Studio recording of Trans (1971) for orchestra and tape of Karlheinz Stockhausen
The overall course of the entire piece came to Stockhausen in a dream during the night of 9--10 December 1970. In the morning, he had an early appointment, but took the time to jot down briefly in words what he had heard and seen: «Dreamt orchestral work ... orchestra sits in series ... sound wall opens with different intervals at periods of about twenty seconds, allowing music behind this wall to come through—brass and woodwinds mixed—and I hear low instruments that are the fundamentals; in timbres they're colored like organ mixtures. With each low melodic line of one of the lower instruments there are several instruments in parallel, playing softer and coloring this low sound ... at the same time I hear the sound of a weaving chair» (Cott 1973, 54--55). When he was asked by Otto Tomek to compose a piece for the Donaueschingen Festival the next October, Stockhausen first arranged to make some experiments for staging, lighting, and performing action in the hall there. Only after these were carried out in May and June 1971 did he begin composing the score (on 17 July). It was completed on 4 September, and the premiere took place in the Donaueschingen Stadthalle on 16 October 1971
Stockhausen considered titling the work Jenseits (The Beyond) or Musik für den nächsten Töten (Music for Those about to Die), with the subtitle «Requiem for the Orchestra» (Toop 2008, 195), before finally deciding on Trans, which means «across», but also suggests «trance» as well as words like «transition» and «transcendental» (Maconie 2005, 337--38).
On the day following the world premiere of Trans, a panel discussion was presented at Donaueschingen on the «Symphony Orchestra in a Changed World». Stockhausen participated in this discussion, contributing some characteristically provocative remarks. He held that that mentality of orchestral musicians has been reduced to that of the factory worker «who works only by the clock». They are no longer psychically prepared for their tasks and are frustrated as artists, having become just small cogs in a massive and confusing apparatus, completely deprived of their individuality. He blamed this condition not least on the protected, tenured status brought about by the collective bargaining politics of the unions, and proposed for the top musicians in each orchestra a two-month annual training course to update their skills. Needless to say, the response from orchestra managers was not overwhelmingly enthusiastic, but it did seem that Stockhausen was representing the struggle against this alleged «squad mentality» in his composition (Herbort 1971).