sound complex in the high register corresponds to the single tone of the Eve formula in this bar (D-flat). The fast timbre fluctuations in the "overtone band" correspond to the timbre specification in the Eve-layer in bar 4 of the superformula: "[:iu:] (schnell) oder [:au:]" / "[:iu:] (fast) or [:au:]". The prominent bass drones come from the Lucifer formula. The bass drone from 24'18" to 25'00" represents the long tone in the middle of the second half of bar 4 of the Lucifer formula (D-flat), and the bass tones at 25'00", 25'11", 25'22", and 25'32" correspond to the four short notes on the same pitch that end the bar.
In the section from 25'43" to 32'06", the stroboscopically scattered drones in the middle-high register represent the Eve layer in that bar: the five notes of the "modulation" (starting in the middle of the Tuesday segment). The bass drones come from the Lucifer formula at the beginning of bar 5 up to the "Kussgeräusche" (kissing noises) in the Eve formula.
The next episode, from 32'07" to 36'19", will represent the second half of bar 5. The reader is once again referred to the form scheme of FREITAG.
With the next, sixth section of about 5 min., beginning at 32'07", the music sails into calmer waters. Sporadic kissing noises, of constant pitch but varying in details of gesture, are prominent here. Bass drones continue as before, now with a slightly different, tantalizing timbre. As in the previous section, there is a kind of internal "friction" between elements of the inharmonic spectra that gives them an especially lively character, yet paradoxically with a far more static, "eternal" quality. Even though they are less immediately obvious than either the kissing noises or the bass drones, variations in luminescent high-frequency drones of metallic timbre come to play a leading role in the development of this music. The variations in volume and the timbre glissandi together imbue the drones with a mesmerizing, burnished sheen – a kind of thing I have never heard before. The refinement of the timbre glissandi and the other gradual changes in these drones are impressive testimony to the capabilities of modern synthesizers, put to great musical effect here.
The following, seventh section, is rung in at 36'19" by a prominent synthesizer signal featuring a three-note up-and-back figure (neighbor-note figure) that begins the Wednesday segment of the Eve formula. This signal introduces a cluster of several similar-sounding drones in the middle and high registers with a radiance of prominent overtones. From the beginning this rich sound cluster exhibits delicate changes in timbre, caused less by timbre glissandi than by variations in volume of individual drones within the cluster.
These sounds have an intense, "streaming" character that appears to be partially the result of the richness in overtones of the drones and of small fluctuations within them. However, upon closer inspection, the streaming character is also, and at first maybe foremost, the result of a combination of the drones with the finely rippled structure (the "frogs" or "cicadas"), which have been present from the start and are blended in here at a subtle level. Again, in varying musical contexts, this structure takes on different functions and meanings. The streaming soon further intensifies when, at the chord change at 36'55", the Eve melody has reached E-flat, and at first seems to borrow the finely rippled character from the acompanying "frogs", an illusion caused by the fact that these are also sounding E-flat at this point, only an octave higher.
Finally, the Eve layer begins a slow downward glissando of the rich, saturated complex of drones, followed by a reversal into an upward glissando. This reversal almost sounds as if the music was on a tape that first came to a halt, and then was played back in the opposite direction. In this respect, the music is reminiscent of a similar downward/ upward glissando passage for multiple basset-horn at the beginning of EVE's GREETING which introduces MONDAY from LIGHT (in the passage of WELTRAUM, the slow downward/upward glissando represents a characteristic figure of the Eve formula's Wednesday segment in extreme time-expansion; in the superformula, glissandi are a particular feature of the Eve layer). The event is further enriched by a process that is overlaid on and intertwined with the rich synthesizer glissandi. High-frequency synthesizer sounds with an opalescent sound color closely follow the descent and ascent of the glissandi, yet in discrete steps, suggestive of the music moving along a fairytale crystal staircase. All these elements together make for a moment of extraordinary beauty.
The event fades away into another streaming, slow downward glissando of quite a dark timbre in the low register, rippled due to subtle insertion of grainy particles of sound. Similar streaming textures, albeit mostly in a higher register, appear in the version of KATHINKAs GESANG for flute and electronic music, with Release of the Senses as the most obvious example (CD 28B, track 45; subtle graininess is heard throughout the electronic music). I have not heard this kind of grainy, streaming sound anywhere but in Stockhausen's electronic works.
Then, leading into the eighth section at 40'35", the "echo" of Eve's Wednesday segment commences with the prominent neighbor-note figure, reintroducing the rich drones from just before; we hear numbers being counted from "eins" through "sieben", and finally "eins" again. The extreme slowness of counting and the menacing, estranged tone, achieved in part by transformation using a vocoder, make it sound like counting from Hell (this is part of the Lucifer formula).
The luminosity of the synthesizer drones is like the intensity of alpenglow – a reddish reflection of light seen near sunset or sunrise on mountain summits. The sudden changes in timbre, accompanying the equally sudden, sporadic changes in pitch, are beguiling. The additional processes of gradual variation of timbre and volume of or within given drone settings enhance the fascination of the music, as do the resounding strokes of glittering "electronic percussion" that harbor magical timbres. The numbers "vier" and "fünf" (four and five) are bridged by the downward/ upward glissando combination, completing the main body of Eve's Wednesday echo. At the number "sechs" (six), an "after-echo" begins, as gigantic water drops, resounding in a subterranean cave, are projected into the sonic fabric. These will continue to splash until the end of the passage, two minutes later. At 44'55", where, following "sieben" (seven), the counting voice returns to "eins" (one), another grainy, streaming downward glissando in the low register commences while other synthesizer sounds continue.
Subsequently, at 47'03", an altogether different synthesizer timbre opens another chapter in the music, the ninth section. This roughened timbre is strongly evocative of an exotic acoustic source, the Australian Aboriginal didgeridoo. For information on this instrument and audio samples go to http://www.mills.edu/LIFE/CCM/DIDJERIDU/
The extraordinary tone color in WELTRAUM, even though reminiscent of the didgeridoo, sounds purely electronic, probably produced on synthesizers alone, without even use of sampling.
The timbre of the drone(s) undergoes, in discrete steps, "vowel" changes that are generated by filtering of the complex sound spectrum. Similar "vowel" variations are also heard from the didgeridoo (see audio samples under "Instructional Information" on above website). The electronic filtering may produce the impression that the sounds undergo pitch changes on a very condensed scale – on a microtonal level – but the only thing that really varies is the timbre, the "vowel" of the sound.
The static timbre of strongly present high-frequency drones has a strange compressing effect on the timbral changes in the "didgeridoo" drones. In the first few minutes of the episode, sustained electronic sounds are heard in the background that feature an eerie, hollow and ghostly yet voice-like timbre, as if vowels like "ah" or "oh" were being sung without the singers needing to pause for breath.
Next to the main strand of "didgeridoo" drones, other similar-sounding ones, filtered separately, are heard. There is a constantly recurring activity in which these secondary strands briefly merge with or partially overlap the main strand, followed by dropping out again. The duration and prominence of other strands than the main one varies.
Each time the main strand seems to fall into a pattern of "vowel" change, or even before such an impression has the opportunity to come up, another strand merges into the music or comes to the forefront, diverting attention from the main strand which in the meantime changes direction. Alternatively, from time to time the main strand is simply washed over by a new one which arises to supplant it.
The result is a shifting play of vanishing or drowning of sounds and sound patterns in one another, a game of constant variation without true repetitions, and all these transitions are seamless – strands or patterns seem to become "smeared" into one another.
One might listen endlessly to all this merging, intertwining and alternating, and indeed, the section is extraordinarily expanded in time (about 19 min., with interruptions). It appears as a true "sea of sound" – a rarity in Stockhausen's music, yet at the same time executed here to perfection. Only at a few discrete points there is a fundamental change in this "sea of sound" – a drastic shift in pitch of the sound planes (at 50'57", 55'35", 59'30" etc.; there is an alternation between two discrete pitches in the passage). These shifts are announced by glissando filter-sweeps which are especially dramatic in the turns toward lower pitch.
An additional element is briefly woven into the polyphony: a pattern of high-frequency sounds that change pitch rapidly in a stepwise manner (not unlike those in the slow downward/upward glissando a few minutes earlier; these high-pitched, jittery sounds are reminiscent of the timbre associated with the compressed melodies in certain passages of SIRIUS). It is heard from 48'11" to 49'21", and from 53'30" to 53'44". At 56'39" and at 57'11" its timbre will revisit the music in an augmented manner as "glassy" percussion, accompanying the female voice, see below.
A few minutes into the "sea of sound", at 49'11", another strand is laid on top of it. It is a spooky, female, witch-like laughter-glissando, going together with strange bird-like cheeps (witch's laughter is also heard in another work of LICHT, in KATHINKAs GESANG for flute and electronic music).These appearances of female voice with bird sounds occur nine times over a total time span of almost ten minutes, and the laughter episodes become more pervasive as the section progresses. At several points the laughing voice is polyphonically overlapped on itself – a thrilling texture.
At 55'03" the voice laugh-sings the name "Kaino", and at 57'11" the combination "Freia-Kaino" – in the opera FREITAG the current episode of the electronic tape is the background to the scene ZUSTIMMUNG (Consent) where Eve agrees to mate with Ludon's son, Kaino. The way Kathinka Pasveer laugh-sings here with a hysterical-erotic-desperate-diabolic tone is pricelessly expressive. Note also the humorous juxtaposition of the German/English "ja (i.e. yes)/no" in "Freia-Kaino", which are each sung with the second syllable strongly accented.
Finally, at 60'55", another grainy, streaming, enormously slow downward glissando in the low register is heard, like the ones that had faded in around 39'30" and at 44'55", and the high-registered drone, continuing from the previous music, now shows quite dramatic fluctuations in pitch, volume and timbre. Here the high-frequency sounds are quite strongly reminiscent of the "jet turbine whine" in Region II of HYMNEN.
After this, the "sea of sound" returns, once more spreading itself over the vast musical landscape, until 66'14". This first part of WELTRAUM then fades out with a short portion of the music that will form the first episode of the second part.
The second part of WELTRAUM (CD 50D) opens with a brief re-introduction of the "sea of sound". After about half a minute, a new passage begins.
With a rasping tone (made by sustaining the consonant "V"), slightly reverberated – from a distance – the bass voice sings a long-spun line consisting of only two alternating notes (B and A#, the "langs. (slow) IRR" tremolo in the Lucifer formula at 1:06'08" in the form scheme of FREITAG). In the calm presentation of these repeated notes there is considerable rhythmic breathing, and thus variation. The voice sounds a bit sad, resigned – or is it the dark shadow of Ludon, a personification of Lucifer, descending upon the scene? In the opera FREITAG, the music forms the background to the scene FALL where Eve falls under the temptation of Ludon's son Kaino. Since the voice calmly alternates between just two notes that are only a semitone apart, the strand becomes static, an impression amplified by the presence of a drone in the low/middle register that stays at constant pitch. The static strand of the finely rippled structure (the "frogs" or "cicadas") also comes to the surface again (in the background, noise glissandi appear as well).
High-frequency synthesizer drones are laid on top of these static threads. They very gradually change in timbre and pitch; among other things, long-stretched downward glissandi are produced. The pitch and timbre glissandi seem to wrap around the static components and magically set the musical texture as a whole in motion.
At 4'55", vastly extended downward glissandi with vowel slides from [i] to [u] are sung by the bass voice. Given its astounding linearity over vast time spans, the slow glissando effect on the voice seems partially achieved by electronic processing. At first the voice just sounds as if blowing through the lips, yet as the voice glissando descends, gradually a separate "humming" component is split off, also performing a downward glissando. The "humming" is either heavily processed voice or electronically produced. This splitting of timbre is reminiscent of the timbre division in the long-held vowel in the German anthem in Region II of HYMNEN. There, however, the timbre components are glissandoing in opposite directions, unlike here.
The current vocal episode is a tremendous, immensely beautiful expansion in time of the glissandoing [pi – u pi – u pi – u], "stimmlos rufen" (calling out voicelessly) in bar 12 of the Lucifer formula – corresponding to the projection of the Eve/Lucifer formula over the entire work. The three subsequent downward glissandi, each lasting close to one and a half minutes, merge into one another, forming an uninterrupted sequence. Each glissando sounds different since the surrounding drones change upon every occurrence.
Previously, in high frequencies, slow, expanded glissando motions of timbre and pitch had formed an envelope of the musical texture. Now, with the gradual transformations in the voice, such motions also penetrate the core of the music in the lower registers. – The glissandi in high frequencies become less dramatic.
Eventually, the singing of two alternating notes returns for a shorter appearance than earlier, closing the passage.
Throughout this entire passage for male vocals and electronic sounds, the harmonic/timbral textures created by the interaction of the drones are magnificent. The sporadic alternations or additions of drones frequently begin as dreamy, bell-like electronic percussion sounds whose 'decay' phases are held and thus propagate as drones. This bell-like inception of the drones delicately contributes to the otherwordly soaring character of the musical motions.
At 11'19", the prominent neighbor-note figure returns once more, for its last appearance in the work. The luminescent timbre is particularly beautiful in its long extensions of metallic-glistening, rippled decay (decay extensions of just the "overtones", not the fundamental one), and the music savors the moment – the last note is repeated over and over, yet with generous pauses between recurrences. Sometimes such a repeat of the note may consist of paired, closely spaced attacks. At 12'06" the note changes its color.
Another event arises simultaneously which at first draws little attention to itself. Two tones, sounding a bit like plucked bass, occur in closely spaced pairs ("dotted" rhythm), and differ in pitch only to a small extent. Similar two-tone groups, set apart from one another in time, succeed the first group, but on each repeat the two bass tones slowly grow further apart in pitch on an ascending scale – all this in microtonal steps – until the interval leap becomes quite pronounced (the first, lower tone of each two-tone group remains at constant pitch, the second, higher one rises from group to group). From there, the intervals become narrower again. The rhythm of the two-tone groups constantly changes (particularly the long note of each pair), adding interest to the process.
This arch of increase and then decrease of interval between the two bass tones lasts about one minute and is repeated two times (at 12'26" and at 13'30"). During those repeats of the arch there appear accompanying tones of an entirely different timbre and on a higher register level – tones that sound simultaneously with the longer bass tones.
Intriguingly, even though the accompanying tones mostly follow the pitch progressions of these tones approximately, their trajectory sometimes significantly deviates in pitch direction, adding tension. To name a few examples, between 13'43" and 13'47" the accompanying tone does not vary in pitch along an ascending scale of bass tones (from 13'30" to 13'59"), and between 14'11" and 14'15" the accompanying tone climbs in pitch, while the bass tones thenselves travel on a descending scale (from 13'59" to 14'27"). This last incident leads, at first glance, to the impression that there momentarily is an apparent pull of the scale of bass tones itself towards an upward- instead of a downward movement – an aural illusion.
Changes in volume, timbre and duration of the accompanying tones add to the tension, alongside the variations of the two-note rhythms in the bass.
After its unobtrusive beginning, initially almost veiled under the glistening synthesizer signals at 11'19", the development of the sequence of bass tones thus far already has formed up into a considerable process. Yet this is just the starting point: the bass tone sequence will form a colossal arch of music, lasting until 68 minutes of this second half of WELTRAUM, and along the way, a tremendous journey of timbral exploration will unfold. This process occurs in ten broad phases, ranging in length from three-and-a-half to ten minutes:
Phase 1 (introduction of the bass tone sequence, discussed above): 11'19" to 14'31" (3'22")
Phase 2 (metallic pluck): 14'31" to 17'55" (3'24")
Phase 3 (receding bass drone: exposure of build-up of longer bass tones) 17'56" to 22'28" (4'32")
Phase 4 ("roof" tones): 22'29" to 28'06" (5'37")
Phase 5 ("echo" tones): 28'07" to 31'30" (3'23")
Phase 6 (glissandi): 31'31" to 38'18" (6'47")
Phase 7 ("Jew's harp"): 38'19" to 42'50" (4'31")
Phase 8 (dull metallic bass): 42'51" to 51'53" (9'02")
Phase 9 (noisy sound-band): 51'54" to 58'43" (6'49")
Phase 10 (dark, matte timbre): 58'44" to 68'45" (10'01")
These nine stages of the bass-tone sequence finally are released into a tempoless, "floating" state about ten minutes before the end (a point about halfway through where the ninth real scene, "Elufa", occurs in the opera).
The figure on which this whole, enormously long bass process is based, comes directly out of the rhythm of the Lucifer formula in the passage starting from 1:16'48" in the form scheme of FREITAG, bottom staff. The timing at which this figure in the Lucifer formula begins is precisely where the bass process begins in Weltraum (11'19" in the recording). The adherence to the dotted rhythm corresponds – with some deviations – to the short-long alternation in the bass tone sequence, and the lower, shorter bass tone, steady in pitch (as opposed to the higher ones, see above) at first is on A# as in the form scheme. But the bass tone sequence does not stop after the dotted rhythm changes in the form scheme, at 1:20'00", and also not after that limb of the formula ends at 1:23'23" (corresponding to 14'31" and 17'54" in the recording).
Why is this bass tone sequence ultimately so long, appearing as one single "section" (whereas the first half of the work was subdivided into numerous sections)? The answer may be found in the way the formulas are projected. As already quoted in the Introduction to WELTRAUM, the composer describes the formula composition in thebooklets to CDs 49 and 50 as follows:
"The electronic music of FRIDAY originated from the projection of the 5th segment of the musical super formula from LIGHT and the EVE-LUCIFER double formula."
The projection of just the fifth segment (the Friday-segment) of the super formula from LIGHT can be seen in the form scheme of p. 68 in the booklet to CD 49 and of p. 151 in the booklet to CD 50 (see Friday segment). The dotted figure in the Lucifer segment in the third staff from the top, after the heavy barline about 3/5 of the way across the page, shows that this limb dominates the entire last portion of the opera – so far as the Lucifer layer is concerned.
The "switch" to the projection of the Friday-segment, responsible for making the bass tone sequence this long, occurs at 1:20'00" in the form scheme of Freitag (14'31" on the recording), exactly where in that scheme the dotted rhythm changes – the corresponding dotted rhythm of the limb in the Friday-segment takes over, and the pitch of the lower, steady bass tones changes from A# to G#, the pitch specified in this limb (see the link above to the form scheme of projection).
Of course, the projection of just the Friday segment of the super formula over the entire length of WELTRAUM, a projection on an even larger scale than that of the complete Eve/Lucifer formula, also shapes, according to the outline by the composer, the first large part of the work up to the bass tone sequence (among others by the neighbor-note figure, constantly found in the "frogs" but also in the various synthesizer "signals" and vocal gestures). Yet while this extreme large-scale projection works there on a more hidden level, in the current second part of WELTRAUM it is more immediate in its manifestation.
This structuring of Weltraum illustrates one of several fundamental reasons why Stockhausen's formula composition is so versatile: the technique allows for the different time scales of formula projection to switch prominence during the course of a work, and in this manner ever new textures can be created.
(That the projection of the complete Eve/Lucifer formula keeps on playing an important role as well becomes clear at the latest with the counting at 17'56", corresponding to the Lucifer formula at 1:23'25" in the form scheme of Freitag.)
Back to the current passage of the music: Bass and other drones had accompanied the music all the while, but at 14'31" another low-registered drone of more insistent timbre enters at a considerably higher volume. In a dramatic change, the "plucked" bass tones also suddenly become more penetrating, as a heavy-sounding metallic component is added to their sound color.
At the beginning of this new segment the pitch interval between these paired bass tones shows its greatest compression so far, as the pitches of the successive notes barely differ. Yet it is precisely those minuscule distinctions that add to the drama and tension of the entry of this episode. As the pitch differences resume the process of gradual increase, it soon becomes apparent that the tones have started to form groups again, now mainly three-tone groups where the middle tone has the longest duration, a duration that progressively increases at first, then is sharply reduced, only to extend gradually once more. Slight changes in timbre also occur.
Finally, at 17'56", as the counting begins with "eins" (one), the insistent low-register drone recedes (while others continue) and soon the build-up of the tones of longer duration within the three-tone groups emerges fully exposed. Up to this point it had remained inconspicuous, since the steady-state phase of these tones effectively had blended with the timbre of the continuous and strong bass drone in a subtle, yet in hindsight dramatic process of veiling.
Just like the shorter ones, the bass tones of longer duration have a pronounced attack component, like sounds from plucked bass or notes struck on a piano. Normally, on acoustic and electrically amplified instruments, sounds that show such a clear and pronounced attack phase only go through a short phase of steady-state sound – if at all – before they enter the decay phase. Not so here: after an attack phase that stands out, long extensions emanate from the sound that are completely steady-state in volume and timbre, and there is no decay. Such behaviour of sound through all its phases is not ordinarily heard (at least from single instruments – some orchestral sound combinations feature it) and is intriguing for its unusual character.
A specific trait in Stockhausen's explorations in electronic music comes to the forefront here: there is not merely an exploraton of new sounds, new timbres, but the electronic medium is being used to investigate and modify the very essence of the build-up of sound. Certainly, electronic musicians in general know about controlling the attack, steady-state and decay phases of sound, yet mostly this knowledge is used solely to modify and create timbres, not as a basis for model studies in build-up of sound that are presented as such to the listener.
An analogous exploration of build-up of sound to this one here in WELTRAUM led to a completely different result in Stockhausen's KONTAKTE. There the usual dissimilarity between the attack and decay phases of sound is challenged.
From my essay on KONTAKTE, Electronic Music on this site:
"[…] there is a feature in KONTAKTE that makes many events of sound decay unique, a feature linked to the specific potential of electronic music: long drawn-out sounds often show a decay that is not only very slow, but mostly the sound character of the decay phase more or less prolongs the initial character of the sound at the moment of its generation. This differs from the decay of sound from acoustic instruments, where the decay phase does not prolong all the sound components integral to the attack of sound (e.g. the striking of a cymbal or a key on the piano).
Thus, the "decay" phase of sounds in KONTAKTE is mostly rather one of controlled fading of sound: a decrescendo of a single sound."
The duration of the longer bass tones in the present passage of WELTRAUM increases more and more up to a certain point, as does their volume, both in absolute terms and relative to the other events in the music.
Soon tones emerge in the upper-treble region that rapidly fluctuate in pitch; this is clearly evident from around 18'30". The long, sustained bass tones are higher in pitch than their surrounding partners of shorter duration and, at the moments when they sound together with the more numerous treble tones, an image occurs to me of them being raised against the force of gravity to their elevated pitch level only by some attracting force emanating from these higher tones, just as a multitude of little birds could lift a heavy object, attached to them on strings, into the air. This vision of "birds flying" seems to fit in with the appearance of actual bird cries emerging later, for example at 21'36" and at 21'53".
In addition to the drones, the bass tones and the treble tones, from 18 min. onwards glissandoing sounds are sporadically heard in middle to mid-high frequencies, and these dramatic sounds recede as quickly as they emerge. At times the long bass tones are deflected into a downward glissando, and the last, most pronounced one of these leads back to an upward glide that is beautifully intercepted by a simultaneous glissando wave of those dramatic, fleeting sounds in the middle frequencies. Right before this moment the counting (which, since beginning at 17'56", had slowly continued, repeating each number three times as far as the number "fünf" [five]) stops.
From this point on (22'29"), there is a new kind of tone associated with the bass tones. Like the accompanying tones we had heard before, at around 13'–14', now "overtones" to the bass tones are heard. They had been hinted at already since about three minutes before (on the lower bass tones) but here they emerge clearly in full brightness – and along the way they elevate the music to a new level of energy.
These "over" tones actually are more like "roof tones" put above the attack phase of the bass tones, since their silver-metallic timbre exhibits a spectrum completely independent of the fundamental notes upon which they are laid. Nonetheless, they paradoxically form a clear unity with the bass tones – unlike the accompanying tones at around 13'–14'.
The successive three-tone groups in the bass, where the higher-pitched middle tone has the longest duration, continue. At the beginning of this segment, the durations of these tones again progressively extend with each repetition. Interestingly, a very subtle phenomenon provides the process with powerful directionality: the pitch of the "roof tone" over the longer bass tones rises in very small increments with each consecutive occurrence, leading to a slight increase of the "silveriness" of the timbre as well.
At 23'09" a slow upward glissando of the steady-state phase of a low bass tone (without accompaniment of the silvery timbre of the roof tones), leading to the higher pitch of its successor, beautifully sheds light from a new, unexpected angle on the dramatic differences in timbre of the attack and steady-state phases of the bass/roof-tone complex.
Quickly repeated, multiple attacks of the higher bass tones heighten the overall activity, while another subtle change in sound color becomes noticeable: after the upward glissando the roof tones on only the lower bass tones suddenly become more subdued – the tendency of differential treatment of roof tones on lower and higher bass tones, a phenomenon that will remain important during vast stretches of the following music, becomes unmistakably apparent here, at the latest.
A downward glissando leads the bass tones to a lower register at 23'31". Now the timbre of the roof tones on both lower and higher bass tones is damped, only to transform slowly and resume brightness in the next two minutes. The refined process of gradual change of timbre is enticing, and the drama of the music is heightened by the sporadic occurrence of continuing sharp glissando sounds in the upper middle frequencies. The curves of development of these sounds are intriguing.
Not only do the roof tones vary in timbre but soon, at around 25'00", their relation to the bass tones changes in another respect as well. So far they have always decayed quickly, following the sharp curve of attack of the bass tones but, as this new section of the music progresses, at select moments a different behaviour becomes evident: Their decay becomes slower and partially overlaps with the steady-state phase of the bass tones. This overlap of decay and steady-state sound adds another layer of complexity to the build-up of the tones as an entirety (the unity of bass tones plus overlaid roof tones). Such slow decay over steady-state sounds is especially evident, for example, on the tones starting at 24'49", 25'01" and 25'20".
After 25'30" the roof tones become more subdued again, and mutate further in timbre and in relative presence on the bass tones: for quite a while the low bass tones are left almost without roof tones, yet these re-emerge later. At 27'01" the roof tones on lower and higher bass tones are of equal strength, and now an altered character of these tones – which had already started to develop shortly before – comes to the forefront. Here they do not principally coincide with just the attack of the bass tones but rather, emerging from that attack, they are laid over the steady-state phase of these tones, and remain more or less equally constant in volume, with slight fluctuations.
An interesting phenomenon develops during this next minute of music. When successively higher bass tones are compared, the pitch of the steady-state phase of any given one of these tones is slightly lower than its predecessor – and so is the pitch of the roof-tone laid over the bass tone's steady-state phase. To subtle effect, a very gradually descending scale is created in this way. However, the process is almost concealed since the prominent attack phase of the bass tones varies scarcely, or not at all, in pitch and timbre. The entire process of gradual decrease of pitch is further complicated and intentionally blurred, to great effect, by the fact that the silveriness of the roof tones at first increases (compare 27'30" with 27'05"), only to then decrease again (compare 27'55" with 27'30").
The descending scale that was just heard is a response to a rising scale that sounded in the minute leading up to it (from 26'01"). That scale was also concealed somewhat, since the brightening of timbre was more obvious than the subtle rise of pitch on the higher bass tones that it supported.
While the higher bass tones show the successive microtonal increases or decreases in pitch, the lower bass tones that alternate with the higher ones remain at a constant pitch. Therefore, a gradual process of expansion and again compression of the interval between the higher and the lower bass tones is created, a process that parallels the – far more obvious – arch of first increase and then decrease of the interval between the pairs of bass tones at their first appearance at 11'19", an arch that is repeated there twice.
Also here, repetitions of the arch of intervallic expansion and contraction will follow, up until 31'31", while the timbres will undergo dramatic changes along the way. After this, processes of gradual intervallic expansion and compression will resume at around 38'00".
These processes are alluded to by Stockhausen when he mentions, among the compositional devices employed in the work, "expanding and contracting intervallic relationships to a reference note" (booklet to CDs 49 and 50, see also section Introduction), with the reference notes here being the lower bass tones.
A figure of condensing bass-tone pairs leads to the following section, beginning at 28'07". The steady-state phases of the bass tones acquire a character of vowel formants, which lends them a remarkably strong "echo" quality, apparently also because they are, to some extent, reverberated – they become "echo" tones, as it were, of the bass attacks. Upon closer listening, the steady-state phase of the bass tones is made up of the "echo"-vowel components laid over a bass fundamental similar to that of all the steady-state phases of the previous bass tones, so that the "echo"-vowel components also can be heard lending an envelope to the bass tones' sustaining level.
The tension rises as the durations of the notes gradually increase, while the vowel formants progressively become more "open", acquiring more of an [a] quality on the higher tones (around 29'00"). The increase in "openness" is also a function of the pitch of the successively higher bass tones, leading once more to an expansion of interval between the bass-tone pairs.
Around 29'15" the roof tones become more prominent again while the vowel-formant presence decreases and another intervallic compression takes place. Finally, the vowel formants are suppressed entirely, around the time that the roof tones are also extending their silver-metallic timbre over the steady-state phase of the (mostly) long, higher bass tones.
At 30'23" a strong return of the "echo"-vowel components is heard while the roof tones recede. Once more, increasing length of tones and openness of vowel formants build up tension, as does a new intervallic expansion. Now the attack phase of the "plucked" synthesizer bass has a more open, lighter and brighter timbre than ever which cooperates strongly, especially in the later stages, with the vowel formants' strong nasality. By these means, the tension is increased even further. In fact, it becomes almost physically palpable, like the tension of a stretching rubber band.
At 31'31", the "echo"-vowel components at once cease to exist, while simultaneously the attack of tones returns to its usual, darker timbre. The combination creates the strong effect that the "stretching rubber band" of the music suddenly, upon release, snaps back into a relaxed state.
This kind of abrupt release of high tension, where both the motion and the dynamic level are virtually unchanged around and across the point of release, is rare in music (compare orchestral climaxes, for example). It is a gorgeous, impressive moment.
For the preceding few minutes, a high level of activity has been unobtrusively building up in the music, as the succession of bass tones has become more dense. This level of activity is not only maintained through the point of sudden tension release, but continues to increase subsequently. Rapid figures on light, drum-like electronic percussion chase through the soundscape and add even more density, as do sharp glissando figures in upper-middle frequencies. The slow rise in pitch of a sound band, starting in the middle register, adds to the urgency of the texture as well.
With this, the music of the second half of WELTRAUM has reached its peak of activity, in a passage that serves in the opera FREITAG as the background music to the scene KINDERKRIEG (Children's War).
From the current tumultuous maximum the activity of events – which does not mean their intensity – will, in a huge arch of over half an hour, gradually decrease again until, towards the end, subjective time will be brought almost to a standstill.
The way the bass tones, roof tones and "echo" tones interact and are brought into ever-changing connections with each other in this long-developing bass-tone sequence – often with different roof tones on higher and lower bass tones – is an engrossing timbral exploration. No other music has ever swept me along such a concentrated journey into the inner world of sounds, into the relationship of individual sounds with each other – this is simply phenomenal.
The journey will continue.
In addition to the string of bass/"roof" tones, timbre transformations on another level have been taking place, and these will continue as well. The dramatic glissando sounds, which began some time ago to be sporadically audible in the middle to mid-high frequencies, have continued to be heard during the last few minutes. In the series of sounds at 24'43", 25'06", 25'28" and at 25'39", their timbre transforms into "screaming (descending) skyrockets", after which they continue in a lower pitch range, at 25'51", 26'08" and 26'25", as howling glissandi. At 26'59" these glissandi suddenly move onto much higher pitches, and from there they are transformed into a series of magical "trembling bell" sounds (at 27'17", 27'35", and 27'53"). With the appearance of the "echo" tones at 28'07", the timbres of the glissandi mutate into a less radiant, more noisy, slightly hissing color in the appearances at 28'07", 28'21", 28'36", 28'50" etc. Later they transform again into brighter sounds, with trembling overtones, and so on.
At 32'47" the sound of the combination bass and "roof" tones becomes somewhat muted, as if suddenly coming from further away. The light, fleeting percussive gestures do not continue beyond this point, but the glissando figures in the middle register become all the more pervasive. For the first time, the tails of the bass tones themselves mainly move in glissandi as well, either subtly or more obviously.
The impetus of the pattern of bass tones gradually becomes less steadfast, exhibiting less continuous force, until at last the dense succession of bass tones comes to sudden sporadic stops. In this episode the wildly sliding glissandi in the middle register, which previously had accompanied the pattern of bass tones, form a reaction to the sudden stops in these patterns. The section almost sounds like a repeated musical depiction of the wild skidding that results from suddenly hitting a car's brakes forcefully in wet road conditions.
In terms of the overall path of the music, this episode seems like a forced moment of reorientation after the high level of restless activity in the preceding few minutes.
At 34'55", the music resumes a continuous flow while the timbre undergoes another change. The roof tones on the lower bass notes acquire a more bell-like character, with clear decay of sound but with quite a heavy "ringing" that belies the light timbre. In contrast, the roof tones on the higher bass notes show a less pronounced attack in favor of more emphasis on the steady-state phase – an entirely different timbre. The sharp, sliding glissandi in the middle frequencies now move in more continuous waves, with an easy, unbridled flow, allowing them to penetrate and engulf the musical fabric with even more force. Not just the timbral development, but also the gradual unfolding of the glissando motions over the past few minutes to their present free flow, have a fine organic quality.
About one minute into this highly charged passage, at around 36'00", there appear smeared silver-metallic glissandi that branch off from the timbre of the roof tones and form an intense halo above the bass tones. The addition of these glissandi to the ones that still continue in the mid-high register creates an enchanting texture.
At 37'11" the music comes to an eventual halt, and a distant roaring sound vaguely reminiscent of industrial machines emerges, a sound that merges with another layer of colored noise. Behind this sound texture diverse reverberated drones succeed each other. This segment of strange yet alluring colors is a true resting point, a moment of recuperation after ample energy has been spent.
At 38'19" the bass tones reemerge below a brief silvery shower of sounds. As in the passage at 32'47", they have tails that protrude in glissando motion, but in doing so now divert into the middle register, away from the bass timbre. Those extensions are slightly dry and hollow sounding, and the overall timbre created in this passage is suggestive of the sound of a Jew's harp, owing to the twangy, vowel-like timbral envelopes used. The impression of dryness of the sound is enhanced by the currently low dynamic levels of the accompanying drones.
The glissando motions differ from tone to tone, an attractive feature in its own right. Gradually the tails of the bass tones "straighten out", while at some points glissandi sound in parallel, standing somewhat apart in the texture. To some extent this foreshadows the "echo" episode at 42'51" (see below).
The arches of gradual intervallic expansion and compression that had given way to more tumultuous events after 31'31" resume with this "Jew's harp" passage, starting with an expansion. For the next twenty minutes repeated arches of such processes will be connected like pearls on a string, enhancing the breathing of the musical organism and contributing to the linking of events on a large scale. The slow intervallic expansions and compressions provide a strong directionality to the music's unerring journey.
As had been the case from 26'01" to 31'31", the increases and decreases in pitch of the higher bass tones take place at a more gradual pace than in the first minutes after the sequence of bass tones started, at 11'19". There, at the beginning, an arch of gradual intervallic expansion and compression stretched over a span of about a minute, with single processes of intervallic expansion or compression thus spreading over approximately half a minute. Now such an arch stretches over a span of two minutes or longer.
Starting from the present stage of the music, the intervallic expansions and compressions at first appear less straight-line, given the multitude of dramatizing short notes in the first few sets of these processes. However, over time a more steady, linear musical breathing will set in.
Not every upper bass tone of a pair changes pitch relative to the previous one. When it does, however, its duration often is extended. The longer durations of the tones at these moments emphasize both the "striving" toward the next, slightly higher (or lower) note and the microtonal tension between the barely different pitches. This creates a taut directional journey along the pitch slope, a journey of "upward slides" or "downward slides" in pitch.
At certain moments the effect of "striving" for the next note is intensified by after-strokes on the newly attained pitch. This dramatic device at times also can produce a humorous impression, when the after-stroke seems to be wanting to make absolutely sure that this new pitch is the right one.
During all these processes of intervallic expansion and contraction not only do the higher, longer bass tones vary in their relative length but the lower, shorter ones do as well, and the spaces between them fluctuate in duration also, all adding rhythmic interest.
At 39'29" the silver-metallic roof tones return, once more sounding bell-like, yet at first a bit dry. Soon the timbre and degree of presence of the roof tones on higher and lower bass tones differ again. At the same time, microtonal downward shifts of the higher bass tones induce a refined "downward slide" of the thread formed by these tones, leading to another compression of the intervals between them and the lower bass tones.
At 40'01" a drone sweeps upward from below and then remains at constant pitch while the "downward slide" in pitch of bass/"roof" tones continues, until at last the sound color of those tones becomes quite heavy.
At this point there is a sudden switch of timbre (at 40'35") as the "Jew's harp" sounds with their sharp glissando inflections return; this time however they are not restrained any longer and far more resonant. These mighty sounds of a gigantic virtual "bass Jew's harp" are a remarkable invention. The free motion, resonance and power of the "Jew's harp" sounds striding through the musical landscape is accentuated by accompanying sounds, foremost by oscillating, "rippled" drones that fly through the music, but also by occasional broad, silver-metallic "percussive" sounds in the high register. Once more the glissando tails differ from tone to tone, and the presence of roof tones over the bass tones varies.
Beginning with this passage, microtonal shifts in the pitches of the higher bass tones now effect the opposite tendency than before: a subtle "upward slide" of the thread formed by these tones, which continues until just short of 42'00", from which point the pitches slowly descend again.
At 42'51" the timbre of the bass tones takes another arresting turn and switches to metallic yet muffled, dull sounds; in addition, the volume of the tones decreases with the sudden switch of sound color. The accompaniment by drones in the upper-middle to treble frequencies remains overall at quite a high volume, and thus now sounds louder than the bass tones. This strong presence of drones as a floating component permits an organic embedding of another such component into the fabric.
That floating element is a layer of glissandi with a timbre similar to the sounds that formed the tails of the bass tones in the "Jew's harp" sections. These glissandi now do not directly protrude from the bass tones; rather, they drift alongside the layer of these tones without any apparent direct interaction with it – the events within the two layers do not show a clear relation as they develop side by side. This loose, disconnected echoing of the "Jew's harp" music is a strikingly attractive texture.
During this passage, there is another gradual "upward slide" of the higher bass tones and, as the music develops, a treble component in the drone layer comes more to the forefront. At 43'59" the echoing glissando layer fades out and, a few seconds later, the treble element of the drone layer gives way to discrete treble tones of changing pitch (tones of similar sound color have been heard previously). The bass tones now switch to a darker, weightier timbre.
The higher bass tones show again a gradual "downward slide" in pitch. Since now the timbral relations of the successive bass tones do not vary (there are no changing roof tones, glissando tails etc.) and since the thread of bass tones forms the main part of the fabric, currently the main focus is purely on the pitch relations of these tones.
Again, since the pitches of the lower bass tones remain constant, the "downward slide" in pitch of the higher bass tones leads to a compelling, gradual process of compression of the intervals between the higher and lower bass tones. This process once more is very slow, stretching over more than a minute.
Even when a gradual "pitch slide" stands alone, as it does in the current passage, it still maintains interest. The concept of "striving" each time for a slightly different (higher or lower) pitch seems such a simple one, but it works due to the tension created by the microtonal pitch differences. A compositional device that might not work at all in the traditional twelve-tone system leads, by using a microtonal scale, to a powerful experience here and throughout the processes of gradual intervallic expansion and compression in this second half of WELTRAUM.
From 45'07" onward, the metallic component of the bass tones becomes more resonant, lending a subdued yet heavy "halo" to the texture. A gradual "upward slide" of the higher bass-tones' pitch ensues, slowly enlarging the intervals with the lower bass tones once more. Around 46'15" the pitch of the higher bass tones slides downward another time. As the slide arrives at the lowest note, the timbre takes a dramatic, even spectacular turn (at 47'23").
The bass tones now acquire a dark, very gutsy sound color, with a "punch" to each attack. The roof tones have the often-heard silver-metallic percussion character but the decay phase here especially has a somewhat opaque, closed-in timbre. Paradoxically, the addition of these treble roof tones over the bass tones significantly enhances the weight and heaviness of the overall tone, apparently since they emphasize the character of "striking" (in order to fully experience the heaviness, a stereo with good reproduction of low bass is necessary).
Another "upward slide" of the higher bass tones' pitch is heard during the episode featuring this timbre and, at 48'31", a glissando in the middle frequencies leads to the inevitable "downward slide". The timbre of the bass tones now is less heavy, and the higher pair members acquire a metallic color, while the presence of roof tones over them varies. The lower bass tones, including their roof tones, do not vary in sound color during this period.
At 49'43" the overall timbre of the roof tones undergoes another captivating alteration to broader and more resonant, smeared sounds. An "upward slide" of the pitch of the higher bass tones again leads, at 50'48" (with a sudden shift of color while initially maintaining pitch), to more gutsy-sounding bass tones with roof tones of tighter timbre and a less dominant presence. From there another "downward slide" of pitch ensues. Once more the presence of the roof tones on the higher bass tones varies.
At 51'54" the entire soundscape undergoes an abrupt, radical transformation. A continuous, noisy sound band appears and the succession of bass tones – stripped of roof tones – now sounds distant, with a high amount of reverberation. Another noise component oscillates in volume, making it seem to fade in and out. All sounds blend together into one opaque texture. It is as if the music at once enters a narrow tunnel through which it squeezes and, after the long journey that the thread of the bass tones had taken thus far – most recently with slower, drier textures and darker timbres – the suddenly distanced sound world is strongly suggestive of a final phase of the music, of slowly coming to an end. Indeed, such a final phase has arrived, but it will be drawn out considerably, in a journey during which all the elements of the current texture will eventually be left behind.
The pitch of the higher bass tones continues to undergo upward and downward "slides", leading to expansions and contractions of the intervals with the lower bass tones, and the strong presence of the linearly "streaming" noise band(s), fusing with the texture, imbues the processes with a new kind of strange, diffuse directionality – an interesting phenomenon. During all this, the sound color of the higher bass tones undergoes slight transformations (the higher the pitch, the more there tends to be a slight noise component laid over), and the timbre of the continuous noise band gradually becomes sharper and brighter over a span of several minutes. All this timbral development adds to the subtle directionality.
At 54'11" the roof tones appear again, and little later counting of "eins" (one) by the bass voice is heard.
The counting will develop into another important element that adds directionality simply by the succession of numbers. However, unlike in normal counting, many repeats of a given number are heard before the counting switches to the next one. Upon first impression this seems to diminish directionality, making it less straightforward. But because the listener knows that at some point a switch to the next number has to occur, its anticipation is sustained throughout the repetitions of numbers; moreover, these intensify the process of counting, which in turn actually enhances directionality – a skillful device. Interest is maintained by the many variations in the reiterations of a given number. Only at the last number, thirteen, does it become apparent after a while, by virtue of decay effects in the music, that the counting will cease to proceed.
From this point on, the counting will continue until the end of the work.
The color of the continuous noise band mutates further while it recedes a bit. Finally, at 55'19", the roof tones disappear and the bass tones suddenly switch to a timbre emphasizing an "industrial", somewhat grinding component in the middle frequencies which at the same time makes them sound slightly hollow amidst all the reverberation.
The pitches of the higher bass tones portray another "downward slide" and the bass tones eventually become stronger, while the continuous noise band gradually shifts in timbre. At 56'27" the roof tones return. At 57'35" a glissando starts in the upper middle frequencies and dives down into a steady tone of low middle frequency that fades in volume and, together with it, the continuous noise/sound bands also recede in an organic manner, allowing the bass tones to come more to the foreground. Meanwhile, the counting that had progressed to "zwei" (two) now moves on to "drei" (three).
At the moment that the counting proceeds to "vier" (four), at 58'44", the roof tones disappear for good, as does the last remaining noise component that oscillated in volume, and the sound color of the bass tones suddenly changes to a somber, matte and dulled timbre. This current timbre will persist, with slight variations, until, much later, the very last bass tone in the work is heard. Therefore the emphasis of musical change from here on radically switches from the timbre of bass (and roof) tones to other parameters.
The immediate sensation of dulled color is enhanced by the strong compression of the interval between lower and higher bass tones that occurs in the same instant as the new timbre is introduced. Very soon the interval opens up again, however, as the counting moves on to "fünf" (five), only to compress once more during "sechs" (six). While "sieben" (seven) is counted, the interval starts to open up yet again. After quite a long time this expansion is completed, and the interval is compressed even more severely, with slight fluctuations, until finally, during "dreizehn" (thirteen), the compression is maximal – the contour of the last bass tones' succession remains flat on a single pitch.
In the intervallic "breathing" – the compression and decompression of intervals – microtonal steps play a crucial role, as always.
Another, overlaid process takes place in the thread of bass tones. After they reach short moments of maximum density at "sechs", they occur progressively less frequently until, towards the end, the time intervals between them have widened in a tremendous ritardando – the distance between the penultimate and the last bass tone is almost 40 seconds (they sound at 68'06" and 68'45"). Since the bass tones display steady-state phases over these long distances, drones are formed along the way.
During all this, diverse drones in the upper middle register follow each other, in crystalline, sharp colors. The drones, initially more in the foreground, alternate quite often, but later they recede, become less cutting and alternate less frequently, until at last there is but a single such drone sounding.
During the counting, the reiterations of any given number display many variations: in duration of the counted number and in diverse emphases on and within vowels and consonants.
At first hearing, this next-to-last section of the work, from the first appearance of the final kind of bass timbre at "vier" to the last bass tone ten minutes later, may seem simple. After all, the main things occurring are "merely" the repeated counting and the bass tones, which change very little in timbre compared to earlier instances.Yet from what has been said it will be clear that there are several expansive processes in this passage that are intricate, and they all sound simultaneously. Trying to follow all at once the various strands and their constant changes may prove a daunting task, and ultimately reveals this music to be just as complex as the rest of WELTRAUM.
After the last bass attack the tone slowly fades away, and suddenly the switch to a strongly reverberating acoustic environment of the voice, still counting "dreizehn", makes it seem to be thrown into empty space – into outer space. The last drone in the upper middle register (an F#) is left standing on its own for the last twelve minutes, and remains at the end, after the bass sounds have receded, the counting voice's only companion.
The repetition of "dreizehn" continues for quite some time, and shows many variations as in all the counting before. The absolute duration of the counted number and the relative durations of the two syllables vary, as do accentuations on and within vowels and consonants. Since the counting now is so isolated, with minimal accompaniment, the focus turns more than ever before to the variation of spoken language's sounds themselves, as music.
The counting in LICHT has a symbolic meaning, as Lucifer's obsession with it reflects both the extremes of his reasoning spirit and the envy of the "stolen" twelfth tone in his nuclear formula, which has gone to Michael's formula, enriching it to a number of thirteen tones; Lucifer presumably is seeking to regain his lost note by his counting ritual. There is therefore an incantational aspect to the counting of those numbers. Furthermore, there is a strong element of humor in this counting as well, and the humor particularly comes to the fore in these endless repetitions of numbers at the end of WELTRAUM. Lucifer appears to get completely lost in his numbers and in the thorough variations with which he expresses them, variations in which – desperately it would seem – no stone is left unturned.
The time intervals between the repeats of "dreizehn" become progressively longer and, in a sense, this development is a continuation of the process heard before in the sequence of bass tones. They, too, had made a large ritardando before ceasing altogether.
At first, the voice is considerably louder than the accompanying drone yet, over time, this relationship of dynamics is almost reversed as the voice sounds more and more distant and softer while the drone becomes stronger.
At its maximum, around 74 min., the drone appears like a standing column of fluctuating sound. Long before the last bass tone sounded, the music had entered an extended process of abating, a retardation that evolves over a vast time span. Now, in the closing stage of this expansive process, as the music slowly fades away, it eventually will seem that time has come to a standstill.
© Albrecht Moritz 2004