Formula composition

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Formula composition is a serially derived technique encountered principally in the music of Karlheinz Stockhausen, involving the projection, expansion, and Ausmultiplikation of either a single melody-formula, or a two- or three-voice contrapuntal construction (sometimes stated at the outset).

In contrast to serial music, where the structuring features are more or less abstract and remain largely inaccessible to the listener's ear, in formula composition the musical specifications of pitch, dynamics, duration, timbre, and tempo are always directly evident in the sound, through the use of a concisely articulated melodic tone succession, the formula, which defines the large-scale form as well as all the internal musical details of the composition (Blumröder 1982, 184–85).

Stockhausen's music[edit]

Though foreshadowed in Stockhausen's once-withdrawn Formel (Formula) of 1951, the technique made its first appearance in Mantra in 1970, and became the central focus of Stockhausen's music up to 2003. Stockhausen's mammoth opera cycle Licht is based on a three-strand "super-formula".

Hermann Conen (1991, 57) identifies two kinds of formula composition in Stockhausen’s works prior to Licht:

formula compositions in which the form results from projection of the formula, . . . [and] works in which melodies in themselves possess many internal characteristics of formulas, but where the formal idea itself does not originate from the formula(s) used in their realisation

Works of the first type include Mantra (1970), Inori (1973–74), Jubiläum (1977), and In Freundschaft (1977); works of the second type comprise Alphabet für Liège (1972), the “Laub und Regen” duet from Herbstmusik (1974), Musik im Bauch (1975), Harlekin (1975), Der kleine Harlekin (1975), and Sirius (1975–77). Other works from the 1970s, such as Sternklang (1971), Trans (1971), Ylem (1972), the first three parts of Herbstmusik, Atmen gibt das Leben (1974/76–77), Tierkreis (1974–75), and Amour (1976) do not employ formula technique, according to Conen, though the composer includes Atmen gibt das Leben amongst the works composed using "formula complexes" (Stockhausen 1989a).

Other composers[edit]

Pierre Boulez describes his composition Rituel, in memoriam Bruno Maderna (1975) as a "ceremony of memory", based on "numerous repetitions of the same formulas", and it has been seen as an analogue to Stockhausen's formula compositions—especially to Inori, because of the shared ritual character of the two compositions (Blumröder 1982, 183–84).

York Höller, who studied with Stockhausen in 1971–72, uses a similar method, which he names Klanggestalt (literally, "sound-shape"), and at least one writer has used the expression "formula composition" to describe it (Stenzl 1991, 12–15). Finbar O'Súilleabháin, however, while accepting there are parallels between the techniques in Höller's opera The Master and Margarita (1984–85) and Stockhausen's Licht cycle (1977–2003), concludes that Höller's conception is "perfectly distinct" (O'Súilleabháin 1992).

See also[edit]

Sources[edit]

  • Blumröder, Christoph von. 1976. "Karlheinz Stockhausens Mantra für 2 Pianisten. Ein Beispiel für eine symbiotische Kompositionsform." Melos 43, no. 2/Neue Zeitschrift für Musik 137 (March-April): 94–104.
  • Blumröder, Christoph von. 1982. "Formel-Komposition—Minimal Music—Neue Einfachheit: Musikalische Konzeptionen der siebziger Jahre." In Neuland Jahrbuch 2 (1981/82), edited by Herbert Henck, 183–205. Bergisch Gladbach: Neuland Verlag.
  • Bor, Mustafa. 2008. "Pitch and Duration Contours in Karlheinz Stockhausen's Super-formula for Licht". In Musical Currents from the Left Coast, edited by Jack Boss and Bruce Quaglia, 129–54. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars. ISBN 978-1-84718-642-3.
  • Conen, Hermann. 1991. Formel-Komposition: Zu Karlheinz Stockhausens Musik der siebziger Jahre. Kölner Schriften zur Neuen Musik 1, ed. Johannes Fritsch and Dietrich Kämper. Mainz: Schott's Söhne. ISBN 3-7957-1890-2
  • Hufschmidt, Wolfgang. 1981. "Musik aus Zahlen: Prinzipien der musikalischen Formgestaltung in der seriellen Kompositionspraxis." In Reflexionen über Musik heute, edited by Wilfried Gruhn, 24–57. Mainz: B. Schott’s Söhne.
  • Kohl, Jerome. 1983–84."The Evolution of Macro- and Micro-Time Relations in Stockhausen's Recent Music." Perspectives of New Music 22:147–85.
  • Kohl, Jerome. 1990. "Into the Middleground: Formula Syntax in Stockhausen’s Licht." Perspectives of New Music 28, no. 2 (Summer): 262–91.
  • Kohl, Jerome. 1993. "Time and Light." Contemporary Music Review 7, no. 2:203–19.
  • Kohl, Jerome. 2004. "Der Aspekt der Harmonik in Licht." In Internationales Stockhausen-Symposion 2000: LICHT. Musikwissenschaftliches Institut der Universität zu Köln, 19. bis 22. Oktober 2000. Tagungsbericht. Edited by Imke Misch and Christoph von Blumröder, 116–32. Münster, Berlin, London: LIT-Verlag. ISBN 3-8258-7944-5
  • O'Súilleabháin, Finbar. 1992. [Letter to the Editor]. Tempo New Series, no. 181 (June): 68.
  • Petazzi, Paolo. 1993. "Karlheinz Stockhausen: dalle tecniche seriali alla 'Formelkomposition'". In Due serate monografiche dedicata a Karlheinz Stockhausen, edited by Mauro Conti and Alberto Paloscia, 17–27. 56° Maggio Musicale Fiorentino 1993: 21 and 23 June. Florence:Teatro Communale di Firenze.
  • Stenzl, Jürg. 1991. "York Höller's The Master and Margarita: A German Opera." Translated by Sue Rose. Tempo New Series, no. 179 (December): 8–15.
  • Stockhausen, Karlheinz. 1989a. "Multiformale Komposition". In his Texte zur Musik 5, 667. Cologne: DuMont Buchverlag. ISBN 3-7701-2249-6.
  • Stockhausen, Karlheinz. 1989b. "Die Kunst, zu hören". In his Texte zur Musik 5, 669–700. Cologne: DuMont Buchverlag. ISBN 3-7701-2249-6.
  • Stockhausen, Karlheinz. 1989c. "Musikalische Metamorphose". In his Texte zur Musik 5, 701–36. Cologne: DuMont Buchverlag. ISBN 3-7701-2249-6.
  • Wager, Gregg. 2003. "Symbolische Aspekte der Formel-Komposition". Neue Zeitschrift für Musik 164, no. 4 (July–August): 42-44.

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