Friday 25 January 2019

A sense of narrative: Stockhausen's Stimmung at Barts Pathology Museum

Ante Terminum Productions is presenting Stockhausen's Stimmung with The Facade Ensemble in the intriguing confines of the Barts Pathology Museum on 1 February 2019. Stimmung is one of Stockhausen's most iconic works. Written in 1968, it is for six singers and six microphones, and will be performed surrounded by the specimens in formaldehyde of the Pathology Museum, very much evoking a journey from life through to death with senses heightened via lighting and olfactory designs.

The title Stimmung has several meanings in German including 'tuning' and 'mood' and both apply to the work. Stockhausen uses a complex arrangement of pitches, with the singers producing overtones. The work is in 51 sections, called moments by Stockhausen, and whilst the sequence of pitches used is fixed, many of the specifics are decided by the performers so that each performance has a freedom to it. Yet the result is also complex and dense, and can give difficulties to the average listener, unaware of the structural sophistication of the work and unfamiliar with works using overtones.

Ante Terminum Productions is a recently established theatre company whose work includes a production of Britten's Curlew River last year. Artistic director,  Peter Thickett, is keen to make Stimmung more transparent to the average listener, so the group has used its very freedom to 'deconstruct the composition’s component themes and reconstruct them into a more tangible narrative that encourages the audience to engage with the aesthetic tensions at play.'

The group hopes to bring out the rational, algorithmic, computational aspects (the whole is built around Stockhausen's complex calculations), whilst exploring more spiritual and erotic ideas (Stockhausen gets the performers to chant the names of gods and godesses from many cultures from Aztec to Ancient Greek). They also want to bring out ideas of revelation and enlightenment which are implicit in a piece which is fundamentally meditative.

This sense of narrative will be heightened as the group is working with a lighting designer, Edward Saunders, and a scent artist, Harry Sherwood (a recent Philosophy graduate who is a perfume autodidact, gaining experience through various internships and the British artisan perfumery 4160Tuesdays. This Spring, he continues to explore the topic of olfaction with an MRes in Philosophy at the Centre for the Study of the Senses).

Barts Pathology Museum
Barts Pathology Museum
Doors from 6.30pm. The performance will be preceded by a discussion between Paul Edlin, director of music at Queen Mary University London and Benedict Collins Rice, director of The Facade Ensemble and tenor in the ensemble. And due to popular demand (!) the ensemble has added an extra performance at 4pm.

Further informaton from Ante Terminum Productions website.

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