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I think STIMMUNG was the first piece of Stockhausen I ever heard. I’ve rarely been without a copy since, because I hear something new in the same recordings every time. Written in the year of my birth, STIMMUNG is a composition for six voices with six microphones, a complex system of rhythmic, cycling polyphonies. This excerpt from a recent performance of the work is set in a reservoir outside Darmstadt in Germany, which would put it not too far from Castle Frankenstein.

From liner notes to a 1986 recording:

In each section a new overtone melody or ’model’ is introduced and repeated several times. Each female voice leads a new section eight times, and each male voice, nine times. Some of the other singers gradually have to transform their own material until they have come into ’identity’ with the lead singer of the section . . . by adopting the same . . . tempo, rhythm and dynamics. When the lead singer feels that ’identity’ has been reached, he or she makes a gesture to another singer who leads the next section. Each model is a set of rhythmic phonetic patterns, often with actual words used as their basis, such as ’Hallelujah’ or ’Saturday’.

In 29 of the sections, ’magic names’ are called out. These are the names of gods and goddesses from many cultures-Aztec, aboriginal and Ancient Greek, for instance-and have to be incorporated into the character of the model.

Published in music