Mantra is like a road trip for two pianists and ring modulators. The melody came to Stockhausen during a long drive through the United States. Its continual repetition and variation puts both audience and musicians into a different state of consciousness. The concert performance becomes a spiritual event.
Mantras are meditative formulae or sayings that serve in various religions and in the philosophy of yoga as exercises in concentration, so as to expand the consciousness and develop certain spiritual forces. Stockhausen dedicated his entire work to this endeavor, and Mantra, written in 1970, was its first key composition.
Mantra also represents an approach to composition that Stockhausen exclusively took from the mid-1970s on: the entire structure is derived from a single melodic-rhythmic-tonal complex, which Stockhausen called a ‘formula’.
The composer Wolfgang Rihm summarises this method perfectly: ‘Similarly to how Bach and Beethoven extended, compressed, shortened and enlarged a theme, Stockhausen extends, compresses, shortens and enlarges his mantra, his formula, allowing the whole form to emerge from it and reaching the actual dream phase of serial composition: diversity from the single cell, unity of micro- and macrostructure.’
Piano Jean-Frédéric Neuburger, Jean-François Heisser
Sound direction Serge Lemouton