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Gesang der Jnglinge (Song of the Youths)

Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928-2007)

Electronic Work
Jack Coen and Jacob Todd

A man of humble origins, composer Karlheinz Stockhausen was born and educated on a
planet orbiting the star Sirius. Or so he has reportedly claimed. However, other less reputable
sources say that he was actually born in Mdrath near Cologne. Having lost both of his parents in
his youth and growing up working in a military hospital, Stockhausen was spiritually a child of
the Great War.
Stockhausens first encounters with music were from the piano his parents
owned and by listening and memorizing the music he heard on the radio. He first started
formally studying music at the Cologne Musikhochschule, where he graduated in music
After graduation, he attended summer lectures at the Darmstadt Ferienkurse fr Neue
Musik where he met Karel Goeyvaerts, a former student of Messiaen. While at Darmstadt,
Stockhausen was deeply inspired by a recording of Messiaens Mode de valeurs et d'intensits
and moved to France to study with him. While in France, Stockhausen was introduced to the
Parisian avant-garde and concrte studios, where he composed his first tape piece. He quickly
became established among composers such as Pierre Boulez and Luigi Nono as the first
generation of serialist avant-garde composers. After returning to Germany from France,
Stockhausen began teaching composition courses at Darmstadt. As Darmstadt became more
widely respected, he gained more recognition as an instructor. In 1958, he went on a lecture tour
of the United States, where he was regarded as the seminal European avant-gardist.
Not only
was he recognized internationally among classical music circles, his music was also popular
among the youth culture. His picture can be seen on The Beatles Sergeant Peppers Lonely
Hearts Club Band album and at one point his recordings were the second best-selling twentieth-
century classical composer for Deutsche Grammophon.

Robin Maconie, Other Planets: the Music of Karlheinz Stockhausen (Lanham,
MD, 2005), 13.
Richard Toop, Stockhausen, Karlheinz In Grove Music Online. Accessed 12
November 2013, Oxford Music Online.
Stockhausen had studied communication theory with Meyer Eppler at Bonn University
(Maconie 58). He wanted to know if the principles of grammar and organization of language that
applied to written text could be used to allow a computer to discern meaning from an audio
sample of speech by analyzing its acoustic properties. If not, he wanted to know if there were
principles of the like that could be understood. While acoustic factors do play a large role in
meaning through pitch and dynamic inflection, Stockhausen concluded that there were no such
principles, and that in order to determine meaning from recorded speech it is necessary for the
perceiver (be it human or computer) to first distinguish the spoken words from audio samples,
essentially converting the audio to written text. Stockhausens work with computer analysis of
speech played a significant role in his composition of Gesang, where he mixes, for the first time,
sung voice and electronically generated sounds.

In Gesang Der Junglinge, Stockhausen isolated the individual elements of sound to
create spectra of timbre, volume, duration, frequency, density of noise, overtone prevalence,
etc. in order to organize them according to his compositional demand. His main goal in doing
this was to create a sound space in which the speech-sounds of the recorded boys voice are on
the same plane or are even indistinguishable from the generated sounds. He isolated and
manipulated the sounds of the recorded voice and proceeded to organize them according to the
spectra mentioned, using electronic sound to fill in the continuum.
While the listener can at
moments clearly tell which sounds are generated and which are recorded, there are times when
this is not possible, and others where one may initially perceive a sound as a generated sine wave
but then realizes, as it develops, that it is the boys voice and vice versa.
The piece is an example of total serialism, a technique Stockhausen helped to pioneer,
where all aspects of the music (pitch, volume, duration) are serialized. As far as form is
concerned, the piece exists in six sections, or structures as Stockhausen refers to them. The
durations of these structures are as follows:
I. 000102 = 102
II. 102252 = 150
III. 2525.15.5 = 223.5
IV. 515.5622 = 106.5
V. 622840 = 218
VI. 8401300 = 420

Robin Maconie, The Works of Karlheinz Stockhausen. 2nd ed. (Oxford: Oxford UP,
1990), 58.
Karlheinz Stockhausen, Liner Notes, Stockhausen 3: Electronische Musik 1952-1960.
Recorded by Karlheinz Stockhausen. CD. Stockhausen-Verlag. Krten, Germany. 2001, 152-
It is clear that the content of each structure is distinct from the others, yet the lines
dividing them are not particularly apparent to the ear.
The structures are connected by their
common use of the words preist, jubelt and dem Herrn, which provides a sense of
continuity throughout the whole work. In each structure, Stockhausen employs a different
organization of sounds. The first experiments with verbal comprehensibility, where
Stockhausen creates seven degrees of comprehensibility of the text ranging from
incomprehensible to completely comprehensible. He also employs swarms of impulses and
coloured noise bands, which exist on a separate time layer from the speech complex. The
second structure provides more layers of spatial depth, density and change of register. piece
sounds generally more dense and noisy in this section. In the third structure the individual
syllables become a focal point and Stockhausen plays with increasing space between them to
manipulate the comprehensibility of their meaning as words or sentences. He then transitions
into a sphere of pure speech in the fourth structure; the entire soundscape is composed of sung
syllables and pauses for an extended period of time. Thus, in the fourth structure, the most
extreme level of text comprehensibility is reached. The text becomes more distant and
polyphonic in the fifth structure, as if the voice is far off in the distance with more involved
impulses, clicks and generated tones.
The final structure is the longest and the one whose
construction Stockhausen describes in the greatest detail. In this structure Stockhausen delineates
twelve different elements that he employs in this section. These, along with their abbreviations
are as follows:

John Smalley, "Gesang der Jnglinge: History and Analysis." (2000).
(accessed November 13, 2013).

Stockhausen, Liner Notes, 156-160.
He then groups these elements in different time-sections of varying duration, labeled A-W.
Below is a visual representation of this structure:

Note that, statistically, each elements prevalence in the structure is equivalent.
To most this
structure is not noticable when listening to the piece, but it is significant to understand the
amount of careful consideration that went into creating this extremely calculated yet chaotic
Stockhausens cerebral mind and superior understanding of acoustic properties are very
evident in all aspects of this work. His own explanation and analysis are sufficiently thorough
that a more in-depth understanding of the piece is practically impossible to achieve by analyzing
the piece ones self or reading analyses other than Stockhausens own. It is also worth noting that
part of what makes this piece so impressive is the fact that Stockhausen did not have the facilities
of modern technology. In the 1950s, cutting an audio track meant physically cutting the audio
tape and connecting it to a new segment. Furthermore, Stockhausens initial conception of the
piece involved five speakers, or five audio channels, something that had never been done before.
However, after the premiere he was dissatisfied with the results so mixed the fifth channel with
the fourth and later created a stereo version for radio play.
His innovative nature is what made
him a figurehead for the electroacoustic genre and allowed him to pave the way for his
successors in electronic music, which would eventually become a medium for popular and
commercial music as is evident today. Gesang der Junglinge is considered by many to be
Stockhausens first, and by some his greatest, masterpiece.

Stockhausen, Liner Notes, 160-162.

Stockhausen, Liner Notes, 135-137.
Stockhausen had originally intended to write a mass in an electronic medium, but after
receiving word form the church that they would not allow a performance of such a work in a
church, he instead chose to create this piece using the text of the piece is taken from The Song
of Praise of the Three Youths from the 3
Book of Daniel. The text is the Bennedicte from the
Apocrypha sung in praise of God by Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, whose voices were
heard from the fire when they did not perish after being cast into a furnace by Nebuchadnezzar.

Preiset (Jubelt) den(m) Herrn, ihr Werke alle des Herrn
Lobt ihn und ber alles erhebt ihn in Ewigkeit.

Preiset den Herrn, ihr Engel des Herrn
Preiset den Herrn, ihr Himmel droben.

Preiset der Herrn, ihr Wasser alle, die ber den Himmeln sind
preiset der Herrn, ihr Scharen alle des Herrn.

Preiset den Herrn, Sonne und Mond
Preiset den Herrn, des Himmels Sterne.

Preiset de Herrn, aller Regen und Tau
Preiset den Herrn, alle Winde.

Preiset den Herrn, Feuer und Sommersglut
Preiset den Herrn, Klte und starrer Winter.

Preiset den Herrn, Tau und des Regens Fall
Preiset den Herrn, Eis und Frost.

Preiset den Herrn, Reif und Schnee
Preiset den Herrn, Nchte und Tage.

Preiset den Herrn, Licht und Dunkel
Preiset den Herrn, Blitze und Wolken.

English Translation
O all ye works of the Lord
Praise (exalt) ye the lord above all forever.

O ye angels of the Lord, praise ye the Lord
O ye heavens, praise ye the Lord.

Maconie, The Works of Karlheinz Stockhausen, 57.
O all ye waters that be above the heaven, praise ye the Lord
O all ye hosts of the Lord, praise ye the Lord.

O ye sun and moon, praise ye the Lord
O ye stars of heaven, praise ye the Lord.

O ye fire and heat, praise ye the Lord
O ye cold and hard winter, praise ye the Lord.

O ye dew and storms and rain, praise ye the Lord
O ye ice and frost, praise ye the Lord.

O ye hoar frost and snow, praise ye the Lord
O ye nights and days, praise ye the Lord.

O ye light and darkness, praise ye the Lord
O ye lightning and clouds, praise ye the Lord.

Stockhausen, Liner Notes, 149-151.

David, Felder: An Interview with Karlheinz Stockhausen, Perspectives of New Music,
xvi/1 (1977), 8599, Accessed November 12, 2013. JSTOR.

KH Stockhausen : a documentary [with subtitle use CC for other languages] March 9, 2013.
Video clip. Accessed November 12, 2013. YouTube.,

Maconie, Robin. Other Planets: the Music of Karlheinz Stockhausen. (Lanham, MD, 2005), 13.

Maconie, Robin. The Works of Karlheinz Stockhausen. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1990. 57-

Smalley, John. "Gesang der Jnglinge: History and Analysis." (2000).
ysis.pdf (accessed November 13, 2013).

Stockhausen, Karlheinz. Liner Notes, Stockhausen 3: Electronische Musik 1952-1960. Music
by Karlheinz Stockhausen. CD. K Stockhausen-Verlag, 1996.

Toop, Richard. Stockhausen, Karlheinz In Grove Music Online. Accessed November 12, 2013.
Oxford Music Online.

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