Thursday, November 12, 2015


Scene 1

Scene 2

Scene 3

Scene 4

Scene 5


Nr. 79, HOCH-ZEITEN ("High-Times", or "Wedding/Marriage") for choir and orchestra, (2001-2002) [2 x '35]
Nr. 80, SONNTAGS-ABSCHIED ("Sunday Farewell") for 5 Synthesizers, (2001, 2003) ['35]
     (also played as KLAVIERSTÜCK XIX for a solo synthesizer player and 5-channel tape)
Nr. 80 1/2, STRAHLEN ("Rays") for a percussionist and 10-channel recording, (2002-2010)  ['35]

     The composition HOCH-ZEITEN (High-Times) has several arranged "versions", but the one for choir and the one for orchestra make up the final two Scenes of Stockhausen's dramatic music work SONNTAG AUS LICHT (SUNDAY from LIGHT).  SONNTAGS-ABSCHIED (Sunday Farewell) is a 3rd arrangement of HOCH-ZEITEN (this time, for 5 synthesizers), which serves as the background "exit music" after the end of the opera's 6 Scenes.  This version can also be played independently as KLAVIERSTÜCK XIX for a solo synthesizer player and 5-channel tape.  The final version of HOCH-ZEITEN is STRAHLEN, which is for vibraphone and tape (or possibly 5 percussionists with live electronics).  The tape for STRAHLEN was completed in 2010.

     SONNTAG AUS LICHT is the last-composed "day" of Stockhausen's 7-part, 29-hour opera cycle LICHT (Light), a work of cathedral-like proportions for acoustic and electronic operatic forces, divided into the 7 days of the week (one opera for each day).  This opera cycle revolves around 3 archetype characters, MICHAEL, EVE and LUCIFER, and over the 29 hours each of these characters are introduced, come into conflict, face temptation and finally come into union.  The music is almost entirely based on a "super-formula", which is a 3-layered melodic-thematic representation of the 3 characters.  These formula-themes are together and separately threaded throughout the opera's vocal and instrumental fabric.  Story-wise, actors and narrative can (and often do) change from scene to scene, and the libretto text is sometimes made up of non-traditional grammar (or even purely phonetic sounds).

     SONNTAG (Sunday) is the Day of Mystical Union, specifically between the characters MICHAEL and EVE.  The scenes in SONNTAG do not have an obvious narrative arc connecting them - instead, the actual theme of union between the 2 characters is achieved through musical, visual, spatial and even olfactory means.

HOCH-ZEITEN for a Choir and an Orchestra
     HOCH-ZEITEN is performed simultaneously by both a choir and an orchestra situated in 2 separate halls.  Since the theme of SONNTAG is "mystical union", audio/video signals are several times broadcast from one hall into the other during several "Blend-ins".  Physically, however, the 2 musical ensembles are completely separate.  Typically, an audience will experience a performance of one group in the first hall, and then move into the other hall as the performance is repeated (in other words, the performers exchange audiences between 2 performances of the same work).

     The music itself is based around held tones (drones) making a 5-part harmony, with each drone layer played by a different subgroup.  On top of these drone pitches, different types of ornamentation are featured (emphasized, in fact).  The ornamentation is also varied in tempo, which essentially translates as "density".  The pitches and durations of both the orchestral and choral versions are essentially the same, and the vocal timbres of the 1st-composed choral version have a corresponding instrumental color mixture in the orchestral version.

     As mentioned previously, there are 7 "Blend-ins", in each Scene, during which the music from one room "is broadcast" into the other room.  The choir sings the same melodic material as the orchestra, but delayed 18 seconds.  Because of this, the choir broadcasts within the orchestral performance act somewhat as "echoes" of a previous orchestral event.  Conversely, the orchestral intrusions to the choir scene act as "pre-echoes" or "announcements".

     In addition to the "Blend-ins", the orchestral version has 7 "Memories", where a featured duet/trio occurs.  Here, quotes of musical passages from previous Scenes of the LICHT opera cycle appear.  These instrumental "Memories" are also heard in the choral version through the orchestral "Blend-ins".

Harmonies from Formulas
Pitch and tempo form structure for the 5 layers over 14 Phases
     The music of HOCH-ZEITEN is based on 5 layers of held pitches, often changing at different, independent junctions.  These harmony changes essentially spell out 14 chord harmonies in 14 "Phases" (see above).  Each of these chords/Phases are also signaled musically with a unison chord accent on 1 to 3 live or pre-taped percussion instruments (high to low: crotales, Japanese rin, bronze plates, Thai gongs, Duralumin sound plates).  The 14 chords were created by layering 5 fragments of the LICHT super-formula stretched out to different lengths.  This technique is used in many places in the LICHT cycle in order to generate harmonies.  More discussion of this technique can be found in LICHT-BILDER and DÜFTE - ZEICHEN.

This drawing shows pitches of the percussion strikes on the 1st staff for each Phase.
Below are the central pitches for the Phases for each vocal layer.
The circled notes were emphasized in the percussion attacks.
     As seen above, the LICHT formula layers used to create the 5-part harmonies are as follows:
  • S1: MICHAEL (ending fragment of formula (D in octaves, register changes follow formula dynamic curves))
  • S2: EVE (ending fragment of formula)     
  • A: MICHAEL (Sunday "day" fragment, or m. 17-19)
  • T: EVE (Sunday "day" fragment, or m. 17-19)
  • B: LUCIFER (ending fragment of formula)     

     After Phase 14, the ensemble plays an arrangement of the "Sunday Song" from WOCHENKREIS (DIE 7 LIEDER DER TAGE) from MONTAG AUS LICHT, which uses all of the Sunday fragments from the LICHT super-formula.  The work is also preceded by an introduction and is interrupted by 2 "inserts", which are brief melodic phrases acting as brief excursions from the main texture.

Layer Density and Rhythm
     Each layer has its own unique tempo sequence, roughly divided into 7 unequal sections.  In the form sketch below, top diagram, the 7 sections are marked out in each of the 5 layers with different shapes (squares, diamonds, triangles, etc...).  

HOCH-ZEITEN sketch (from SONNTAGS-ABSCHIED score and HOCH-ZEITEN Composition Course booklet).
The top 5 lines show how each of the 5 layers has 7 sections of different lengths, each with a different tempo.
The middle and bottom diagrams are graphs which chart the tempos for each of the 5 voices (higher = faster tempo).
The 3rd image also includes the number of relative rhythmic subdivisions for each tempo layer.
(Click to enlarge)
     The first pitch chart and the sketch above (bottom drawing) both show the tempos for each of the 14 Phases.  In general, the higher the tempo, the more "active" the layer (naturally) and the more "presence" is felt.  In the bottom drawing in the sketch page above, Stockhausen indicates the "most present" language in each Phase sequence ("CHIN" at Phase 3, "ARAB" at Phase 7, "ENGL" at Phase 10, etc...).  The middle drawing basically shows how the tempo fluctuations can be seen as "waves".

     Even though each layer generally only has one "root" pitch (from the chord harmony) for each Phase, the changing tempi (presence) give each of them variety during the entire work.  When a layer has a "higher tempo", it actually gets more subdivisions in its staff line (is more "busy").  For example, a tempo of 30 results in a staff line with 16 vertical subdivision markings and a tempo of 40 results in 22 subdivisions.  In Phase 1, Layer 3 gets tempo 95.6 gets 51 subdivisions, and is the most "present" voice, with the most ornamentation on each page.  In Phase 2, Layer 2 has tempo 134 and is the "featured" voice, with frequent ornamental dips and spikes applied over its central pitch.  The small numbers in the 3rd drawing give an idea of the relative complexity of each layer in each of the 14 Phases.

     Stockhausen's Composition Course book on HOCH-ZEITEN mentions that rhythmic subdivision was derived by serially organizing the number of bars assigned to specific numbers of beats in each phrase (this is from memory, so it may be a bit fuzzy, but in any case the rhythm changes complexity at unpredictable times based on serial technique).  Between this, the tempo changes and a few other manipulations of the rhythms, Stockhausen describes "a process of internal acceleration with increasing transparency".  This may be related to the fact that in the second half of the work, more solos and other smaller groupings occur.

14 Phases
     Each of the 14 Phases have their own harmony, but many also have a certain “design” logic:
  • Phases 5, 8, 9: the 5 layers are interspersed with pauses so that many sub-groupings appear (solos, duos, trios, silent pauses, etc...), also some "rotational" moments where figures are passed from 1 layer to another
  • Phase 10: Based on "rotation", figures are passed around from group to group
  • Phase 11: Repeats each duration as an equal length  pause.  In the choral version, the 2nd half features a Soprano/Trumpet trio playing a variation of a fragment of MITTWOCH's BASSETSU-TRIO (descending MICHAEL motif & ascending form of EVE's descending fragment).
  • Phase 12: Also repeats durations as equal pauses.  Altos sometimes have a "colored pause" after each bar, then a silent pause (also other similar sequences from combinations of voice, colored pauses, rests)
  • Phase 13: Beginnings of phrases are marked with accents or sustained notes.  Because more and more colored pauses and rests occur, more and more transparency arises, until single isolated groups are heard
  • Phase 14: Basically comprised of excerpts from previous Phases.  Each 16 second-long page begins with a different accented chord, after which each layer settles back onto their normally-assigned central pitch

7 Memories
     As mentioned previously, the orchestral version includes 7 "Memories" or brief revues of previous Scenes from LICHT, arranged for "adhoc" duets or trios.  These occur spread out through the 14 Phases, sometimes continuing over the Phase divisions.  Usually the Memories and Choir Blend-Ins are separated (not super-imposed)

m. 133-162
Trumpet/Clarinet take Tenor/Basset-horn parts

Release of the Senses, trombone plays Lucifer Nuclear tones

Monday Song, Sunday Song
Cello/Viola take 
Basset-horn/Synth parts

m. 187-213, 
Trombone takes Soprano part 1 octave lower

m. 10-16, 18-19, 
Oboe/Bassoon take Flute/Basset-horn parts

Clarinet, Violin and Cello play derivations based on MICHAEL & EVE rising/falling scales

m. 1-18, 
Flute/Viola take Soprano/Tenor parts, Synth plays central notes from opening of EVE formula

Melodic Articulations
     In the choral version, each of the 5 layers (groups) is sung in a different main language, though as the work progresses, the languages become increasingly shared amongst all 5 layers, until in Phase 14 there are 30 exchanges.  Each of the 5 layers also has its own style of articulation applied to their ornamental elements, somewhat inspired by the languages used.  For example, the Soprano 1 layer (using Hindi as its language) has combinations of 21 variations of glissandi and held notes (see the table below for more descriptions of each characteristic articulation type).  When languages are shared or exchanged between layers, the articulations of the new and old languages are sometimes split between 2 sub-layers (but sometimes articulations are not transferred over at all). 

Orchestral Arrangement and Spatial Placement
     The orchestral version of HOCH-ZEITEN was created after the choral version was first completed.  Instrumental timbres analogous to the choral parts were created from combinations of 1-6 instruments playing the same note, sometimes w. mutes, trills, tremolo, or other articulations.

     On stage, the instruments/singers are arranged from left to right going from low register to high, with each group divided into 2 sub-groups (which play facing each other, profiles to the audience).  More information on the stage set up can be seen in Stockhausen's Notes on HOCH-ZEITEN for orchestra.  Soloists stand up and play towards each other in a conversational manner during the Memories.  The 5 layers are similarly arranged from left to right in reverse numerical order (low register to high) on the Stockhausen Edition CD 73 recording:
5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1

Language and Articulation Summary of the 5 Choral and Orchestral Layers (each with 2 sub-layers)
Uses 7 types of “head groups”, ie - clusters of "noisy" syllables (spoken, shouted) applied at the beginnings of phrases

Uses 7 types of “dynamic relief” configurations (dynamic envelope shapes, such as cresc., decresc., swells, held at p, pp, f, ff, etc…) resulting in 24 variations (by superimposing the 2 contrasting sub-layers) Uses 8 types of “central configurations” (ornamentation shapes), sometimes uses text

Characterized by quick gliss upwards/downwards, or groups of short, small glisses disturbing a held tone (also various long glissandi "tails")

Combinations of 21 variations of glissandi and held notes, text uses Hindi and text from ENGEL-PROZESSIONEN
(also Indian gods, rivers, regions, love poems from Phase 6 on)
African (Kiswahili) English Arabic Chinese Indian (Hindi/Sanskrit)
Basses Tenors Altos 2nd Sopranos 1st Sopranos
(w. mutes)
Cellos Horns Bassoons Clarinets Violas Oboes Trumpets
(w. mutes)
Flutes Violins

     The table below summarizes the Phase Layers, Memories and Blend-ins.  The page numbers after the Memories indicate approximately where the Memories occur within the Phases.  Each score page in Phase 1 lasts 32".  Each page in Phase 2 lasts 24".  After that, every score page is 16".  The CD tracks refer to Stockhausen Edition CD 73. 
Phase Dur Score
Fastest Layer/
Phase Design
Orchestra Version:
Memories and
Choir Blend-ins
Choir Version:
Memories as
Orchestral Blend-ins
Entrance 0:41 1 Entrance Phase:
slow glissandi with
various percussion hits
1 1:36 2-4 Layer 3: clr, vla/Altos 2
2 1:36 5-8 Layer 2: ob., tpt/2nd Sopranos 3 MONDEVA 
(clr, tpt, pg 5-10)
3 1:36 9-14 Layer 2: ob., tpt/2nd Sopranos,
Indian, English, Chinese language exchanges begin
4 23
4 1:36 15-20 Layer 2: ob., tpt/2nd Sopranos,
Arabic and Chinese layers briefly exchanged
5 CHOIR Blend-ins 24
5 3:12 21-32 Layer 2: ob., tpt/2nd Sopranos,
Layers (some with "kissing sounds") drop out until a Layer 3 Alto solo, after which layers return.
(tbn, fl, pg 21-29)
CHOIR Blend-ins
(from 2:24)
(tnb, fl)
Insert 1 0:16 33 rising accents followed by descending scale 7
26 All (German): "Today is a Wedding Day in the music"
6 1:36 34-39 Layer 1: fl, vln/1st Sopranos
exchanged languages without exchanging articulations
8 CHOIR Blend-ins
Monday Song,
Sunday Song
(cello, vla, pg 35-41,
from T8, 0:24)

CHOIR Blend-ins
(from T9, 0:32)
Monday Song,
Sunday Song
7 1:36 40-45 Layer 1: fl, vln/1st Sopranos,
exchanges result in mixtures of articulation types
9 28
Insert 2 0:16 46 slow glissandi harmony underneath solos 10 Clarinet solo 29 Alto solo: (German) "We thank Eva-Maria for our Course of the Years on this Earth"
8 3:12 47-58 Layer 5: tbn, cell./Bass,
changing Layer densities 
(Layer 4 Tenor solo)
11 CHOIR Blend-ins
(and Soprano solo)
(tbn, flglhn, pg 49-55,
from 0:32)
CHOIR Blend-ins
(tbn, flglhn)
9 3:12 59-70 Layer 3: clr, vla/Altos,
changing Layer densities, 
after the midpoint, a Layer 3 Alto solo is followed by Alto duets with 4, 5, 2, and 1
12 CHOIR Blend-ins
(bsn, ob, pg 65-71,
from T12, 1:36)
CHOIR Blend-ins
(from T13, 0:16) 

(bsn, ob, from 1:18)

10 1:36 71-76 Layer 4: hn, bsn/Tenors,
Rotation: figures passed from Layer to Layer in different articulation types
13 32
11 1:20 77-82 Layer 5: tbn, cell./Bass,
changing Layer densities, durations balanced with rests
2nd half features a variation on BASSETSU-TRIO in Layer 2 (with guest Trumpet)
14 CHOIR Blend-ins 33 ORCHESTRA
(from 0:16)
1:52 83-88 15 BASSETSU TRIO variation
(cel, clr, vln)
34 BASSETSU TRIO variation (pg 83-89)
Trio: Trumpet and
2 Sopranos:

(from T35, 1:20)
12 1:36 89-94 Layer 5: tbn, cell./Bass,
durations balanced with rests, various combinations of rushing noises and rests
16 CHOIR Blend-ins
(from 0:16)
13 1:36 95-100 Layer 1: fl, vln/1st Sopranos,
solos in Layer 1, 2, 3, 5, 4, 1.
Colored pauses and rests increasingly occur, until single isolated groups are heard 
(vla, fl, synth)
14 4:48 101-
Layer 1: fl, vln/1st Sopranos,
excerpts from previous Phases.  Every 16 seconds a different accented chord occurs, after which each layer settles back to its central pitch 
18 CHOIR Blend-ins
(from 3:12)
3:47 119-
Melodic fragments from the last few measures of the LICHT formulas over a sustained harmony.

(with my coloration, click to enlarge)
     This page shows the beginning 16 seconds of Phase 1. Each of the 5 layers is written in 2 staff lines (each has 2 sub-layers), often with contrasting ornaments (or dynamics, in the case of layer 4).  Layer 1 has the slowest tempo and therefore the simplest "bar-lines".  Layer 3 has the fastest tempo and therefore the most dense bar-lines.  Layer 3 and Layer 4 also have their central pitches reinforced by pitched percussion accents.

     In 2004, the music for HOCH-ZEITEN was adapted for 5 synthesizers.  Five performer-programmers (Layers 1-5: Marc Maes, Frank Gutschmidt, Fabrizio Rosso, Benjamin Kobler and Antonio Pérez Abellán) worked with Stockhausen to translate the choir version manuscript into synthetic tones, while preserving the linguistic aspects of the text.  The basic instrument used was the Kurzweil 2500x.  As in the original version, the voice registers are placed from low to high, left to right: (5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1).  In this arrangement the pairs of sub-groups of each layer were combined into single tracks, and the Memories and Blend-ins do not occur (except for the MITTWOCH/BASSETSU-TRIO variation in Phase 11, which makes for a nice textural excursion).  When staged, video projections of the keyboardists' hands can be projected onto screens above each player.   This version can also be performed by 1 synthesizer accompanied by a tape of the other 4 parts, in which case it is named KLAVIERSTÜCK XIX (Piano Piece 19).

     Richard Toop's "SONNTAG's ABSCHIED: A Report" is a detailed essay describing the preparation of this version over several days of rehearsals with Stockhausen (one of the difficulties in the preparation of this version was the micro-variations in the harmony tempo of the final section, SONNTAGS LIED). 

     STRAHLEN ("Rays") is an arrangement of the basic material from HOCH-ZEITEN for vibraphone (and optionally, glockenspiel).  Since metal percussion tones cannot be sustained, made to swell, bend, or otherwise be manipulated after they have been struck, electronic signal processing was used on recorded samples to accomplish what the score required (including up to 90 seconds of sustain).  "Pulsations" were added to sustained tones to help emphasized the indicated tempos.  Each of the 10 layers were filtered or modulated differently, and recorded with different mallets in different sections.  In a live performance, a percussionist may play 1 of the 10 sub-layers "live" (using tremolo technique if necessary for the sustained tones) with a 10-channel tape projecting the other 9 parts (with 1 channel muted).  The 5 "signal" instruments can be live or pre-taped as well.  In the CD recording performed by Laszlo Hudacek, the 1st layer if the Alto voice (III) was performed live (including the "noises" and "colored pauses" for Layer 5 and Phases 12-13).

     For the 10-channel tape, 7,700 individual tones were deployed across 96 tracks (multiple tracks for different ornamentation types).   In general, short figures were recorded "live", and sustained figures were lengthened electronically.  However, in SONNTAGS LIED, all of the sustained tones were created using tremolos.  For the African "noise" elements, a vocoder was used to modulate the samples, or a "prepared" vibraphone sound was used.  Frequency filtering was used to approximate the vowel sounds in the original choral score.    

Sound Impressions
     I've found that there are two ways of listening to these works.  The first is to listen to them as slowly modulating drone harmonies with ornamentation providing a "rough surface" (or perhaps "imperfections in the paper", from a Cage-ian perspective).  This gives these works a kind of meditative, ritualistic feel, and the metal percussion signals reinforce this imagery.

     The other way (and I think this may be the more intended way) is to concentrate on the ornamentation as a foreground layer on top of a static harmonic background.  In this interpretation, the various articulations "speak" to each other, using the 5 languages applied to the 5 layers.  Stockhausen also emphasizes that the figures and glissandi are "more important than the sustained tones...and should be played very clearly, slightly louder, and never casually or as ornaments." In any case, it's fascinating to compare and contrast these 4 arrangements of essentially the same melodic and harmonic material.  Because of these versions, HOCH-ZEITEN becomes a true exploration of timbre and coloration, expressed vocally, instrumentally, electronically and electro-acoustically.

     The Memories and Blend-ins of the choral and orchestral versions add an additional dimension as well.  Naturally, these Memories become much more meaningful after one has become very familiar with all of the Scenes of the LICHT opera cycle, but even without the recognition factor, they provide a nice contrast to the tightly-focused structure of the main body.  However, just as in DONNERSTAG AUS LICHT's last Scene, VISION (which features a brief revue of that opera's previous scenes), these reminiscences of operas past give the listener who has travelled through all 7 "Days" the strong feeling of an epic journey completed.

Stockhausen Notes on HOCH-ZEITEN for orchestra 
Sound samples, online CD ordering:
Ordering the Scores
Stockhausen Composition Course Booklets 2003/2004 for HOCH-ZEITEN
Wiki Entry
2011 Musikfabric/Oper Köln SONNTAG Production
2011 SONNTAG AUS LICHT Production Dance Company Page
SONNTAG AUS LICHT 2011 Review (Deutche Welle) 

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