Friday, October 30, 2015


No. 21: ADIEU, for woodwind quintet (flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon), 1966 [16:13]

     This work for small wind ensemble is an intense yet playful study of static textures, bursts of color, and sudden cadences, and is dedicated to Wolfgang Sebastian Meyer, son of Stockhausen's oboist friend, Wilhelm Meyer.  Sadly, the younger Meyer, an organist, had just a few months previously died in a tragic car accident.  The initial commission came from the father (who had previously performed in ZEITMAßE), but at that time Stockhausen was deeply involved in the 2-year realization of HYMNEN, and so did not think he could devote the appropriate amount of time it would demand.  However, after viewing an exhibit of Piet Mondrian's stark, simply-painted works, he agreed to the commission and completed it in 2 days, basing it's notation on more aleatoric ("free") and verbally-described elements.

Form Structure
     ADIEU is organized into 8 main sections (proportionately drawn in the graphic at top), separated by either a very brief, pleasantly-tonal "cadence phrase" (short tutti motif) or a silent pause.  Each of these sections is made of 1 to 8 "Moments" (measures), and each Moment/measure is based on a different ensemble chord harmony and articulation combination.  However, all of the Moments grouped in one of the 8 main sections usually have a common feature, or convey some kind of through-line development.

     The durations of the sections and Moments are derived from the Fibonacci series, a favorite Stockhausen compositional tool (also used in the previous TELEMUSIK).  Additionally, each musical characteristic (such as "trills") was assigned a Fibonacci number, and when Stockhausen formed the Moments, he mapped articulations onto the Moments with matching Fibonacci durations.  Combinations of articulations were created by grouping and sub-grouping the durations to get different Fibonacci numbers (see Wiki entry for more on this compositional process).
     Because of this compositional technique, the Moments all have different combinations of textures, including microtonal tutti chords, polyphonically-layered chords, chords with tones shared among the 5 instruments, glissandi masses, chords with mixed articulation (legato, staccato, flutter-tongue, trilled, sung, etc...), sub-grouped chord intervals, etc...  Dynamically, the entire work is quiet and soft except for a fade and swell (> <) in the middle of the work (from Moment 22 (falling tutti gliss) to 25).

The 8 main sections can be summarized as follows:
  1. Cadence phrase, then a long introductory section of sustained microtonal bending tones, adding tremoli (flutter-tongue) at the end.
  2. Cadence, then "pulsed" note figures (clarinet and oboe duo against flute, horn, bassoon trio), followed by semi-rhythmic tutti accents, and ending in independent bursts.
  3. Pause, then held notes with subtle bends and "beating", ending with polyphonic tremoli.
  4. Cadence, then a long section featuring groups of close pitches (some beating), framed by brass outbursts at the beginning and end.
  5. Cadence, then rhythmic "bursts" of notes in rapid harmony changes.
  6. Pause, then irregular accents and trills in rapid harmony changes (at first duo vs. trio, and then after a big falling scale/glissando, independently).
  7. Pause, then tutti accents, various tempi, sometimes syncopated.
  8. Pause, then a gradual return to long held tones, becoming synchronous, and finally ending in a final Cadence/Coda.
     A more detailed description is below.  The sections are separated into 8 tracks on Stockhausen Edition CD 4 and the "Time" column shows where each individual Moment begins.  The blue-ish areas below indicate more static textures, and the red indicate more active areas.

Trk Section
Time Moment Tempo/Note lengths Rhythm Individual/
23 [1]

0:07 CADENCE I: 4 notes
1 very long to 
long held notes
irregular individual glissandi
2:22 2 extra notes, flutter-tongue
24 [2]

0:00 CADENCE II: 3 notes
3 moderate length notes periodic 2 independent groups gliss, swells, humming
0:16 4 gliss, swells, trills
0:39 5 long notes irregular unison rhythmic staccato swells
1:10 6 moderate and long notes polyrhythmic individual gliss, points, trills
1:31 PAUSE
25 [3]

0:01 7 long notes mixed unison, but with
aleatoric note rotation
gliss (beating)
1:25 8 fast and slow tremoli syncopated
individual gliss, legato
26 [4]

0:00 CADENCE III: 6 notes
9 short and long tones irregular individual spread groups of close pitches (dissonance, beating), begins and ends with brass outbursts
27 [5]

0:00 CADENCE IV: 3 notes
10 short bursts,
changing density
periodic unison trills, flutter-tongue, points, staccato, extra notes
0:05 11 activity slowing down
0:09 12 syncopated
individual same but with group swell-fade <>
0:16 13 free 2nd group swell-fade <>
0:21 14 periodic portato, humming,  flutter-tongue, trills, swelled notes, extra notes

0:26 15
0:35 16 bursts, more isolated unison
0:44 17 irregular unison
0:54 PAUSE
28 [6]

0:00 18 mostly
fast and lively
irregular 2 groups grace notes, accents,
humming, flutter-tongue, trills, extra notes

0:05 19
0:08 20
0:13 21
0:20 22 unison big falling gliss with
trill, flutter-tongue
0:22 23 individual staccato/legato, grace notes, accents, flutter-tongue, extra notes, dimin. and then crescendo
0:24 24
0:28 25
0:33 PAUSE
29 [7]

0:01 26 fast accents irregular unison gliss, points,
some trills, flutter-tongue
0:05 27 slower accents
0:20 28 mixed speeds polyrhythmic individual swelling rhythm, port.,
0:34 29 short bursts swelling rhythm, port., trills
0:55 PAUSE
30 [8]

0:00 30 moderate tempo,
decreasing speed
irregular individual swelled notes with pauses in between, note rotation, gliss
0:33 31 long tones regular semi-unison extra notes, gliss, ad lib pauses
1:35 CADENCE V: 2 + 2 notes

from Stockhausen Edition CD 4 booklet
     One of the most interesting things about ADIEU is that the score partly uses "aleatoric" (free, indeterminate) notation, giving the performers a relatively wide choice in how to interpret the score, but still resulting in a consistent texture from performance to performance.  For example, in Moment 18 (1st column, shown above), each instrument has a starting note, and then 2 additional notes (in parentheses) to choose from.  There are still actually only 5 unique pitches in this Moment, but in many situations like this, they can be circulated among the players or used to create interesting color combinations.

     The notated material in the bottom section is a notated "example" of how the irregular rhythm and note assignments of this Moment could be performed (preferably prepared beforehand, though I suppose it could also be cued by conductor).  The brackets indicate that in these 4 Moments, an oboe and bassoon duo play against a trio of flute, clarinet and horn.

     (In a similar work of this type, STOP, Stockhausen eventually notated out all of the indeterminate elements in a published "worked out version", though this was never really done for ADIEU).

Sound Impressions
     This is a beautiful chamber work with a very delightful "vibe" to it, despite the fact that it's a "farewell".  Some of the held textures remind me of held organ mixtures, which may be in honor of the dedicatee's instrument.  The pauses may be felt as interruptions of life, or perhaps as "moments of silence".  Stockhausen notes: "The musicians must be able to experience deeply, and form into notes, the sense of closeness to death that vibrates in this music."  However, the tonal cadence phrases provide a festive counterpoint, and the more lively sections throb with energy.  Compositionally, the blending of systematic Fibonacci-based mathematics and "free-choice" aleatoric notation makes this piece very balanced, yet open to repeated reinvention.

Sound samples, tracks listings and CD ordering
Buy the Score
Works of Karlheinz Stockhausen (Maconie)
Compositional techniques in the music of Stockhausen (1951-1970) (Kelsall, 1975)

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