Tierkreis (Stockhausen)

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Bell tower of the Cologne Town Hall where, since 6 July 2009, one of the Tierkreis melodies is played on the carillon daily at noon Rathausturm 4405.jpg
Bell tower of the Cologne Town Hall where, since 6 July 2009, one of the Tierkreis melodies is played on the carillon daily at noon

Tierkreis (1974–75) is a musical composition by the German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen. The title is the German word for Zodiac, and the composition consists of twelve melodies, each representing one sign of the zodiac.

Contents

History

Once described as "melodic naïveté" in the form of "cheerful, empty-headed little tune[s]" (Kenyon 1980a , 78, who nevertheless soon changed his mind, in Kenyon 1980b , 186), Tierkreis has proved to be Stockhausen's most popular composition (Anon. 2007; Deruchie 2007; Nordin 2004). Tierkreis was originally written for music boxes as a component part of a theater piece for percussion sextet titled Musik im Bauch (Music in the Belly), which has been interpreted variously as "a fairy tale for children" ( Maconie 1976 , 322) or else as "a ritual played out in Mexican Indian scenery" ( Kurtz 1992 , 205). These twelve melodies (with or without their accompaniments) form an autonomous work which can be played by any suitable instrument, and exist also in versions to be sung. The striking simplicity of the melodies has led some writers to see them (together with other of Stockhausen's works from after 1966) as precursors of the German New Simplicity movement that began in the late 1970s (Andraschke 1981; Gruhn 1981).

On the initiative of the Committee for Art and Culture of the City Council of Cologne, from 6 July 2009 the melody from Tierkreis corresponding to the current Zodiac sign is played daily at noon on the newly restored 48-bell carillon in the tower of the Cologne Town Hall, as a tribute to the composer. Bert Augustus, a campanologist from the Dutch company Royal Eijsbouts programmed the melodies on a computer, with the collaboration of Suzanne Stephens and Kathinka Pasveer of the Stockhausen Foundation for Music (Nonnenmann 2009; Pesch 2009).

Form

Fourteen-tone row of "Libra" (Kohl 1983, 151) Stockhausen Tierkreis Libra.png
Fourteen-tone row of "Libra" ( Kohl 1983 , 151)

The twelve melodies of Tierkreis are character pieces, representing the twelve signs of the Zodiac. They are serial in conception and all are based on tone rows, though some have more than twelve notes—Libra, for example, has fourteen, with F and D recurring in different octaves. Because music boxes preclude any significant variation in dynamics or timbre, the structure of the Tierkreis melodies emphasize pitch and rhythm ( Kohl 1983 , 148–51). Each melody is centered on a different chromatic pitch, with "Leo" (Stockhausen’s own sign) = A, Virgo = A, Libra = B, Scorpio = C, etc., and each has its own distinctive tempo, chosen from the "chromatic" tempo scale first described in the composer's famous article, "... How Time Passes ..." ( Stockhausen 1957 ).

Like the pitches, the rhythms are also organized serially and strive for contrast amongst the melodies rather than relatedness ( Kohl 1983 , 150). Various scales of durations are employed: Fibonacci numbers (1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13,  ), arithmetic series (1, 2, 3, 4, 5,  ), and "second order" arithmetic series, in which the difference between consecutive members increases arithmetically (2, 3, 5, 8, 12, 17,  ). One melody, "Aries", mixes all three of these scale types, at different levels of the durational organization ( Kohl 1983 , 159–62).

A complete performance begins with the melody corresponding to the zodiac sign within which the day of the performance falls, and proceeds through the twelve melodies of the cycle, ending with a return to the starting melody. Each melody is to be played at least three times through, with variations or improvisations ( C. Stockhausen 1978 ), which in some performances have been very extensive ( Svoboda 2002 ). Though performances documented in recordings last between 12 and 63 minutes, a complete performing version by the violin-piano duo of Andrew and Gail Jennings is claimed to last 96 minutes, but they have declined to play their version complete in public ( Leonard 2003 ). The melodies can also be played individually, or in smaller numbers.

In addition to Musik im Bauch, Stockhausen employed the Tierkreis melodies in the central "wheel" section of Sirius (1975–77), an hour-and-a-half-long chamber opera for soprano and bass voices, trumpet, bass clarinet, and eight-channel electronic music ( Kohl 1983 , 166). Fragments of several of the melodies are also quoted in act 3, scene 1 of Donnerstag aus Licht , in part three ("Starry Sky") of the third Light Composition, where the signs of the zodiac are shown, one after the other, in the night sky ( Ulrich 2017 , 105).

Stockhausen also prepared a number of versions for various specific forces: vocal versions for five different voice ranges (high soprano or high tenor, Nr. 41⅔; soprano or tenor, Nr. 41¾; mezzosoprano, alto, or low tenor, Nr 41⅘; baritone, Nr. 41⅚; bass, Nr. 416/7 all 1975), version for chamber orchestra, Nr. 41 7/8 (1977), version for clarinet and piano, Nr. 418/9 (1981), a "trio version" for clarinet, flute/piccolo, and trumpet/piano, Nr. 419/10 (1983), a "version 2003" for soprano or tenor with chording instrument, Nr. 41 10/11 (2003), and, finally, two orchestral versions of five melodies each, titled Fünf Sternzeichen, Nr. 4111/12, and Fünf weitere Sternzeichen, N. 4112/13. The latter was his last completed composition, finished on 4 December 2007, the night before he died ( Bäumer 2007 ). Stockhausen was planning further work in January 2008, which was probably the orchestration of the remaining two pieces, "Cancer" and "Leo" ( Kohl 2012 , 520–21).

Discography

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References

Further reading