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Stockhausen Listens from Orbit

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Read my review published today on the Washington Post Web site:

Charles T. Downey, Stockhausen's Zodiac in Baltimore
Washington Post, January 22, 2010

Mobtown Modern, the alt-classical contemporary music series based in Baltimore, gave its latest concert at Metro Gallery on Wednesday night. It featured a politely transgressive adaptation of Karlheinz Stockhausen's "Tierkreis" by Hybrid Groove Project, otherwise known as saxophonist Brian Sacawa and composer Erik Spangler, who also curate the series. Stockhausen, the imperious modernist who once claimed to have come from the star Sirius and presumably has been in astral orbit somewhere since his death in 2007, was surely none too pleased.

Behind tables piled high with computers, instruments and musical toys, the performers created an ersatz setting for Stockhausen's 12 melodies of the zodiac, accompanied by dreamlike still and video images contributed by Jon Bevers. Recorded noise, beat tracks and looped melodic snippets recorded on the spot were knitted together as introductions and backdrops for each section, linking the sections and extending them to roughly an hour. The singsong style of many passages was perhaps a tribute to the piece's simple origins, as melodies to be played on specially created music boxes. [Continue reading]
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Stockhausen, Tierkreis, S. Roller, M. Riessler, W. Fernow, M. Kiedaisch, M. Svoboda
Karlheinz Stockhausen, Tierkreis
Adapted as Zodiacrobatic, by Hybrid Groove Project
Mobtown Modern
Metro Gallery (Baltimore, Md.)

Tierkreis is subtitled "12 Melodies of the Star Signs," and the version for a melody and/or chordal instrument, from 1974/75, was taken from Stockhausen's initial version for music boxes, as part of a stage work. In this version, Brian Sacawa played all kinds of saxophones (soprano, alto, tenor, baritone), toy piano, electric guitar (memorably), and some percussion, while Erik Spangler played primarily the melodica, with surprising turns at the theremin, soprano recorder, violin, percussion, and turntables.

Each melody orbits around pitch center, which rises chromatically through the series from Aquarius to Capricorn, and each melody has a different tempo. If you are curious, Stockhausen's birthday -- August 22, 1928 -- put him on the cusp of Leo and Virgo. As notated, the intended length of the work was only about a half-hour, and in the Hybrid Groove Project version some of them were repeated several times. You can follow the development of the Zodiacrobatic project (as I did, preparing for this review) by going back into Brian Sacawa's Twitter feed.

Pisces, Aries, Taurus, Gemini:

Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra:

Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius:

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