Karlheinz Stockhausen
                   Electric Phoenix

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Daryl Runswick writes: Stockhausen's great vocal masterpiece was intended by him to be performed from memory by a six-voice consort who would learn the piece while living together communally (he wrote it in America in 1968 at the height of 'flower power'). He built into it an aleatoric structure which meant that it would never be performed in the same shape twice: this structure was to be improvised during the performance by the singers.

To the best of my knowledge, despite many performances of Stimmung worldwide, this memorised, improvised version has never been done (Stockhausen later made a 'set' arrangement of the piece so that ordinary people not living communally could read it like a normal score). But Electric Phoenix came the closest. One of Terry Edwards's first requests of me when I joined the group in 1983 was to prepare a performing version of Stimmung incorporating the maximum number of aleatory and improvised elements consistent with a relatively short rehearsal period and no memorisation. This I did, inventing a system of 'playing cards' which could be shuffled to produce improvised orderings of the 51 sections of the work. At the same time Terry commissioned an English translation of Stockhausen's self-written texts, fulfilling the composer's instruction that wherever possible the piece be done in the language of the audience at any particular performance.

Stimmung consists of the 51 sections mentioned above, performed using overtone singing with texts that are the names of deities from many world religions, interspersed and interrupted by erotic poems (also by Stockhausen). The entire hour-plus piece is one long chord of B-flat major.

Electric Phoenix (performing on this occasion as London Sinfonietta Voices) are Nicole Tibbels, Judith Rees, Nancy Long, Daryl Runswick, Michael Dore and Terry Edwards, singers, and John Whiting, sound projection.

Previously unissued

Realised for performance by Daryl Runswick.
Recorded by John Whiting live at The Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, 6th April 1997.

This recording is covered by copyright