Karlheinz Stockhausen 1928-2007
Stockhausen's Originale: Doubletakes, The Film (1964)
NOTES ON STOCKHAUSEN'S ORIGINALE
In 1961, at age 33, Karlheinz Stockhausen was already among the most well-known
of living composers, though not yet the guru figure of Beatles tributes and
electronica lore. He had just finished composing Kontakte, a piece for
electronic four-channel tape and piano/percussion duo, in which he attempted a
high degree of interaction between live performers and taped sounds, as well a
new degree of theatricality in the onstage movements of the musicians. He
received a commission for a "theatrical" work from a theater producer in
Cologne, and Originale (Originals) was scripted rapidly during a visit to
Finland in July of 1961.
The composer Jonathan Harvey, in his book The Music of Stockhausen,
describes the form of Originale:
"It consists of eighteen scenes in the form of instructions for the dramatis
personae carefully placed in timeboxes. Each character's actions, in other
words, must take a specified number of seconds or minutes [hence the frequent
appearances of the clock in Peter Moore's film]. These scenes are grouped
into seven 'structures' which may be performed successively as 'normal', or
simultaneously (up to three at once), or both."
The idea was to organize spoken language and stage actions in much the same way
as musical materials had been organized in Stockhausen's previous pieces.
The stage actions consisted largely of normal activities undertaken by actors
who were basically playing themselves: a poet played himself as "the poet,"
reading poetry on stage; a "painter" paints; a "film man" and "lighting man" and
"models" go about their normal business, all within their allotted times (hence
the title of the piece: "originals" playing themselves). A visual and aural
complexity was created by the juxtaposition of these simultaneously occurring
activities, creating an aura of absurdity which contrasted with the normality of
the events themselves. In addition, some of the performers, such as the
explosive performance artist Nam June Paik, went the opposite direction,
performing bizarre actions within their roles. And certain elements of the set,
such as goldfish swimming in a bowl hanging from the ceiling, contributed to
this contrast between the mundane and the absurd.
Stockhausen added another layer of irony to the title by basing Originale
on his previous work, Kontakte, rather than composing new music for the
piece. So, at the beginning of Originale, we see a pianist and a
percussionist (playing themselves, of course) performing Kontakte.
However, there is a film camera and a tape recorder present, as well as a stage
manager shouting instructions over the music. After a few minutes, the players
stop and the tape of their performance is heard, along with the recorded shouts
of the stage manager. Thus we see a pianist and percussionist, recording and
filming themselves playing a composition which itself contains prerecorded
sounds - performances within performances, by "originals" playing themselves.
The premiere of the work in Cologne in autumn 1961 was a success for the
participants and a scandal for the organizers, who pulled funding two days into
the twelve-day run, forcing composer and company to take financial
responsibility for the rest of the run.
ORIGINALE The New York Performance
In summer 1964, Charlotte Moorman, cellist and tireless promoter of cutting-edge
art, was putting together her 2nd Annual New York Avant Garde
Festival. Both Moorman and artist Allan Kaprow, who was well-known as the
originator of the term "happening," had been in touch with Stockhausen about
Originale. According to Barbara Moore, the producer of tonight's film,
Stockhausen gave his approval for a New York performance on one condition - the
piece could not be performed without Nam June Paik. Moorman had never heard of
Paik, but as it happened, the Korean-born performer and video artist had just
arrived in New York and coincidentally was about to contact her. (This initial
contact was the start of a long artistic partnership between the two.)
Born in 1932, Paik studied as a composer but also made assemblages and
performance pieces, including his infamous One For Violin Solo, which
consisted of slowly raising a violin over his head with intense concentration,
then suddenly bringing it down on the table in front of him, smashing it to
pieces. His reputation as a ferocious and charismatic performer preceded him to
New York, and his presence dominates the middle section of Peter Moore's film.
Paik is listed in the cast as "action music," and performed three of his own
pieces during Originale - including Simple (1961), in which he
covers himself with shaving cream, flour, and rice, and climbs into a tub to
wash off, then drinks the water out of his own shoe.
Barbara Moore recalls that aside from the casting of Paik, Stockhausen entrusted
the New York performance entirely to the organizers. Kaprow directed the piece
and assembled and rehearsed the cast, which was drawn from the close circle of
avant-garde artists in New York.
The venue was Judson Hall, across from Carnegie Hall at 165 W 57th
St. Not to be confused with Judson Memorial Church - which actually was a noted
avant-garde venue - Judson Hall was used mainly for traditional classical
recitals. An onstage scaffolding was constructed, and the New York run of
Originale began on September 8, 1964 (with composer Edgard Varese among the
audience members). With the exception of September 10, it was performed every
night through the 13th. (A full week of concerts and events organized
by Moorman had preceded the five-night run of Originale.)
The performance seems to have been well-received for the most part, though there
was inevitable bemusement and unpredictable reactions among some of the audience
members. For instance, catcalls can be heard on the film as the models undress.
And in his book The Art of Time, Michael Kirby, who was a cast member,
recalled that at one performance Paik was suddenly handcuffed to the scaffolding
by a well-coordinated group of audience members who then disappeared. Everyone
thought it was part of the show until Paik called "feebly but only
half-intelligibly about his inability to get to the piano." For his part, Paik
varied his performance each night, as he had done in Cologne, throwing curve
balls to the cast and audience.
Adding to the general unpredictability was the concurrent protest undertaken
outside the concert hall by a number of New York artists, including Henry Flynt,
Tony Conrad, and George Maciunas, who collectively denounced Stockhausen as a
"cultural imperialist." (Maciunas, the leader of the Fluxus art group, also
considered Moorman something of a rival within the New York art world, though
other Fluxus members were performing in the show.)
STOCKHAUSEN'S ORIGINALE: DOUBLETAKES The Film
16mm, black and white, sound, 32 minutes, 1964-93
Peter Moore (1932-1993) was a distinguished photojournalist who beginning in
1962 documented many of the most well-known avant-garde art events in New York.
He was commissioned by theater producer Rhett Brown, wife of artist Robert
Delford Brown (who appeared as the painter in Originale) to produce a
film of the event. Shooting in 16mm and using available light, Moore documented
two nights of the run, and took still photos at the remaining shows. The film's
subtitle, Doubletakes, reflects the fact that the film was shot during
two successive evenings, so different views of the onstage events are seen in
Art historian and Moore's wife Barbara, who was present, recalls that the camera
used to shoot Doubletakes was borrowed from the filmmaker and video
artist Ed Emshwiller. Talking from New York in a recent phone conversation, Ms.
Moore also noted that the onscreen presence of Brown as the painter indicates
that Peter Moore shot the film during the early nights of the run, since Brown
was soon kicked out of the performance after a disagreement with Kaprow about
his approach to the role.
The footage was stored away until 1993, when Peter Moore began preparations for
editing. After Moore's sudden death that year, Barbara Moore took over producing
the film, drawing on extensive conversations she had had with her husband about
his intentions for the film. The footage was edited by Susan Brockman.
The soundtrack for the film consists of what is known as "wild sound" - that is,
the sound is mostly independent of the images. However, the sounds you do hear
are always being made by the performers you see at that moment on the screen.
The result is a skillful distillation of the original 94-minute work into a
32-minute film. Doubletakes is also an invaluable document of a
particularly fertile moment in the New York avant-garde and, since Originale
has been withdrawn from public performance by the composer, it also represents a
rare glimpse of this unique work in Stockhausen's output.
STOCKHAUSEN'S ORIGINALE: DOUBLETAKES A Partial Guide to the Cast
Director - Allan Kaprow
Assembled and rehearsed the cast and directed the show. He is the bearded man
seen near the end of the film reading from a book and then holding large clumps
Pianist - James Tenney
A pioneer composer of electronic music as well as a performer of Stockhausen's
and others' music. Seen here performing Kontakte.
Percussionist - Max Neuhaus
Perfomer of Cage, Stockhausen, Feldman and many other composers, and later a
creator of his own sound art works. Seen here performing Kontakte with
Tenney. The duo began the evening in formal concert dress, but had several
costume changes including states of undress as seen later in the film. (The
feral costume worn by Tenney was created by artist Carolee Schneemann.)
Film Man - Robert Breer
Noted avant-garde filmmaker and animator. His film "Fist Fight," which according
to Barbara Moore consists of baby pictures of the cast interspersed with
animation, is seen playing during the performance.
Action music - Nam June Paik
Child - Anton Kaprow
The child plays with boxes to the side of stage, and also, in Stockhausen
scholar Robin Maconie's phrase, "acts as a silent observer of what the adults
are up to."
Models - Olga Adorno and Lette Eisenhauer
Both women were performers in early 60s events in New York. Eisenhauer
especially was a contributor to Kaprow's early happenings
String Player - Charlotte Moorman
Seen playing the cello while lying on the floor and later from the balcony.
Jazz Musician - Don Heckman
Seen playing saxophone. Later moved into jazz journalism. Together with Ed
Summerlin, curated the jazz events at Moorman's festivals.
include Dick Higgins and Jackson Mac Low, two language artists associated with
Fluxus. Mac Low is seen near the beginning of the film, wearing the CORE/Freedom
Conductor - Alvin Lucier
The noted electronic music composer is briefly seen conducting the actors in
their simultaneous readings.
Painter - Robert Delford Brown
Commissioned the film from Moore. Replaced by Fluxus artist Ay-O after a
disagreement with Kaprow.
Poet - Allen Ginsberg
The Beat poet is seen early in the film observing the models, then drinks water
from Nam June Paik's shoe, and later chants mantras in his role as "the poet."
Producer (film) - Barbara Moore Editor (film) - Susan Brockman
For assistance with tonight's screening, thanks to Oliver Smith, Robbie Land,
Special thanks to Barbara Moore, who provided many of the details of the film's
production and also shared her recollections of the performances.
Program notes: 2003 Andy Ditzler