“America – land of refugees, of exiles, of the melting-pot: this music is made to measure for you. You could become a model for the whole world, if you would live as this music prophesies – if you would set a good example…!”, declared Karlheinz Stockhausen with reference to his piece Hymnen, Dritte Region (Anthems, Third Region) at the premiere of the version for electronic music with orchestra in 1971. The performance took place in New York with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Leonard Bernstein, the New York Philharmonic’s chief conductor, had commissioned this electronic version of Hymnen from Stockhausen some years previously in Cologne.
In this work, Stockhausen brings together more than 40 national hymns, divided into four regions. The Third Region deals with the USA and the ancestry of its inhabitants. Stockhausen viewed this piece as a utopian work of art: “The composition of so many national anthems into a common musical temporal and spatial polyphony could make it possible to experience – as musical vision – the unity of peoples and nations in a harmonious human family.” America, the archetypal country for immigration, whose state was founded on the tolerance, freedom and self-determination of its citizens, was seen by Stockhausen as the model of a peaceful community for all peoples, even if this aim seemed very distant only a few years later with the assassination of Martin Luther King and the outbreak of the Vietnam War.
Stockhausen experimented with new forms in Hymnen, leaving abstraction behind him and working with aural ready-mades: “I cannot imagine anything more general, popular, familiar than the national anthems. They are musical signs, musical objects that many people are familiar with (…) That is why I chose them as objects, which I can now variously modulate and compose into an unknown world of electronic music.”
During the Musikfest Berlin 2012, Stockhausen’s work will be performed by Peter Eötvös and Benjamin Kobler, two artists who worked closely with Karlheinz Stockhausen. The Cologne-based musikFabrik, one of the most internationally distinguished new music ensembles, is guest performing in Berlin.