In 1968, Karlheinz Stockhausen redefined the possibilities of vocal music with Stimmung. Now rarely heard live, music collective Tonnta will perform the complete work in Dublin City Hall on Friday 25 October, the first Irish ensemble to do so. For this performance, Elizabeth Hilliard conducts singers Bláthnaid Conroy-Murphy, Michelle O’Rourke, Rory Lynch, Robbie Blake, and Eoghan Desmond.

Robbie Blake

Innovator and musical maverick, Stockhausen was one of the 20th-century’s most important compositional figures. Stimmung [‘tuning’] is built on just one chord that is subtly modulated with different vowels, resulting in an ever-changing play of overtones and timbres. Sporadic lyrics emerge, including the composer’s own poetry, and a collection of “magic-names” of gods from different religions.

Soprano and conductor Elizabeth Hilliard’s work in contemporary music has seen her direct Chamber Choir Ireland, ensembÉal and the Stickleback Singers in recent years, in addition to her own singing. For her, Stockhausen’s music has long been a source of inspiration: “about two years ago my thoughts turned to Stimmung. The piece is so fascinating…this was a composer who really had very clear ideas of the sound he wanted to create.”

Elizabeth Hilliard

The piece almost defies description – as Hilliard puts it: “this is a work full of humour – from a singer instructed to ‘moo like a cow’, to the juxtaposition of some obsession with the names of the weeks with the calling upon exotic deities. There is also some erotic poetry – the whole work is imbued with a trancelike lusciousness from which these poems emerge – the humour elements I think jerk us swiftly away from this bliss-state.”

Tonnta performs Stimmung by Karlheinz Stockhausen at Dublin City Hall on Friday 25 October, at 7.30

Tickets (€12/€16) available here

Images by Miriam Kaczor