Thursday, May 8, 2014


Work No.10: CARRÉ for 4 orchestras and 4 choirs (4 cond.)  
(each orch. features a lead instrument: piano, cimbalom, harp, and vibraphone)
(1959-60) [ca. 36']
Diagrams of structures indicating spatial movement, etc..
(from score front
     While on tour in America, Stockhausen spent alot of time flying, and during these flights he would put his ear to the window to hear the various frequency combinations produced by the propeller noise as it encountered different atmospheric conditions.  These slow-moving textures inspired him to do something similar with orchestral and choral forces (four in this case) moving in space.

     In this work he also attempted to compose beyond the 'time of memory', in other words, beyond what a typical music composition would expect a person's attention-span would be.  Most people can tell the difference between 2 and 4 seconds, but after 8 seconds it is much harder to tell exactly how long something has been happening.  CARRÉ uses a pitch row that has very slow-moving tempos.

     Stockhausen was busy creating the electronic work KONTAKTE, so he didn't have enough to time to notate CARRÉ in time for the commissioned performance.  Instead he created 101 diagrams (above and below), indicating pitches, dynamics, level of activity, and movement of sound around the four orchestra groups.  His assistant, Cornelius Cardew, (a somewhat mythic figure in his own right) took these diagrams and with Stockhausen looking over his shoulder ("aided, irritated, confused, encouraged, and sometimes even guided..." - Cardew), completed the 3,000-note manuscript (one full score for each of the four orchestras and choirs).
Diagrams of structures indicating movement, dynamics (1-12), pitch material.
(from score front
     In the latter part of the score realization, Stockhausen came up with the idea of distributing "Inserts" throughout the piece.  These Inserts were basically structures which featured faster and denser spacial motion of sound between the 4 orchestras.  The Inserts concept would evolve into the "time windows" of pieces like MIKROPHONIE II.

     Finally, during rehearsals for CARRÉ, there were many difficulties with the conductors unable to hear and synchronize with each other, so Stockhausen did more editing at the 11th hour, just prior to the performance.  In order to help synchronize conductors and groups to attack (enter) together, Stockhausen sometimes incorporated short upbeats before each "big" attack (Cardew).  In any case, the final work as recorded and broadcast ended up being somewhat different from the original "air-borne" conception, but still retains the general idea of "sounds 'at peace' which last and last and do not change, or change suddenly and briefly" (Cardew).

Form Structure
     Stockhausen created several structural plans for CARRÉ, but even the last may not be quite "square" (no pun intended!) with the final score since it was re-edited just prior to the premiere.  But this version (reproduced on the score) gives an idea of what things Stockhausen is interested in exploring here.
 The form structure above has 8 rows of categories, each with 4 sub-rows (below listed highest row to lowest):
  1. Lead instrument: cimbalom, vibraphone, piano, harp
  2. Attack transient: bells, drums, cowbell, cymbals
  3. Changing attribute: rhythm, pitch range, timbre, dynamics
  4. Pitch density: wide spread to narrow spread (?) - 4, 3, 2, 1
  5. Pitch register: high to low - C2/C3, C1, C, C(E)
  6. Duration: short to long - short, middle, long, very long
  7. Volume: loud to soft - 12, 9, 6, 3
  8. Main Orchestra group: vocal, strings, winds and brass.
     In this form scheme one can see that in rows 3 - 5 (changing attribute, pitch density, register) Stockhausen distributes events as going from sparse and intermittent, to dense and then constant, and then back to sparse (increasing and then decreasing). Closer to the end, the solid horizontal lines would suggest static drone textures.  Major groupings occur at sections 7, 43, 71, 82, 102, 147, 202, and 217 (9 large sections total).  However the last 4 large sections were not completed and the work ends just after 100 (101 is just between the "F" and the "o" in "Formbestimmung" above).  Also this form scheme doesn't include the Inserts or any information about the spatial movements. Stockhausen considers this composition to be one of his earliest explorations of "moment form" (in his 1972 British Lecture "Musical Forming").  I assume each of the 101 completed sections could be considered an individual "moment".  The big piece of string in the middle could make one think of John Cage's "construction" pieces but I'm pretty certain it's just a string...
     In the table below the first column has the CD track sequence number with the actual CD track number in parentheses, since the Stockhausen Edition CD has GRUPPEN in tracks 1 through 48.  The CD Track Elements are just from careful listening, and the last column is based on reading the Form Structure above.
CD Track Number Time CD Track Elements Form Structure
Section Group Trends indicated by 
the Original Form Structure
(+9" intro)
low, slow, quiet, bass vocal drones, brief accent at end 1-3
  • cymbals (gong, hi-hat) attacks
  • timbre transformations
  • few pitches, low, very long, mezzoforte
  • voice-brass-wind-voice-brass-voice timbre changes
0:25 percussion w. cymbals, low syllabic bass vocal, brass/wind, vocal "points" 4, 5

  • some piano featured
  • increasing drum & hi-hat
  • decreasing changes in timbre
  • increasing changes in dynamics
  • changing pitch density, mostly middle register, short durations
  • rotating vocal/orchestra forces (increasing strings)
0:29 strings, brass points, changing registers, bass vocal 10-14
0:18 drum/cymbal attacks, string masses, piano 15-19
0:06 string swell 20-26
0:42 slow, string glissandi, winds join in points, vibraphone 27-32
0:59 INSERT: slow strings w. building wind and brass points 32X-33
1:35 loud, dissonant and static (beating), dense trembling, vocals 34-37
0:52 snare rolls, brass timbre changes, vocal points, ritardando 38-40
0:28 cowbell and brass attack, sustained string bending, vibraphone, vocal accents 41-43
0:44 quiet but dense, muted brass points, sliding masses, vocals 44-47
  • vibr/piano/harp featured, decreasing drum/cowbell
  • increasing changes in pitch range & dynamics
  • decreasing timbre changes
  • changing register, long durations, forte
  • strings, with increasing winds
0:45 slow brass, bells, snare, gongs 48, 49
0:35 strings & brass swells, vocal moans, then points
50, 51
0:19 quiet muted brass, vocal syllable 52, 53
0:45 high, dense texture, snare/bells/vibraphone, pizz. strings, vocals 54-56
1:24 tremolos, brass and pizz. points, moving strings, brass & percussion points, harp, bells, soprano long tones, cimbalom 57-62
0:27 cowbell, bells, sliding vocals, medium tempo vibraphone, winds, cimbalom
0:24 INSERT: moving brass/wind/piano stabs, trembling strings 63X
0:22 high to low tremolo, slow winds, snare rolls, vibraphone, soprano vocals 64
0:44 tremolo perc, quiet high drones/gliss, vocal exhortations 66-69
1:42 INSERT: cimbalom solo, turbulent strings and winds, cymbal hit, soprano long tones 69X
0:43 high (soprano) vocal/brass long tones, ending w vibraphone solo 70
0:23 winds wailing, held strings with anxious vocals 71, 72
  • cymbal attacks
  • pitch range changes
  • sparse pitches, very high register, quiet
  • winds rotating in space
0:39 INSERT: short but lengthening anxious vocal movement w perc., changing to low brass masses 72X-74
1:15 high long tones, moving wind points w fast vocal twittering, piano solo 75, 76
0:32 piano tremolos, points, vocal murmuring 77-79
0:24 quiet swells, periodic wind/piano accents 80
0:24 long tones, cimbalom, vocals 81
2:25 explosions and turbulence alternate w trembling sustained textures in different registers, vocal polyphony 82
  • drum attacks w some cowbell
  • changing dynamics
  • mostly high reg., varying durations
  • mostly voice, decreasing winds, increasing brass
1:25 INSERT: turbulent, brass/vocal swells, then quiet, high, long vocal tones (overhead airplane bleed) 82X
0:43 moving brass/perc/vocal points 83-86
1:09 bells, vibraphone, sustained high vocal, pizz/trembling strings, cimbalom accents 87, 88
0:56 bells, piano, pizz glissandi, transparent, vocal long tones 89, 90
0:32 loud brass, turbulent strings, bells, vocal accents 91
0:33 string and muted brass masses, bells, clapping, vocal whispers 92
1:14 loud masses w snare rolls, gongs, vocal long tones, vibr/piano/cimb/harp
0:27 more vocal/orchestral sound masses w snare hits and rolls 98
0:22 high register sound masses, vocal whispers 99
0:40 piano/strings accent, brass/vocal/percussion stabs 100

     The rightmost column above (Section Group Trends...) helps to show general tendencies but not detail - for example the 4th group in the form scheme lists only winds, but chorus and brass do appear from time to time.  The 5th group does not list strings, but strings do sometimes play a background texture.  The indication "points" refers to short, sparse accents with rests in between (see KONTRAPUNKTE).

Score "insert' for Orchestra 1, 69X, with indications for Orchestra 2, 3 & 4 at top for coordination purposes.
Universal Edition)
     Each conductor uses a score which has his orchestral parts written out, with reductions of the other three orchestras and choruses notated in the top.  The reductions are either staff-based or graphically notated.  Each orchestra group (actually a reduced full orchestra) has its own conductor, chorus and "featured voice": piano, cimbalom, harp and vibraphone.  The cimbalom especially stands out as a unique texture, just as Stockhausen's three-orchestra GRUPPEN has the novel electric guitar as one of its featured instruments.

     The choral text is based mostly on sounds and has no function besides sounding 'good' ("The phonetically conceived text was composed according to purely musical qualities. Only here and there do names of children, women, friends emerge." - Stockhausen).  This is also the first piece (but certainly far from last!) where Stockhausen uses the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) to score vocal parts.

     The late addition Inserts include sections 32X, 63X, 69X, 72X and 82X.  These feature staccato or otherwise more "turbulent" musical material, bouncing from orchestra to orchestra (actually the sound is supposed to be 'spiraling', but because of the separation between orchestras, it comes out as 'bouncing').  The pitch material is based on a tone row, but all other features (dynamics, etc...) are non-serial.

     One other interesting point that Cardew mentions in his own account (see bottom link) is that as the piece goes on, a particular musical element (pitch, dynamic, spatial movement, etc...) is reinforced by repetition, and then a new element is introduced, sometimes going from frequent to infrequent, and sometimes the opposite.  This is supported by what's shown in the form structure above.

Arrows indicate audience facing, dots indicate conductors (also facing inwards),
rectangles are the orchestras (facing conductors).
(from CD notes ©
Sound Impressions
     CARRÉ starts out on a somewhat grim note, with the choral basses intoning low notes in something that sounds like what I imagine a "black mass" to be like.  It soon lightens up however,  and the main features become pretty obvious - groupings of long and short notes moving from one orchestra to another.  Many times these "sound masses" begin with a sharp percussion-assisted attack, and then proceed to float through the sound-space.  Other times sound masses fade in and out.  There are no melodic themes in the traditional sense (no real legato phrases at all), and most of the shorter sound bursts are separated by pauses, or rests.

     These stretches of plane-propeller-inspired music are interrupted by the Inserts, dialoguing bursts of staccato chords, ping-ponging around the four orchestras.  On CD this effect is not as well experienced, orchestras on the far right and far left sound a bit small, and the center-right and center-left orchestras sound more "important".  This is one time where stereo fails somewhat to provide "360 Degree Sound".  However special mention goes to section 34 (CD track 56), where Stockhausen seemingly does a "demo" of his future Helikopter String Quartet - with lots of great trembling and vibrating textures.  There's even jetliner noise bleeding in at section 82X (which is also very appropriate considering the initial inspiration of the work).  After a while things get pretty dense, the sound masses erupt into a pretty turbulent storm of virtuoso orchestration (especially Insert 69X), but shortly before the end of the piece the clouds return and CARRÉ ends in classic post-climax fashion.

     Overall I really enjoyed this piece, especially the unique element of the cimbalom (from section 57), which sounds somewhere between an electric guitar and an harpsichord.  It's too bad the score was edited before its first performance due to problems synchronizing the conductors.  With modern ear-monitor technology that would no longer be a problem, and I think Stockhausen's original intention of "plane-noise music" would have been represented even better.  As Cardew attests, much of the "stillness" of the sounds was sacrificed in order to allow the four orchestras to maintain coordination.  However many other modern composers have since of mined that territory (starting with Ligeti and Penderecki, and ending with Don Davis' scores for the Matrix movies), so maybe it's not that necessary.
Last minute cutting session.
(from CD notes (©

CARRÉ Sound samples, tracks listings and CD ordering (Stockhausen Edition)
Buy the Score
Report on Stockhausen's 'Carre' (Cornelius Cardew) PDF (offline)
Carre Score on UE Website
Stockhausen's notes regarding CARRÉ set up. 
Wikipedia Entry
Albrecht Moritz Review
Sonoloco Review 
YouTube Clip
Works of Karlheinz Stockhausen (Robin Maconie)
Compositional techniques in the music of Stockhausen (1951-1970) (John Kelsall PDF)

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