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Stockhausen - Questions and answers on Intuitive Music Pt 1

(This discussion took place during the lecture Live Electronic and Intuitive Music given on November 15th 1971 at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. The lecture with discussion was filmed [Allied Artists, London], and was transcribed from the film. Preceding the discussion, Stockhausen had played a tape recording of ES and after the discussion played a recording of AUFWÄRTS.)

Stockhausen: undefined, I call this music Intuitive Music, because with a text like the one for IT, one should exclude all the possible systems which are usually used for any kind of improvisation ­ if one understands the term "improvisation" in the way it has always been used. I therefore prefer the term Intuitive Music. We shall see how Intuitive Music is going to develop in the future. Does anyone have a question?

Question: How can you say that when you stop thinking, the mind is open to higher centres? Aren't you doing what the surrealists did with automatic painting in the 1920's? They said that if one stops thinking, one opens the mind to the subconscious ­ to the unconscious, and you are saying you open yourself to higher centres. Is this because the surrealists were under the influence of psycho-analysis and you are under the influence of Eastern philosophy?

Stockhausen: I only know from personal experience that Intuitive Music should ­ if possible ­ have nothing to do with psychology, which means nothing to do with the subconscious and unconscious. Rather, the musicians must be influenced by the supra-conscious (we can tell from the results that they certainly are), by something which enters into them. There is certainly nothing in the entire history of music, and nothing in that which we have ever done before that even slightly resembles the results which have come out of these texts. Thus, it must be that which we call the supra-conscious, and not the subconscious or unconscious.

Question: You said there were similarities between different interpretations.

Stockhausen: Yes, it is interesting.

Question: Could you say a few words about the similarities?

Stockhausen: In IT, for example, all the different versions which we have played start with very fragmentary short actions and sounds. Then, gradually a longer sound comes into being here and there, and as soon as someone starts, his predecessor immediately stops, so that the sounds cut each other off. In all versions the superimposition of sustained sounds then increases. So, a musician plays something, then another one starts playing a sound or a certain sound pattern, and despite this, the other one can continue to play. Then it goes very quickly. In all the versions I have heard, there is never a slow transition: all of a sudden a situation is reached in which all players are obviously fascinated by something that is in the air. They are completely absorbed by the sound and act instantly without thinking ­ I mean completely spontaneous action ­ and thus very dense structures come into being which are maintained for some time, until there is a moment when one of the musicians plays a sound which is outside of the context. And then, abruptly there are long silences: the musicians try to carry on with what they were playing before, but it does not work.

I could now give you a description of that which is strictly con-nected with the development of organisms which develop, in no matter which region ­ higher or lower ­, and one could go even further and say very distinct things about the layer- and register-changes.

Question: Were there ever any performances which ­ in your view ­ were failures?

Stockhausen: Do you mean, in which we couldn't play at all?

Question: No, in which something was played which to your musicians' creative sense seemed to be rubbish? Or is there such a thing as rubbish?

Stockhausen: Absolutely. The first sign of rubbish is the emergence of clichés: when pre-formed material comes out; when it sounds like something which we already know. Then we feel that it is going wrong. There is a sort of automatic recording within us, which also automatically spits out all the recorded stuff ­ also the garbage ­, and then one stops.

Question: Have you any way of eliminating acoustical rubbish from the creative process?

Stockhausen: Certainly. While playing Intuitive Music it becomes extremely obvious which musician has the most self-control; the musicians soon reveal whether they are critical, whether the physical and spiritual sides are in a certain balance etc. Some musicians are very easily confused, because they do not listen. That is the usual reason for rubbish ­ rubbish in the sense that they produce dynamic levels which erode the rest for quite some time, without realising it themselves. In certain situations some become very totalitarian, for example, and that leads to really awful situations of ensemble playing. The sounds then become extremely aggressive and destructive; they operate on a very low level of communication, and destructive elements prevail (I hope we understand one another: I do not only mean simply "ugly" or "beautiful" when I say "low" level; I mean bodily, physically destroying each other). Then they all play at once. This is one of the most important criteria, that one must constantly remind oneself: "Do not play all the time", and "Do not get carried away to act all the time".

After several hundred years of having been forced to play only what was prescribed by the composers, once musicians now have the opportunity ­ in Intuitive Music ­ to play all the time, they do. The playing immediately becomes very loud, and the musicians do not know how to get soft again, because everybody wants to be heard. I mean, it is easy to get loud, but how can you get soft again? Finally you think: "Nobody hears me anyway, so I might as well stop".

These are the general principles of group behaviour, of group playing.

Question: Are you saying that value standards are emerging out of this?

Stockhausen: Completely new standards which we have never learned before for playing music; values which we discover for the first time when playing in a group, and especially each time there is a new member. Generally, it takes quite a while for a new member to in-tegrate himself into our kind of ensemble playing.

Question: Concerning the collective interaction, there must be a critical number of members for this group?

Stockhausen: Right. That is why I always say that the mass begins with 7; with more than 7 all becomes too dense. Exceptional per-sonalities are needed when the group is larger than 7 ­ say 8 or 9 ­ players. The best number is 4 or 5. Even with 6, in my opinion, one needs a lot of self-discipline to stop playing for relatively long periods of time during the performance, and to know exactly when the right moment has come, so that also solos and duos and trios occur ­ not just sextets all the time.

Question: Have such attempts been made by groups which have

existed for a long time, such as a string quartet, for example?

Stockhausen: No.

Question: Does the quality of the performance have anything to do with the musicians' technical ability on their instruments?

Stockhausen: Yes and no. For example, when one plays awkwardly, the intuition cannot work well; the tool, the instrument is not trained. That means that the musician becomes dependent on his body and he always wants more than it can do. Then rubbish again results. In such a situation someone is best qualified who does not have to think twice about the technical aspect

Question: someone who is completely master of his instrument. How about the tam-tam? Is that

Stockhausen: Well, you know what I mean: someone who has lived and experimented with the tam-tam for a long time. I do not mean someone who can play all the Liszt études ­ it can even be quite difficult to play with such a person, because he can't get them out of his system any more. It is almost impossible unless he really concentrates on getting away from all these pre-established techniques. Rather, I mean someone who is completely united with his instrument, who knows where to touch it and what to do in order to set it into vibration, so that the inner vibrations which occur within the player can immediately be transformed into the outer vibrations of the instrument. That is the whole secret, naturally, the shortest way.

Question: Suppose you were in a group and acted according to an assigned text. You would think nothing. How then, can you make actions to create a sound? And do you classify awareness as a form of thinking, or is it something else?

Stockhausen: If I know that I am doing this, and that my co-player is doing something else, this realisation is an act of thinking and I call that thinking. What do you mean by awareness? Do you mean that I think that I am sitting here playing? Or not even that ­ rather, that I just play?

Question: I mean, that you are aware of the other sounds

Stockhausen: All the time, naturally ­ one is inside the sound

Question: So you separate awareness from thinking?

Stockhausen: Yes, without a doubt. Thinking is a mental process: pre-planning, remembering, recording, calculating ­ all these different mental activities. For example, there are pieces which demand that one makes a plan; that one should imagine the next event each time and then play it exactly the way it was imagined. One thus thinks out a musical event, then plays it.

Question: But you are reacting to each other, aren't you? That is what I mean by awareness.

Stockhausen: Actually we are reacting to ­ or acting in the direction of ­ what is in the air. It is not really re-action: we are busy with the sound ­ we are working on shaping the sound which is in the air.

Question: In your theatre piece OBEN UND UNTEN you require the instrumentalists to first play KURZWELLEN, with the actors listening ­ before they perform OBEN UND UNTEN. Why is this?

Stockhausen: I thought it would be the best training and the best stimulus. In KURZWELLEN, the players have to react to something that is unforseeable because it comes out of the radio. They have to respond spontaneously to the short-wave material. And in the theatre piece, I expect the musicians also to react instantaneously to the spontaneous verbal material that comes from the speakers ­ from the man, from the woman, and from the child. In the same way, I expect the man, the woman, and the child to say something intuitively which is evoked by the sounds produced by the musicians. Now in order to train for this, it is best to sit in front of a radio and react to that which is heard, and then always change with whatever comes, immediately doing what occurs to you while listening to the radio ­ because in doing this you cannot cheat yourself.

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