|Stockhausen's initial vocal square sketch indicating phonetic vowels and|
the overtones achieved with each vowel.
The upper number is for high voice, the lower number for low voice.
for 6 Vocalists (3 Male, 3 Female) (and tuning tape)
1968 [70 min.]
STIMMUNG is in its simplest explanation a sequence of 51 different vowel-based vocal patterns (without pitch) which are interspersed with "Magic Names" and interrupted 3 times by passages of erotic poetry. Each vocal pattern ("Model") is started by an indicated vocalist and the other vocalists gradually transform whatever they are doing to match the new Model.
There are 6 basic notes (from a Bb Major 9th chord) which the vocalists intone the Models on, and the Models are designed to bring out the overtones of the pitches with the help of the vowel shapes. The score arrangement (form scheme) lets the mixed vocal group create a kaleidoscopic layering of overtone frequencies on a single chord (actually a single note, since the chord is created by the harmonic partials (overtone series) of the Bb note).
STIMMUNG was commissioned by a traditional vocal group accustomed to performing madrigals and things like that, but when Stockhausen found himself unable to sing melodies out loud at his home (due to his sleeping newborn child Simon) he began humming. From humming with his skull against the wall (and hearing Simon's own humming from his crib) he became interested in composing for overtones on a static chord. Additionally, he had just returned from a few weeks exploring the ruins of the Mayas in Mexico and was inspired by the stark but iconic architecture he found there, as well as the accounts of the ancient (and sometimes bloody) rituals conducted in those places.
|The first 26 combinations of STIMMUNG in the Form Scheme.|
(Score images © Universal Edition)
51 combinations ("moments", indicated by the number in squares) follow one after another in which an indicated lead singer (thick lines) chooses a vowel/text Model and sings it, based on the pitch in the score. These Models are repeated until a matching "identity" is achieved by the group, after which the lead singer signals the next combination. The other singers sing (or rest) as follows:
- Match the lead singer's vocal Model (but on their own pitch)
- Continue the previous Model (possibly with a change in pitch)
- Modify the Model they were singing to gradually match the new Model (indicated by "T" in circles) except for pitch
- Move in and out of variations of the Model, one parameter at a time (indicated by "var." and usually in the bracketed sections)
- Sing "here and there" matching the pitches of other singers with small glissandi to create beating patterns
Additionally for each Combination with the cursive "N" above it, Magic Names of gods from various cultures can be introduced as new models. Only singers who have reached "identity" with the lead Model can introduce a Magic Name, but up to six (one for each singer) can be invoked.
Two of the Models include long poems of a decidedly erotic nature. The poems are read without any specified pitches, but "with a great deal of variation in pitch, without exaggeration, peacefully, gay, with gestures towards the other singers" (from score). Meanwhile, the other singers can use any part of the poem's text as a Magic Name.
|A page of 9 Models from which the female singers can choose to shape their pitches on.|
(© Universal Edition/©www.karlheinzstockhausen.org)
Above and below each vowel are numbers indicating the dominant overtones desired. The upper number is for higher voices and the lower number for lower voices. The Models are mostly based on purely phonetic vowel combinations, but there are also actual words, such as "Phoenix", "Hippy", "Komit", the names of the days of the week, etc... Some of the Models have very short erotic poems attached, usually just a sentence or two.
Texts of the Two Longest Poems
|English translations of the German text from the
Singcircle CD booklet. In Stockhausen's supplementary notes he indicates
that in performance they are always to be sung in the original German.|
A tape of 7 pitches as sine or square waves (the Bb Maj9th chord in just intonation) is quietly played during performance. This helps the tuning of the singers, who sit facing each other in a circle on cushions. The singing is without vibrato and quiet. Many versions of STIMMUNG are possible since for each of the 51 combinations the lead singer has a choice of 8 or 9 Models to choose from (but doesn't repeat any for any other combination). Additionally the Magic Names are naturally aleatoric in nature.
For preparation, Stockhausen recommends that singers perfect their ability to emphasize the overtones of each vowel phonetic before attempting the Models themselves.
1982 Paris Version on Stockhausen Edition CD 12B
|Lead Voice||Model text sample||Magic Names||Length|
|1||Bass||Tuning in and 1st Combination||3:22|
|9||Bass||"Nimm Dich in acht..."||1:11|
|19||Bass||Usi-neno, Aeolus, Abassi-Abumo, Geb, Hina-a-tuatua-a-kakai||1:45|
|30||Soprano I||"The male is basically an Anymale…"||0:33|
|32||Tenor II||"Mein hahn ist meine Seele…"
|33||Soprano II||"Gott noch mal…"||Grogoragally||0:46|
|36||Tenor I||Rangi, Uitzilopochtili, Yahweh||1:18|
|49||Tenor I||"Thorstag - Donnerstag"||0:45|
|51||Tenor I||Overtone whisper, whistling||2:19|
It's fascinating to hear each Model enter and then absorb the sound space. Depending on the recording, the overtones can be very clearly heard and the vocal textures reveal a unique sound world as fresh and unexplored as the sounds created in works like KONTAKTE and MIKROPHONIE I (among innumerable other Stockhausen works). In later years these phonetic overtones would even make an appearance in the LICHT super-formula. As usual, Stockhausen creates a strict sound "gestalt", but is not afraid to enhance the work with "inserts" and deviations from the initial formula according to his own tastes. However, these Magic Names and erotic texts are sometimes a little bit distracting for me personally. I guess I'm glad the text is in German at least, since in English these erotic passages might come out a little bit too over the top, at least for my tastes. Possibly after repeated listening the "enhanced content" will feel more natural to me.
A few years later Stockhausen would re-use his STIMMUNG concepts and textures in the "park music" piece STERNKLANG, essentially for 5 STIMMUNG quartets.
|(Score cover, artwork Mary Bauermeister)|
STIMMUNG samples, tracks listings and CD ordering
Buy the Score
STIMMUNG Score Slideshow
STIMMUNG Live (Pokrovsky Ensemble)
Youtube clip of Paris 1982 Version (Collegium vocale Köln)
Youtube clip of Theatre of Voices 2007 Version
Analysis by Rory Braddell
STIMMUNG by Theatre of Voices AllMusic review and samples
Paul Hiller's Encounters with STIMMUNG (Guardian)
STIMMUNG by Singcircle AllMusic review and samples
Stockhausen Supplementary Notes
Karlheinz Stockhausen's Stimmung and Vowel Overtone Singing (Saus) PDF