July 12, 2016
“The quality of sound is always important to me, the beauty of sound. I am person who likes beauty”
“... when I get the feeling that someone is not pretending; he is not trying to show off his ego or his virtuosity; that he is really, in that moment, authentic in his playing. Whenever that happens something comes across that really can touch me....”
“Don't think - just concentrate” (unknown author)
Markus Stockhausen (geb 1957) was our guest at the Hochschule Luzern Musik - Jazz Abteilung for both a Master class in trumpet and a workshop in “Intuitive Music” for ensemble during the second week of March 2014.
He, along with some of his siblings, carry on the legacy of their father's work, Karlheinz Stockhausen, as well as having individuated themselves with their own musical offerings. The subject of his workshop, “Intuitive Music” continues a concept first originated by his father that he has since developed further into his own methodology for teaching the creative process to musicians and other artists. As a trumpeter, composer and improviser, Markus seeks, in a variety of ways, to create music that draws both on his rich heritage and his love of spontaneous creation.
Die Gespräche werden geführt von Gerry Hemingway, Dozent für Schlagzeug, Ensemble und Kompostion
The inevitable elephant in the room when interviewing the soft-spoken Markus Stockhausen, is his father, whose musical legacy remains unparalleled for it's sheer magnitude and innovational impact on contemporary music. It therefore struck me that maybe another perspective on Markus' biography might be best accessed with a discussion of his early family life, in particular with his mother (Doris Andreae) and three sisters (Suja, Christel and Majella). In his first six years he describes his family as fairly “normal” with his father at least somewhat present. His father was, at this time, very absorbed in the electronic music studio of the WDR, as well as touring. When Markus was six the family moved to a new house and by then he saw much less of his father as he had begun a relationship with Mary Bauermester who would soon become Stockhausen's second wife, and the mother of two more children, Julika and Simon.
As a young child growing up with a house and a garden, Markus had many creative outlets, including woodcarving. Piano lessons were also something every child of Markus generation and social world were expected to do. Markus remained active in piano study from age 6 to 20. His sister Majella eventually became a professional pianist. Studying piano became a central part of Markus' life when his diligence and ability merged with his father's strategy for him to avoid military service by having him continue his music studies with Klaus Oldemeyer at the Köln Musikhochschule.His memories of his father as a younger child were highlighted by those times when he was able to come with him to significant premieres and events surrounding his music. He recalled as well a trip to Bali with his father, where for three weeks every night he attended concerts of traditional Indonesian music. This was followed by a month long stay in Osaka (Japan) where, at the German Pavilion of the 1970 World Exposition, his father was participating in a six month long installation/residency of his work. The building he performed in was designed by Stockhausen and developed by Fritz Bornemann, the audience was literally surrounded on all sides (including the floor and ceiling) by 50 loudspeakers. In this time Markus had the unique experience of operating a special device of his father's invention (constructed for him by Siemens), which sent the sound of his father's music to this array of 50 speakers, that were also sometimes programmed to make shapes in seven spatial spherical paths within this uniquely designed pavilion. This meant that the visitor could experience sound traveling around them in many different ways, including under and over them. One can only gleefully imagine what it must have been like to be an adolescent in control of such a sonic environment. The works presented were generally from the “process plan” series (the +/- pieces) and included among others “Spiral” “Pole” and “Expo”. There were up to 20 performers depending on which piece was being performed, and these performances took place daily over a sixth month period for six hours each day.
Between 10 -12 years old Markus participated in a new form of Secondary School (in the States this is referred to as Middle School) associated with the public school system and the Music Conservatory which helped him build a solid musical foundation with theory, ear training, choir singing and so on. Markus remarked how much he now appreciates how this training gave him a great advantage as a musician, noting as well that he currently meets many younger students who lack this foundation and observes how more difficult their path is towards growth and improvement. When he turned 12 he chose to play trumpet as his second instrument during his musical training and over the next years it became more and more his primary instrument.
This eventually brought him to the point where by age 18 (1976) he premiered and toured a work of his father's entitled “Sirius” for four soloists and 8-channel electronic tape (90 minute piece which had to be memorized). The piece, which evolved compositionally over a 2-year period ('75-'77), eventually featured a solo section for Markus, which pushed his trumpet technique to new areas of possibilities by its sheer level of technical demand. His father then continued to compose work's that featured Markus as a soloist including the work that eventually was incorporated into the grander multi-level “Licht: die sieben Tage der Woche” series. Donnerstag aus Licht, which was developed between 1978 - 80 had many parts where Markus had a prominent role. Here from “Examen” of Donnerstag aus Licht, you can see and hear Markus' perform a part of this major work where he is featured in a way that goes far beyond only his instrumental skills.
I was curious how Markus felt about the content of the work of his father, who clearly loomed deeply over his formative and early work as a musician. He expressed that at the time he was so inside the challenges of performing the music that there was not really a space (or any time) to have perspective to consider how he felt about the music or his relationship to his father's work. He expressed that in this time a composition like “Sirius” was completely interwoven with his sense of identity. Only after 25 years did he cease to take the invitations to continue with his father's work as he had by then changed and was moving in a different direction.
In addition to the growing exposition of his talents as a classical trumpet player, which also eventually went beyond the opportunities created by premieres of his father's work, Markus simultaneously developed his work as a jazz player and composer. He led his first group, a quintet called “Key” between 1974 -79. Indeed his first desires to play trumpet were not inspired by classical music but rather from jazz and he cited Louis Armstrong and in particular Freddie Hubbard as formative influences. As we listened to a recording Hubbard made for CRI records in the 70s called “First Light” Markus remarked that it was “the musicality, the colors, the mastery of the trumpet, the elegance of his playing” that attracted his attention. Later other trumpeters also had an impact including the 70's era recordings of Miles Davis (“In a Silent Way” and “Bitches Brew”) as well as recordings of Kenny Wheeler on ECM with Keith Jarrett. The Danish trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg, whose use of electronics was something Markus also embraced as an extension of his musical expression.
I was curious if there was relation between the players virtuosity that he clearly was attracted to and the intense precision of classical interpretation particularly in the realm of his father's work, which brought forth where he and his dad saw things differently when it came to these master jazz players. His dad's attention was drawn, probably on account of his own background and training, to what in his ears sounded like mistakes or wrong notes in the solos of these master trumpeters. So Karlheinz dismissed this music on that basis. Markus remarked, “No jazz player wants to play wrong notes but they pop out because you have a certain idea, and you follow that idea, that's more important”. For Markus these players expressed a part of what mattered to him musically. These understandings eventually interwove with Markus' ambitious nature, setting him on a path determined to establish his own merit, independent of the prestige of his family's name and growing legacy. Emerging from his studies he presented himself as a trumpet soloist capable of playing Haydn, Jazz music and the Contemporary music of his father with equal skill, which was a rare combination of skills for a trumpeter in the 1970s. “I wanted to be able to master my instrument, this was really important for me. I didn't want the stigma that I was only the son of Karlheinz Stockhausen and that I get work only because of his father's reputation...” Indeed his intense pursuit of mastery was his way of showing himself, his father and the world that he could stand on his own two feet.
I asked about other musical influences (beyond his instrument), and the first he mentioned was the great North Indian bansuri master Sri Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, who he had the occasion to meet and eventually with whom he also had the opportunity to perform. Probing further the notion of sound and additional musical content that provided a model of musical direction, Markus cited the holiness and purity of the music J.S. Bach, a music he feels is so well put together that playing or listening to it has the effect of putting the listener of it into a better state; a sense that the music's crystalline nature has a way of affecting our own alignment and structure in a positive way.
The pursuit of a personal sound he sought to create on his instrument led him down the, often obsessive, road of mouthpiece experimentation. At one point he had literally gone through hundreds (as he put it “buckets”) of different mouthpieces before being satisfied with the sound on his instrument. Continuing on the theme of sound and self-reflection, Markus spoke of the important turning point in his sense of identity with his sound and conception in the context of jazz composition and performance. He made a recording in 1982 in Oslo for ECM records with the Rainer Brüninghaus Group (which existed between 1980-84) along with drummer Fredy Studer of the work Continuum. We listened to an excerpt of this recording in the interview and he remarked of this experience that among other things, that a good microphone and a good pair of headphones gave him a unique opportunity to hear himself (which is significant for a brass player as there sound is directed away from themselves).
I asked what was most meaningful to him in the context and potential of improvisation and Markus replied “I think its when I get the feeling that someone is not pretending; he is not trying to show off his ego or his virtuosity; that he is really, in that moment, authentic in his playing. Whenever that happens something comes across that really can touch me....Things can happen when I have the feeling that the player is totally involved and not caring about anything else but the music that is being created in the moment.” It seemed then natural to pursue the topic of listening which plays (or should play) an important role in any musician's concerns, and in Markus' case is a central topic in the way he teaches and interacts with students in the context of his intuitive music workshops. He remarked that when one is truly listening both to oneself, and to everything going on around themselves in a given moment, then one has the opportunity to be truly present. And this presence has the capacity to elevate the authenticity, joy, creativity and even the spiritual nature of what is happening with a musical creation (formal or improvised).
The dialogue continued into a variety of topics including guided process, and the nature of building content from raw musical materials and/or with players from different backgrounds and skillsets. Also regarding the techniques of how Markus guides (through hand gestures) a large ensemble of improvisers and how he allows his direction to be influenced by his own listening happening in the moment. Indeed Markus represents the contemporary musician who straddles various disciplines of musical exposition, and as a logical consequence of this multiplicity, wishes to hear a music that is not yet created, that merges these influences. This has been a central direction of his larger compositional projects and his efforts to synthesize what he has found important, central and interesting in making music in his life.
Gerry Hemingway (May 2016)