About the spirit of music

A Talk Between Markus Stockhausen and Gunter Friedrich (LOGON magazine). Markus Stockhausen is a well-known trumpet player and composer, living close to Cologne in Germany. His work is documented on more than 90 CDs on different labels.

About the spirit of music

Before talking, the two have directed their minds to the life-sized, golden Buddha statue featured in Markus Stockhausen’s studio.

G.F.: We have formed a triangle with a golden being.

M.S.: You’re referring to the Buddha statue, symbol of the divine and supra-worldly. We shared a bit of silence, maybe this shows our readiness to not only include our intellects and the meaning of our words, but to open up a greater space.

G.F.: The experience shows that this greater space has something to do with us.

M.S.: Absolutely, to me, that’s a continuum. Whenever we open up our inside, this space is there immediately. And then there is a continuity from the personal to the supra-personal, to the unnameable realm from where everything flows.

G.F.: When we are in that space, in this moment, there is also music.

M.S.: You could say that. To quote Hazrat Inayat Khan: “All life is music, from planetary rhythms down to molecules. Everything vibrates and sounds”. He who has ears to hear it, can. Myself, I cannot hear the cosmic harmonies, but I can hear music within myself, in advance, feel it.

G.F.: When you improvise or compose, isn’t that, at the same time, listening?

M.S.: Yes, it is always an act of listening, of becoming silent and being (and, if possible, remaining) empty, so I can continuously feel where it wants to go. When improvising, this is quite apparent – “app-hear-ent”. I’m playing, and during playing I’m getting an inkling of the next note. Where does the music want to go? Where does it want to go?

G.F.: Where does it come from?

M.S.: I’m not sure we must denominate that. It is difficult to speculate about the source, to which the whole of existence testifies. To me, the universe is incredibly wise and intelligent. It emanates a continuous plethora of shapes and forms one can only marvel at. It never depletes itself. Same with improvisation. And in composing, as well, there remains this surprise of how it continues.

You never reach the point where would creation end, where the source would run dry.

If you remain concentrated, there is always expansion, continuation of shapes, development. It is a fascinating process. The possibility to enter this stream of creation at any moment, from which life incessantly reveals itself, is inherent in creation.

G.F.: During your 40 years’ career as a professional musician, has there been a development as to what inspires you?

M.S.: Again and again there are situations when something lights up, when I, as a person, become transparent for a composition or a successful improvisation, a felicitous coming-together. I’m quite familiar with this process. Then new shapes flow from that which is, from the source and every factor playing into the whole thing. This has been happening since I was very young, and it keeps happening now.
To me, if anything, this process itself has become more and more familiar. I’ve become more acquainted to trusting it. Maybe, there has been an evolution to how I express it, to the fine details of my expression, or how I deal with its elements.

Together with the band Quadrivium a piece has originated with the title Schnee von Heute (Today’s Snow), featured on the album Far into The Stars. On a beautiful, sunny morning, after a walk through freshly-fallen snow, we entered the studio, grabbed our instruments and started playing without even talking to each other before. This piece was what came out of it, hence the name Today’s Snow.
There’s a birth taking place, from a certain energy, manifesting without question and unspoken.

Together, we enter a coherent field, and synergies take place, synergies of feeling alike. And then, suddenly, there is this music, which hasn’t been there before. This process of creation remains surprising.

G.F.: You experience being part of a great creative momentum. Can you imagine your music to have creative effects as well?

M.S.: As a musician, the audience as well as single opinions often reflect it back to you. Music stirs something within the human being.
I’ve seen this exemplified in my father. He received enthusiastic feedback from all over the world. There was this pioneer spirit in his music. For those who don’t know: my father was Karlheinz Stockhausen, the great composer. I have made music with him intensively for 25 years.

G.F.: Considering the deep relation between the human soul and music, could not the soul transform itself through music?

M.S.: Yes. Because there is the phenomenon of resonance. Something resonates within us, not only because of acoustic vibrations but because of the spiritual quality that can resound through music. It is a spiritual entity which expresses itself. And this, in turn, creates resonance. Statements like “this has touched me deeply” or “I broke into tears” or “this sent shivers down my spine”, show that an accord has been struck. Something has been awakened.

We carry within ourselves a longing for the origin, for the divine, for meaning. And, though music, this meaning can become experience, in a complexity and a language that words can hardly transmit, and also in images that just don’t exist in nature.

Music has a purpose of its own. To me, it is the ideal intermediary between the human being and the spiritual.

It opens up a wide realm of expression, nuance, and multiplicity. Music isn’t verbal or conceptual; it follows different, more universal laws and is so incredibly variable in its possibilities. Each and every composer and musician can insert their individual vibe.

And then there’s the phenomena of resonance, people feeling touched, awakened, feeling satisfaction, even fulfilment.  We also yearn for some sort of ecstasy, in-depth-fulfilment, so something in us gets really satisfied, that makes us feel like we’re completely fulfilled.  With music, I can experience being deeply touched, something within me becoming complete and, thus, relaxed and free.

G.F.: You have been making music for a long time. Has this changed your inner being?

M.S.: I can only speculate. During my seminars “Singing and Silence” I sometimes say: There is something within us which is always pure, always perfect, unharmed, untainted. The divine within us, one might say, the divine spark, the divine core. Or, within Western spiritual context, Christ within you, the image of the divine within you, that which is always there. We have grown into ever-more complex beings, capable of fulfilling ever-more complex tasks, of expressing ever-more complex processes, if we want to. Keeping our freedom is important.
There is deep enjoyment in the soul, to be able to rule itself, that is, to be able to act with the means given to us, to put them to use. The more you practice, the better you can use your instrument. That’s what great interpreters show us, reminding us of our perfection.

G.F.: A few more thoughts on freedom. We are involved in a myriad of things, and yet mankind has always been talking about freedom. That’s got to be because that which we refer to as freedom has got to be there, somewhere deep within us. The urge for freedom is born from freedom, from an inner situation of freedom. And it appears whenever this situation can somehow be manifested.

M.S.: There are spaces that open up, that are free, and in which freedom can be lived. You don’t experience it every day. There are many things that bind us, external obligations, matter itself, our body, habits, and necessities. These are often annoying, but we have to accept them. And there are free spaces.

I’d like to draw an analogy to meditation. To me, meditating has worked out when everything within me calms, when a space opens up, in which there is emptiness, silence. It is not about wishing for something particular or hoping for anything, but, on the contrary, to free yourself so as to not want or expect anything at all. Then, things can happen.

Such an empty space is the prime condition for anything new, for creation.

It is within such an experience of absolute peace, when duality dissolves, when there is no more conflict or unrest, but pure existence becomes palpable, that every question becomes irrelevant. It is self-fulfilling silence.

Transposing this experience towards music, one could say: Musicians come together, create a space of attentive togetherness and fully submit themselves to the moment. What becomes possible now? What can we express now? What is it that wants to come now? We listen to what gives birth to itself. That’s the central idea of Intuitive Music. You do not intend any given result, but allow the process to unfold.  You are like the music’s midwife. Everybody adds their specific element.
That’s what I experience with my band Wildlife, where I play together with Jazz musicians who are also classically experienced. I strive to recreate this situation again and again during projects and seminars, like, for instance, the newly-founded Forum Intuitive Music in the city of Wuppertal. Quite often, it is actually a paradisiacal state, to create something through music in communication and communion with other human beings. A unison becomes possible that I’m not even remotely capable of creating in other situations, like discussions or dialogue.

G.F.: What happens to those spaces, created by music, after the concert?

M.S.: To quote Pythagoras: Each stone, even if kicked carelessly, creates a vibration that continues to resonate throughout the universe. I believe that, whatever has been expressed, is stored somewhere, adding to the collective experience of everything. Everything is recorded somewhere. And anyone capable can go there and take what has been, like from a library.

Spaces, once opened, continue to exist. The great composers have opened doors to spaces that can then be entered by others. One can clearly feel it, especially as an improvisational musician. In a situation you didn’t previously know, you are invited into spaces which you make resonate again, bringing them to live anew.

G.F.: Is it not the mission of the truly creative, to express the true, spiritual impulse of the zeitgeist? Then, in special moments, a new vibration enters the current Now.  Could not the spaces you create have an influence of the Earth’s atmosphere, so you join in building a future in which human beings can take a breath and have new ideas?

M.S.: Of course, it is a great hope not to do something arbitrary but something essential, something nourishing that points in a good direction. That’s what the great minds have accomplished. Why is Beethoven, along with other great ones, celebrated now the way he is? They have become symbols because they contributed essential innovations that are still carrying us.

I trust that, what you add to the whole benevolently, will be like a stone cast into water, creating ripples. Occasionally I learn that people have been following much of what I do, drawing from the feelings of freedom and ideals of beauty I share with them through music. They absorb it in their own way, and it modulates their soul. And maybe they say: if this is how it is, then I, too, may accomplish this in my own life.

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Date: May 2, 2020
Author: Gunter Friedrich (Germany)
Photo: kristamonique auf Pixabay CCO

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