12 music boxes

In early 1975, Stockhausen premiered his Musik im Bauch for six percussionists and music boxes. The work is based entirely upon melodies the composer had written for three zo-diac signs. In the spring and summer of the same year, Stockhausen returned to the zodiac and composed melodies for the remaining nine signs, assembling them under the title Tierkreis. While composing the melodies, Stockhausen immersed himself in astrological literature, and studied the twelve human characters associated with the zodiac. “In inventing each melody,” he later wrote, “I thought of the character of children, friends, and acquaintances who were born under the various star signs… Each melody has been composed with all its measures and proportions in keeping with the characteristics of its respective star sign, and listeners will discover many of the criteria when they hear a melody often and consider its construction exactly.” The pieces employ the twelve tempi from the composer’s famous Gruppen. Each is oriented around a single principal pitch, upon which it begins and ends, and each employs all twelve chromatic pitches. The performers are given a good deal of freedom—in the original version of the work, the melodies can be played with or without accompaniment, by any instrument, and at any level of transposition, and because the melodies are quite short (lasting between 25 and 30 seconds), the composer encourages performers to play each “several times.”

Tierkreis became Stockhausen’s most popular, and probably most frequently played composition, and a number of versions—including the one for chamber orchestra heard this evening (published in 2004)—have been published.

A Deruchie [ii-07]