'An Art of Enlightenment and Revelation'

Stockhausen’s Mittwoch, from his monumental Licht cycle of operas, finally received its stage premiere last week in Birmingham. The event inspired a range of reactions, but one of the most personal, and incisive, came from Timothy Rutherford-Johnson, who managed both to track emotional and cosmic reactions, and to elucidate clearly on some of the staging’s technical and structural details:

His is an art of enlightenment, of revelatory transformation through the juxtaposition of objects. So instrumental competitions, bees, the laughter of children, paper aeroplanes, a meeting of delegates from the countries of the world, octophonic sound projections, kites, doves and the cosmos in MITTWOCH are all points within the same space, defined by parameters such as swarming, buzzing/juddering, air, flight…

Stockhausen had an evident love of short, repeating sounds, that when played slow judder like machine-gun fire, and that speed up to scraping and buzzing before transcending their own rhythmic constitution to become pitch. KONTAKTE is a study on precisely such sounds; COSMIC PULSES is another. KLAVIERSTÜCKE IX and GRUPPEN approach them again from different angles. Sounds like these occur throughout MITTWOCH, whether as buzzing bees, disintegrating electronic drones, tremolo strings, shortwave radio signals, helicopter blades or a stuttering singer. The sense of sonic unity that is engendered is quite staggering.

Published on 27 August 2012

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