Friday, April 3, 2015


Arianna Garotti in front of the Heaven's Door. (from CD Booklet)
No. 84: KLANG 4th Hour: HIMMELS-TÜR
(Heaven's Door), for a percussionist and a little girl, (2005) [28 min.]

Also: 24 TÜRIN: for door, rin and speaker, (2006) [13 min.]
(electronic music from processed door and rin bowl sounds with spoken text)

      HIMMELS-TÜR (Heaven's Door) is the 4th "hour" of Stockhausen's originally-planned 24-part cycle KLANG ("SOUND") which is based on the 24 hours of the day.  A semi-theatrical solo work for percussionist (first playing a large 12-panel wooden door, and then a metal percussion kit), it was commissioned by the Italian concert organization Angelica, and premiered by Stuart Gerber in Lugo, Italy in 2006.  First visualized in a dream, Stockhausen originally looked for a pre-existing church door to use as the main percussion instrument, but couldn't quite find one which could produce the variety of tones he was looking for.  Eventually it was decided to build a custom door with various wood types for each panel.  This "Heaven's Door" is actually a double door, each with 6 vertical sections, which together create an entrance which opens inwards.  In order to play the lowest panels, the percussionist kneels or lies on his side, and to play the topmost panels he sometimes leaps into the air.  In front of the door is a wooden platform on which the percussionist "dances" with nailed shoes.  Situated behind the door (and hidden from view) is the metal percussion kit, consisting of cymbals, hi-hats, and tam-tams (gongs).  Different wooden beaters can be used by the percussionist to create different timbres.

Form Structure
     HIMMELS-TÜR is basically in 2 parts.  The first, longer part, consists of the percussionist beating on the door and expressing 14 different "moods".  After a final vertical leap, the door opens, illuminated from behind by a dazzling light (and optionally giving view to a rising stairway (tho it's doubtful Stockhausen was a Led Zeppelin fan!)).  This is followed by a shorter section where the percussionist passes through the now-open door and from somewhere out of view plays a metal percussion kit in relatively even rhythms, soon joined by a wailing siren (on tape or CD).  Finally a little girl from the audience enters the doorway and disappears from sight (ascends the lit staircase?).  The metallic percussion gradually fades, and the siren sounds eventually stop.

     Each of the first 15 pages is labeled with a mood, beginning with "normal", which is expressed by the percussionist's attitude towards the door.  Additionally, a new kind of stroke (grace notes, glissandi, tremoli, etc...) is added in each of the first 10 pages/moods, with additional noises being added in the footwork.  Two sections are basically "inserts", a classic Stockhausen structural technique where he adds in a section somewhat outside of the established general pattern.  The section labeled "humorously" is one such insert, and was actually added in rehearsals with Stuart Gerber.  Another insert occurs on page 7, "dissatisfied", where the percussionist plays on the floor while sitting down (these bits about the inserts are reported in Richard Toop's excellent analysis article).  The density of the percussive strikes on the door generally increases as the work progresses, but there are no real "grooves".  For the most part the beating on Heaven's Door is aperiodic, and the wood sounds have a swift decay.  In contrast, the metal percussion section is relatively periodic, and naturally has a much more resonant texture.

Trk Dur Page Mood New Stroke Primary Panel
(1 - bottom,
6 - top)
Music/Player Action
1 1:09 1 (normal) normal knocks 3 sparse, isolated,
kneels but door doesn't open
2 1:04 2 cautious grace notes before strokes 2 stands, then rhythmic boot steps, an even crescendo, then a falling crescendo
3 1:10 3 entreating grace notes after strokes 1 lies on his side, "hold beaters at different angles" to get variety of pitches on same panels, crescendo and decrescendos,
4 1:16 4 explaining drawn falling glisses 1 & 3 kneeling, stands at end
5 1:06 5 restless drawn rising glisses
boot grace notes
4 standing, with many vertical movements to and from panel 4
6 1:24 6 demanding short trills
boot glissandi
5 louder, standing but change sides back and forth each bar
7 2:05 7 dissatisfied falling gliss tremolo strokes 1 & 5 after about 23 secs, a trill begins on the lowest panel, continues on the floor, and then returns to the lowest panel (perc sits down and plays with glissandi and tempo variations (INSERT) , then rhythmic rising/falling tremolo, trill and grace note shapes 
8 1:09 8 disappointed rising gliss tremolo strokes 2 & 4 more rests, player kneels at end
9 1:29 9 waiting falling-rising tremolo strokes 2 & 3 after various heavy breathing noises, sinks to knees, then sits and verbally beseeches the doors (inaudible) to open, then drums a large circle on the door
10 1:13 10 reproachful rising-falling tremolo strokes 5 & 6 halfway through becomes dance-like, slightly periodic
11 1:18 11 impatient foot stamps 1 up to 5, then again increasing density, moving upwards, ends with rhythmic footwork, then a trill and high jump
12 1:21 12 humorous  door kick  all panels INSERT: sparse, humor is conveyed by pantomime (strikes with a raised leg, crucified pose, etc…), door kick at end
13 1:29 13 impudent
all panels alternating high and low panels , tempo modulation
14 1:17 14 excited boot clusters upper moving downwards variety of strokes, moving from high panels to low panels
15 1:23 15 angry boot tremolo lower expanding upwards tempo modulation, boot tremolo
16 1:04 16

leaps into the air, door opens, slowly steps through the door
17 2:00 17-18 tam-tams, cymbals, hi-hats
18 1:00 19 beginning of the siren
19 2:00 20-21 a little girl walks up (scuffling noises), stairs are lit, little girl steps through the door
20 3:04 22 fade-out of the siren, then percussion

Score page 7 ("dissatisfied")
     Each page has 5 "staffs" of graphic notation describing the hits on the door or foot stamps on platform in front of it.  Each "measure" consists of the graphic representation of the vertical panels (12 boxes), on top of a 4-region square area representing the platform for foot stamping.  Each staff has 12 measures, which each represent 1 second (generally) of playing time.  The strokes are read from left to right in each measure, and the curved lines represent tremoli or glissandi "drawn" on the door.  On this page, at the end of the 2nd staff the percussionist begins a trill on the 5th level panel which continues down onto the horizontal platform (while the player sits) and then continues back onto the 1st level panel.  The 4th staff has a tremolo which ascends and then descends, twice.  The horizontal placement of the attacks is produced on the CD recording using close miking and wide panning.  

Live Performance
     Stuart Gerber performs the premiere in Lugo, Italy below.  In his performances, he uses beaters which taper at the handles (1.175 - 1 inch diameter), as well as sandpaper on his shoes to bring out boot sliding noises.  The girl at the end is Arianna Garotti.  This video is part of a DVD which also includes the harp duet FREUDE.

Stuart Gerber describes the making of the Second Heaven's Door:

The first half of 24 TÜRIN (from CD Booklet)
     The title of this piece is derived from the combination of TÜR (door) and RIN (Japanese rin bowl).  Basically, there are 24 Moments, each consisting of:
  • A strike on the door, transposed and with lower octaves added (Fairlight TC 6000, filters) to match the KLANG 24-note pitch row, varying attack times between 4 and 50 secs (proportionate to row, 1 step = 2 secs).  Each strike has reverb applied (Lexicon 960).  The first 12 attacks have 139 seconds of reverb, lengthened to 330 seconds, and the second 12 attacks have only 139 seconds (unlengthened).
  • Rin bowl strikes (eq'ed & filtered), in unison with the door hits and which also follow the KLANG row, using 2 kinds of beaters
  • A "noble word" to keep the Heaven's Door open (separate German and Eng versions) with different entry points in time and space
     The "score" sample shows the timing and stereo placement (left to right) of the first 12 door/rin strikes and spoken words.   For each "moment", the door and rin strikes sound together, followed by Stockhausen speaking a "noble word" a few seconds later (the timing of the word is indicated by the second time marker).

Sound Impressions
     This is Stockhausen's second work for a custom made musical instrument (the first being TIERKREIS for custom made music boxes).  The focus on a single, monolithic object makes this a kind of sibling to MIKROPHONIE I, which focuses on a single large tam-tam (though with completely different textures created through a battery of implements and miking techniques).  I'm also reminded of one of Stockhausen's British lectures where he recommends a composer to take a snare and specialize in hitting the snare in different ways, in order to gain notoriety as "the snare - composer".  It's a fun idea and the language in HIMMELS-TÜR certainly finds it's own place in the door-percussion repertoire!

     On CD this work has a very accessible feel, though it's possible that without the visual element, a certain dramatic dynamic is lost.  In fact on the first few listens, it sounded very "monochromatic" to me, especially since the pitch range of the Lugo Heaven's Door only has a general pitch range (from top to bottom) of a minor 3rd.  However, after awhile the variety of sounds and rhythmic attacks becomes much more appreciable, and it becomes obvious which sounds are hand strikes and which are boot stamps.  In any case, the general texture has a kind of warm, soothing effect (at least for me), and it's apparent simplicity might make it much easier to "get" than, for example a work like REFRAIN or ZYKLUS.

     Since the visual element is obviously missing from the CD, Stockhausen makes up for that by recording each hand strike and foot stamp very carefully, and mixes the performance so that the left and right parts of the Heaven's Door are placed in a very wide panorama, almost as if it were an electro-acoustic piece.  In other words, if the percussionist plays a slow tremolo with arms apart, the sounds "ping-pong" when listening on headphones.  The "insert" on page 7 where a trill moves from the door to the floor, and then back to the door, is easy to pick out because of this careful placement of the "sounds in space".  At times the recording brings to mind the musique concrète works of the Paris-based GRM (Groupe de Recherches Musicales) where single sounds of things like wine glasses or plucked strings are sampled and then spread across the stereo field in different patterns (though of course, those are done purely through sampling technology).  Regarding the spatial element of sound in HIMMELS-TÜR, the score is a fascinating document because it very simply shows the horizontal positioning of each sound, which is pretty unusual to find, especially in such an intuitive form of notation (well, actually not THAT intuitive, since each vertical half of the Heaven's Door is mapped across the full stereo spectrum, so 4 horizontal hits from left to right across the full door would result in a left-right-left-right pattern).

     Another thing that's interesting about the score is that it calls for a door with some general characteristics, but exact pitches for each panel are not specified.  In fact, the Lugo Heaven's Door as mentioned above has a pitch range of a minor 3rd, whereas a second door created for American performances, D.J. Betsill's Spoleto Heaven's Door, has a range of an octave.  Additionally, the vertical scale of pitches is not as cut and dry as something like a marimba.  As one can see in the video, many times pitches can be higher or lower regardless of how high the panel is.  The beaters used against the door can also be of different varieties.  A 2007 performance by Arnold Marinissen features brushes along with the usual wooden dowels.  All of these factors make HIMMELS-TÜR a work which sounds quite different in its details, from performance to performance.

     As for 24 TÜRIN, this electronic piece is probably not one I'd play quite as often by itself.  It requires a certain amount of patience to fully enjoy, and I personally tend towards the freneticism of HIMMELS-TÜR.  However, as a coda of sorts to HIMMELS-TÜR, it works quite nicely on CD.
Left: Lugo Heaven's Door (Gerber photo)
Right: Spoleto Heaven's Door w S. Gerber (Betsill photo)

Sound samples and CD ordering 
Purchase the Score
Stockhausen in Lugo: HIMMELS-TÜR and FREUDE DVD
Wiki Entry
Himmels-Tür - Crossing to the Other Side  (Richard Toop, Perspectives of New Music 50, 2012)
The Spoleto Heaven's Door (Betsill Workshop Project Page) 
The Spoleto Heaven's Door (Galpin Society Journal article, D.J. Betsill), PDF
Georgia State Profile

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