HERBSTMUSIK

The barn used for performances of Péter Eötvös' Oeldorf Group (circa 2013, but "artistically-colored").
Nr.40: HERBSTMUSIK (Autumn Music)
Musical Theatre for 4 players
(1974) [50-70 min.]

Also:
Nr.40 1/2: LAUB UND REGEN (Leaves and Rain),
final duet of HERBSTMUSIK for clarinet and viola
(1974)  [11 min.]

Development
     HERBSTMUSIK is a theatrical piece portraying a "scene from daily life".  Richard Toop describes (in his article "Stockhausen's Secret Theatre - Unfinished Projects..."), sketches for a 1969 work called OPER (Opera), where some scenes consist of "abstract" activities which create musical sounds, and some other scenes consist of more typical "daily life" activities, but which emphasize the "ambient" noises of these scenarios (or add musical signals).  HERBSTMUSIK, written a few years later, is kind of a combination of these two ideas, and portrays typical rural activities in a barn (or at least what I assume to be typical, having never played in a barn myself), set to various regular and irregular rhythms.  The activities (hammering, breaking wood branches, threshing straw, rolling around in a pile of leaves, etc...) are organized so that the sounds of their stage actions are "musical".  These were designed to create a kind "autumnal sound environment", and were probably informed by Stockhausen's own nostalgia for earlier times.

     The rural setting of the work is also inspired by a concert series held in an actual barn (see top of page), located next to Péter Eötvös' home as part of his "Oeldorf Group" activities.  This was a kind of "composers collective", where semi-exclusive performances of avant-garde electro-acoustic works were presented.  It was during these rehearsals and concerts that Stockhausen met the American woodwind player Suzanne Stephens, who would continue to be one of Stockhausen's closest collaborators in the future.

     The work is in 4 Movements which segue into each other without a break.  Each Movement has its own grouping (duo to quartet) and each takes place at one of four "stations", where the players use rural "found objects" to create rhythm and timbre modulations:

1 Ein Dach vernageln 
(Nailing a Roof)
duo (with accompaniment) A wooden house with hammers, boards, nails in 5 different sizes, and stepladders
2 Holz brechen 
(Breaking Wood)
quartet 4 piles of dry (beechwood) twigs and branches of 3-4 different sizes (with chairs)
3 Dreschen 
(Threshing)
trio A huge pile of straw (30 sheaves of grain) with threshing flails  
4 Laub und Regen 
(Leaves and Rain)
duo (with accompaniment) A huge pile of leaves, with 2 raised, functioning shower heads for creating "rain"

Each of the "stations" are shown here, going clockwise from top left. 
At bottom right is a scene from the clarinet and viola final duet.  
The world premiere in Bremen was performed by Suzanne Stephens, Joachim Krist, Péter Eötvös and Stockhausen.
Score cover. www.karlheinzstockhausen.org)
     Each movement also has one or more "inserts" where a member (or members) of the playing group moves to one of the other stations and contributes a contrasting solo sound-action.
threshing flail
Narrative
     HERBSTMUSIK is designed to create a structured musical atmosphere from the sounds of everyday rural tasks and activities.  All of the Movements act as arenas upon which the players must create "soundworlds" from the natural resources at hand: metal, wood, air, earth, leaves and water.
1st Movement: Nailing a Roof (trio)    
     This movement explores various timbres created from a hammer, nails and a board of wood.  These are used by P1 and P2 (Player 1 and Player 2) to create as many different sounds as possible (rocking, scraping or rubbing the hammer on the nails, trilling on 2 nails, creating melodies and glissandi with different intensity attacks, etc...).  P4, a young girl, enters with a clarinet and intermittently practices fragments of a simple melody ("good to whistle along with").  During this 1st movement, the hammering players also freely whistle melodic fragments in dialogue with the clarinet.  The sounds are expressed in a number of musical figures, rhythms, and timbral developments which include:
  • Hammering in syncopated, triplet, or free rhythms
  • Hammering with a gradual expansion of timbral effects (including a final phase of "magically iridescent timbres")
  • The clarinet melody is played in 3 different registers, ending in a slow tempo
  • A "twig-breaking insert" and a "threshing insert" 

    2nd Movement: Breaking Wood (quartet)
         During this movement, all 4 players create many timbres and rhythmic textures by breaking different sized twigs and branches, as well as making "ambient" noises (from dropping, picking up, rubbing, scraping, etc...).
    • Snapping, breaking sounds in irregular rhythms becoming unison, also including a brief duet in triplet rhythm
    • Snapping thick pieces and building to thin pieces (sound goes from dull to bright timbres)
    • Changing tempos (density) of the snapping from "points" to masses, including more ambient movement noises
    • A "log-smashing insert", a "threshing insert", and a "leaf insert" 

    3rd Movement: Threshing (trio)
         The trio here explores straw-threshing rhythms in triplet and duple rhythms, as well as shared rhythmic phrasing (1 beat per person).  Despite the rhythmic nature of the threshing, Stockhausen indicates that the threshing here is always relaxed and should not imply physically-demanding work.  The scene includes these elements:
    • Threshing in even, independent (polyrhythmic) strokes, with tempo variations 
    • Threshing in triplet rhythm with 1 player per beat (ie - shared figure, passed around)
    • Hissing" noises from threshing the air or lightly threshing the straw surface
    • Vocal signals ("hup", "come", "four!") to cue unison, triplet, duple rhythmic shapes, also inhaling noises and brief vocal accompaniment ("(stroke)-cha-ta-ta") to the 4/4 rhythm
    • Threshing while walking in a circle around the straw mound
    • A "hammer insert" and a "leaf insert"

    4th Movement: Leaves and Rain (duo)
         This movement has the most "story" to it, and basically portrays a playfully adolescent (yet sexually-charged) "leaf fight".  At the end, the girl uses her clarinet to teach the male player how to play a beautiful melody on the viola.
    1. The girl player engages the male in a playful fight in the huge leaf pile (which contains a hidden trough to contain the water from the soon-to-activated shower heads).  After a "furious scuffle", they both end up rolling around in the leaves in irregular and/or "polyphonic" rhythms of points and groups.  The girl yells "You!".
    2. After another "turbulent passage", the girl seems to be injured in some way and backs away from the male, before suddenly going completely wild, throwing handfuls of leaves at him.  The male suddenly goes to the house and pointedly pounds a single nail in ("hammer insert"), and then returning to the leaf pile and beginning another big scuffle.
    3. After overpowering the man, the girl retrieves a twig from the twig pile and snaps it to pieces over the prone figure of the man ("twig insert").  The man gets up and throws the girl into the leaves, instigating some playful rolling around.  
    4. P1 arrives in a "soldier march insert" (holding a threshing flail as a rifle), and after some parade movements he turns on the water to the shower heads (creating "rain" in the leaf pile).
    5. The male and female couple proceed to make noises with wet leaves (rolling around, slapping, etc...), sometimes teasing the still patrolling P1.  Eventually the slapping becomes a clapping rhythm (which will return in the instrumental final duo).   The female buries the male player with wet leaves, sometimes incorporating the instrumental rhythm.
    6. The female player leaves and then returns playing her clarinet, causing the male player to stir from the wet leaves.  Eventually the girl retrieves a viola (and bow) and presents it to the surprised but enchanted male.  The P1 "soldier" turns off the "rain" and leaves.
    7. The male then begins "learning" how to play the viola with the clarinet "teaching" the melody from the 1st Movement.  During this final duet, they move in slow rhythmic steps, following a spiral pattern to the stage exit.  The music fades away as the 2 players exit into the distance.

    Laub und Regen Final Duet
         The clarinet and viola duo starts with Clarina stating the main melody slowly.  Gradually the viola player learns the melody and the two instruments play a romantically-tinged duet, with a harmony statement of the main melody in the middle and at the end.  After the 1st successful statement of the melody (track 11, Reh.Nr. 14), the 2 players somewhat "reinterpret" the previous 4 movements of HERBSTMUSIK.  For example, the ensuing dialogue of tremolo and scalar figures are from the hammering patterns in Movement 1, and the "passing around notes" section (track 20) is an echo of the Movement 3 threshing trio.  The CD track numbers below are from Stockhausen Edition CD 32.
    CD Track Reh. Nr. Music
    1 1 Slow statement of the main melody by solo clarinet
    (1)2-5 2-7 Variations on melody fragments (tremoli, ostinati, scalar figures, wide interval leaps, etc...) ending on a flutter-tongued note
    6-10 8-13 Viola enters "badly", but is gradually taught the clarinet's melody, 1 note at a time
    11 14 Duo plays the complete melody together (fast) "successfully"
    12-19 15-25 Counterpointed fragments (brief unison "heads")
    20-23 26-30 Passing around parts of a 3-note fragment (echo of Mvmt 3 threshing rotation)
    (23) 24 31-33 A few unison harmony events mixed into dialogue
    25-28 34-38  Counterpointed fragments 
    29 39 Final statement of the complete melody in high register

    Live Performance
    YXUS Ensemble:



    Concert version of the 4th Movement's final duet: LAUB UND REGEN (Leaves and Rain), version for clarinet and basset-horn (Petra Stump and Heinz-Peter Linshalm, 2003 Stockhausen Courses):

    Sound Impressions
         Though I've never experienced this work in its full form, I can imagine it as being really very funny.  In fact, the score specifically asks for "comic interpretation" at some points, and I can see that this would be very easy and natural to do in the context of the scenes.  The final clarinet and viola duo is a very beautiful work using relatively "romantic-style" writing (though it starts out exactly as described above: the viola player "doesn't know how to play" until several bars into his section, and until he learns how to draw a bow smoothly over the strings, it sounds pretty scratchy...).  In any case, HERBSTMUSIK, like FRESCO, is a gem of a piece which could use more recognition (and a video release).  Some of the ideas here would clearly echo on into works of the future (including MUSIK IM BAUCH 's switches, HIMMELS-TÜR's wooden drumming, and certain "teaching/learning" scenes from DONNERSTAG aus LICHT, such as MONDEVA and MISSION).

    Links 
    LAUB UND REGEN on Stockhausen Edition CD 32
    Buy the Score
    HERBSTMUSIK Wiki
    2013 Performance clips, Südgelände Berlin (Vimeo)
    2013 performance webpage with YXUS Ensemble
    "Stockhausen's Secret Theatre - Unfinished Projects from the 60s and Early 70s " (Richard Toop, Perspectives on New Music 36.2)
    Oeldorf Group Wiki Entry

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