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About this Piece

German composer and theorist Karlheinz Stockhausen, born in Mödrath, has been a pioneer in electronic music, as well as an innovator in new uses of physical space in music and improvisational forms. He studied with Frank Martin at the Cologne Hochschule für Musik, but it wasn't until he became acquainted with the music of Messiaen (with whom he later studied) that he began to develop his own musical personality.

Stockhausen considered his first "real" work to be Kontre-Punkte (1952-3), and gave it the catalog number "1"; he assigned fractions to all works prior to that. Chöre für Doris, his earliest catalogued piece, numbered "1/11", is a set of three songs for chorus. Composed in 1950 during his study with Martin, the set bears no resemblance to works he was to compose even one year later (after his discovery of Messiaen's music), and it was not performed until 1971 (incidentally, by the same chorus that premiered Cinq rechants). The texts are German translations of French poetry by Paul Verlaine.

Wie ein Schwarm schreiender Vögel   Like a shrieking flock of agitated birds,
stürtzen sich der Erinnerungen   all my memories come crashing down
unter das gelbe Laub   on me amid
meines Lebensbaumes,   the yellow foliage of my heart,
dessen gebeugter   reflecting its bent
Stamm sich spiegelt im bitteren   alder trunk in the violet
Bache der Reue   water of Regrets
stürzen sick lärmend, bis sie   that flow despondently by,
im schlaffen Winde   crashing down on me,
hinsterben, verstummen   until the unpleasant din, eased by
und nichts mehr tönt   the rising of a moist breeze,
als die feierliche Stumme, o deine.   gradually dies away in the tree,
Nichts, als die schmachtende   so that after a moment nothing more
arme Stimme   can be heard,
des Vogels,   nothing but the voice extolling
Stimme meiner ersten   the Absent one,
und unaustilglichen Liebe,   nothing but the voice - oh so languid! -
tönt im trüben Mond,   of the bird who was my First Love
welcher steigt durch   and who still sings as she did
die schwere stumme   the first day.
Nacht auf und schwebt;   And, in the sad splendor of a moon
tönt im trüben Mond,   that rises pale and solemn, a melancholy
welcher steigt durch die schwere,   and sultry summer night,
stimme Nacht, und im Wind,   filled with silence and gloom,
welcher anrührt meinen   in the sky that a soft wind brushes,
fröstelndem Baum   rocking the tree that trembles
und darin den schluchzenden Vogel.   and the bird that weeps.