June 25, 2024

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Stockhausen’s Adventures in Space and Time at the Armory

Stockhausen’s Adventures in Space and Time at the Armory

An elliptical halo of gentle, focused light floated through the Park Avenue Armory’s spacious drill hall one recent morning, above a circular space designed to dissolve your sense of place and time.

At the center was Kathinka Basvier, widow of composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, performing his electronic music on a console. Pierre Audi, the Armory’s technical director, sat nearby, clearly pleased with the scene around him. To his right and left, uniquely shaped video screens faced each other across a circular space filled with lights that moved and changed color as designer Urs Schonebaum spoke into a headset while riding a motorcycle.

After a brief pause, Schoenebaum pointed out various elements: from the darkness and silence emerged eerie sounds traveling freely through the space from invisible speakers; The videos pulsed with music, brightness, and changing lights, creating the illusion of emptiness outside the circle. It has become difficult to keep track of the passing minutes. Maybe the nice spring morning outside was another world.

This is the effect “The inner light.” The Armory’s musical staging of “Licht”, Stockhausen’s massive and unwieldy cycle of seven operas written from the late 1970s to the early 2000s. These works challenge simple interpretation and conventional form, and in turn deal, in a darkly comic and sublime way, with cosmic clashes between good and evil, with intimate dramas and global politics, with the nature of music itself.

At the Armory, listeners will hear five electronic tracks that make up a small portion of the 29-hour cycle, but even that will be significant. They will be performed over two nights, starting on Wednesday, or as one-day marathons for those who want to get lost in the sounds of Stockhausen, who died in 2007 and was an influence on the likes of Kraftwerk and Björk.

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In this context, Basvier said, people can “really dive into the music, relax and find it in the space.”

“Inside Light” is an adaptation of the much larger production “Aus Licht” or “From Light,” a three-day, 15-hour recap of “Licht” that played at the Holland Festival in Amsterdam five years ago. (Naxos will release a video recording in spring 2025.)

This production was a transformative experience for all involved. And there it was a lot People involved: The performances included hundreds of musicians, most of them students who learned “Licht” with Pasveer as a master’s degree program. At one point, the game “Helicopter String Quartet” involved players cooperating from four helicopters flying over the city.

Basvier said she has heard from people whose lives have been changed by Aus Licht, including, she said, a family who will travel to the Armory from Germany. For Audi, who directed the Amsterdam production and choreographed the New York version, those responses were not surprising.

“Whether you’re old, young or any age, this is for you,” he said. “It defies trends and fashions, and, like Wagner, has an authority about itself because it comes from the composer’s deep psyche and thus connects with the listener’s psyche.”

In Amsterdam, electronic music parts of “Licht”, including a huge eight-channel “Invisible choirs” It was presented before and after live shows for “devoted listeners”. Audience members were allowed to walk around and explore how the spatially designed score changed depending on where they stood. “The movement of sound was as important to Stockhausen as rhythm and timbre,” Basvier said. “He had this very beautiful quote, which is: ‘Whenever we hear voices, we are changed.’”

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For Schönebohm, the Amsterdam shows were special because they were impossible to replicate financially and logistically. “It is wonderful to carry with me this once-in-a-lifetime memory,” he said.

However, the Aus Licht team, which also includes basic video design by Robbie Voigt, wanted the project to continue in some form. Therefore, Audi has programmed only electronic music for the 2020 edition of the Aix-en-Provence festival in France, where he serves as Artistic Director. However, this production followed the lead of everything in the performing arts during that pandemic year.

But the idea stayed with Audi, who wanted to bring “Licht” into the Armory, as he believed the space could provide “the absolute perfect environment for listening to music.”

Because of the arrangement of the speakers, the circular shape of the space was defined, said Schonebaum, who designed a new stage for the Armory. Inside the speaker ring, the audience can sit, stand, lie or walk around on a black carpet surrounded by lights that create the illusion that the walls and ceiling have disappeared into a dark space. Stockhausen once performed his music in total darkness to eliminate distractions, but “people got paranoid,” Basvier said, so he began showing an image of the moon in his performances.

“People say it’s either overly intellectual or vulgar,” O’Dea said. “it’s not like that.”

It’s athletic, spiritual, physical, personal. Not to mention particularly welcoming, Schoenebaum said, to the generations of listeners who grew up with the popular electronic music that Stockhausen inspired.

Welcome is also the final mood of the “Inside Light” pieces, Audi said. He added: “Music has a kind of majesty and anxious dimension, but it does not make you anxious, because it always carries within it the opposite.” “It offers an uplifting dialogue with anxiety, which I find very interesting and theatrical. I find myself imagining a story, because your mind can travel with this music.”

Audience members just have to open up to it. “The people who are going to be here, who are going to be able to hear this music with the air and the space that it needs, those people are going to be very lucky,” Basvier said.