HARLEKIN

HARLEKIN Score cover
(Suzanne Stephens, costume by Stockhausen)
DER KLEINE HARLEKIN Score cover
(Suzanne Stephens, costume by Mary Bauermeister)

No. 42: HARLEKIN (Harlequin) for clarinet, 1975 [45']
No. 42 1/2 (42.2) - DER KLEINE HARLEKIN (The Little Harlequin) for clarinet, 1975 [9']

     HARLEKIN is a work for a costumed solo clarinetist with a substantial element of performer movement in its score (dance and mime experience is preferred).  During this 45-minute solo, the performer takes on 7 "roles", such as "Enchanted Dream Messenger", "Playful Constructor", "Enamoured Lyric", "Pedantic Teacher", etc...  As each role surfaces, the HARLEKIN melody progressively reveals itself until it is fully stated in the "Enamoured Lyric".  Later on, the movement aspects begin to overwhelm the melody itself (percussive noises from the dance movements are an integral part of the composition, and if dancing is not possible, then an accompanying percussionist can be utilized).  Like MANTRA and INORI, the music is developed from a melodic "formula", which includes organized pitches, durations, dynamics and articulations.  This work was dedicated to and premiered by Suzanne Stephens in 1976 (recorded 1978).

Suzanne Stephens (HARLEKIN)
(photos ©www.karlheinzstockhausen.org.)

HARLEKIN Formula
(colored score extract ©www.karlheinzstockhausen.org.)
     The HARLEKIN formula has a total of 27 notes grouped into 6 sections (5-7-6-2-3-4 notes, separated by small rests) and using 11 unique pitches.  It gets transposed to various pitch centers throughout the work.  The theme doesn't fully appear until a few minutes into the work.  Instead, HARLEKIN starts by expanding from a trill into expanding melody loops in the high register, and then slowly adding duration values to parts of the loops while working itself down into the middle register.  After the melody is patiently stated in the low register, it goes through a few more theatrical "roles" before ascending back up into the heights into another trill and then disappearing.

Form Structure and Narrative
Form structure derived from Stockhausen's original sketch
(from Marczak's "Theatrical Elements and their Relationship with Music in Karlheinz Stockhausen's HARLEKIN for Clarinet".
     HARLEKIN is divided into 7 main "character-based" sections.  The general form of the entire work can be characterized as an inverted arch, with a falling and then rising trajectory of pitch register, tempo and density.  The pitch range, in contrast, has a mirror arc: small, then large, then small again (much of the analysis in this post is derived from Katarzyna Marczak's excellent and exhaustive thesis, "Theatrical Elements and their Relationship with Music in Karlheinz Stockhausen's HARLEKIN for Clarinet" - see link at bottom.).  In the descriptions below, the timings come from Suzanne Stephens' premiere recording on Stockhausen Edition CD 25.

1. Der Traumbote (The Dream Messenger)
Merve Kazokoğlu (DER KLEINE HARLEKIN)
"...dancing circles...a descending spiral..."

MOVEMENT: During this beginning section, the performer moves in a turning, shrinking, spiral path, ending at the front of the stage, and then physically interprets the music with eyes closed - "enchanted".

     The clarinet fades in on a circular breathing trill of the first 2 notes of the 27-note HARLEKIN formula.  It proceeds to play even rhythmic loops (2-5 cycles each) using the first 3 formula notes, then the first 4 notes, 5 notes, etc..., each time adding another note from the formula, until eventually the full 27 formula notes are included in the loops (the loops often end with rising chromatic tails).  After this follow 10 more cycles (see timing below), where the formula notes gradually "grow" into their proper durations, causing "interruptions".  In other words, 10 slowly shrinking loops are interrupted by short, expanding fragments of the formula (each time starting from the formula beginning), until in an 11th iteration the entire formula is revealed with proper pitches, durations, and dynamics.  After a brief staccato figure, it goes directly into the next section.
  • 1:45 - 1st 4 note loop appears out of trill
  • 3:44 - Formula note durations are added starting from 1st note
  • 5:22 - Final complete formula, staccato figure

2. Der spielerische Konstrukteur (The Playful Constructor)
"...the melody now formed, stretches down low and pulls itself together, slower, clearer."

MOVEMENT: At the front of the stage, HARLEKIN is now wide-awake and interprets the musical figures with frozen poses, jerky marionette-like movements, etc...

     During this section, the formula is traversed 10 times (each cycle separated by cadential rests), and each time fragmented by unpredictable rests.  More importantly, starting from the 2nd cycle (at 0:15), individual notes of the formula are gradually shifted down to lower octaves.  Additional rhythmic variation and ornamentation is added as the cycles gradually slow down in tempo.
  • Cycles at: 0:15, 0:42, 1:09, 1:51, 2:29, 3:16, 3:42, 4:18, 4:56, 5:40, and 6:07.

3. Der verliebter Lyrikyer (The Enamoured Lyric)
Katarzyna Marczaku (HARLEKIN)
"...those who listen very quietly will be able to sing this melody eternally in their dreams..."

MOVEMENT: This section is played without much movement, while staring into the void.
The second formula cycle is played on the knees.

     After all of the pitches of the formula have been shifted down to a lower octave, the formula is fully stated at a slow tempo in the low register.  After a short, cadenza-like bridge (from 1:07), it repeats once again (at 1:55), transposed to its lowest possible register on the clarinet.


4. Der pedantische Lehrer (The Pedantic Teacher)
Michele Marelli (HARLEKIN)
...the melody is taken apart...written from the beginning and the end in the air.  
When she makes a mistake, the Pedantic Teacher becomes angry... 
She does not stop until she has written everything into the air, without a mistake."

MOVEMENT: The clarinet "writes" the melodic figures in the air (vertically and horizontally).
Dynamics are indicated by thrusting the clarinet forward for louder notes.

     Musically, the "teacher" examines and repeats parts of the formula for closer examination.  This section begins with alternating fragments from the beginning and the end of the formula (1st formula note, then last 2 notes, then 1st 3 notes, etc...), separated by rests and fermatas.  After repeating these fragments a few times, fragments from the middle of the formula soon appear.  The fragments grow until the whole formula once again appears.  After a long trill, the clarinet "draws the melody in the air", accompanied by scalar figures and punctuating leg stomps.  Intervals and ornamentation are expanded.  After a theatrical passage where the high register pitches are "wrongly drawn", the section ends with fast scalar repetitions.
  • 2:14 - humorous asides (octaves, tremolo, chromatic glissandi)
  • 3:38 - full formula ending in long circular-breathed trill
  • 4:49 - cadenza with leg stamp punctuation
  • 6:15 - drone followed by "drawing wrong"
  • 7:09 - final scalar loops

5. Der spitzbübische Joker (The Roguish Joker)
Marcelo González (see links of HARLEKIN excerpts at bottom)
"...impudent jokes...dirty little tricks..."

MOVEMENT: Various physical gestures are employed here for humorous effect, 
including "reaching" for high notes, cleaning of squeaking, clogged up key holes, etc...

     The formula is expressed over the full range of the clarinet with the widest possible interval leaps, and is also punctuated and mirrored by the performer's body movements.
  • 0:40 - sheepishly trying to get G# correct (in tune) by hitting the clarinet, etc...
  • 3:05 - melancholy, and then in a march dance, ending in a low, "flatulent" flutter-tongue.

6. Der leidenschaftliche Tänzer (The Passionate Dancer)
Karel Dohnal (DER KLEINE HARLEKIN)
"...the Passionate Dancer becomes so infatuated with the dancing that she forgets more and more often to play the notes
...and thus her melody becomes full of holes."

MOVEMENT: The sounds of the dance shoes have their greatest impact in this section.
The dance "should be a newly discovered personal dance, which includes traditional elements from various sources."

     A variation of the formula is begun as a "country dance", but a "strong wind" soon arises (mimed "walking against the wind" with formula figures in between).  Another slower formula variation with "staggering steps" begins at 0:32.

     This is followed by a "march dance" section where the performer "freezes" during fermatas (1:52).

     Two subsections then follow:
  • 3:17 - Dialog mit einem Fuss (Dialog with a Foot): the clarinet fragments alternate with "feet sounds" as the clarinetist "teaches" the foot, sometimes using multi-phonics (optional section)
  • 5:13 - Harlekins Tanz (Harlequin's Dance): the melody and footsteps are performed synchronously (rhythmic unison) in a "ravishing" dance (sometimes like tap-dancing). It is repeated 6 times (5:40, 6:00, 6:20, 6:42, 7:04, and 7:20), but each time more and more clarinet notes are "skipped" as the footsteps fill in for them.  In the last cycle only 5 notes are actually sounded.

    7. Der exaltierte Kreiselgeist (The Exalted Spinning Spirit)
    Pei-Lun Tsai (DER KLEINE HARLEKIN)
    "HARLEQUIN remembers the small, fast circular figures...a large climbing spiral...  
    Between the fast melodic curves, she throws out wild, long 'bird cries' 12 times, 
    until she has extinguished the entire melody...the 13th is the highest of all."

    MOVEMENT: During this section the HARLEKIN spirals away towards the exit in a mirror of her entrance.
    During the "bird cries" she pauses and spins in place like a top, slowing down.

         The clarinet plays soft, rapid, legato or clipped wide-register arpeggio loops.  The lower range of the arpeggio gradually rises (compressing the pitch range) and eventually becomes the HARLEKIN formula pitch sequence figure (seen in the end of the first section of The Dream Messenger).  The loops continue a mixture of legato and staccato articulations.  Now looping in the high register once again, formula pitches are individually held and then released in wavering fermatas ("bird calls", starting from 2:01) and removed from the loops.  Held rests preceding the release of each "bird call" become longer and longer and the loop segment becomes shorter and shorter.  The piece ends in a final held 13th note. 


    Costume
    Suzanne Stephens (HARLEKIN)
         The original costume (seen on the score cover and above) is designed so that a red band and a green band, both over a yellow background, wind up in a spiral from the feet to the top of the body.  The HARLEKIN is illuminated by a spotlight which follows him/her across the stage.


    DER KLEINE HARLEKIN
    Johanna Stephens-Janning (DER KLEINE HARLEKIN)
         HARLEKIN originally included another character section (probably part of "The Passionate Dancer"), but it was eventually re-designed as a separate piece, to be performed with a different costume (such as seen in most of the images seen on this page, including the one above).  

    "THE LITTLE HARLEQUIN is a roguish, exuberant dance musician and a bubbling performing artist, 
    who could inspire a more versatile kind of musician for the future." 

         Like HARLEKIN, this work starts with a long wavering high note and a spiral-shaped dance towards the front of the stage...  (there are many humorous movement aspects, too many to describe here, but they can be seen from the numerous YouTube videos of this work).
    • 0:14 - entrance with wavering high note
    • 0:33 - formula 1st limb (beginning phrase, played as a "march dance") becomes a repeated falling/rising scale, with the clarinet getting "shortening" pauses in the 1st 4 cycles in order to reach the high C
    • 1:25, 1:46, 2:19, 2:56, 3:29 - formula variations in a "march dance" dialogue with feet, using the clarinet's full range and with many additional scored physical gestures
    • 3:56 - Interlude leading to 10 "rhetorical statements" (fast melodic notes leaping back and forth from a pedal tone, punctuated by formula note fermatas posed as "question or exclamation marks"), each directed towards a different audience member. 
    • 6:39, 7:02 (with trill interlude), 7:49 - formula variations, resuming "march dance" feeling
    • 8:15 - HARLEKIN "basic" formula played in a "ravishing dance" (synchronous footsteps, tap-dancing with frozen postures)
         Interestingly, DER KLEINE HARLEKIN has been used as the basis of presentations of "new music" to small children.  A trailer for a recent production with Merve Kazokoğlu as the HARLEKIN can be found here.  Featured below is a short documentary ("Stockhausen For Children") of clarinetist Marcelo González' presentation of this work to a children's classroom (in Spanish with English subtitles):


    Sound Impressions
         Both HARLEKIN and DER KLEINE HARKLEKIN are wonderfully lyrical tour-de-force works for clarinet, and are very popular solo recital pieces (especially DER KLEINE HARLEKIN).  Surprisingly, for a work from an "avant garde" composer, these pieces are not dominated by typical "extended techniques" such as tongue-slaps, multi-phonics, over-blowing, etc... though these do appear when called for.  Stockhausen has never been interested in writing solo "technique dictionary"-type works, and here instead uses a melodic formula to create "character-based" structural variations.  However, an important "extra" element is of course the sounds created from the various kinds of footsteps.  In fact, the footsteps and pantomime elements of these works are integral to the composition, so it's a bit unfortunate that it is not possible to see them when listening to the CD (the booklet does include a wealth of photographs, and a DVD is available to be ordered).  However, the audio portion of the work is still able to effectively convey the multiple transformations of character in this light-hearted, yet virtuosic and physically demanding work.

    Links
    Sound samples, tracks listings and CD ordering
    Purchase the Scores 
    HARLEKIN & DER KLEINE HARLEKIN DVD (Suzanne Stephens)
    HARLEKIN Wiki
    "Theatrical Elements and their Relationship with Music in Karlheinz Stockhausen's HARLEKIN for Clarinet" (Katarzyna Marczak, PDF thesis)
    HARLEKIN (excerpts, Marcelo González, Youtube clips):
    DER KLEINE HARLEKIN (Johanna Janning, Youtube clip)
    DER KLEINE HARLEKIN (Diego Vásquez, YouTube clip)
    Many other clips of DER KLEINE HARLEKIN exist in YouTube...

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