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Shiraz Arts Festival September 1972: back (standing), technician Volker Muller, composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, with the Collegium Vocale Koln (amongst others): Karl O. Barkey, Hans-Aldrich Billig, Wolfgang Luttgen, Gunther Engels, Christoph Caskel, front, Peter Eotvos, Dagmar von Biel, Gaby Rodens, Wolfgang Fromme, Helga Hamm-Albrecht Shiraz 36.jpg
Shiraz Arts Festival September 1972: back (standing), technician Volker Müller, composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, with the Collegium Vocale Köln (amongst others): Karl O. Barkey, Hans-Aldrich Billig, Wolfgang Lüttgen, Günther Engels, Christoph Caskel, front, Péter Eötvös, Dagmar von Biel, Gaby Rodens, Wolfgang Fromme, Helga Hamm-Albrecht

Stimmung, for six vocalists and six microphones, is a piece by Karlheinz Stockhausen, written in 1968 and commissioned by the City of Cologne for the Collegium Vocale Köln. Its average length is seventy-four minutes, and it bears the work number 24 in the composer's catalog.


It is a tonal, and yet also a serial composition. [1] It is "the first major Western composition to be based entirely on the production of vocal harmonics", [2] the first "to use overtones as a primary element". [3] An additional innovation is "the unique kind of rhythmic polyphony which arises from the gradual transformation/assimilation of rhythmic models". [4]


The German word Stimmung [ˈʃtɪmʊŋ] has several meanings, including "tuning" and "mood". The word is the noun formed from the verb stimmen, which means "to harmonize, to be correct", and related to Stimme (voice). The primary sense of the title "implies not only the outward tuning of voices or instruments, but also the inward tuning of one's soul". [5] According to the composer, the word

means "tuning," but it really should be translated with many other words because Stimmung incorporates the meanings of the tuning of a piano, the tuning of the voice, the tuning of a group of people, the tuning of the soul. This is all in the German word. Also, when you say: We're in a good Stimmung, you mean a good psychological tuning, being well tuned together. [6]


Main pitches: harmonics of B1 Play (help*info) Stockhausen - Stimmung harmonics.png
Main pitches: harmonics of B1 Loudspeaker.svg Play  

Stimmung is in just intonation. Six singers amplified by six microphones tune to a low B1 drone, inaudible to the audience, and expand upwards through overtone singing, with that low B's harmonics 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, and 9 (B2, F+2, B3, D4, A 7 rightside up.png +4, and C+5) becoming in turn fundamentals for overtone singing. It is composed using what the composer calls moment form, and consists of 51 sections (called "moments").

The harmonies of Stimmung are composed from 108 pitches: twelve different tones for each of the three women's voices, and twenty-four for each of the three men. Not only do the performers produce partials from the overtone series in each note they sing, but all of the fundamental tones are also related by whole-number overtone ratios. In this way, overtones are composed upon overtones, generating a range of degrees of harmonic fusion. [8]

According to the 1986 Hyperion Singcircle liner notes:

In each section a new overtone melody or 'model' is introduced and repeated several times. Each female voice leads a new section eight times, and each male voice, nine times. Some of the other singers gradually have to transform their own material until they have come into 'identity' with the lead singer of the section ... by adopting the same ... tempo, rhythm and dynamics. When the lead singer feels that 'identity' has been reached, he or she makes a gesture to another singer who leads the next section. Each model is a set of rhythmic phonetic patterns, often with actual words used as their basis, such as 'Hallelujah' or 'Saturday'.
In 29 of the sections, 'magic names' are called out. These are the names of gods and goddesses from many cultures—Aztec, aboriginal and Ancient Greek, for instance—and have to be incorporated into the character of the model. The erotic and intimate love-poems that are recited were written by Stockhausen 'during amorous days' in 1967. [9]

The order of the rhythmic models and the distribution of the poems and "magic names" are decided by the performers, but the sequence of pitches in the 51 moments is fixed. [10] Though the 1968 "Paris version" used by the Collegium Vocale Köln at the world première has been published (as No. 24½ in Stockhausen's catalog), the 1977 "Singcircle version" (directed by Gregory Rose) has been well documented in Rose and Emmerson 1979, and both versions have been performed throughout the world. Singcircle performances include the Round House on 21 November 1977, a 1977 BBC Promenade Concert at the Royal Albert Hall, in Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral as part of the 1980 Hope Street Festival, [9] and at the Barbican in 1985, with the composer at the mixing desk. [11] Singcircle's performance at the 2005 City of London Festival was recorded and broadcast on BBC Radio 3's Hear and Now on 20 August 2005. In 2003, Paul Hillier made a "Copenhagen version" for the Theatre of Voices, which he directs. This version, too, has been performed on tour, and a recording has been released on CD. Other groups that have performed Stimmung include the London Sinfonietta Voices, Ensemble Belcanto, Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart, the Aquarius Consort (archived from 20 July 2007), and the Dunedin Consort, according to the performance database of Universal Edition.

Influences and reception

Stockhausen himself attributes a month spent walking among ruins in Mexico as his primary influence, Stimmung recreating that 'magic' space. On the other hand, he also describes the snow on frozen Long Island Sound in February and March 1968 (when he was composing Stimmung in Madison, Connecticut), as "the only landscape I really saw during the composition of the piece". [12] In a letter to Gregory Rose written on 24 July 1982 (printed in the liner notes to Hyperion CDA66115), he describes how, in the small house his wife Mary had rented it was only possible for him to work at night because their two small children needed quiet during the day. He could not sing aloud, as he had done initially, but began to hum quietly, listening to the overtone melodies. Mary reports that Stockhausen first discovered the technique when listening to their small son Simon producing multiple tones while humming in his crib after falling asleep. In this way, Stockhausen became "the first Western composer to use this technique of singing again—in the Middle Ages it had been practised by women and children in churches, but was later entirely supplanted by masculine Gregorian music". [13]

Some writers have seen the possible influence of Stockhausen's student La Monte Young and his mid-1960s drone music with The Theatre of Eternal Music:

[Young's] influence on already established composers who were themselves his student mentors is not, however, confined to Cage. Karlheinz Stockhausen's exploration of the harmonic series, notably in Stimmung (1968), has often been linked to Young's example. ... The German composer seems to have visited Young and Zazeela when in New York, in 1964 or 1965, and listened to a rehearsal of The Theatre of Eternal Music. He requested tapes of the group's performances which, perhaps surprisingly, Young gave him. Stockhausen's own musicians visited Young and Zazeela's Dream House installation in Antwerp in 1969. [14] I didn't hear any of Feldman's music until 1962, when I heard a piece of Stockhausen's called Refrain . I only realized later that this was Stockhausen's "Feldman piece" just as Stimmung was his "LaMonte Young piece". [15]

However, another precedent for Stimmung is an unfinished work by Stockhausen himself, begun in 1960 and titled Monophonie, which was to have consisted of the single note E. [16] Igor Stravinsky, on the other hand, traces Stimmung's one-note idea back to the pedal point in Henry Purcell's Fantasy upon One Note, and its time-scale to Wagner's Götterdämmerung , while at the same time observing that this time-scale "indicates the need of a musical equivalent to the parking meter". [17]

Stimmung had an enormous impact on many younger composers and has been cited as an important influence on the French spectralists of the 1970s, such as Tristan Murail and Gérard Grisey. [18]


The above two recordings together have been rereleased on CD in the Stockhausen Complete Edition CD 12 A-B (2 CDs).

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Gregory Rose is a conductor, composer, arranger, and music director. He has conducted orchestral, choral and ensemble premieres throughout Europe and the Far East.

Jill Purce British voice teacher, therapist, and author

Jill Purce is a British voice teacher, Family Constellations therapist, and author. In the 1970s, Purce developed a new way of working with the voice, introducing the teaching of group overtone chanting, producing a single note whilst amplifying vocal harmonics. She is a former fellow of King's College London, Biophysics Department. She produced over 30 books as general editor of the Thames and Hudson Art and Imagination series. Between 1971 and 1974, she worked in Germany with the composer Karlheinz Stockhausen. Since the early 1970s, she has taught diverse forms of contemplative chant, especially overtone chanting. For over 15 years, she has been leading Family Constellations combined with chant.


  1. Toop 2005; Stuppner 1974.
  2. Pegg 2001, p. 295.
  3. Rose and Emmerson 1979, p. 20.
  4. Toop 2005, p. 48.
  5. Hillier 2007, p. 4.
  6. Cott 1973, p. 162.
  7. Harvey 1975, p. 111.
  8. Stockhausen 2009, p. 206.
  9. 1 2 Rose and Ireland 1986.
  10. Stuppner 1974; Rose and Emmerson 1979; Rigoni 1992.
  11. Dear and Davalle 1985.
  12. Cott 1973, p. 163.
  13. Bauermeister 2011, pp. 217–218.
  14. Potter 2002, p. 89.
  15. Reich 2002, p. 202.
  16. Toop 2005, p. 39.
  17. Stravinsky & Craft 1969, pp. 94–5.
  18. Rigoni 1992, p. 83; Toop 2002, p. 496.
  19. Deaconoff n.d.

Cited sources

  • Bauermeister, Mary. 2011. Ich hänge im Triolengitter: Mein Leben mit Karlheinz Stockhausen. Munich: Edition Elke Heidenreich bei C. Bertelsmann. ISBN   978-3-570-58024-0.
  • Cott, Jonathan. 1973. Stockhausen: Conversations with the Composer. New York: Simon and Schuster.
  • Deaconoff, Cyril (n.d.). "Voices of Our Time".
  • Dear, Peter, and Peter Davalle. 1985. "Television and Radio Programmes: Radio 3". The Times (Saturday 12 January): 31.
  • Harvey, Jonathan. 1975. The Music of Stockhausen: An Introduction. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. ISBN   0-520-02311-0.
  • Hillier, Paul. 2007. Liner notes to Harmonia Mundi CD HMU 807408.
  • Pegg, Carole. 2001. Mongolian Music, Dance, & Oral Narrative: Performing Diverse Identities. Seattle and London: University of Washington Press. ISBN   978-0-295-98030-0 (cloth), ISBN   978-0-295-98112-3 (pbk).
  • Potter, Keith. 2002. Four Musical Minimalists: La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, first paperback edition with minor revisions. Music in the Twentieth Century 11. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN   978-0-521-01501-1 (Previous clothbound edition 2000, ISBN   0-521-48250-X).
  • Reich, Steve. 2002. Writings on Music, 1965–2000, edited by Paul Hillier. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN   0-19-511171-0 (cloth), ISBN   0-19-515115-1 (pbk).
  • Rigoni, Michel. 1992. "Karlheinz Stockhausen: Stimmung: Six chanteurs en quête d’harmonie”. Analyse Musicale 4e trimestre:75–83.
  • Rose, Gregory, and Simon Emmerson. 1979. "Stockhausen 1: Stimmung". Contact, no. 20 (Autumn): 20–25.
  • Rose, Gregory, and Helen Ireland. 1986. Liner notes to Hyperion CDA66115.
  • Stockhausen, Karlheinz. 2009. Kompositorische Grundlagen Neuer Musik: Sechs Seminare für die Darmstädter Ferienkurse 1970, edited by Imke Misch. Kürten: Stockhausen-Stiftung für Musik. ISBN   978-3-00-027313-1.
  • Stravinsky, Igor, and Robert Craft. 1969. Retrospectives and Conclusions. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
  • Stuppner, Hubert. 1974. "Serialità e misticismo in Stimmung di K. Stockhausen". (Nuova) Rivista Musicale Italiana 8, no. 1 (Jan.–Mar.): 83–98.
  • Toop, Richard. 2002. "Karlheinz Stockhausen". In Music of the Twentieth-Century Avant-Garde: A Biocritical Sourcebook, edited by Larry Sitsky, 493–499. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. ISBN   0-313-29689-8.
  • Toop, Richard. 2005. "Stimmung". In Richard Toop, Six Lectures from the Stockhausen Courses Kürten 2002, 39–71. Kürten: Stockhausen-Verlag. ISBN   3-00-016185-6.

Further reading