Karlheinz Stockhausen

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Karlheinz Stockhausen, 2004

Karlheinz Stockhausen (born August 22, 1928 in Mödrath , today in Kerpen , † December 5, 2007 in Kürten - Kettenberg ) was a German composer . He is considered one of the most important composers of the 20th century.


Karlheinz Stockhausen in the studio for electronic music of the WDR in October 1994

Stockhausen's father Simon Stockhausen, an elementary school teacher, died in World War II . His mother Gertrud (née Stupp), who was considered depressed, was the victim of systematic murder during the Nazi period in the Hadamar killing center on May 27, 1941 . Raised in poor, Catholic conditions, after graduating from high school, he studied at the municipal high school, today's Nicolaus-Cusanus-Gymnasium Bergisch Gladbach , from 1947 to 1951 at the Cologne University of Music with a major in piano as well as musicology and German at the University of Cologne and philosophy . Since 1950 he has been active as a composer, creating new forms of music and also setting innovative standards in the field of notation . From 1971 on he was professor of composition at the Cologne University of Music, until he was removed from office there in 1977 against his will. As a lecturer and author of numerous music theory writings and essays, through his work for the radio and with well over 300 own compositions, which often pushed the boundaries of what is technically feasible, he has clearly shaped the music of the 20th century. In 1951 he married Doris Andreae , with whom he had four children, Suja (* 1953), Christel (* 1956), Markus (* 1957) and Majella (* 1961). The couple divorced and then married the artist Mary Bauermeister in 1967 , with whom he and his previous wife lived in a love triangle . The children Julika (* 1966) and Simon (* 1967) come from this second marriage . Stockhausen and Bauermeister divorced in 1973.

Stockhausen showed his special musical talent as a school child (he played the piano and oboe); This talent was encouraged within the limited possibilities of the poor teacher's household or later of the boarding school in which he was a student. After the war, engagements in folk and light music and jazz made an important contribution to the livelihood of the self-sufficient music student. His many years of engagement as a pianist with the magician Alexander Adrion (who was also best man in 1951) earned him a newspaper review as an imaginative improviser who could create a connection between the speaker and the audience. While still studying music he wanted to become a poet (with the job of a music teacher); he was in correspondence with Hermann Hesse and wrote poetry and prose.

His early compositions such as choirs for Doris (to which he contributed his own texts) are still rather traditional. From the 1950s onwards, Stockhausen z. B. with cross game or formula of serial music . In this regard, he is particularly considered a co-founder of so-called punctual music . Inspired by Olivier Messiaen's serial work Mode de valeurs et d'intensités (1949), he took part in his composition courses (rhythm and aesthetics) in Paris .

Karlheinz Stockhausen at the Shiraz Art Festival in Iran, 1972

Between 1953 and 1998 he worked closely with the studio for electronic music of Westdeutscher Rundfunk , temporarily also as artistic director, and there he devoted himself increasingly to electroacoustic music . In 1955 he realized the song of the youngsters in this Cologne studio , which can be considered one of his central early works. With this production he set new standards in the field of spatial music and, from today's point of view, used Spartan means to create electronic sounds and sound textures that had never been heard before.

From then on, Stockhausen was active as a lecturer nationally and internationally, and for many years led the Cologne courses for new music. At the Expo '70 , the world exhibition in Osaka , Japan , in 1970 he was the center of attraction with his electroacoustic compositions in the German pavilion built especially for his musical performances, which had a spherical shape and also enabled sound from below and above. In 1972 Stockhausen celebrated great success at the Shiraz Art Festival in Iran . Over 8,000 visitors came to his final open-air concert , Sternklang . From 1977 he concentrated on the perfection of light , the 29-hour total playing time spread over seven days, the most extensive opera in music history . In it, as in other stage works such as Inori from 1973, Stockhausen strived to combine scenic, visual, room-acoustic and musical ideas into one unit.

After completing his work on light (seven days a week), Stockhausen turned to the next major project. Under the title Sound , the 24 hours of the day should be set to music in 24 compositions for different line-ups. Stockhausen also announced that he was planning to set the 60 minutes of an hour and the 60 seconds of a minute to music. But Stockhausen was no longer able to complete the sound cycle .

Since 1991 the Stockhausen publishing house has published an award-winning complete edition of his works, both in scores and on CD . In 1995 he was awarded the Bach Prize of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg , and in 1996 Karlheinz Stockhausen was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Free University of Berlin . At the invitation of Walter Fink in 1999, he was the ninth composer in the annual composer portrait of the Rheingau Music Festival . In 2001 he received the unofficial Nobel Prize for Music, the Polar Music Prize .

In addition to his compositional work, Stockhausen was also active as a conductor of his own orchestral works. The uncompromising execution and planning of his works were admired, but also criticized, and led to the fact that his music was rarely performed in the normal music business because Stockhausen did not authorize its performance. Stockhausen composed until his death. At the beginning of November 2007, four weeks before his death, Stockhausen accepted a commission for a new orchestral work for the Orchestra Mozart Bologna - on the occasion of his 80th birthday, which he could have celebrated in 2008. He finished this job the day before his death.

Grave of the composer in the Kürten forest cemetery

Karlheinz Stockhausen died on the morning of December 5, 2007 in Kürten-Kettenberg near Cologne. According to his publisher, his work comprises 363 individually performable works. The information from the Stockhausen Foundation includes adaptations of the main work Licht in this sum, as well as later adaptations of earlier works. In the Stockhausen-Verlag published so far 139 compact discs with his works. Publications by and about Karlheinz Stockhausen have been published by the Stockhausen Foundation for Music .

The work

Most of Stockhausen's works (at least until 1977) represent milestones in his development of compositional techniques and views. There are very few purely occasional compositions. In doing so, Stockhausen always protested against the attribute of the experimental: his works should have a musical effect and not exemplify theories. In the course of his life, he has often fundamentally revised works (an extreme case here is Punkt (No. 12 ), which was prepared for performance in 1952 but was never performed in the version at that time, edited in 1962 so heavily that one New composition can speak; in further arrangements up to 1993 he changed the character of the work again). In the 28 years in which he worked on the opera cycle Licht , the exemplary importance of the individual works naturally receded somewhat, since they were composed as components of the operas, which are all derived from a single common musical basic formula.

Early Works (1950/51)

During his school music studies in 1950, a number of vocal compositions (some with his own texts) in what we see today as a moderately modern style were created in this context . It was not until 1971 that he published a selection of these works (under the work numbers 111 to 19 ), which then also received their “official” world premieres. (Some of them were already performed while studying at the Musikhochschule and on the Cologne radio). The decision to become a composer became more and more concrete in 1950, and he even submitted one of the works (No. 110 Three Songs ) to the Darmstadt Summer Course . In 1951 he made his first experiences with twelve-tone music in the Sonatina (No. 18 ) for violin and piano .

Serially organized music (1951–1953)

In 1951 he took part in the Darmstadt Summer Course for New Music, where he came into contact with the music of Messiaen , especially his piano etude Modes de valeurs et d'intensité and the sonata for two pianos by Messiaen's pupil Goeyvaerts . The Messiaen-Etude is the first work that undertakes to organize the musical parameters of pitch, duration, articulation, and octave position according to uniform compositional principles, and Goeyvaerts (with whom a close friendship developed for years) had developed these ideas further in his work. Stockhausen began work on his next work Kreuzspiel (No. 17 , 1951), which radically broke with his previous musical development and consistently used the concepts of serial music .

He developed and refined the serial thinking of that time in the following series of works up to the Electronic Studies I and II (No. 3, 1952/53). Important aspects of this way of composing were:

  • Striving for the composer to have the greatest possible control over the sound. This inevitably led to a degradation of the performing musicians (also determined by Stockhausen himself) to pure "playback machines" with immense technical difficulties in playing these works at the same time. The way out seemed to lie in electronic music, where there are no longer any interpreters.
  • Linear organization of relevant musical parameters. The parameters that initially offered themselves were the above-mentioned pitch, tone duration (soon differentiated in the interval between successive tones and duration of the individual tones themselves), volume. With the timbre and articulation, the problem arises that it is difficult to arrange them in a linear order. Here, too, electronic music offered the way out. Other problems arise in the rhythmic and dynamic realms. Louder notes are inevitably more present than soft ones, long notes inevitably contain a greater temporal portion of the work than short ones. In the course of time, Stockhausen found sensible solutions to these problems.
  • Identification of further parameters. So-called punctual music , which arises when the serial organization is limited to the basic parameters of the individual notes mentioned, was soon countered by Stockhausen with group composition , in which the parameters of entire groups of notes (e.g. their number of notes, range, density, etc.) are considered. The identification of further such musical parameters (mostly as pairs of opposites, which were then expanded to a scale with "shades of gray") was fundamental for Stockhausen's entire further musical development.
  • Avoiding figurative elements such as themes and motifs . In particular, the series of numbers on which the serial composition is based should not be directly recognizable. However, the absence of themes and motifs does not mean the absence of audible musical processes. The cross play thus thematizes an easily comprehensible musical cross movement of the parameters from the extremes to the middle range and back again. The group structure of piano piece I is also clearly recognizable.
  • Avoidance of existing material, in particular he rejected traditional themes, or everyday noises as the basis of tape music in Musique concrète .

Stockhausen has emphasized several times that he has always remained true to serial thinking and that the expression post-serial music should be rejected for his later works. (He later pointedly refrained from some of the aspects, in particular the rejection of figurative elements or the avoidance of pre-produced material.)

The possibilities that arose during the establishment of the Cologne studio for electronic music and were reflected in the two studies I and II appeared as the first opportunity to implement the principles striven for in the course of the previous years for the first time without compromise; Details of the individual sound, timbre and articulation, exact pitch, could be constructed from the ground up (even if only extremely laboriously with the technical means at the time) completely independent of the specifications by instruments or players from elementary building blocks ( sinus tones ).

However, Stockhausen did not continue on this path, but began to revise the principle of complete control by the composer while he was still working on the electronic studies.

Variable and ambiguous form, process composition, intuitive music (1954 to 1970)

While still working on his electronic studies, he began to write piano pieces again in 1954 ( piano pieces V to X , No. 4). And unlike the first four piano pieces (No. 2, 1952), he was now interested in the imponderables that arise from the pianist's interpretation, his technical limitations and also the physical properties of the piano. In the measure of time for woodwinds (No. 5, 1955/56), the duration of the musician's breathing is decisive for the tempo of the musical units. He called this approach variable form .

Score from piano piece XI (original size 54 × 94 cm)

He went one step further with Piano Piece XI (No. 7, 1956), in which he left the sequence of the passages to be played to the spontaneous decision of the pianist. He pursued similar approaches of this ambiguous form z. B. in cycle for one percussionist (No. 9, 1959) or refrain for ensemble (No. 11, 1959). This approach was inspired by the aleatoric works of the New York composers group around John Cage , which were known in Europe at the time. In contrast to Cage, Stockhausen's theme is not chance per se, but the musically meaningful inclusion of the performer and the playing situation in the work.

Interest in the role of the performer became central to Stockhausen's work in the 1960s. His process compositions now emerging allow the interpreter extensive freedom in the design of the musical details; Instead, the scores determine how the interpreter has to react to the musical situation: for example reinforcing or antagonistic, or repeating with a time delay. Typical symbols in these scores are plus and minus signs.

The specifications in these compositions and the material are different. In Spiral (No. 27, 1968) the interpreter has to react to the signals received from shortwave radio (which at that time represented a characteristic mixture of Morse signals from ship traffic, distorted radio broadcasts, and jammers from the Cold War ), in procession (No. 23, 1967) the musicians use quotations from other works by Stockhausen, which they reproduce from memory. In Solo (No. 19, 1966) the player reacts to the (partly transformed) time-delayed reproduction of his own playing (for this piece Stockhausen had a special device made to enable controlled time delay through variable belt loops).

One end point of this development, called Intuitive Music , are the cycles of text compositions From the Seven Days (No. 26, 1968) and For Coming Times (No. 33, 1968–1970), in which a work that sometimes takes several hours is replaced by a few Line-long instruction (e.g .: play individual notes until you feel the warmth that radiates from you ) is given. However, Stockhausen requires a special ensemble that has been specially prepared (preferably by the composer himself) for the performance (also through activities such as several days of fasting ). This contrasts with the statement made by Stockhausen explicitly about this music: I don't want a spiritualistic session, I want music .

Stockhausen saw the demarcation to improvisation in the fact that an improvising musician draws from the repertoire of existing music of his own world of experience; But that is exactly what he tried to prevent in his compositions and to control the frame of reference through precise specifications and personal study of the works with the interpreters.

How the time flies

Stockhausen in 1957 at the Darmstadt summer courses

The appropriate organization of time in serial composition was a central question for Stockhausen in the first half of the 1950s. The results that Stockhausen finally came to were presented in his famous essay … How time flies… . They manifested themselves primarily in the work Groups for Three Orchestras (No. 6, 1955–1957), but also in time measures or piano piece XI , and partly also in the singing of the youths .

Stockhausen presents his approach of looking at metrics and rhythm on the one hand, pitches and timbres on the other hand from a common point of view. This resulted in, for example

  • the zwölfelementige tempered "time octave" is often used later by Stockhausen of tempo (in light it appears as 45 to 47.5 - 50.5 to 53.5 - 56.5 to 60 - 63.5 to 67 - 71 to 75.5 - 80 quarters per minute), which corresponds better to the auditory physiological perception of time periods than the earlier naive approach of serial composers to simply build up the stock of sound periods as one, two, three, four etc. time units;
  • the construction of complex rhythmic structures by superimposing meters, similar to how a sound is composed of sine tones;
  • an argument to compose groups instead of points, since the rhythmic statements obtained from the new point of view do not relate to individual durations, but to speeds / frequencies of repeated events;
  • a practical argument to compose works for several orchestras with several conductors, since the superimposition of several tempos in irrational relationships to one another can best be realized this way. Charles Ives had already implemented similar approaches at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Even in piano piece XI , the sequence of the groups is beyond serial control (it arises from the player's “unintentional” intuition). This independence of the group as the epitome of the "musical moment" led to the moment form . Moments are short musical units that can stand on their own up to a certain level and are strung together in a relaxed, open sequence. This form, which appears for the first time in the singing of the youths and contacts , subsequently became Stockhausen's most important form of composition until the end of the 1960s (and in some cases beyond). For the composition Momente Stockhausen took advantage of the possibility resulting from the moment form to let a composition that was already ready for performance and performed over the years continue to grow by adding new moments.

Music in the room

The organization of the time in groups had suggested the use of three orchestras with three conductors. These orchestras are located on three sides of the concert hall in a U-shape around the audience. He composed the resulting spatial distribution of the sound sources more precisely, so that the movement of the sound groups through the space became a constitutive musical element. In the electronic composition Gesang der Jünglinge , the sound came from five channels corresponding to five loudspeakers positioned around the audience. Here, too, as in later compositions, the spatial disposition of the sound events was a parameter that was dealt with compositionally.

The stereo versions on records / CDs can only partially reproduce these spatial effects. Adequate reproduction of works such as groups (or even Carré for four orchestras and four choirs) is also a problem for the live versions , as it is difficult to find suitable concert halls. At the Expo 70 in Osaka, a spherical auditorium was built in the German pavilion with the substantial contribution of Stockhausen, which could present sounds to the listener from all directions of the room. However, this concert hall did not survive the world exhibition.

Space was often an important element in later works too. In Inori , the volume, which is differentiated on a sixty-part scale, is linked to the room music: the different levels of volume are realized by different numbers of players. In quiet places only the musicians on the right and left edge of the podium play; for a higher volume, musicians who sit closer to the center are added.

Overtone music

In the meditative-free works Mood and Star Sound , Stockhausen composes on the basis of the overtone series . These compositions are also based on serial methods.

Electronic music

Stockhausen in the electronic studio, 1991

Stockhausen had already produced a concrete tape composition Etude in the studio of Pierre Schaeffer in Paris in 1952 . It was based on the sounds of the piano strings, which, however, were made almost completely unrecognizable by manipulating the speed and cutting the ribbons into small and tiny pieces. Stockhausen withheld the work because it actually did not correspond to his basic conviction at the time not to use existing sound material. It wasn't until decades later that he presented the work to the public (which had since been lost in his sound archive).

The tape music of the Etude is not actually electronic music; For Stockhausen, however, this began in 1952 with work in the Cologne studio for electronic music. The two studies for electronic music that arose there represented the beginning of a new music world for Stockhausen, in which the interpreters were eliminated and all musical parameters were under the composer's control. Instead of taking this path now, however, he began to be interested in the performers, uncontrolledness, and sounds of the real world, i.e. exactly what he actually wanted to get rid of.

In Gesang der Jünglinge (No. 8, 1955/56), he uses recordings of a singing voice as material in addition to purely electronically generated sounds and subjects them to serial organization (e.g. using the degree of alienation of the voice and the degree of text intelligibility as parameters) .

In Kontakt (No. 12, 1960) the basic compositional elements are no longer sine tones, but sound concepts taken from instrumental music (wood sound, metal sound, skin sound), which are, however, realized purely electronically.

Contacts are also available in a version for electronic sounds and two instrumentalists. Originally the interaction between human players and electronic music was supposed to be decisive for the whole piece. However, a reaction of the electronics to the players was not technically possible at that time: He had to pre-produce the electronic sounds (and they also constitute a complete work in itself). He soon rejected the approach of allowing the musicians to react more or less freely in response to the solid electronic sounds, since practice effects would have eliminated the spontaneity of the reactions. So he composed the parts of the two players exactly.

In the works of the 1960s, the rigidity of electronic music, which no longer had to be pre-produced on tape, decreased: there were more and more possibilities for live electronic alienation of the instrumental sounds (for example using ring modulators , sound filters , distortions ), and the people those who operated the controls (often Stockhausen himself) were included as interpreters in the compositions. Live electronics played a fundamental role in almost all of Stockhausen's works during these years. For example, it goes into Mikrophonie I to the alienation of real metal sounds (a Tamtams ) by movement of the microphones, and control of the tone control, in mixture to the mixture of unverfremdeten instrumental sound with the distorted version, in short waves to the reaction of the performers, the radio receivers shortwave programs and receive noises.

After many years, telemusic and hymns were again pre-produced electronic compositions. For the first time, however, Stockhausen used existing musical material ( world music in one case, national anthems in the second) and processed it in such a way that this material often remained recognizable. The programs and associations associated with the material (e.g. American and Soviet national anthems) were also wanted and were used in the composition. The type of processing differed from the collage technique of musique concrète , since the music quotations were not simply cut behind and on top of each other, but modulated each other in the individual parameters.

At the beginning (1952) the technical means were mainly sine and pulse generators, tapes (which could be cut, glued and played over at different speeds), and reverberation devices. Since the singing of the youngsters , Stockhausen let the studio technicians operate the controls like live musicians according to graphic specifications (until the sound result was satisfactory). In live electronics, microphones, sound filters and ring modulators dominated. In Sirius (No. 43, 1975–1977) Stockhausen used a synthesizer and a sequencer for the first time (sequencers could only play and transform short melodic sequences at that time). He worked alone in the studio, developing the sound result interactively within the framework of the composition plan. He has been using synthesizers on stage since 1984.

Stockhausen's studio for electronic music on the premises of the WDR will soon be housed in Mödrath / Kerpen Castle.

Karlheinz Stockhausen was an honorary member of the German Society for Electroacoustic Music (DEGEM) .

Scandal at the world premiere of Fresco

The world premiere on November 15, 1969, which was also the only performance of Stockhausen's work Fresco for four orchestral groups playing in four different rooms, caused a scandal. There were already arguments during rehearsals, as some musicians questioned instructions such as “ Glissandos not faster than an octave per minute”. Others asked their union by phone whether they were actually obliged to play as part of the orchestra. At the premiere there was a sign that read “We're playing or we'll be fired!”. During the performance, cards suddenly appeared on some music stands with the text “Stockhausen Zoo. Please do not feed! ”To the fore. Some musicians left the concert early, although the performance was scheduled for four to five hours. Stockhausen fans protested, while Stockhausen opponents spoke out polemically towards the strings. Strangers also managed to turn off the lights on the desks so that the musicians sat in the dark. The performance ended after 260 minutes because the orchestra musicians had stopped participating.


From the beginning, Stockhausen's serial music was designed in such a way that it gave the composer the freedom to make individual creative decisions. Stockhausen also used elements in his pieces that were outside the serial composition plan: B. the closing bars of the first three piano pieces. In electronic study I , a single tone outside of the serial system (but inconspicuous for unprepared listeners) marks the point in time when Stockhausen was informed of the birth of his daughter Suja while working on the piece (Stockhausen speaks of a "gun shot").

Stockhausen began to incorporate musical foreign bodies into works more often (under the designation "inserts"), which he inserted into pieces outside of the context, now mostly clearly audible. That happened in the processing of counterpoints in 1953, in groups , refrains , contacts . In moments there were so many inserts that they can no longer be distinguished from what was inserted. In the later formula composition technique (from 1970) the insertions were replaced by freer passages that were already laid out in the formulas themselves.

Wolfgang Rihm , who studied at Stockhausen for a year, describes the insertions as “precisely those places where he realizes: 'Something has to be added. Is it okay? I don't care, I'll put something in there! ' and he does that too. Then I saw that this man switches and rules in the material and in the conditions of the musical cosmos according to a draft, but he also overturns the draft when he is challenged as the artistic composer. "

The 1970s

Around 1970 there was a rift between Stockhausen and the musicians in his ensemble, who claimed co-authorship of the intuitive and procedural works. Stockhausen, in turn, accused them of indiscipline in the frequent performances of these works (especially at the world exhibition in Osaka), which had led to strong fluctuations in quality. He decided to fix his music down to the last detail (but he also continued to write free pieces, e.g. For Coming Times , Ylem , No. 37, 1973, Herbstmusik , No. 40, 1974). He also found that, based on his experience with the free works of the 1960s, he was able to compose ideas that previously seemed feasible to him only with the involvement of the interpreters.

He now called his way of composing formula composition ; A formula is a musical theme composed in detail (with rhythm, dynamics, types of performance, etc.) that is intended to determine the entire composition. It provides the musical material in various modifications (e.g. mirroring, spreading, excerpt, projection, etc.). The recognisability of the formula throughout the piece is an important goal of the composition.

He presented these new approaches with mantra for two pianos and live electronics. He also unearthed an orchestral composition which he had written under the working title Study immediately after Kreuzspiel in 1952 and which he had withheld at the time because of the thematicism classified as a wrong track. In 1972 he introduced it under the new name Formel and saw it as an anticipation of his current way of composing. In I am walking in the sky and in Inori , the formula is built up step by step through the entire work. With the choral work Breathing gives life and the composition Sirius the formulas become polyphonic. (Stockhausen spoke of multiformal music ).

In the work Inori (Japanese for “prayer” or “prayers”), prayer gestures performed by a mime are central, which are compositionally integrated into the serial structure. This integration of body movements into the works (scenic music) has been an essential element of the compositions since the mid-1970s. The instrumentalists are also involved in these movements. This can be seen, for example, in the composition Harlequin for solo clarinet, some of which are video recordings with various interpreters on the Internet. The scenic, ritual approach can also be found in the Kreuzspiel with the exact seating plan for players and conductors, and of course also in the music theater piece Originale (No. 12 23 , 1961).

Light (1977 to 2004)

Karlheinz Stockhausen (1980)

Karlheinz Stockhausen completed his heptalogy light, which he started in 1977, in 2005 . With his life's work he left behind a monumental opus dealing with religious, mystical and autobiographical themes. The operas are based on a single “super formula” that combines three melodies that characterize the main characters - Michael, Eve, Lucifer.

The first operas were premiered at La Scala in Milan ( Thursday , Saturday , Monday ); in Leipzig in 1992 Tuesday and 1996 Friday were played for the first time - Johannes Conen was involved in both performances as set designer. Three of Stockhausen's children were also involved in the performances on Thursday , Saturday and Tuesday , Majella as pianist on Thursday and Saturday , Markus as trumpeter and Simon as soprano saxophonist and synthesizer player on Thursday , Saturday and Tuesday . In Thursday out of light Stockhausen processes autobiographical experiences and presents in the section Michael's youth impressively formative experiences from his childhood in an abstract form, such as the death of his parents. The last part of the Sunday cycle of light was on 9/10. April 2011 staged premiered in Cologne.

Portrayed persons or groups are sometimes occupied multiple times (such as the Eva figure in Montag is embodied by three sopranos), associated with an instrument or a group of the same (Michael troupe on Tuesday : three trumpets , six tutti trumpets, percussion , synthesizer ) or extended by dancers (figure Luzipolyp in Montag : bass and dancer appear as double beings ).

The cycle offers an abundance of unusual ideas - four strings are placed in four flying helicopters and play their music from there. Two 35-minute pieces for choir and orchestra are played simultaneously in two different rooms, the listener only gets to hear excerpts from them. The choir members, dressed in different colors, sing in Sanskrit , Chinese , Arabic , English and Swahili .

The total of 29 hours of music, Licht, has not yet been performed in its entirety .

Klang (2004 to 2007)

After completing light , Stockhausen turned his attention in his last (unfinished) work cycle to sound , which he saw primarily as an inner sound, the voice of conscience . When sound is a cycle of concert pieces for one or more soloists, some with live electronics, and a purely electronic composition.

For sound , Stockhausen no longer used the technique of formula composition, but took up the approach of the essay How time flies again, to consider rhythm and sound from a uniform point of view. The pieces are essentially based on the same series that underlies groups , and some develop the polymetrics of groups and time measures .

Due to Stockhausen's sudden death in 2007, only 21 of the planned 24 parts of the work (which are assigned to the 24 hours of the day) could be completed.

Stockhausen's worldview

2005 in Kürten

Stockhausen was firmly anchored in Rhenish Catholicism from an early age. Under National Socialism, secret prayer offered him consolation and refuge. As a composer, he saw himself called to portray and research the divine world order in his works. However, this point of view did not appear superficially in the 1950s, so that he was perceived by the public as a cool technocrat.

In the early 1960s, under the influence of his later second wife, Mary Bauermeister, he broke away from Catholicism. He was initially guided by the works of the philosopher Gotthard Günther . Towards the end of the 1960s, the writings of the Hindu mystic Sri Aurobindo began to become increasingly important to him, with which he first came into contact in 1967 in California. In 1971 he finally received the book Urantia from an American gnostic - esoteric organization, which he began to read step by step, and which then became more and more decisive for his work in the following decades, beginning with Inori , finally unmistakably in Sirius , light and sound .

Esoteric and eccentric

Despite the religious change, Stockhausen's sense of mission did not change; as it became more and more apparent, it made him more and more a controversial person. His eccentric self-portrayal was criticized. Statements by Stockhausen, like

“I was trained on Sirius and want to go there again, although I currently still live in Kürten near Cologne. It's very spiritual on Sirius. Almost no time passes between conception and implementation. What one knows here as an audience, passive assessors, does not exist there. Everyone is creative. "

caused contradiction and incomprehension. When the conductor Michael Gielen heard about it, he said: “When he said that he knew what was happening to Sirius, I turned away from him with horror. I didn't hear a note either. "

Comments on September 11, 2001

The statements on the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 also belong in the context of his Sirius statements . Stockhausen said, "Well, what happened there is natural - now you all have to rearrange your brain - the greatest work of art that has ever existed ..."

“So that ghosts can accomplish something in one act that we could never dream of in music, that people practice like crazy for ten years, totally fanatical, for a concert. And then die. [Hesitates.] And this is the greatest work of art there is for the whole cosmos. Just imagine what happened there. So these are people who are so focused on this one performance, and then five thousand people are chased into the resurrection. In a moment. I couldnt do that. We are nothing against that, as composers. ... It is a crime because people did not agree. They didn't come to the concert . That is clear. And nobody announced to them that you could get killed. "

His point of view met with incomprehension and rejection in the media and the general public. On September 19, 2001, he issued a written statement in English on his controversial statements. He defended his statement and pointed out that he had spoken in the spirit of his operatic character Lucifer , the fallen angel. He distanced himself from the terrorist attack and wrote in the statement that he included the victims in his prayers.

Political commitment

In April 2007 Karlheinz Stockhausen was one of the first to sign the call for a parliamentary assembly at the United Nations , which is supposed to be a first step towards a world parliament.


After Stockhausen's death, the musicians Suzanne Stephens and Kathinka Pasveer carried on the composer's legacy as he intended : by maintaining contacts, holding concerts all over the world, managing the Stockhausen Foundation and the extensive archive and, last but not least, organizing the annual Stockhausen courses and concerts. As early as 1997, the first of the annual Stockhausen courses in July / August took place in Stockhausen's home town of Kürten : Year after year, the Foundation invites well-known Stockhausen interpreters to practice Stockhausen's works with students and to present them publicly - also in the Framework of lectures and courses for interpreters, composers, sound directors and musicologists.

Student (selection)

Awards (selection)

Catalog raisonné

Stockhausen wrote 370 individually performable works.

For a complete list, see List of Works by Karlheinz Stockhausen .

Particularly influential are:

  • Kreuzspiel No. 17 for 6 instruments, 1951. Stockhausen's first serial work.
  • Counterpoints No. 1 for 10 instruments, 1952/53. Stockhausen's first printed composition.
  • Piano pieces I – IV . No. 2, 1952. Development of the group form.
  • Studies I / II No. 3, 1952-53. Electronic music.
  • Piano pieces V – X No. 4, 1954. Variable form.
  • Timing No. 5 for 5 woodwinds, 1955–56. Variable form, time organization.
  • Groups No. 6 for 3 orchestral groups, 1955–57. Spatial music, group form, time organization - one of his most famous works of this time.
  • Piano piece XI No. 7, 1956. Ambiguous form, aleatoric.
  • Song of the Young Men No. 8, 1955–56. Electronic music, religious text, spatial music, momentary form - probably his best-known work.
  • Cycle No. 9 for a percussionist, 1959. One of the earliest drum solo pieces in New Music.
  • Refrain No. 11 for piano, vibraphone and celesta, 1959/68. Variable shape.
  • Contacts No. 12 Electronic composition or for piano, percussion and tape, 1958–60. Two versions: tape alone or combination of electronic sounds with instrumental sounds.
  • Moments No. 13 for soprano, choir and 13 instruments, 1962–69 / 1972 European version / 1998, moment form.
  • Plus-Minus No. 14, 1963. Concept composition; Graphics with instructions that must be worked out for a performance.
  • Microphone I No. 15 for tam-tam and live electronics (6 performers), 1964.
  • Solo No. 19 for a melody instrument and live electronics, 1966. Process composition by a soloist in dialogue with himself.
  • Hymns No. 22, electronic music with or without 4 soloists and / or orchestra, 1966–67 / 69. Electronic monumental work with foreign material (national anthems), political issues.
  • Tuning No. 24 for 6 singers, 1968. Overtone music.
  • Shortwave No. 25 for three players and live electronics, 1968. Process composition with radios.
  • From the Seven Days No. 26 for any instrument, 1968. Intuitive music, text composition.
  • Mantra No. 32 for two pianists and live electronics, 1970. The first formula composition.
  • Inori No. 38 for two actors and orchestra, 1973. Prayer gestures, didactic presentation of the formula, differentiated handling of the volume levels.
  • Zodiac No. 41 12 - 12 melodies of the zodiac signs, 1974–75. Typical of his 1970s style; Works from the cycle are often performed, varied elaborations.
  • Sirius No. 43 Electronic music with / without instrumentalists, 1975–77. Multiform music, first use of synthesizers and sequencers.
  • Michael's Journey around the Earth on Thursday from Light No. 48 for trumpet and ensemble, 1977–78. The television production of the WDR is available on the Internet.
  • Licht, the seven days of the week , opera, composed 1977–2003.
  • Lucifer's Dream - Piano Piece XIII from Saturday from Light No. 51, 1981.
  • Synthi-Fou - piano piece XV from Tuesday's farewell from Tuesday from Licht No. 61 23 , 1990–91. Synthesizer on stage.
  • Helicopter string quartet from Wednesday from Light No. 69 for string quartet, helicopter and live electronics, 1992–93. The four strings of the quartet are separately in four helicopters.
  • Hoch-Zeiten vom Sonntag aus Licht No. 79 for choir and orchestra, 2001–02.
  • Sound No. 81–101 for solos or ensembles with / without electronics, 2004–2007, unfinished.



  • Christoph von Blumröder : The foundation of the music of Karlheinz Stockhausen . In: Hans Heinrich Eggebrecht (Ed.): Archives for musicology . Supplement 32. Steiner, Stuttgart 1993.
  • Rudolf Frisius: Karlheinz Stockhausen I: Introduction to the Complete Works; Conversations with Karlheinz Stockhausen . Schott Musik International, Mainz 1996, ISBN 3-7957-0248-8 .
  • Rudolf Frisius: Karlheinz Stockhausen II: The Works 1950–1977; Conversation with Karlheinz Stockhausen, “It's going up” . Schott Musik International, Mainz, London, Berlin, Madrid, New York, Paris, Prague, Tokyo, Toronto 2008, ISBN 978-3-7957-0249-6 .
  • Jerome Kohl: Karlheinz Stockhausen: Time measures. Landmarks in Music Since 1950 . Routledge, London, New York 2017, ISBN 978-0-7546-5334-9 .
  • Michael Kurtz: Stockhausen - a biography . Bärenreiter, Kassel, Basel 1988, ISBN 3-7618-0895-X .
  • Herman Sabbe: The unity of the Stockhausen time ...: New possibilities of understanding serial development based on the early work of Stockhausen and Goeyvaerts. Shown on the basis of Stockhausen's letters to Goevaerts . In: Heinz-Klaus Metzger and Rainer Riehn (eds.): Music concepts . 19: Karlheinz Stockhausen:… how time passed…. Edition Text + Criticism, München 1981, p. 5-96 .
  • Karlheinz Stockhausen: Texts on Music 1. Essays 1952–1962 on the theory of composing . Ed .: Dieter Schnebel. M. DuMont Schauberg, Cologne 1963.
  • Karlheinz Stockhausen: Texts on Music 2. Essays 1952–1962 on musical practice . Ed .: Dieter Schnebel. DuMont Schauberg, Cologne 1964.
  • Karlheinz Stockhausen: Texts on Music 3. Introductions and projects, courses, programs, points of view, secondary notes . Ed .: Dieter Schnebel. DuMont Schauberg, Cologne 1971, ISBN 3-7701-0493-5 .
  • Karlheinz Stockhausen: Texts on Music 6: 1977–84: Interpretation. Ed .: Christoph von Blumröder. DuMont Buchverlag, Cologne 1989.
  • Karlheinz Stockhausen: Towards a Cosmic Music. Texts selected and translated . Ed .: Tim Nevill. Element Books, Longmead / Shaftesbury / Dorset 1989.
  • Karlheinz Stockhausen: Texts on the music 7 . Ed .: Christoph von Blumröder. Stockhausen-Verlag, Kürten 1998.
  • Karlheinz Stockhausen: Texts on the music 8 . Ed .: Christoph von Blumröder. Stockhausen-Verlag, Kürten 1998.
  • Karlheinz Stockhausen: Texts on the music 9 . Ed .: Christoph von Blumröder. Stockhausen-Verlag, Kürten 1998.
  • Robin Maconie: The Works of Karlheinz Stockhausen . Oxford University Press, London / New York 1976, ISBN 0-19-315429-3 (with a foreword by Karlheinz Stockhausen).
  • Robin Maconie: Other Planets: The Music Of Karlheinz Stockhausen . Scarecrow Press, 2005, ISBN 0-8108-5356-6 .
  • Mary Bauermeister: I'm hanging in the triplet grid. My life with Karlheinz Stockhausen . Munich 2011, ISBN 978-3-570-58024-0 .


Web links

Commons : Karlheinz Stockhausen  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Entry Gertrud Stockhausen November 30, 1900 - May 27, 1941. Hadamar Memorial Book and Database, 2006.
  2. Uwe Ebbinghaus: If you are not good, you come to Hadamar . FAZ.net , July 29, 2015.
  3. I wander in the sky. WAZ , December 7, 2007.
  4. Claus-Steffen Mahnkopf : The humanity of music. Hofheim 2007, ISBN 978-3-936000-42-9 , p. 13.
  5. ^ Elisabeth Wehrmann: Karlheinz Stockhausen: "He was my muserich". Die Zeit , June 13, 2012.
  6. Kurtz: Stockhausen (1988), pp. 69/70.
  7. karlheinzstockhausen.org
  8. Dibelius: New Music 1945–1965 (3rd edition 1984) p. 101
  9. ^ Stockhausen: On the situation of the craft . In: Texts I (1963/1988)
  10. z. B. Stockhausen: Interview II: On the situation (Darmstädter Ferkienkurse '74) in texts IV , (1978) p. 550
  11. Stockhausen: Invention and Discovery. In: Texts I , p. 222 ff.
  12. Blumröder: Basis (1993) p. 168
  13. Stockhausen: Texts I , p. 99 ff.
  14. Inori video clip with commentary by Stockhausen ( MOV ; 7.7 MB)
  15. ^ Frisius: Stockhausen (1996) p. 83 ff.
  16. ^ Frisius Stockhausen (1996) pp. 199ff.
  17. ^ Karlheinz Stockhausen Fresco | Wall sounds for meditation | No. 29 | for 4 orchestra groups
  18. Too much to ask . In: Der Spiegel . No. 49 , 1969 ( online ).
  19. Blumröder: Basis (1993) (analyzes of Kreuzspiel and Klavierstück III )
  20. ^ Frisius: Stockhausen (1996) p. 185 ff.
  21. faz.net
  22. Kurtz: Stockhausen (1988), 238 f.
  23. ^ Frisius: Stockhausen (1996), p. 196
  24. ^ Stockhausen: Composition course in Kuerten 2006: Composition course on SOUND, first lesson . Stockhausen-Verlag, Kürten 2006
  25. ^ Richard Toop: Stockhausen, Karlheinz . Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online, 2008, oxfordmusiconline.com (paid)
  26. Blumröder: Foundation , passim
  27. Kurtz: Stockhausen , p. 161 f.
  28. Kurtz: Stockhausen , p. 198
  29. Markus Bandur: Karlheinz Stockhausen and the reception of “The Urantia Book” (Chicago 1955) in “Light. The seven days of the week ” ( Memento of October 11, 2003 in the Internet Archive ). Infosects, Catholic Media Center (Switzerland), August 22, 2003.
  30. ^ Ralf Grauel: Lichtgestalten . In: ZEITmagazin , No. 15/1998, p. 14
  31. the first sentence about training on Sirius, can also be found here in a slightly modified form: Sebastian Reier: Obituary - In the rhythm of the stars . Zeit Online , December 9, 2007
  32. Volker Hagedorn: Conductor Michael Gielen - The Unyielding . In: Die Zeit , No. 18/2010.
  33. Stockhausen interview during the press conference (MP3; 1.6 MB) on September 16, 2001 in Hamburg. Danskmusiktidsskrift.dk ( Memento from August 29, 2006 in the Internet Archive ).
  34. ^ The transcription of the entire press conference: “Huuuh!” The press conference on September 16, 2001 in the Senate room of the Hotel Atlantic in Hamburg . ( Memento of February 5, 2018 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 74 kB) In: MusikTexte No. 91 (2002), pp. 69–77, here p. 77.
  35. ^ Message from Professor Karlheinz Stockhausen, September 19, 2001. Stockhausen.org ( Memento of September 24, 2001 in the Internet Archive ).
  36. Supporters: Individuals from Germany. Campaign for a Parliamentary Assembly at the United Nations website, accessed 7 August 2018.
  37. ^ The best way to give the poor a real voice is through a world parliament. The Guardian , April 24, 2007 (English).
  38. cf. Karlheinz Stockhausen, instrumentation, orchestral works: Moments. Website of the Stockhausen Foundation for Music.
  39. Christoph Schwarze: Bock gääg . Plattentests.de
  40. Karlheinz Stockhausen - Musical thinking as cause and effect. Archived from the original on July 17, 2015 ; accessed on July 16, 2015 .
  41. Amon Düül II. In: Universal Lexicon. Retrieved July 16, 2015 .
  42. Tank boy. Retrieved July 16, 2015 .
  43. ^ The Beatles and the Avant-Garde. Retrieved July 16, 2015 .
  44. ^ Ralf von Appen: Concrete pop music. On the influence of Stockhausen and Schaeffer on Björk, Matthew Herbert and Matmos. (PDF) Retrieved July 16, 2015 .
  45. Tracing Kraftwerk's enduring influence. Retrieved July 16, 2015 .
  46. Genius and megalomania - Karlheinz Stockhausen (August 22, 1928 - December 5, 2007). Retrieved July 16, 2015 .
  47. Legends Before Their Time: A Zappa / Sun Ra Comparison. Retrieved July 16, 2015 .