The artist may not know, but the art knows for them

Thursday 23 April 2009

A while back On An Overgrown Path reproduced this image:

The image was made by the German photographer Alexander Lauterwasser, by transferring sound waves produced by music into water, and photographing the results using reflected light. In this case, the music was a piece by Karlheinz Stockhausen (sadly, there’s no information on which piece was used to create this image).
Pliable’s post compares and contrasts this image to those created by other sounds: how similar it is to the mantra Om, and how different it is to, say, Pierre Boulez‘s music. He also notes the similarity of many of the images to mandalas.
The first similarity that struck me was the resemblence to many of Stockhausen’s musical diagrams, particularly in his later music, with their use of spirals and concentric orbits. The latter half of his life was devoted to marking the cyclical aspects of time: years, seasons, months, days, and finally, hours.
These preoccupations are probably most clearly heard in his late piece Cosmic Pulses and subsequent works, each of which were designated “hours” in a 24-piece cycle titled Klang. Stockhausen’s summary diagram of Cosmic Pulses is reproduced on its CD cover, below left.

On the right is the cover for another recording from the Klang cycle, Natürliche Dauern. Cyclical and spiral patterns are a recurring feature on his CD designs. As well as a piece called Mantra, he wrote another called Spiral. He also drew his CV in the form of a Fibonacci spiral, his list of compositions growing and expanding ever outwards.
I’d really like to know which of Stockhausen’s sounds produced that image.