Tierkreis (Stockhausen)

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Character pieces by Karlheinz Stockhausen
Rathausturm 4405.jpg
Bell tower of the Cologne City Hall where, since 6 July 2009, one of the Tierkreis melodies is played on the carillon daily at noon
Composed1974 (1974)–75
Scoringvarious versions

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.



Once described as "melodic naïveté" in the form of "cheerful, empty-headed little tune[s]", [1] who nevertheless soon changed his mind, [2] Tierkreis has proved to be Stockhausen's most popular composition. [3] [4] [5] 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" [6] or else as "a ritual played out in Mexican Indian scenery". [7] 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. [8] [9]

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 City 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.( [10] [11]


Fourteen-tone row of "Libra" Stockhausen Tierkreis Libra.png
Fourteen-tone row of "Libra"

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. [13] 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 ...". [14]

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. [15]

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, [16] which in some performances have been very extensive. [17] 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. [18] 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. [19] 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. [20]

Stockhausen also prepared a number of versions for various specific forces: vocal versions for five different voice ranges (high soprano or high tenor, Nr. 4123; soprano or tenor, Nr. 4134; mezzosoprano, alto, or low tenor, Nr 4145; baritone, Nr. 4156; 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. [21] Stockhausen was planning further work in January 2008, which was probably the orchestration of the remaining two pieces, "Cancer" and "Leo". [22]


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<i>Klang</i> (Stockhausen) Cycle of musical compositions

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<i>Jubiläum</i> Orchestral composition by Karlheinz Stockhausen

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<i>Samstag aus Licht</i>

Samstag aus Licht is an opera by Karlheinz Stockhausen in a greeting and four scenes, and was the second of seven to be composed for the opera cycle Licht: die sieben Tage der Woche. It was written between 1981 and 1983, to a libretto written by the composer and incorporating a text by Saint Francis of Assisi, and was first staged in Milan in 1984.

<i>Donnerstag aus Licht</i>

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<i>Mittwoch aus Licht</i>

Mittwoch aus Licht is an opera by Karlheinz Stockhausen in a greeting, four scenes, and a farewell. It was the sixth of seven to be composed for the opera cycle Licht: die sieben Tage der Woche, and the last to be staged. It was written between 1995 and 1997, and first staged in 2012.

<i>Musik im Bauch</i>

Musik im Bauch is a piece of scenic music for six percussionists and music boxes composed by Karlheinz Stockhausen in 1975, and is Number 41 in his catalog of works. The world premiere was presented on 28 March 1975 as part of the Royan Festival. The performance was given by Les Percussions de Strasbourg in the haras in the town of Saintes, near to Royan. Its duration is roughly 38 minutes.

<i>Spiral</i> (Stockhausen)

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<i>Stop</i> (Stockhausen)

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  1. Kenyon 1980a, p. 78.
  2. Kenyon 1980b, p. 186.
  3. Anon. 2007.
  4. Deruchie 2007.
  5. Nordin 2004.
  6. Maconie 1976, p. 322.
  7. Kurtz 1992, p. 205.
  8. Andraschke 1981.
  9. Gruhn 1981.
  10. Nonnenmann 2009.
  11. Pesch 2009.
  12. Kohl 1983, p. 151.
  13. Kohl 1983, pp. 148–151.
  14. Stockhausen 1957.
  15. Kohl 1983, pp. 159–162.
  16. C. Stockhausen 1978.
  17. Svoboda 2002.
  18. Leonard 2003.
  19. Kohl 1983, p. 166.
  20. Ulrich 2017, p. 105.
  21. Bäumer 2007.
  22. Kohl 2012, pp. 520–521.

Cited sources

  • Andraschke, Peter. 1981. "Kompositorische Tendenzen bei Karlheinz Stockhausen seit 1965". In Zur Neuen Einfachheit in der Musik. Studien zur Wertungsforschung 14. Edited by Otto Kolleritsch, 126–143. Vienna and Graz: Universal Edition (for the Institut für Wertungsforschung an der Hochschule für Musik und darstellende Kunst in Graz). ISBN   3-7024-0153-9.
  • Anon. 2007. "Avant-garde Composer Karlheinz Stockhausen Dies at 79". CBCnews.ca (7 December) (accessed 7 April 2008).
  • Bäumer, Ingrid. 2007. "'Eine ganz neue Zeit fängt an': Karlheinz Stockhausen arbeitete bis zum letzten Atemzug". Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger (9 December).
  • Deruchie, Andrew. 2007. "Karlheinz Stockhausen: Tierkreis (Zodiac) (1974–75), (Karlheinz Stockhausen, arrangement)". Programme-booklet note for the North American première of Fünf Sternzeichen, 5 March 2007. Montréal: Société de musique contemporaine du Québec.
  • Gruhn, Wilfried. 1981. "'Neue Einfachheit'? Zu Karlheinz Stockhausens Melodien des Tierkreis". Reflexionen uber Musik heute: Texte und Analysen, edited by Wilfried Gruhn, 185–202. Mainz, London, New York, and Tokyo: B. Schott's Söhne. ISBN   3-7957-2648-4.
  • Kenyon, Nicholas. 1980a. "Musical Events: Seven Days' Wonder". The New Yorker (25 August): 78–81.
  • Kenyon, Nicholas. 1980b. "Further Events: Sensations". The New Yorker (3 November): 184–187.
  • Kohl, Jerome. 1983. "The Evolution of Macro- and Micro-Time Relations in Stockhausen's Recent Music". Perspectives of New Music 22 (1983–84): 147–185.
  • Kohl, Jerome. 2012. "Harmonies and the Path from Beauty to Awakening: Hours 5 to 12 of Stockhausen's Klang". Perspectives of New Music 50, nos. 1 & 2 (Winter–Summer): 476–523.
  • Kurtz, Michael. 1992. Stockhausen: A Biography, translated by Richard Toop. London and Boston: Faber and Faber. ISBN   0-571-14323-7 (cloth) ISBN   0-571-17146-X (pbk).
  • Leonard, James. 2003. "Andrew & Gail Jennings play Stockhausen." Ann Arbor Observer (February): 63.
  • Maconie, Robin. 1976. The Works of Karlheinz Stockhausen. London, New York, Toronto: Oxford University Press. ISBN   0-19-315429-3.
  • Nonnenmann, Rainer. 2009. "Karlheinz vom Dach: Stockhausens «Tierkreis»-Melodien tönen vom Kölner Rathausturm". Neue Zeitschrift für Musik no. 5 (September–October): 16.
  • Nordin, Ingvar Loco. 2004. "George Crumb, Makrokosmos Books 1 and 2: 24 Fantasy Pieces after the Zodiac for Amplified Piano: Margaret Leng Tan (amplified piano) – Alex Nowitz (whistling). Mode 142". (Accessed 7 April 2008) Also found at Mode Records website
  • Pesch, Matthias. 2009. "Stockhausen vom Rathausturm". Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger (7 July).
  • Stockhausen, Christel. 1978. "Stockhausens Tierkreis: Einführung und Hinweise zur praktischen Aufführung." Melos 45/ Neue Zeitschrift für Musik 139 (July–August): 283–287. Reprinted together with an English trans. as "Stockhausen's ZODIAC, Introduction and Instructions for Performance Practice," in a booklet now included with the score of Tierkreis.
  • Stockhausen, Karlheinz. 1957. "... wie die Zeit vergeht ...". Die Reihe 3:13–42. Trans. by Cornelius Cardew as "... How Time Passes ...", English ed. of Die Reihe 3 (1959): 10–40.
  • Svoboda, Mike. 2002. "Interpretation als Verdeutlichung eine Komposition: Karlheinz Stockhausen—TIERKREIS: 12 Melodien der Sternzeichen (1975)". Neue Zeitschrift für Musik 163, no. 6 (November–December): 24–27.
  • Ulrich, Thomas. 2017. Stockhausens Zyklus LICHT: Ein Opernführer. Cologne, Weimar, and Vienna: Böhlau Verlag. ISBN   978-3-412-50577-6.

Further reading