Gruppen

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Example 12 from Stockhausen's article "... wie die Zeit vergeht ...", illustrating with a version of the series from Gruppen fur drei Orchester that, "if you start from the intervals of a proportion series, then with every step forward the register of each duration is also already chosen". There are "a number of basic durations, indicated in metronome marks and corresponding with the pitch proportions within the series, reaching far as the octave positions (basic duration units)", or "a duration scale which changes its 'time register' ... corresponds to a twelve-tone scale that extends over more than one octave".
Play Stockhausen Gruppen fur drei Orchester series.png
Example 12 from Stockhausen's article "... wie die Zeit vergeht ...", illustrating with a version of the series from Gruppen für drei Orchester that, "if you start from the intervals of a proportion series, then with every step forward the register of each duration is also already chosen". There are "a number of basic durations, indicated in metronome marks and corresponding with the pitch proportions within the series, reaching far as the octave positions (basic duration units)", or "a duration scale which changes its 'time register' ... corresponds to a twelve-tone scale that extends over more than one octave".

Gruppen (German : Groups) for three orchestras (1955–57) is amongst the best-known compositions of German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, and is Work Number 6 in the composer's catalog of works. Gruppen is "a landmark in 20th-century music . . . probably the first work of the post-war generation of composers in which technique and imagination combine on the highest level to produce an undisputable masterpiece". [4]

Contents

History

Paspels, the village where Stockhausen began work on Gruppen Paspels Dorf.jpg
Paspels, the village where Stockhausen began work on Gruppen

Early in 1955 Stockhausen received a commission from WDR for a new orchestral composition, but his ongoing work on Gesang der Jünglinge prevented him from starting right away. In August and September, he took the opportunity to retreat to an inexpensive rented room in the attic of a parsonage in Paspels, Switzerland, recommended to him by a colleague, Paul Gredinger. Surrounded by the splendour of the Graubünden alps, he created the entire plan of Gruppen, "with a completely new conception of musical time". [5] The surroundings provided more than just a conducive environment for work.

in Gruppen ... whole envelopes of rhythmic blocks are exact lines of mountains that I saw in Paspels in Switzerland right in front of my little window. Many of the time spectra, which are represented by superimpositions of different rhythmic layers—of different speeds in each layer—their envelope which describes the increase and decrease of the number of layers, their shape, so to speak, the shape of the time field, are the curves of the mountain's contour which I saw when I looked out the window. [6]

Originally the work was to have been for multi-channel electronic music with large orchestra, with metrically indeterminate parts for the orchestra. Once having decided to divide the orchestra into three parts, each with its own conductor, Stockhausen gave up the electronic sounds and incorporated some of what had previously been thought of as electronic music into the orchestra. The indeterminate tempos also proved impractical, and were dropped after a few experimental pages of score had been written out. [7]

Upon returning to Cologne, Stockhausen resumed work on Gesang der Jünglinge and then composed the wind quintet Zeitmaße and Klavierstück XI , before turning to working-out the details of Gruppen, which occupied him for all of 1957. The premiere of the work took place in the Rheinsaal of the Kölner Messe in Cologne-Deutz, as part of the WDR's concert series Musik der Zeit, on 24 March 1958 with the Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Stockhausen (orchestra I), Bruno Maderna (orchestra II), and Pierre Boulez (orchestra III). The score is dedicated to Herbert Eimert, director at that time of the WDR electronic music studio. [8] Gruppen was performed twice on the programme, with the world premiere of Pierre Boulez's Third Piano Sonata, performed by the composer, in between. [9]

Material and form

A large orchestra of 109 players is divided into three orchestral units, each with its own conductor, which are deployed in a horseshoe shape to the left, front, and right of the audience. The spatial separation was principally motivated by the compositional requirement of keeping simultaneously played yet musically separate passages distinct from one another, [10] but led to some orgiastic passages in which a single musical process passes from one orchestra to another.

The title refers to the work's construction in 174 units, mainly composed in what Stockhausen terms "groups"—cohesive groupings of notes unified through one or more common characteristics (dynamics, instrumental color, register, etc.): "a particular number of notes which are joined, by means of related proportions, into a superordinate experiential quality (namely, the group). The various groups in a composition have various proportional features—various structures—but they are interrelated in that the properties of one group may only be understood by comparing them in degree of relationship with the other groups". [11] This category is contrasted with the "punctual" style of early Darmstadt serialism, which nevertheless also occurs in Gruppen, along with a third category of "collective" or "statistical" swarms or crowds, too dense for the listener to be able to accurately distinguish individual notes or their order of succession. [12] Consequently, the importance of individual notes is relatively low, so that sonority, density, speed, dynamics, and direction of movement become the main features for the listener. [13]

Nonetheless, a traditional twelve-tone row is used as its basis:

Gruppen tone row
Play Stockhausen - Gruppen tone row.png
Gruppen tone row

This is a symmetrical all-interval row, in which the first half consists of the intervals of a descending major third, rising perfect fourth, descending minor third, descending minor second, and ascending major second. The second half consists of the retrograde of the first half, transposed by a tritone. [15] In other words, the row is "degenerate", in that the second hexachord is a retrograde of the first, transposed by six semitones. However, Stockhausen does not exploit the specific twelve-tone compositional applications of such a row, which suggests that either Stockhausen was not interested in or did not know about them. [19] Because of the chord transformations that emerge between rehearsal numbers 118 and 120 it appears that Stockhausen was in fact aware of these properties, making it most likely that the relationship simply did not interest him compositionally. [20]

Many of the conceptual bases of the work are explained in Stockhausen's famous article, "... How Time Passes ...". [21] In this essay, Stockhausen developed a serial organizational principle at the center of which stood the concept of a twelve-step duration series possessing the same structural properties as the basic twelve-tone pitch series. This became the basis for the entire process of serial organization of Gruppen. [22] This duration series, however, is expressed not as single units (which would correspond to single vibrations of a pitch) but rather as metronomic tempos in sufficiently long stretches of time to enable conductors and musicians to change tempo with precision. However, because the resulting "fundamental durations" are not small enough for use in the musical detail, subdivisions corresponding to the transposition of the overtones of a pitch's harmonic spectrum are used. [23]

The twelve logarithmic metronomic tempos used in Gruppen, covering a tempo "octave" (doubling in speed) from Figure rythmique noire hampe haut.svg  = 60 to 120 are: [24]

60
63.5
67
71
75.5
80
85
90
95
101
107
113.5
120

The composer recalled that, when Igor Stravinsky saw the score for the first time, he wrote that such fractional metronomic values as 63.5 and 113.5 were "a sign of German thoroughness". [25]

Instrumentation

Orchestra I

Orchestra II

Orchestra III

Discography

In chronological order of first issue.

Notes

  1. Harvey, [14] Misch, [15] Whittall, [16] Stockhausen [17] and Maconie [18] show this row transposed up a tritone).[ why? ] See tone row for Klavierstück IX .

Related Research Articles

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Gesang der Jünglinge is an electronic music work by Karlheinz Stockhausen. It was realized in 1955–56 at the Westdeutscher Rundfunk studio in Cologne and is Work Number 8 in the composer's catalog of works. The vocal parts were supplied by 12-year-old Josef Protschka. It is exactly 13 minutes, 14 seconds long.

Kontra-Punkte is a composition for ten instruments by Karlheinz Stockhausen which resolves contrasts among six instrumental timbres, as well as extremes of note values and dynamic levels, into a homogeneous ending texture. Stockhausen described it: "Counter-Points: a series of the most concealed and also the most conspicuous transformations and renewals—with no predictable end. The same thing is never heard twice. Yet there is a distinct feeling of never falling out of an unmistakable construction of the utmost homogeneity. An underlying force that holds things together—related proportions: a structure. Not the same Gestalten in a changing light. But rather this: various Gestalten in the same light, that permeates everything".

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<i>Kontakte</i>

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<i>Mikrophonie</i> (Stockhausen)

Mikrophonie is the title given by Karlheinz Stockhausen to two of his compositions, written in 1964 and 1965, in which "normally inaudible vibrations. .. are made audible by an active process of sound detection ; the microphone is used actively as a musical instrument, in contrast to its former passive function of reproducing sounds as faithfully as possible".

<i>Hymnen</i>

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<i>Kurzwellen</i>

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<i>Dienstag aus Licht</i>

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<i>Zeitmaße</i>

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<i>Mixtur</i>

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<i>Pole</i> (Stockhausen)

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<i>Punkte</i>

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<i>Ensemble</i> (Stockhausen)

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References

  1. Stockhausen 1963b, p. 117.
  2. Leeuw 2005, p. 174.
  3. Misch 1998, p. 157–58.
  4. Smalley 1967, p. 794.
  5. Stockhausen and Frisius 1989, p. 320.
  6. Cott 1973, p. 141.
  7. Kurtz 1992, p. 79–80.
  8. Stockhausen 1971, p. 22.
  9. Misch 1998, p. 176n13.
  10. Kurtz 1992, p. 80.
  11. Stockhausen 1963a, p. 63.
  12. Stockhausen 1963c, pp. 250–251.
  13. Smalley 1967, p. 795.
  14. Harvey 1975, p. 58.
  15. Misch 1998, p. 161.
  16. Whittall 2008, p. 185.
  17. Stockhausen 1963b, p. 116.
  18. Maconie 2005, p. 149.
  19. Harvey 1975, pp. 56–57.
  20. Kohl 2004, p. 122–123.
  21. Stockhausen 1963b.
  22. Misch 1999, pp. 53–54.
  23. Koenig 1968, pp. 90–91.
  24. Stockhausen 2009, p. 172.
  25. Stockhausen 2009, p. 169.

Cited sources

Further reading