Thursday, November 13, 2008

cosmic pulses

time passes... days merge...

some time ago now i downloaded (*) the files from the bbc's stockhausen day broadcast - yes, now that he's safely dead and not about to annoy anyone, the powers that be have conferred upon herr s. the status of "proper composer" and set aside time for his work at the proms this year (astonishing but true). anyway - the files sat here on the desktop for weeks without my having the time to play with them, never mind actually give the music my attention... and even when i'd burned them to disc, i still didn't find any time to play them... but yesterday i finally began rectifying that, and listened to the first disc.

the second piece was a uk premiere: a performance of "cosmic pulses", itself apparently the 13th hour (actually 32 mins in this case) of the composer's klang cycle. this part of the cycle is for solo electronics (again, at the proms... who would have thought it?)... and it made for the most amazing listening experience. queasy waves of sound slide over each other, melt into each other, giving the feeling of being in a storm at sea, perhaps - but a sea on some far-flung planet, surely not this one! the music, which (of course) remains resolutely non-diatonic at all times, obliterates any notion of conventional harmony or melody, while dropping the listener bodily into its alien soundscape, offering no recognisable signposts. i found this to be one of the most exciting musical experiences i've had during the course of the last year or so.

it's not mentioned in the text document which accompanies the download, but the soloist for this piece was *not* a member of the bbc s.o. - rather, the interpreter was kathinka pasveer, one of the composer's two close companions/students in his later years: hence, we can be sure that this was a faithful rendition of the composer's score. in any event, the slightly breathless radio link which follows the piece gives us a sense of what it must have been like to sit in that auditorium in near darkness, immersed in that boiling, turbulent soundworld in the company of (it's tempting to think!) nervous and inexperienced classical music fans - obviously, the audience for these performances will have been far more open-minded than your average british formal-dress-music snob, but still, the thrill and visceral shock of being physically present at the time, under such conditions - and this piece was being played in the u.k. for the first time, of course. after all this time hearing my main man continually namecheck this guy, i finally dip a toe in - the reward is immediate. i've known for several years that i would end up exploring stockhausen's music, yet have never felt any hurry to dive in - partly this is my usual reluctance to jump into a bottomless pit of expended time and energy - and guess what, there's still no hurry, believe it or not the music of anthony braxton is enough of an obsession to be going on with..! but at least now i have sampled just a sip from the waters of that great source, the fountain which was my teacher's teacher.

* * *

and there i am - back to gushing again ;-) what can you do.

more stuff is in the pipeline... sorry for the delay; everything is very intense for me at the moment, and filled with challenges of all kinds, within a life of everyday detail - nowhere can i get much respite, abrasive surfaces abound wherever i turn... some times of accelerated learning hurt more than others: this one is quite painful. still.. we continue... believe it or not i think i'm just about ready to get that fucking dortmund monkey off my back! ...and wrap up this current braxtothon phase in short(ish) order. the good thing about *pain*, it always brings about a new perspective - if i just resign myself to working with it.

* see comments


centrifuge said...

ok... the files came from inconstant sol, of course. now, this seems as good a time as any to address *that* issue at last: for some time i've felt a bit strange, continually linking to pages on that blog when it was becoming obvious that more and more members of the "committee" which now runs that site no longer welcomed my presence in their community. at the same time, it has always seemed appropriate to reference (and thank) my sources. so here's the link to the relevant page: - and i am grateful to tantris for sharing the files. that said, going forwards i don't intend to participate in a community which increasingly considers me persona non grata, and for that reason i don't want to link to sol in the main post... just doesn't feel right any more.

on a related theme, it's worth mentioning the circumstances under which i listened to the stockhausen in the end. several weeks ago i converted the flacs to mp3s, even burned the discs - just didn't get round to listening. i never did play the flacs (though i did refer to both sets of files at the time of conversion), but in listening to the "inferior" version yesterday i was never aware of anything missing from the experience at all, and certainly not aware of any compromise in sound quality *except* during the voiceovers (and i'd be surprised if these sounded perfect even as flacs - deleted those long since, can't check). my attention during the course of the music, if that's the difference, filled in the gaps so that NOTHING seemed to be missing. i am sure that if i listened on expensive equipment and concentrated only on looking for gaps, i could find them well enough. but i am actually interested in the internal experiences offered by music, not in merely pleasuring my outer ears, and definitely not in the media by which the sounds are delivered; with sol being increasingly taken over by "lossless purists", i find myself increasingly isolated and the time to acknowledge that explicitly on this blog has finally arrived. as atanase has reminded me, there is no church number ten... and whilst i don't want to make a big declaration about any of this, i do want to state my position clearly in the one place where such things are most important to me.

ubu xxiii said...

I can recommend the 'Helikopterquartett'. (Hints of Braxton's satellite orchestras?)
But the Stockhausen is as ecologically unsound to perform as motor racing. The Arditti people recorded it anyway; it's there for all ears.

centrifuge said...

"as ecologically unsound to perform as motor racing" - ubu xxiii, thanks for that interesting and arresting thought. of course... a truly civilised society would deploy its collective resources in such a way that keeping four helicopters (is that literally correct?) in the air need not be environmentally detrimental - we know that less toxic fuels exist in principle, and we all know why we aren't using those... it's a glimpse into the future or into an alternative present. perhaps it's one of those scores best read and heard in the mind..?