Stockhausen: Stimmung and Cosmic Pulses Barbican Centre, London 4/5
A SINGLE spherical ball sits at the centre of the Barbican Hall’s stage, emitting a faint white light and, as the audience waits with anticipation, the six members of vocal harmonic ensemble Singcircle drift on separately to take their place on cushions around the ominous globe.
The atmosphere is one of a seance yet what comes next is not so much an “om, om, om” but more of an “eye ee eye ee Saturday” and other random words.
They form a set of rhythmic phonetic patterns for 51 sections, or models, in which a new harmonic melody is explored in Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Stimmung (Atmosphere), an epic 70 minute-plus vocal acoustic experiment that requires the utmost concentration from its performers and months of rehearsal time.
The beautiful, trance-like piece uses six vocalists — a bass, two sopranos, a mezzo-soprano and two tenors — and six microphones.
This historic performance sees Singcircle, who first performed the piece at the Round House in London 40 years ago, repeating it for the last time. It features the piece’s original director Gregory Rose who returns to direct and “sing” bass.
The seminal piece is one of two by the pioneering German composer and the concert marks the 10th anniversary of his death.
The second piece, Cosmic Pulses (pictured), was composed in 2006 and was Stockhausen’s last purely electronic work. It’s given the laser treatment by audio-visual artist Robert Henke, with the beams shooting not on the stage but above the audience’s heads, perhaps in keeping with the planetary influence of the piece.
Decidedly more abrasive than the folksy ritualism of Stimmung, the work is very reminiscent of much of the creations of dark electronic act Coil, whose spatial experiments were profoundly influenced by Stockhausen. A true forefather of modern electronic music, may his work live on.