From its headwaters in the small, southern German town of Donaueschingen, the river Donau runs through Bavaria, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria and Rumania, into the Black Sea. There is one thing that probably no one who was present at the world premiere of "Mantra" in Donaueschingen on Sunday evening, October 18, 1970, was aware of: "Mantra" is a key work in the development of Karlheinz Stockhausen's music.
More than twenty years after its premiere, "Mantra" occurs as Stockhausen's first "Formelkomposition," and therefore as a keywork to almost all of his following pieces, such as "Inori," "Tierkreis," and "Sirius," as well as his music-theater cyle, "Licht." The basis of the piece is twelve-tone motive, where every note has a specific duration, rhythmic value and intensity. In connection with this, Stockhausen mentions that he has quite free images or sounds, just as in "Aus den Sieben Tagen," a meditation piece based on verbal notation which was created in California in 1968, and also in the piece "Fur kommende Zeiten" that was written at the same time as "Mantra." Although in interviews Stockhausen talks about how he uses rigid and free forms in mixed ways, all the works following "Mantra" are nevertheless "Formula" compositions, or even -- as in "Licht" -- "Superformula" compositions.
Reviews"With its exotic, gamelan like timbres (the result of electronic processing) and its deft balance of meditative stasis and kinetic repetition, Mantra is one 60's piece that has survived its era." - The New York Times