Stockhausen's Stimmung is one of the classics of the avant-garde. It is also one of the kitschiest pieces of the 20th century. Composed in 1968, it is a 70-minute evocation of exotic and otherworldly spirits. The Dunedin Consort captured the cod-ritualistic dimension of the piece. Dressed from head to foot in white linen, the six barefoot singers processed on to the stage and sat in a circle on white cushions. They looked like extras from John and Yoko's peace vigil.
The piece is centred on a single chord, derived from the naturally occurring over tones of a low B flat. Over this almost static texture, each singer chants the names of gods from cultures across the world, or intones some of Stockhausen's erotic poetry. These images are intended as a route to spiritual transcendence.
The Dunedin Consort approached their performance in a spirit of reverence. Their amplified voices produced a soft, shimmering sound, and they coped expertly with the harmonics, whistles and incantations of the score. But their seriousness was itself a problem. Stockhausen makes humour part of the piece - in the sheer ridiculousness of his poetry, for example. Lines such as "Rong ring press breast breast titty breast squeeeeeze!" need to be said (even in German) with tongue firmly in cheek, but the Dunedin singers made everything sound staid and solemn.
It made for a worthy but under-characterised performance. Yet they still revealed the weirdness of Stockhausen's universalism, which today seems as dated as flower power or free love.