Wednesday, July 14, 2010


copyright © of text and translation: K. Stockhausen

Every human being has the whole of humanity within him- or herself. AEuropean can experience Balinese music, a Japanese music from Mozambique,
and a Mexican music from India.

A person’s openness to vibrations thought to be experienced for the first timecannot be predicted. Some people can be so moved and elated by experiencingthe music of another culture that they feel they have rediscovered somethinglong vanished and forgotten.

No matter how many books you read about the music of other peoples, howmany photographs or TV programmes you look at, or records or radiobroadcasts you hear, the experience of an authentic performance in the rightplace, at the right time, and together with the right people is irreplaceable. Thatshould never be forgotten.

Tourism offers many people an opportunity to directly experience the music ofother nations. At the same time, however, tourism constitutes the greatest dangerfor the survival of musical traditions where music – like all the other arts – is an
integral component of the religious life of all those involved. Anyone who isbriefly in Ceylon as a tourist is not just influenced by what he sees; he alsoinfluences the people he pays to play, sing, dance, and mime for him.

This process of global cultural ’pollution’ cannot be stopped. Even the ’scholar’,
who tracks down the remotest of human cultures with tape recorder, camera, andnotebook – not to mention film and TV teams – critically disturbs the lives hewants to ’investigate’ and ’report on’. That ultimately results in even the mostunspoilt and – originally – profoundly religious events being graduallytrivialized. The Balinese orchestra that plays away for hours in the foyers of bigtourist hotels has nothing more in common with the original quality of thismusic. Everything can be ruined – and pretty quickly too.

That is the way the world is going, and it could be said that what is destroyedwas predestined for that. Spirit is not confined to specific forms, and all formsare predestined to pass away. One must rather listen to the vibrations which
manifest themselves in forms in a thousand different ways.

Nevertheless, the highest obligation of our time is to preserve as many musicalforms and performance styles as possible. That is problematic. A coup in a smallAfrican state some years ago resulted in the revolutionary ’General’, trained in a’politically progressive’ foreign country, ordering all musicians and theirfamilies to be killed, and all musical instruments to be publicly burned, the dayafter his seizure of power. That was his ’counter-revolution’. Thousands of yearsof musical tradition were destroyed in a single day. This music only existed inan oral tradition handed down from one generation of musicians to the next, andin a special way of constructing and playing instruments. A well-knownmusicologist, who had spent his life trying to tape record African music andpoetry, told me that the political situation had prevented researchers frompreviously making at least a taped documentation of this tradition.

It is therefore not only curious scholars and tourists who destroy cultures.
Cultures also destroy themselves from within. They are overripe and in that stateof decay destined to change into something new. The outcome of this rapidprocess of dissolution of individual cultures is that they all flow into a moreunified world culture. The first stage of this process is sameness and a levellingdown, but that releases an enormous amount of energy which was previouslybound up in individual forms. Great awareness, reaching far into the future, isneeded in order to combine the energies thus released in flexible forms capableof constant and ongoing self-transformation without soon crystallizing onceagain.

Only European and Japanese musical cultures have become so stronglycrystallized. Even such rigid forms as Nô theatre and Gagaku, Bunraku, Kabuki,
or Shomyo music all involve the problem of having been handed down by wayof oral tradition with its direct master-pupil relationship. Just a few mastersinvented the existing forms long ago and then passed them on. All these musicalforms were therefore not open to the free involvement of individual ’composers’as happened in Europe. They were instead handed down in a more or less rigidlycrystallized form. That is why there does not exist any notation or instrumentaldevelopment comparable with that of Europe, which is conducive to the creationof the largest possible number of individual forms through utilization of arelatively unified system of constructional principles and materials.

The enormous diversity of other musical cultures thus confronts the relativeuniformity of compositional technique and instrumental material in Europeanmusic. It was nevertheless possible in Europe to establish a multitude ofindividual musical forms with innumerably many variants.

The argument that Europeans have transformed what was previously territorialcolonialism into cultural colonialism is often to be heard today. In other words,
tourists are conquerors and exploiters in another form. But people overlook thefact that beneath the surface humanity is affected by developments emerging inall cultures. One cannot talk about the separate problems of some island culturewithout taking into account the currents linking this culture with all others. Theprocess of inner renewal is getting under way more or less simultaneously in allcultures. Even if there were no tourists, Bali would strive to establish links withthe rest of the world. However, it would thus bring to an end its own culture andhave to pass through all the complex and largely destructive phases of industrialcivilization which are now inevitable anyway. That is also true of all countries inthis world, and the centuries ahead will reveal this process of assimilation andintegration.

A modern automobile is fascinating for someone who sees such a vehicle for thefirst time, experiencing the form of transportation it offers; and a modernEuropean musical instrument is equally fascinating for people from othermusical cultures who have never seen or heard anything like it. I don't just meanthe magical portable transistor radio, which can make music by itself. I alsorefer to the varnished black Steinway piano whose perfectly graduatedchromatic scale, dynamic balance between pitches, and incomparablemechanism makes it a highly differentiated cultural epoch's ultimateachievement. And even less will people be able to withstand the fascination of amodern live-electronic synthesizer, capable of producing the most remarkableacoustic phenomena.

Eternally pessimistic and profoundly negative spirits constantly play with theperfidiously nihilistic idea that a vast nuclear war could radically destroyeverything, bringing about a state of affairs where only a few Polynesianislanders would survive and represent the highest state of global culture.
However the meaning of history cannot be so easily eradicated, and we must getused to the idea that European cultural standards will retain, and even intensify,
their fascination for all other peoples. That entails the great responsibility ofpreserving in their present state as many of other cultures' crystallized forms aspossible. A Museum of Global Culture, where the Museum of Music will play acrucial central role, is inevitable. The view that it is unimportant if all formsvanish since Spirit is thus liberated and will constantly transform itself into newforms is too restricted. Europeans have the technology for both producingsomething new and conserving what has previously matured. That is why theyhave an obligation to utilize that as faithfully as possible. We have already saidthat a great deal will be destroyed in the process, but without such conservationnothing will remain. One can imagine what today's European culture would be ifeverything from the past had been destroyed.

The Africa musicologist I mentioned previously had virtually no official supportfor his work, and sought in vain for talented young musicians ready to devote afew years of their lives to musical ’fieldwork’ necessary for recording as many

African musics, dances, dramas, and legends as possible. Such staff would haveto learn several African languages and dialects, be skilled in recordingtechniques, and have an excellent ear and an exceptionally robust physicalconstitution in order to carry out this hard and non-prestigious work. When ayoung American or European musicologist visits the Africa researcher fromtime to time, he does not stay very long, merely writing down what can berecounted in words, perhaps participating in a brief recording expedition, andreturning home as quickly as possible so as to put together a book and gain adoctorate…

Why should support be given to the preservation of as many of the world’smusical forms as possible? So that they lie around in archives on records andtapes, and are occasionally used for historical programmes, films, or books? Forthat of course too, since even what is apparently the most conservative andreactionary of information secretly changes lives. However, that is notsufficient. The decisive issue is that creative forces in every culture growbeyond the restrictions of their own tradition, developing all those aspects withinthemselves which come to life when they look into the mirror of other cultures.

If a European is moved by a piece of music from India, he discovers the Indianwithin himself. If a Japanese is touched by some European music, he findswithin himself a European from the period when this music was born out of theinner pressures of an absolutely specific historical moment. The serpent alwayslurks within exotic charms, leading people to lose the protective paradise of self-
confidence. The great shock occurs when someone who approached anunfamiliar culture with harmless curiosity is so moved by this experience that heor she falls head over heels in love with it. Music, a temple ceremony, or adance cannot be taken home. Either one must stay where this experienceoccurred, or one is overtaken by unpredictable yearnings when ’back home’again…

Those are discoveries of the deeper self in which there slumbers everything thathas ever existed in this world or will come into being at any future time. Oncethis primal ground has been touched, a yearning to experience the whole,
bringing to life the entire range of diversity, can no longer be stilled.

No musical transcription (no matter how carefully made), no film, nogramophone record will be suffice any longer. They only have the faded impactof postcards. And one knows that what one has fallen in love with is condemnedto die. That makes all the stronger the yearning to unite with the ground out ofwhich this form, which one so loves, has also arisen.

Even though from time to time there have been universalists within Europeanhistory – even among artists –, it is the striving towards a personal style,
expressing oneself, and perhaps also the feelings of those among whom onelives, which has predominated amid the limited perspective of a culture andpossibly even a specific area within that culture. If, however, an earthling can

for the first time literally embrace the world, becoming aware of thesimultaneity of all stages of civilisation and of the fantastic diversity of forms ofmusical expression and ceremonies, then the dominance of musicalspecialization will be profoundly undermined. Despite the risk of not yet beingable to master the instrument of all human vibrations and of occasionallystriking the wrong chords, creative spirits will from now on attempt to play onall registers. At this stage it will therefore be decisive that anyone with anypossibility of playing on all ”registers”, anyone who possesses the mostdifferentiated and diversified instruments and most open system, should allownew structures to come into being, unifying a large number of stylistic qualities.

The preservation of the largest possible number of musical forms from allcultures – even if these are dead forms, crystallized by the very process ofconservation – is enormously necessary because the instruments andcompositional processes of European music, for example, have become sogeneralized that any sounds and constellations of sounds can be produced withmodern electronic apparatus. That of course involves the great danger ofconstantly deploying all registers and thus losing all the power once founded onthe tremendous concentration and one-sidedness of certain musical cultures and
specific forms within these musical cultures. If one can only produce specificnotes on a very limited instrument, that very limitation guarantees highlyoriginal music, unlike what can be produced with other instruments offeringcompletely different possibilities. Universal electronic equipment, with whichone can in theory do anything, is more likely to kill the spirit than to inspire it.
An unwritten law has always proclaimed that it is precisely through limitationthat mastery can be revealed. Any kind of restrictive channelling accelerates andintensifies the flow of a river. That is why the greatest possible number ofcrystallized objects from the world’s musical cultures must be available so as to
provide orientation. The object is not imitation but rather the possibility ofmaking people aware of the specific vibratory state involved in each single formso that it becomes available as one possible energy when a new organism iscomposed.

This process of integration, which has been taking place in music and all otherspheres at ever greater speed throughout the world in the second half of thiscentury is occurring concurrently with humanity's first attempt to fly away fromthe earth – and that is not just a matter of chance. It may be anticipated thatworld culture will have largely achieved integration at the moment whenmankind first makes contact with a hitherto unknown culture in space.

Up to now talented musicians have striven to deploy their skills so as to givepleasure to themselves and friends within the society where they live and receivetraining. In Balinese culture almost everyone is either a musician or a dancer. InEurope the predominance of scholarly training and the over-valuation ofintellectual capacity have resulted in the suppression of artistic qualities togetherwith the under-valuation and neglect of musical talent. Of course that is only atransitional phase within a culture whose very high rate of development entails

succumbing from time to time to one or the other extreme. That state of affairswill persist for the foreseeable future and possibly even worsen. The scholarlyapproach to spiritual life as a whole has only just got under way, and apparenttrends in the other direction are deceptive. This will continue until a culturalnadir is attained where the arts will be declared superfluous – as is alreadyhappening in some propagandistic writings and speeches.

For people whose musical talents are above average, and also for those who lovemusic as an existential necessity, that means reckoning with a decline ratherthan an increase in opportunities – musical employment, forms of performance,
range of instruments, and more advanced training. That automatically exerts aninfluence on the atrophy of musical life on the one hand and creative energies onthe other. Musical talent will not continue simply being present, let aloneincrease alongside the growth in world population. Spirit instead manifests informs offering the richest possibilities of development. Many ’musical talents’,
which hitherto achieved self-realization in an extremely lively and extensivemusical culture, will therefore end up in very different professions until anotherepoch comes when the arts and sciences unite, complementing one anotherharmoniously.

That is why suggestions such as those put forward by the Africa musicologistare particularly important as indications of new vocational opportunities formusical talent which has no chance of being engaged in a European orchestra ora Japanese Gagaku ensemble. Greater publicity should be given to new forms ofemployment for musical ’field-workers’ and archivists – and as directors andstaff in Museums of Music – so that at least exceptional talent remains withinthe sphere of music rather than pupating as flight personnel.

This first phase of the intermingling and integration of all the earth’s musicalcultures will be followed by the opening of a second where – just like amounting spiral whose windings constantly bring it to the same point one levelhigher – a powerful trend opposing the move towards uniformity will establishitself. After a time when conservation predominates, the emphasis in individualspheres of culture will once again be on developing original forms as acontribution to harmony between all cultural groups. There will even be createda kind of artificial new folklore, utilizing electronic equipment and heaven onlyknows what other technical apparatus. (In this context, for once ”artificial”
really means "artfully made.”)

Such individual styles, consciously shaped from the most remarkablehybridization of all historical and freely-invented possibilities, will then extendthe world of musical forms and rites of performance in a completely new way. Anumber of compositions from the past ten years – including my TELEMUSIK,
provide some idea of what such symbiotic forms could be.

Of interest in that connection is the reaction of a number of contemporaryJapanese composers to a work like TELEMUSIK, which was commissioned bythe Tokyo NHK Studio and realized by me there in 1966. In it, various Japanesestyles and elements from the folklore of many other cultures were integrated in aunified composition of electronic and concrete music. After TELEMUSIK hadbeen performed in Japan, several composers, who had hitherto only imitated andprocessed European avant-garde music of the fifties, produced works combiningEuropean and Japanese musical instruments, and aiming at stylistic symbiosesbetween modern European and old Japanese music.

For someone who is not just interested in the restricted realm where hisexistence is led but also discovers the earthling within himself whose culture isthat of the entire world – alert to shared responsibility for humanity’s future – tohim, involvement with other societies’ music is from now on a necessaryprecondition (rather than just a hobby) for better understanding of other people,
thereby awakening and ’cultivating’ the whole human being.

Music is the medium that touches human beings most deeply, capable ofimpelling his or her most delicate inner vibrations to resonate sympathetically.
Our Central European culture is more than ever in need of general sensitizationto music. The full significance of that will only be recognized a few centuriesfrom now when the crisis of the ’religion of science’ will be dying away, and atime will come when humanity's musical aspects – the resonance of all humanrhythms and their harmonization through music – will exert an impact on theentire culture.

Musical spirits must prepare themselves for a lengthy period of being truly’underground’, maintaining the flow of life-sustaining currents beneath thesurface.