Karlheinz Stockhausen

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>5/5

HERE; Thu 6–Sept 15

At once primal and rife with artifice, folding in on itself and billowing out into infinity, Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Stimmung(“tuning,” “voicing”) brings to mind the sestina, a type of verse favored by the troubadours, Petrarch and other inward-looking, cosmically attuned souls. Where the poetic form, static but pullulating, obsessively kneads and unfolds six rhymes and six-line stanzas, the six voices that perform Stimmungglide and shimmer through six pitches from the overtones of a low B-flat fundamental.

The singers’ invocations of gods and goddesses and music-of-the-spheres flights create a meditative, numinous space but can also partake, disquietingly, of the inhuman when their overtones stack in a jangling, metallic grid of sound. Their voices chuckle, chirp and shriek; they mumble, ripple and heave. They grind down words and tones to almost quantum nothingness, while also setting them loose in a trippy, orgasmic, postmodern (and age-old) cloud of transformation.

Stimmung was first performed in Paris in 1968—where and when else? Its score consists of 51 models of musical and verbal information and a collection of 66 “magical names,” the rendering of which is left up in part to the performers’ discretion. Paul Hillier prepared this Copenhagen version of Stimmung, with sound diffusion by Ian Dearden. As in their now-classic recordings of Pärt and Desprez, Hillier and his forces cover themselves in glory, spinning their own brand of beautiful, terrible, mind-bending magic.

Paul Hillier conducting Theatre of Voices (Harmonia Mundi)