"Licht" (Light), subtitled "The Seven Days of the Week," is a cycle of seven operas composed by Karlheinz Stockhausen which, in total, lasts over 29 hours.


The "Licht" opera project, originally titled "Hikari" (光 , Japanese for "light"), originated with a piece for dancers and Gagaku orchestra commissioned by the National Theater in Tokyo. Titled "Jahreslauf" (Course of the Years), this piece became the first act of "Dienstag". Another important Japanese influence is from Noh theater, which the composer cites in connection with his conception of stage action (Stockhausen, Conen, and Hennlich 1989, 282). Though it has often been said "Licht" was inspired by "The Urantia Book", only "Donnerstag" makes direct reference to it, in acts 1 and 3. The emblems of Michael and Lucifer in "Licht" are also derived from this book (Bandur 2004).


The musical structure of the cycle is based on three counterpointed main melodies (or "formulas"), each associated with a central character. It follows the method of super-formula composition: these melodies define both the tonal centers and durations of scenes as a whole, as well as the melodic phrasing in detail. Each of the three central characters is also associated with an instrument: Michael with the trumpet, Eve with the basset-horn, and Lucifer with the trombone.

[ The "Licht" Superformula]

The cycle is constructed modularly. Not only is each of the seven operas a self-sufficient work, but so are the individual acts, scenes, and—in some cases—portions of scenes. These modules may be segments (e.g., the eleven instrumental solo sections from "Orchester-Finalisten" from "Mittwoch"), or layers (e.g., the electronic "Oktophonie" layer from the second act of "Dienstag" or the "Klavierstück XIII" version of the first scene of "Samstag" ("Luzifers Traum"), with the bass voice omitted), or a combination of the two (e.g., the vocal sextet "Menschen, hört" and the "Bassetsu-Trio", which are two layers of the "Karusel" subscene from "Michaelion", the fourth scene of "Mittwoch").


There are seven operas, each named for a day of the week, whose subject matter reflects attributes associated in traditional mythologies with each day. These attributes in turn rest on the seven planets of Antiquity (and their associated deities) from which the day-names are derived:
* Monday = The Moon
* Tuesday = Mars
* Wednesday = Mercury
* Thursday = Jupiter
* Friday = Venus
* Saturday = Saturn
* Sunday = The SunEach opera is composed from an elaborated form of the corresponding day-segment of the superformula, made by superimposing one or more complete lines from the superformula, compressed to the length of the day-segment. These are named for the day in question (e.g., "Mittwoch-Formel".) The separate acts and scenes often involve further superimpositions of formula material. For example, "Luzifers Traum", the first scene of "Samstag", has a total of five layers (Kohl 1990 and 1993).


"Donnerstag" is an opera for 14 performers: 3 voices, 8 instrumentalists, 3 dancers, plus a choir, an orchestra, and tapes. It was the first part of "Licht" to be written, between 1978 and 1980. Thursday is the day of the archangel Michael, and the story is centered around this character. It opens in the foyer with "Donnerstags Gruss" (Thursday's Greeting), followed in the theater by three acts: "Michaels Jugend" (Michael's Youth, in three scenes: "Childhood", "Moon-Eve", and "Examination"), "Michaels Reise um die Erde" (Michael's Journey Round the Earth) and "Michaels Heimkehr" (Michael's Homecoming, in two scenes: "Festival" and "Vision"), followed outside the theater by "Donnerstags Abschied" (Thursday's Farewell).

[ Photos of "Michaels Reise um die Erde"]

The 16-channel tape composition "Unsichtbare Chöre" (Invisible Choirs, 1979) is incorporated into act 1, and again into act 3, scene 1, and Stockhausen's "Klavierstück XII" is an arrangement of act 1, scene 3. In addition, act 1, scene 1 was transcribed by the composer as "Bijou", for alto flute, bass clarinet, and tape.


"Samstag" is an opera for 13 performers: 1 voice, 10 instrumentalists, 2 dancers, a symphonic band (or symphony orchestra), ballet or mimes, and male choir with organ. It was composed between 1981 and 1983. Saturday is Lucifer's day. It opens with the "Samstags Gruss" (Saturday's Greeting) for four spatially separated brass ensembles with percussion (Bandur 1999). The opera itself consists of four scenes: "Luzifers Traum" (Lucifer's Dream), for bass voice and piano; "Kathinkas Gesang als Luzifers Requiem" (Kathinka's Chant as Lucifer's Requiem), for flute and six perdussionists; "Luzifers Tanz" (Lucifer's Dance), for symphony band (or orchestra), bass voice, solo piccolo, solo piccolo trumpet, solo dancer, stilt-dancer, and dancer-mimes; and "Luzifers Abschied" (Lucifer's Farewell), for male choir, seven trombones, and organ.

[ Photos of "Luzifers Tanz"]


"Montag", composed between 1984 and 1988. is dedicated to Eve. It is the first part to feature an orchestra with synthesizers (called a "modern orchestra" by Stockhausen), backing 21 performers: 14 voices, 6 instruments and an actor, as well as adult and children's choirs. As usual, it opens with "Montags Gruss" (Monday's Greeting). Three acts follow: "Evas Erstgeburt" (Eve's First Birth-Giving), "Evas Zweitgeburt" (Eve's Second Birth-Giving) and "Evas Zauber" (Eve's Magic). The piece closes with "Montags Abschied" (Monday's Farewell).

[ Photos of "Montag aus Licht" at La Scala, Milan]


After having composed the three "solo" operas, Stockhausen proceeded to explore all combinations of the characters. "Dienstag" is the day of conflict between Michael and Lucifer. After the opening greeting, two acts follow: "Jahreslauf" (Course of the Years) and "Invasion-Explosion mit Abschied" (Invasion-Explosion with Farewell). "Dienstag" is an opera for 17 performers, with 3 solo voices, 10 solo instrumentalist, again a "modern orchestra" (14 instruments including synthesizers) and, in the second act, electronic music (titled "Oktophonie") projected in eight channels, with loudspeakers arranged at the corners of a cube shape around the audience.

[ Photos of "Dienstag aus Licht" at the Leipzig Opera]


"Freitag", written between 1991 and 1994, portrays Eve's temptation by Lucifer. The whole is divided into two acts, and has a novel structure: apart from the greeting and farewell, it is composed of two layers of scenes: ten "real scenes" with live performers on stage and twelve "sound scenes" with electronic transformations of familiar sounds, both performed simultaneously over a third layer of abstract electronic music. It is a complex production headed by 5 acting musicians (soprano, baritone, bass, flute, basset-horn) as well as 12 couples of dancer-mimes, children's orchestra, children's choir, 12 choir singers, synthesizer player, electronic music with sound scenes. The ten real scenes are:
#"Antrag" (Proposal)
#"Kinder-Orchester" (Children's Orchestra)
#"Kinder-Chor" (Children's Choir)
#"Kinder-Tutti" (Children's Tutti)
#"Zustimmung" (Consent)
#"Kinder-Krieg" (Children's War)
#"Reue" (Repentance)
#"Chor-Spirale" (Choir Spiral)

[ Photo of the scene "Kinder-Tutti" at the Leipzig Opera]


"Mittwoch" is characterized by the cooperation of Eve, Michael and Lucifer. This complex piece, written between 1992 and 1998, is comprised of four scenes: "Welt-Parlament" (World Parliament), "Orchester-Finalisten" (Orchestra Finalists), "Helikopter-Streichquartett" (Helicopter String Quartet)—which is a piece, as the name implies, for four stringed instruments and four helicopters, the latter used both as a performatic device and as a sound source—and "Michaelion". The greeting for "Mittwoch" is the electronic part of scene 4, and the farewell is the electronic music from scene 2. The latter, like the electronic music for act 2 of "Dienstag", is projected octophonically through speakers arranged at the corners of a cube surrounding the audience.


"Sonntag", written between 1998 and 2003, is centered on the mystical union of Eve and Michael. It is an opera with five scenes and a farewell (scene 1 is also the Greeting): "Lichter-Wasser" (Lights-Waters), "Engel-Prozessionen" (Angel Processions), "Licht-Bilder" (Light Pictures), "Düfte-Zeichen" (Scents-Signs), "Hoch-Zeiten" (Weddings or, more literally, High-Times), and "Sonntags Abschied" (Sunday's Farewell). The farewell is an adaptation for five sythesizers of the choral part of "Hoch-Zeiten", and also exists in a version for soloist with tape, in which guise it is the composer's "Klavierstück XIX". Expanding on the multimedia nature of an opera, which involves several art forms such as music, dance, theater and scenery, scene 4 involves yet another human sense, by including the release of fragrances towards the audience. The final scene is actually two scenes in one, performed simultaneously in two separate auditoriums: one for five choirs and the other for five orchestral groups. At various points, aural "windows" are provided through which the music from the other auditorium is "piped in" through loudspeakers, and the scene is performed twice, the second time with the choirs in the hall where the instrumentalists performed the first time, and vice-versa.


The notable absence from "Sunday" of the third main character, Lucifer, holds the key to a mystery that surrounds "Licht": Stockhausen has mentioned an additional scene, called "Luziferium", which is intended to be performed simultaneously to "Sonntag", but in a different place, symbolizing the imprisonment of Lucifer, away from Eve and Michael. This scene has never been performed, and it is not known if it was ever written.

Auxiliary works

Apart from the versions of various scenes that can be performed separately, and arrangements of such scenes, there are some pieces that lie outside of the "Licht" cycle proper, and yet are closely related to it. For example, the "Licht" superformula itself is adapted as a brief "signalling" piece:
* "Licht-Ruf", Nr. 67, for variable ensemble (1995)Other pieces are "source" compositions, intermediate between the superformula and final compositional elaboration into parts of one of the operas.
* "Michaels-Ruf", 1. ex Nr. 48½, for variable ensemble (1978), the unscored basic material for the "Donnerstags-Gruss"
* "Xi", 1. ex Nr. 55, for a melody instrument with microtones (1986), the "seed" material for the "Montags-Gruss"Some others are themselves elaborated from such source compositions, but follow a separate line of development:
* "Traum-Formel", Nr. 51⅔, for basset-horn (1981) a recomposition of the formula of the first scene of "Samstag"
* "Quitt", for alto flute, clarinet, and trumpet, Nr. 1 ex 59 (1989), composed out from the basic plan of the "Montags-Abschied"
* "Ypsilon", Nr. 2 ex 59, for a melody instrument with microtones (1989), also elaborated from the "Montags-Abschied" plan
* "Sukat", Nr. 2 ex 60, for alto flute and basset-horn (1989), based on the portion of the Tuesday formula used for the "Dienstags-Gruss"
* "Vibra-Elufa", Nr. 9¾ ex 64, for vibraphone (2003), based on the ninth "real scene" of "Freitag" (itself used as a source composition for other parts of that opera)
* "Thinki", Nr. 1 ex 70, for flute (1997), recomposed from material in "Michaelion", the final scene of "Mittwoch"There are four pieces made of versions of the formula for "Mittwoch":
* "Europa-Gruss", Nr. 72, for winds (1992/2002)
* "Trumpetent", Nr. 73, for four trumpets (1995)
* "Mittwoch-Formel", Nr. 73½, for percussion trio (2004)
* "Klavierstück XVIII (Mittwoch-Formel)", Nr. 73⅔, for synthesizer (2004)Also, there is
* "Strahlen", Nr. 80½, for a percussionist and ten-channel sound recording (2002), fashioned from the "Sonntags-Abschied"Finally, there is:
* "Litanei 97", Nr. 74, for choir and conductor (1997)which sets a text from Aus den sieben Tagen (1968), incorporating fragments of the "Licht" superformula.


Work on "Licht" began in 1977, and was finished in 2003, though the final scene was performed for the first time in 2004. The first five operas have been staged at La Scala, Covent Garden, and the Leipzig Opera. The two final operas have yet to be staged in their entirety, though the scenes have had separate premières (as was also true for the other five operas). The four scenes of "Wednesday" were performed individually between 1996 and 1998. Plans were made to stage "Wednesday" in Bonn in 2000 and in Berne in 2003, but both were canceled due to financial and technical problems. The five scenes and "farewell"of "Sunday" were premièred between 1999 and 2004. The entire cycle, however, was broadcast in a series on SWR2 between 2001 and 2007, introduced by the composer in conversation with Reinhard Ermen (Stockhausen-Verlag 2008, 6–9).

Performing such a piece is a challenge not only due to its length, but also due to the logistics involved. Each part, and in many cases, each scene, is designed for a different composition of musicians, ranging from scenes written for a capella choir to orchestra with synthesizer to string quartet playing from helicopters above the concert hall.

World premières

* Donnerstag ("Thursday") - 1981, at La Scala in Milan
* Samstag ("Saturday") - May 1984, at La Scala in Milan
* Montag ("Monday") - 1988, at La Scala in Milan
* Dienstag ("Tuesday") - 1993, at the Leipzig Opera
* Freitag ("Friday") - September 1996 - at the Leipzig Opera
* Mittwoch ("Wednesday") - 1996-1998, not yet staged as a whole
**I - "Welt-Parlament" ("World Parliament") 1996, Stuttgart
**II - "Orchester-Finalisten" ("Orchestra Finalists") 1996, Holland Festival, Amsterdam
**III - "Helikopter-Streichquartett" 1995 Holland Festival, Amsterdam
**IV - "Michaelion" 26 July 1998, in the Prinzregententheater, Munich (Musica Viva series)
* Sonntag ("Sunday") - 1999-2003, not yet staged as a whole
** I - "Lichter-Wasser (Sonntags-Gruss)" ("Lights-Waters (Sunday Greeting)") - October 1999, at the Donaueschingen Music Festival
** II - "Engel-Prozessionen" ("Angel Processions") - 9 November 2002, at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam
** III - "Licht-Bilder" ("Light-Pictures") - October 2004 at the Donaueschingen Music Festival
** IV - "Düfte-Zeichen" ("Scents-Signs") - August 2003, at the Salzburger Festspiele
** V - "Hoch-Zeiten" ("High-Times") - February 2003, in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
** "Sonntags-Abschied" ("Sunday's Farewell") - 2004, at the Stockhausen Courses in Kürten


* Bandur, Markus. 2004. “ [ „…alles aus einem Kern entfaltet, thematisch und strukturell“. Karlheinz Stockhausen und die Rezeption des "Urantia Book" in LICHT] ”. In "Internationales Stockhausen-Symposion 2000: LICHT: Musikwissenschaftliches Institut der Universität zu Köln, 19. bis 22. Oktober 2000. Tagungsbericht". Signale aus Köln: Musik der Zeit 10. Ed. Imke Misch and Christoph von Blumröder, 136–46. Münster, Berlin, London: Lit Verlag. ISBN 3-8258-7944-5.
* Bandur, Markus. 1999. "The Composition of Meaning: Construction and Semantics in Karlheinz Stockhausen's "Luzifer-Gruss vom Samstag aus Licht"." "Perspectives of New Music" 37, no. 1 (Winter): 157-78.
* Bruno, Pascal. 1999. "Donnerstag aus Licht": A New Myth, or Simply an Updating of a Knowledge?" "Perspectives of New Music" 37, no. 1 (Winter):133-56.
* Coenen, Alcedo. 1992. " [ Karlheinz Stockhausen's "Licht": Facts and Some Remarks] ."
* Kohl, Jerome. 1983-84. “Stockhausen at La Scala: Semper Idem sed Non Eodem Modo.” "Perspectives of New Music" 22:483–501.
* Kohl, Jerome. 1985. “Stockhausen on Opera.” "Perspectives of New Music" 23/2 (Spring-Summer): 24–39.
* Kohl, Jerome. 1990. “Into the Middleground: Formula Syntax in Stockhausen’s "Licht".” "Perspectives of New Music" 28/2 (Summer): 262–91
* Kohl, Jerome. 1993. “Time and "Light".” "Contemporary Music Review" 7/2 (1993): 203–219.
* Kohl, Jerome. 2004. “Der Aspekt der Harmonik in "Licht".” In "Internationales Stockhausen-Symposion 2000: LICHT. Musikwissenschaftliches Institut der Universität zu Köln, 19. bis 22. Oktober 2000. Tagungsbericht". Edited by Imke Misch and Christoph von Blumröder, 116–32. Münster, Berlin, London: LIT-Verlag.
*Peters, Günter. 2004. "Grenzgänge in den Mittelpunkt der Musik. Karlheinz Stockhausen auf dem Weg zu "Düfte-Zeichen" vom "Sonntag aus Licht"." "Musik und Ästhetik" 8, no. 32 (October): 61–81.
* Ruch, Christian. 1999. " [ Noten für Nebadon: Anmerkungen zur Polemik um das Werk des Komponisten Karlheinz Stockhausen] ". "Materialdienst der Evangelische Zentralstelle für Weltanschauungsfragen", 62, no. 7 :209-211.
* Schwerdtfeger, Dettloff. 2000. "Karlheinz Stockhausens Oper Donnerstag aus Licht: Ziel und Anfang einer kompositorischen Entwicklung". Kürten: Stockhausen-Stiftung für Musik.
*Stockhausen, Karlheinz, Hermann Conen, and Jochen Hennlich. 1989. "Before and After "Samstag aus Licht": Conversation of 24 May 1984, in Milan." "Contemporary Music Review" 5, no. 1:267–97.
* Stockhausen-Verlag. 2008. " [ Stockhausen August 22nd 1928–December 5th 2007] ", English edition of brochure with official worklist and list of CDs. Kürten: Stockhausen-Verlag.
* Stoianova, Ivanka. 1999. "And Dasein Becomes Music: Some Glimpses of "Light"."Perspectives of New Music" 37, no. 1 (Winter):179–212.
*Toop, Richard. 2005a. "Sonntags-Abschied (Sunday Farewell)—a Report". Kürten: Stockhausen-Verlag.
*Toop, Richard. 2005b. "Six Lectures from the Stockhausen Courses Kürten 2002". Kürten: Stockhausen-Verlag. ISBN 3-00-016-185-6
* Urantia Foundation. 1955. " [ The Urantia Book] ". Chicago: Urantia Foundation. ISBN 0-911560-07-6.
* Wirtz, Markus. 2000. "Licht. Die szenische Musik von Karlheinz Stockhausen. Eine Einführung". Saarbücken: Pfau-Verlag. ISBN 3897270889

External links

* [ Official Stockhausen biography]
* [ BBC News story on the planned performance in Dresden in 2008]
* [ "Licht" website]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Licht [1] — Licht, die Ursache derjenigen Reize unsers Sehorgans, durch welche uns die Außenwelt sichtbar wird. I. Allgemeines. Nach der älteren, besonders durch Newton (Optik vom Jahr 1698) vertretenen Hypothese, der Emissionstheorie (Emanationstheorie,… …   Lexikon der gesamten Technik

  • Licht — Licht. Es ist eine der Grundbedingungen des Lebens, die Seele der Schöpfung, welche der Herr durch sein majestätisches Wort: »Es werde!« flammend in s Dasein rief. Eine genügende Definition des Lichtes vermögen selbst die Physiker nicht zu geben; …   Damen Conversations Lexikon

  • — ist eine Initiative von Unternehmen der Leuchten und Lampenindustrie, die im ZVEI – Zentralverband Elektrotechnik und Elektronikindustrie e.V., Frankfurt am Main, organisiert sind. Seit über 40 Jahren informiert über Beleuchtung und… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • — ist eine Initiative von Unternehmen der Leuchten und Lampenindustrie, die im ZVEI – Zentralverband Elektrotechnik und Elektronikindustrie e.V., Frankfurt am Main, organisiert sind. Seit fast 40 Jahren informiert über Beleuchtung und… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Licht [1] — Licht (Lux), ist das, was in unserem Auge den Eindruck hervorbringt, welchen wir Sehen nennen. Wo kein Licht ist, da ist Finsterniß u. die Gegenstände uns unsichtbar. Die Lehre vom Licht nennt man Optik (s.d.). A) Über die Natur des L s an sich,… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • licht — licht: Das westgerm. Adjektiv mhd. lieht, ahd. lioht, niederl. licht, engl. light gehört mit der Sippe von 1↑ Lohe und mit verwandten Wörtern in anderen idg. Sprachen zu der idg. Wurzel *leuk , leuk̑ »leuchten, strahlen, funkeln«, vgl. z. B.… …   Das Herkunftswörterbuch

  • Licht — licht: Das westgerm. Adjektiv mhd. lieht, ahd. lioht, niederl. licht, engl. light gehört mit der Sippe von 1↑ Lohe und mit verwandten Wörtern in anderen idg. Sprachen zu der idg. Wurzel *leuk , leuk̑ »leuchten, strahlen, funkeln«, vgl. z. B.… …   Das Herkunftswörterbuch

  • Licht — Licht, er, este, adj. et adv. welches fast in allen seinen Bedeutungen nur im gemeinen Leben und der vertraulichen Sprechart üblich ist, dagegen die edlere dafür hell gebraucht. 1. Eigentlich, so wohl, 1) viel eigenes Licht habend; hell. Die… …   Grammatisch-kritisches Wörterbuch der Hochdeutschen Mundart

  • Licht [1] — Licht, die Ursache der Sichtbarkeit der Gegenstände; Körper, die selbsttätig L. aussenden, wie die Sonne, Fixsterne, Flammen, glühende feste Körper, nennt man Selbstleuchter oder Lichtquellen. Nichtleuchtende Körper können nur gesehen werden,… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • licht — Adj erw. obs. (8. Jh.), mhd. lieht, ahd. lioht, leoht, as. lioht Stammwort. Aus g. * leuhta Adj. licht, hell , das zwar nur in den westgermanischen Sprachen belegt ist, aber aus der Ableitung leuchten als gemeingermanisch zu erschließen ist.… …   Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen sprache

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”