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Dutch raise a petition to stop Stockhausen’s Licht

January 4, 2017 by norman lebrecht

88 comments.


When Pierre Audi steps down in 2019 as director of Dutch National Opera, he will fulfil a career-long dream of staging segments from Karlheinz Stockhausen’s 7-day opera cycle, titled Licht.

Sounds interesting.

But not to some audience members who are raising a petition against it here.

Their gripe?

This megalomaniac, expensive project seems to be a farewell gift for the departing intendant Pierre Audi. There is a lot of opposition from opera lovers, music journalists and opera critics. The complaints focus on the elitist selection of the project, the costs and the person of Karlheinz Stockhausen, particularly his statements about the  terror attacks of 9/11.


Comments (88)

  1. Rolf den Otter says:

    Most Dutch music critics poke fun with this petition on Twitter and Facebook… 🙂

    1. John Borstlap says:

      Sorry to disappoint you, but there are no music critics in the Netherlands.

      1. Guus Mostart says:

        LOL!

    2. Olivier Keegel says:

      The best opera reviewer in the Netherlands, Paul Korenhof, has expressed his sympathy for this petition.

  2. Paul Edlin says:

    Stockhausen’a Licht cycle is an enormously important work that is far too rarely given any form of platform, so good for Pierre Audi and Dutch National Opera for wishing to realise some of it.
    I wonder what Wagner’a contemporaries thought of The Ring cycle and Wagner the man? Mixed views, naturally. But Wagner’s great cycle has only one competitor, and that is Stockhausen’s.
    Far from wishing to prevent the performances, they should celebrate them and promote them and help fund raise.
    Stockhausen’s unwise remarks re 9/11 are, I believe, frequently misquoted and/or misinterpreted. He put his foot it, for sure, but one should not base artistic judgement on a single act of misjudged comment that was probably not meant on the way it has frequently been construed.

    1. David Osborne says:

      Terribly sorry Paul, but the comparison with the Ring is absurd. Wagner had his problems with the establishment- the very predecessors and idealogical ancestors of those pushing the unwanted and unwarranted Licht, but he was massively popular with audiences in his time. Anyone who tries to make that claim with respect to the late lamented mister S (as some in this thread bizarrely do) is utterly deluded. That said, I disagree with the petition and wouldn’t sign it myself. Stockhausen and that french guy whose name escapes me for the moment spent a lifetime cultivating the image of themselves as being selfless cultural martyrs. This just reinforces that. Their work will surely fade away naturally with the passage of time. It will of course take somewhat longer for music to recover from the toxic legacy of their political manouverings, their ruthless supression of anyone whose creative ideas and approach differed from their own.

      1. otto says:

        “Their work will surely fade away naturally with the passage of time. It will of course take somewhat longer for music to recover from the toxic legacy of their political manouverings, their ruthless supression of anyone whose creative ideas and approach differed from their own.”

        Hear, hear! Couldn’t agree more. In the meantime, we in the Netherlands are stuck with this bizarre project…

      2. Sue says:

        Away with Karl-Heinz. When somebody asked Beecham about this composer he said he hadn’t heard of Stockhausen but he thought he’d trodden in some!!

        1. David Osborne says:

          Beecham also loathed Beethoven…

      3. Maarten Brandt says:

        Brahms said the same about Bruckner. But history has – luckely – decided different!

        1. Sue says:

          Ah, but he was justified in that case!!!

        2. David Osborne says:

          Oh Maarten, I know many discerning, cultured people who intensely dislike Bruckner. Not one myself but he’s definitely an acquired taste.

    2. John Borstlap says:

      Stockhausen did say those words, but of course, he meant it differently – like saying: ‘I wish you dead and murdered, but please, don’t take it personally’.

      People who take S’s works seriously as music, should seek help.

  3. Maarten Brandt says:

    A lot of opposition? Well the petition was signed by only 51 persons under which are not very important names of the field of classical music in The Netherlands.

    1. John Borstlap says:

      The petition is now closed for contributions. If I had known about it before, I had signed it, and that would have been more than enough proof of the validity of the petition – which is, by the way, much too respectfully worded: ‘Licht’ (the darkest possible sonic art work imaginable, demonstrating the emptiness of ‘dark matter’) is a pretentious, nonsensical, pumped-up and sorry attempt to parade an imitation Wagner image, like that of a 8-year old kid who play-acts Napoleon because he has read about it in his school book for the first time.

      Only a thoroughly conventional postwar brainwashed mind could get the idea to waste tax money on such nonsense. The Dutch have a knack for juvenile fake revolution, Stockhausen’s silly ‘Helicopter Quartet’ was another such ‘prestige’ project on a Holland Festival (costs: 100,000.– per performance).

      1. Olivier Keegel says:

        Hear, hear ! Now, I regret limiting the petition to 50 subscribers ! 🙂

  4. Richard says:

    If this project were financed by fundraising, it would be a totally different matter. But it is financed by tax payers’ money. It seems to me an expensive private party for the happy few. This money had better be spent on one or two of the verismo operas that seem to be on the index of Forbidden Operas in Amsterdam.

    1. Christopher Culver says:

      “But it is financed by tax payers’ money. It seems to me an expensive private party for the happy few.”

      You’ve just described how classical music in general (and not just the hated avant-garde) is seen by most of the population.

      Still, at least LICHT is almost guaranteed to sell out the venue, which might not be the case for all of the standard rep that the general public sees as equally elitist as this Stockhausen work.

      1. David Osborne says:

        “Still, at least LICHT is almost guaranteed to sell out the venue”

        Christopher, you’re a very funny man. You had me there for a moment…

        1. David Osborne says:

          And yet it is so rarely performed that it will more than likely draw the tiny few who are interested from all over Europe, perhaps the world. Probably enough to almost fill the venue. OK I get it. So why not, better out than in I say. 0

          1. John Borstlap says:

            Modernism is dying, and performances of truly modernist sonic art are getting fewer and fewer. Its dedicated fans – old people with glasses and long grey seventies hair, T-shirts with Che on it and jeans with carefully designed holes in the fabric – are gradually dying-out, and they are suffering gravely of spiritual undernourishment, hungry for the ugliness and pure clumsiness of postwar nihilism with which they keep the flame of their negative nostalgia burning. When somewhere in the world a big performance, against all the odds of sensibility, takes place, or a sonic celebration is under way, they flock from all over the world to enjoy the last gasps of a dying art form, as in Donaueschingen last year which enjoyed a full house and where the programme included pop, Schlager, and Roger Scruton as a desperate last-minute act of masochistic self-mockery.

            If the Dutch opera insists of producing S’s darkness, of course they will be sure of a full house – they will come from China, Argentina, Greenland etc. etc. to see their Weltanschauung for the last time.

      2. Maarten Brandt says:

        I agree completely on this point. If one of the major orchestra’s in our country plays a Mahler symphony – sometimes tha hall is only for 50 ercent or less filled. Performing the standard repertoire gives by far not any garantee for a filled hall. However ‘Aus Licht’ will be sold out, due to whatever pulblicity, be it positive, be it negative. So we might after all be very grateful for this nonsens-petition, being a kind of “blessing in disguise” and a nice form of free publicity. Many thanks, Mr. Keegel!

    2. Singer/manager says:

      Having sold foreign operaproductions to Dutch theaters, I was told repeatedly that the average audience wants Carmen, Aida, Traviata, Bohème and Butterfly. No Mozart, no Wagner, no Verismo ( besides the above). No interest in Cav/Pag, no Elisir, no Hoffmann, nothing English, Czech or Russian (they’d rather have a Russian company do Carmen in abominable French) and certainly nothing “modern”. We can count ourselves lucky that the three big Dutch opera companies don’t always comply to the limited taste of “the masses”. Which in my opinion doesn’t immediately make a production “elitist”.

      In a country where all too often art is linked to “what the masses want” and “our national pride”, two Rembrandt portraits were bought ( in part time ownership!) for a prize that could undo the budget cuts which brought some of our greatest art institutes to ruin. We have our government, which quite some of the petitioners probably elected, to thank for that.

      It’s time the artists stopped complying to the masses and dare to start making art and taking bold decisions again. So I say bravo to DNO and DNOA and flip the finger to this petition.

      PS This being said, I hate Stockhausen…but that should be of no relevance

      1. John Borstlap says:

        What is said in that last PS is, on contrary, very important: if ‘the masses’ are to be educated on a more varied and valuable musical diet, S’s darkness is the LAST to be offered. Also, I doubt whether ‘no Wagner’ can be true: programme anything by Wagner and the tickets are sold-out in a couple of days, even the concertante performances (like the Van Zweden performances in the Concertgebouw).

        1. Singer/manager says:

          Ask the programmers of the Dutch theaters what they want to buy. It’s not Wagner. Not my choice, their comment.

          1. Singer/manager says:

            And why the hell should we educate “the masses”anyway?

          2. Wiebke Göetjes says:

            But I suppose you mean you sold to the free theaters in the Netherlands, like Zaandam, Emmen, Venlo, Drachten and other places. Not the DNO, Reisopera or Opera Zuid. There is a big difference. Wagner is always sold out at the 3 official Operatheatres.

          3. Singer/manager says:

            That’s exactly what I said Wiebke. We should be happy that the three big companies don’t always comply. Even though two of them don’t have an opera theater, but perform in the same theaters I was talking about. That their performances are bought anyway has to do with the theaters being compelled by the province that subsidizes them. Unfortunately provinces also have less and less money available, which is probably why the two travelling companies have had so many financial problems. Plus most provincial theater programmers prefer to buy a complete year’s program from a producer, who forces them to then also accept overpriced cardboard kitsch opera from Russia or Poland.

      2. David Osborne says:

        So who exactly do you suggest artists should comply to because there’s nothing brave about programming Stockhausen. The so called avant-garde has been the establishment for at least 60 years. And let’s please abandon this absurdly childish notion that somehow the more obscure, the less popular a work or a composer is, the greater the inherent artistic merit. It was never the case in the art-form’s heyday, and should not be today.

        1. Singer/manager says:

          To nobody! And it’s not relevant whether one perceives it as “obscure”. We live in a country where nowadays all classical programming is supposed to “be for a broad audience”, “have an educational element”, “should be accessible” and the absolute worst “should have an element of participation”. So in this project they used the “educational element”. Hooray. Just making a beautiful performance, in a nice hall, with an audience who loves it doesn’t get you any funding nowadays. Maybe if everybody would just butt out, we could get a more varied programming. Stockhausen, Wagner and who knows even finally a Cav/Pag, which would make me happy, but that also should not be relevant.

          1. David Osborne says:

            Great, totally agree right up until the Cav ‘n’ Pag bit! However please note that all my comments relate to the programming of new work.

        2. Christopher Culver says:

          “The so called avant-garde has been the establishment for at least 60 years.”

          Sure it was. How can it have been an establishment if most classical listeners who become interested in this music have had to rely on recordings, because it is almost never performed outside of a handful of cities? I never in my life got to hear any live Stockhausen, for example, until I moved to northern Europe, and even here performances have come only once in a blue moon. Meanwhile, all that tonal music of the 20th century that was supposedly quashed by the evil modernists makes up a vastly larger percentage of the average local orchestra’s concert programmes than the avant-garde.

          1. David Osborne says:

            Well I must say that sounds very positive, but if you doubt that the once avant-garde became the establishment, you really don’t know your history. When you consider the activism and influence of in particular Boulez, Stockhausen and post-war Darmstadt, BBC music controller Glock, Babbitt at Princeton in the US, his disciple Don Banks who was the founding chair of the Australia council music board to name just a few… When they proved incapable of generating any significant audience engagement, they played to their strengths by occupying the real centres of power- universities, funding bodies, broadcasting, backroom leadership at orchestras and opera houses. When it came to the programming of new work they dominated all of these for at least half a century, with devestating effect. But as you say, at last some green shoots!

          2. Christopher Culver says:

            “When it came to the programming of new work they dominated all of these for at least half a century, with devestating [sic] effect.”

            If they “dominated the programming of new work”, then that would mean, well, that their preferred music was being widely programmed. But again, their preferred music was actually very difficult to hear live unless you happened to live in a handful of cities, and the vast majority of classical listeners across Europe and North America had no possibility of hearing this music on any regular basis or even at all.

            “Boulez, Stockhausen and post-war Darmstadt, BBC music controller Glock, Babbitt at Princeton in the US…”

            So you name a handful of musicians working in very specific niches in very specific places, and we’re supposed to believe that was the entirety of what was happening in classical music during those years? Apparently the USSR, China, or Finland (prior to the appearance of the Korvat Auki crowd in the late 1970s) never existed in your world.

            As for complaining about the avant-garde at Darmstadt or the BBC Symphony Orchestra, that’s kind of like complaining that your local Baroque orchestra programs all Bach and Telemann and no Shostakovich: if a particular ensemble or festival shows a dedication to a style you don’t like, then go find a different one that plays what you like.

          3. David Osborne says:

            Christopher, you are a smart guy and I really genuinely wish you all the best in your quest to hear more Stockhausen, but I’m not talking to you any more. You don’t read what I’m saying, you scan! An example: Sir William Glock. Former controller of music at the BBC. That’s a broadcaster- i.e. Radio and television. I was not referring to the orchestra. He was a very influential and powerful man. There is so much more but I’m not going to spend all day correcting your misinterpretations. I have an opera to write.

          4. Christopher Culver says:

            I note how this music was pretty much unhearable by local audiences, and anyone interested had to rely on recordings, and then you complain about it being played over radio or TV broadcasts. You just prove my point. The avant-garde might have had its niche in broadcasting (along with a few festivals and dedicated ensembles), but it was not part of concert-going life for the vast majority of classical listeners, and any claims that it was the establishment are risible. Stockhausen’s LICHT operas have been around for over 30 years now and yet have been performed on very few occasions, and the one time that some of them get staged this decade, you act like LICHT is overplayed.

            Anyway, since you are a composer yourself, your complaints strike one as so much whining that people are paying too much attention to others and not to you. In the contemporary marketplace, this readiness to blame others and a lack of a strong DIY spirit are a real turnoff.

  5. Maarten Brandt says:

    A lot of opposition? Well, only 51 persons have signed this petition among which the most influenced musicologists and -journalist are absent.

  6. Maarten Brandt says:

    “A lot of opposition from opera lovers, music journalists and opera critics”, well that sounds slightly exaggerated for a petition signed by only 51 persons among which musicologists and -journalists of any standard on the field of contemporary music are totally absent.

    1. John Borstlap says:

      There are no standards in the field of contemporary music. Hence the planned Stockhausen production. Standards in new music have been abolished after WW II by people like S and PB, that is why this production is possible at all.

      1. Sue says:

        Got to agree with most of your comments, some of which are actually hilarious!!

        I’m sad for the ‘devotees’ of the musically and spiritually arid world of avant gardism. I’d hazard a guess that most of them would be stoned in order to ‘appreciate’ it. Surely it was written under the influence of psycho-tropic drugs!! It’s so 1960s.

        Don’t call us; we’ll call you!!

  7. Tim Ball says:

    This is ridiculous.
    A complete LICHT will be quickly sold out.
    Mr. Edlin is right re. ‘frequently misquoted’ comments.
    Also what does ‘the elitist selection of the project’ mean in realistic terms?

    1. David Osborne says:

      As long ago as 1836, Wagner identified a ‘cult of affectation and intellectualism’ that plagued music then and has ever since, despite (at least in the 19th century) being ultimately unsuccessful in it’s attempts to suppress the efforts of a succession of brilliant, creative individuals. Unfortunately, post WW2 their idealogical descendents, thanks to some seriously misguided backing from goverments, universities and other cultural institutions (but not of course audiences), has had it’s day in the sun to the great detriment of this art-form. That elite would be the one being referred to.

    2. Sue says:

      That some of them have chosen to perform using music, or tones, or…..I give up!!

  8. Olivier Keegel says:

    FYI: It was decided beforehand that the petition would be ended at 50 subscribers. It is the message that counts, not the numbers. What “important names of the field of classical music”are, is a matter of opinion.

  9. Paul van Nieuwkerk says:

    The organiser of this petition is considered as a total zero in Dutch music world.

    1. Sharon says:

      Calling a person “a total zero”. Anyone else disappointed with this lack of civilization?

    2. John Borstlap says:

      In Holland, and especially in what has remained of the cultural field, 2 + 2 = only 4 if there is enough support for it and by the ‘right’ people.

      1. Guus Mostart says:

        Give it a rest John; bedtime.

        1. John Borstlap says:

          But I have typed my comments in my sleep….. that’s how easy it is.

        2. Sue says:

          Do you want us to tell nurse you’re out of bed again?

          Honestly, I’d love to see a “South Park” episode about Stockhausen and the avant gardists.

    3. David Osborne says:

      Classic ‘playing the man not the ball’ there mate. How the “individual is regarded” would of course depend on who you talk to and is completely irrelevant to the quality of the ideas. It takes guts to express the sort of sentiments contained in the petition knowing that it’s opponents will always resort to nonsensical personal attacks such as your comment. I suggest you restrict yourself to making a case for why you oppose this petition. As it happens, so do I.

      1. Sharon says:

        MISUNDERSTANDING. I agree with you, David. I was referring to the quite disgusting remark that “The organiser of this petition is a total zero in Dutch music world.” First of all, this is not true. Secondly, it is indeed a classical ad hominem, the weapon of the powerless.

        1. David Osborne says:

          Sharon, sorry I was replying to the original comment. We are absolutely on the same page, only you put it so much better!

  10. Sue says:

    @ John Borstlap; the comments about the audience demographic for Stockhausen and the avant garde: I haven’t laughed so hard in ages. Please keep up the good work.

    I console myself with the fact that at least I don’t have to compete with these people for tickets to real music concerts. All good.

    1. David Osborne says:

      Agreed Sue that it’s funny, unfortunately it’s not strictly accurate. There are still rather too many young people crossing over to the dark side. Classical music students are particularly vulnerable because they come from an extremely disciplined background and are well conditioned not to question. In other words, cult members ripe for the picking. Say what you like about S and B, but they were both highly charismatic and often charming individuals. Pied Pipers would be an apt description in more ways than one.

      1. John Borstlap says:

        Young people being seduced by charismatic nonsense are musically-challenged people, who want to do something ‘artistic’, like middle-aged housewifes whose children have left the nest and whose idle hands seek something worthwhile like embroidery or makramé or yoga. Since most of them don’t have any talent to play an instrument, they will study music theory where they discover ‘new music’, and later-on in life they find a job at new music festivals, or at radio stations, or find some work in music journalism, contributing to what they think is ‘the cultural revolution’ like Mao’s attempts to destroy society in the sixties.

        Modernism offers absolution for people’s lack of musical understanding. And the same goes for modernism in architecture, and in the visual arts, as anybody with a remnant of cultural awareness can see.

        1. David Osborne says:

          John I can list any number of young Australian musicians who are exceptionally talented, internationally recognised and completely devoted to what we term ‘new music’. Two just off the top of my head would be clarinettist Richard Haynes and cellist Judith Hamann. It’s certainly not correct to suggest the majority lack talent.

          1. John Borstlap says:

            I mentioned ‘modernism’, not ‘new music’.

          2. David Osborne says:

            The term ‘New Music’ has been appropriated by modernists. Where I come from it’s what they call themselves these days.

  11. Sue says:

    I have to say that people should be totally free to hear and experience whatever entertainment they like. We do, after all, live in a democracy (not that you’d think so from some comments elsewhere). I just wouldn’t tell anyone about it if I like Stockhausen, that’s all. It’s a bit embarrassing and sooooo yesterday.

  12. Thea Derks says:

    Thnx Maarten Brandt for sending me the link to this discussion. Here’s my contribution:
    https://www.cultureelpersbureau.nl/2016/12/waarom-geweldig-vind-holland-festival-aus-licht-stockhausen-programmeert/
    E viva Stockhausen!
    Thea Derks, music journalist, author of biography Reinbert de Leeuw

    1. John Borstlap says:

      It is very sad that there are people taking Stockhausen or De Leeuw seriously. These were musically-challenged, postwar-traumatized people, projecting their neurosis into music life, spreading the damage they carried in themselves among comparably invalid minds and hearts.

  13. William Osborne says:

    Michaels Reise um die Erde was very well received in New York last year. The Basel State Opera recently had a successful run of Donnerstag aus Licht. I’m sure the Dutch will appreciate Stockhausen’s work as well. I documented Stockhausen’s statements about 9/11 shortly after he made them, and also provide some commentary at the link below:

    http://www.osborne-conant.org/documentation_stockhausen.htm

    Seen in the larger history of Western musical transcendentalism, and specifically in the case of some of Stockhausen’s transcendental concepts and compositions, his comments were not particularly inconsistent, even if a bit insane. Especially in hindsight, most people seem to find them more ridiculous than harmful.

    And how innocent are we? I remember the “Shock and Awe” campaign at the beginning of the Second Iraq War that led to massive destruction in one of the world’s most ancient and culturally important cities. And ultimately, to what end? If only we could also see the insanity of our own forms of terrorist political theater embodied in mass murder.

    1. John Borstlap says:

      It is difficult to find a point where one could merely begin to challenge all of that, so I let it go. But one thing: S was obviously disconnected from the real world, and should have been under therapeutic treatment. As a teenager he was traumatized by the last days of WW II and fled into a fantasy land of his own making. No wonder there are many people nowadays who like to follow such minds, it is easier than living in reality.

  14. Maarten Brandt says:

    I remember an interview with Bernard Haitink, telling about someone who said the music of Wagner is only loud and bullshit (as today some people consider the music of Stockhausen only in terms of chaos and bullshit). Haitinks response was: “Allright, which works of Wagner did you listened to?” Not whatever answer to that question except silence. The music of Licht I know – and I do not know everything – is of a strange and sheer beauty, has really a quality of beyond this world. It triggers the power of imagination to an enormous extend. And that is what real great Art (written with a capital letter) is fundamentally about. Stockhausens music, being no exception on that rule, quit the contrary!

    1. David Osborne says:

      Oh for heaven’s sake stop comparing Stockhausen to Wagner. They were absolute and utter opposites. Practitioners of completely different art-forms.

    2. John Borstlap says:

      Where there is no receptivity to music, the longing produced by this void is then projected into the emptiness of other voids, and it is there where the work of Stockhausen fulfills a therapeutic function. The attraction of works like ‘Licht’ must be sought in the need of people who want to feel the thrill of being up-to-date, and truly connected to their own time, which for them does not seem to be possible otherwise. So, people profoundly disconnected from their own time, so to speak, can fully enjoy the naive symbolism of such works. But with music it has nothing to do.

      I attended the UK premiere of ‘Donnerstag aus Licht’ in London in the eighties, which was one of the most boring experiences of my life, but I managed to stay awake for all those long empty hours and to listen carefully what was really happening. The protagonists lack any humanity and are thus impossible to identify with, they are representations of ideas, and rather silly, naive and stupid ideas at that, but well – in opera that is not uncommon; but this could have been redeemed if there were music filling these ideas with full-blooded music, as in Wagner’s Ring (which is only surviving its ideas because of the music). But Stockhausen’s ‘music’ has no expressive qualities, it is mere rambling around with empty gestures, like his ‘Formeln’ which he discusses in his writings as a new invention while it is merely another name for the most common element in real music: the motive, in use since Haydn (18th century). Juvenile sci-fi dressed-up as world theatre, the stage propped-up with as many contraptions as possible to distract from what the audience is hearing, an orchestra muddling along in the pit with their meaningless sounds and gestures, cheap electronic effects as old as the Brave New World….. and so on. We can assess works of art by comparison, and postwar modernism which discarded an age-long tradition of expressive refinement of musical means, cannot possibly replace such means by its own, naive and very narrow-minded fantasies.

  15. Maarten Brandt says:

    Fortunately it is not John Borstlap or any other person with a mediocre taste who will make out which composer, writer or artist of any discipline will be remembered during the near or further future. Why? Well, because time is by far the most fair judge and will agree with me. In this respect there is no difference between the reception of Bach, Beethoven, Debussy or Wagner and that will be with Boulez and Stockhausen the same!

    1. Olivier Keegel says:

      “John Borstlap or any other person with a mediocre taste”…??? Did you ever consider to take the How Conceited Am I test?

      1. Singer/manager says:

        Olivier must have the link to that test!

    2. John Borstlap says:

      I think we should take a comment like this seriously…. because it is so instructive for any discussion about new music. (We pick it up with tweezers, like a found at an archeological site.) At the core of modernist ideology was the idea, that music had, at last, liberated itself from the restrictions of tradition, which were mere boundaries imposed by a bourgeoisie suffering from a narrow taste, to preserve its privileges. The transdendence of boudaries became the hallmark of real, progressive music, created on the barricades in the fight against stubborn, reactionary, right-wing forces that wanted to kill-off any real creativity, which supposedly could only be found in transgressing existing limitations, of any kind. ‘Power to the imagination!’ was a much-loved slogan in the political upheavels of the sixties, to which Stockhausen’s work was seen related. All that posturing missed the nature of musical development completely, since it can easily be understood that all the important works of the repertoire demonstrate strong, creative personalities who always created boundaries together with their free invention – which goes for both Wagner and Brahms, Mozart and Beethoven, Schumann and Chopin. It is the uncooked idea that ‘progress’ is a historical category, and not a qualitative one: something is better because it is new, instead of something is better because of being better than something else. Critique of postwar modernism was simply explained away as ‘not understanding musical progress’ and being ‘narrow-minded’, or the result of a ‘narrow taste’ – not being able to enjoy the unlimited horizon of anything goes, so that real discussion could be avoided. The idea that a thorough understanding of modernism could actually lead to its rejection, never came-up in those heads.

      1. John Borstlap says:

        …. sorry, my cat tricked me again. Transcendence, boundaries.

  16. Maarten Brandt says:

    To parafrase Guus Mostard, John, go to bed!

  17. Thea Derks says:

    Good point Maarten Brandt. I wonder John Borstlap, have you read my biography of Reinbert de Leeuw? You’re in it 🙂

    1. John Borstlap says:

      I had my fill with RdL with his ‘Musical Anarchy’ (Bezige Bij 1973) in which he naively exposed his embarrassing limitations…. Life is too short for such things, and fortunately I’m no longer active in NL.

  18. David Osborne says:

    “It is the uncooked idea that ‘progress’ is a historical category, and not a qualitative one: something is better because it is new, instead of something is better because of being better than something else. ”

    That dear John is brilliant. But you miss the irony that this supposedly free and unencumbered new way was in reality more prone to rules and regulations (one example dodecaphony) than the old way whereby the creative process was in reality far more natural and intuitive than most would have us believe.

    1. John Borstlap says:

      True… the whole mind set of those people was full of contradictions and fanatic frustration. Within music, rules are created by experience, which uncover regularities of dynamics, otherwise called ‘laws’ but I find that too strict a term. Good old Beet first mastered all the (difficult) rules that existed at the time, then made his own interpretation of them, thereby creating new rules, but based upon the same dynamics – that’s why they still work. This continuous re-evaluation and re-creation is the development of tradition. Debussy, Stravinsky, even Schoenberg up till opus 23, made their own version of what they perceived as musical dynamics, and under the surface of style / idiom, they remained the same. Postwar modernism only looked at the surface, took the sound of it, discarded the rest, broke-off the connection with the inner flow of tradition which had carried all those brilliant people, and set-out party lines and taboos in the name of freedom, like the French revolution of 1789 and the deplorable Russian one of 1917. (“I am a 300% leninist”, Pierre Boulez.)

      1. Olivier Keegel says:

        The Maarten Brandts, Paul van Nieuwkerks and Thea Derkses of this world are now checking their cd-collections: “Killing me softly”, I’m sure I have that somewhere….

  19. Maarten Brandt says:

    This exchange of opinions does by far not reflect what really matters. And what really matters in the perfect work of art, be it written by – tot restrict myself to music – Bach. Monteverdi. Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner, Debussy, Boulez or Stockhausen – is quality beyond any ideology or system which may be in use. Whatever analysis cannot and will never be an alibi or excuse for the music itself. It is the power of the sublime, the beauty of the music in question which is at the same time the big secret of that quality mentioned before. So, for the listener it is absolutely not necessary to be informed about all ins and outs of the technical side of the composition he is confronted with, be it from Bach. Mozart or Stockhausen. He only must have an open mind and be willing to embark on a great adventure. Let me take myself as an example of this. When I was still very young I heard for the first time in my life compositions like Boulez Pli selon pli en Stockhausens Punkte, Gruppen and Carre. And without knowing anything of the philosophical and let alone, technical means by which those milestones of our past century where realized, I was completely struck, overwhelmed and absorbed by the revelatory and visionary content of it. Not a thousand John Borstlaps or Olivier Keegels can convince me of the imbecile nonsens they and their supporters of the Anti PB en KHS-clan bring up here. It is the music itself of the composers mentioned above who will beyond any doubt survive and eventually be rediscovered sooner or later, like was the case with, to give only one example, the late Johann Sebastian Bach!

    1. John Borstlap says:

      TEST

      Comparing JS Bach with Stockhausen and Boulez is missing the fundamental difference between music and sonic art, and forgetting the break with the musical tradition these two represented, as also confirmed by their writings. One of the best tests to demonstrate the difference, is Pli selon Pli by Boulez. At the beginning, the voice has a short melody which is entirely tonal, providing a musical context which binds the accompanying notes into a whole, in a decorative way like something in Ravel or Messiaen. The intervals relate to each other in a modal way. Thereafter, the sounds are disconnected, the notes fall apart, and the interrelatedness of the notes disappears, together with what could be called its ‘inner space’, and the result is – from a musical point of view – random:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8zPJi3SkxCo

      The interest of the rest of the work can only be invited by the colourful patterns of the sounds, and the separate moments which make-up the piece, which lacks any narrative quality – which is on purpose since the listener is to forget all the traditional and conscious experience of time and just has to feel the ‘eastern’ timelessness of ritual. In terms of interest and expression, this first phrase offers much more than the rest of the work which is ‘flat’ and merely consists of the sound of music but is in itself not music. It wants to be experienced as patterns of pure sound, and indeed it is nothing more than that, which is OK but one should not call it music, which wants to offer so much more.

      Sonic art is an entirely new art form and musical standards should never be applied to it, for the sake of both art forms….. listening to Stockhausen, Boulez, Xenakis et al expecting musical meaning, inevitably leads to disappoitnment: it is not meant to be musical. Mentioning music and sonic art in one breath invites the suspicion that music is experienced as sonic art, i.e. only the sound it makes is perceived.

      All this becomes also clear by the sayings of Germany’s Grand Old Man of Klangkunst, Lachenmann:

      http://subterraneanreview.blogspot.nl/2015/11/be-liberated.html

      1. Guus Mostart says:

        Maarten &Thea, one man’s meat is another man’s poison. That you can’t rationally argue with; pointless.

      2. Maarten Brandt says:

        This comparison is missing any point, as an eventual analysis of Pli selon pli can prove.

        1. John Borstlap says:

          My PA wants me to react… she has listened to the first half of Pli selon Pli, so: one Pli actually, and it got on her nerves…… but I got tired of it…. nonetheless, to prevent further indoor quarrels here, a short remark: I think it is not analysis which defines what is happening in a piece, but what is sounding in reality – after all, it is meant to create an aural and emotional experience for an audience that should not have to analyse beforehand what they are going to suffer. Sorry: I mean, to hear. The problem with artists like PB is that they are much too rational to fully understand what the result is of their calculations. Like Xenakis, who writes beautifully about his work, and never seemed to realize how aggressive and awful it all sounds, even as sonic art, striving after goals that seem quite un-artistic and devoid of humanism, a pulverizing, excruciating aural torture to demonstrate an idea or a philosophy. In case they DO fully understand what the aural result is, they reveal themselves as anti-cultural minds, with aggressive impulses, a sort of aural querulants. (I think she’s happy now – and promises to go back to work.)

          1. Maarten Brandt says:

            A really ridiculous comment from John Borstlap about the first half of Pli selon pli. I don’t want to dwell on any analytical aspect now, but only state that especially the first movement of this masterpiece of Boulez, ranks for me personally to the most fantastic and inspiring pieces of music the past 20th century has to offer. More in particular half way ‘Don’, to be precise the place where the voice come’s in with – so to say – archetypical foreshadowings of or – better perhaps – allusions to words is no less than pure magic. This, apart from the impression of an enormous inner space this music invokes which is in itself already very sensational. I remember this so clearly because it was the first I heard of Boulez music, when I was still very young (13 years) and I was immediately so absorbed, that I bought the recording (on CBS with Boulez conducting and Halina Lukomska singing) without any hesitation. My admiration for Boulez in general and this work in particular over the years has only increased and deepened. For me Pli selon pli is a monument in 20th century music like Bach’s Mass in b-minor is in Baroque-music, Beethovens opus 131 is in early 19th century music and Wagners Tristan in late 19th century music. But, it doesn’t matter, history will without the slightest doubt judge, not minorities like John Borstlap and his followers.

  20. Thea Derks says:

    Hear hear Maarten Brandt!

    1. Olivier Keegel says:

      I am afraid this disc is stuck in the repeat mode…

  21. Ray W. says:

    Faced with this petition, the Dutch Opera seems to be lost for words.

    “It will blow over”, seems to be the tactic of choice. Why not learn how to deal with criticism in a positive, productive and polite way ?

    Very immature.


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