It is hard to imagine adding anything to what Marion Lignana Rosenberg (AKA Vilaine Fille) wrote about this new release in her lovely and pithy review (Time Out New York, September 6). Some pieces composed in the 20th century have simply become classics and merit continued performance and rethinking. Like Luciano Berio's ground-breaking Sinfonia (1967-1969), Karlheinz Stockhausen's Stimmung could only have been composed, as it was, in 1968, and it sums up in many ways the groovy experimental spirit of the Age of Aquarius (I can hear the universe tuning, man). Like the Collegium Vocale Köln, who premiered Stimmung, and Singcircle, who recorded it in the 1980s, Paul Hillier has led the six singers of his group Theatre of Voices in the creation of a new version of the work, the score of which leaves many compositional decisions up to the performers. In an article in The Guardian ('I felt a controlling hand taking over', September 28) Paul Hillier wrote about just how much control Stockhausen wanted to give up.
Available at Amazon:
Stockhausen, Stimmung, Theatre of Voices, P. Hillier (September 11, 2007)
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The piece involves six unaccompanied, amplified singers, seated in a circle, experimenting with the sonorities of the overtone series (in this case, built over the fundamental note of B-flat), using random syllables, the names of the weekdays, mysterious names of deities, and some English and German text. Is it a coincidence that Sesame Street and the Muppets were pioneered in the same era? With a few subtle changes, portions of Stimmung could easily morph into a Sesame spot ("M-, Mi-, Mitt ... W-, Wo-, Woch ... Mittwoch!"). This release is not for the timid or reactionary, but it is a beautiful performance of an experimental classic, puzzlingly weird and musically profound, in a pure sense. (On a side note, did no one consider the irony of releasing this album in the United States on September 11, given Stockhausen's infamous comments, admittedly taken out of context, about the September 11 attacks being "the greatest possible work of art in the entire cosmos"?)
Joshua Kosman, Stockhausen (San Francisco Chronicle, September 2)
Marion Lignana Rosenberg, Karlheinz Stockhausen (Time Out New York, September 6)
Greg Sandow, The Magic of Stockhausen's 'Stimmung' (Wall Street Journal, September 20)
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