Some regard Karlheinz Stockhausen as the most brilliant and innovative composer of the last 50 years. Others see him as …
Karlheinz Stockhausen, German composer
22 August 1928, 03:00 CET. Burg Mödrath, Germany.
Sun 28 Leo 43
Conjunct Neptune 28 Leo 54
Trine Pholus 28 Sagittarius 02
Trine Okyrhoe 27 Aries 12
Moon 14 Scorpio 58
Opposite Jupiter 10 Taurus 18
Opposite Chiron 10 Taurus 08
Trine Pluto 17 Cancer 44
Since Stockhausen died in 2007 at the age of 79, the musical world is still divided regarding his legacy. Some see him as the most brilliant and innovative composer of the last 50 years and others see him as completely bonkers. Sun conjunct Neptune is not easy to pin down! Or to put it another way, Sun conjunct Neptune in Leo in the second house could lead to an inflated idea of self-worth, but when it works well, it can betoken an amazing spiritual connection – solar consciousness connecting to the cosmic boundlessness of Neptune.
But back in the 1960’s during the white heat of the counterculture, Stockhausen was going through his Saturn return and his music was in tune with the Zeitgeist. Bands like the Beatles were spacing out to his electronic piece, ‘Kontakte’ (1960) and in fact a picture of Stockhausen appears on the cover of the Beatle’s album ‘Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ (back row, fifth from the left). Latterly, other musicians such as Frank Zappa, David Bowie, Miles Davies and Björk have cited him as an influence. Then there was the piece for three orchestras and three conductors, ‘Gruppen’ (1957) where huge blocks of sound are thrown around between the orchestras. And the electronic wizardry of ‘Hymnen’ (1967) which used recordings of national anthems to set up sonic relationships between national cultural identities and ending up with the mind-blowing sound world of the utopian realm of Hymunion. That’s in addition to his intuitive music where musicians play in response to a text, one of which, ‘Nachtmusik’ (Night Music) instructs them to “play in the rhythm of the universe”.
But when we look at the moon in his chart, it is in the tough, deep feeling sign of Scorpio, opposite a conjunction of Jupiter and Chiron in Taurus and trine to Pluto in the twelfth house in Cancer. And when you recall his childhood and adolescence during the Third Reich and World War Two, it’s difficult to credit that someone with such innate sensitivity survived that period. His mother suffered from depression and was sent to a mental institution where she was killed by lethal injection, while his soldier father never returned from the eastern front. The orphaned teenage Karlheinz had to work in a field hospital as a stretcher bearer, dealing with wounded and dying soldiers. If anything will give reality to Neptune, that will.
Later in Donnerstag (Thursday) (1981) from his cycle of seven operas called ‘Licht’ (Light) Stockhausen mythologizes his childhood and creates an image of himself as a hero. And it is this mythologizing which leads to the influence of the centaurs in his chart.
The solar system bodies known as centaurs take us to another level of astrological influence, beyond that of the personal planets: Mercury, Mars and Venus, beyond the social planets: Jupiter and Saturn and even beyond the transpersonal outer planets: Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. With the centaurs, we are living out a mythological narrative. And in Stockhausen’s birth chart, with both the sun and moon configured to centaurs, their influence for him was inescapable.
Chiron was the leader of the centaurs in Greek mythology. He was immortal and after being struck by one of Hercules’ poisoned arrows, he was in agony but unable to die. In a birth chart, Chiron opposite the Moon represents a deep wound that can never be healed but which can enable the person to be a powerful healer themselves. And with Chiron conjunct Jupiter (both opposite the moon) in Stockhausen’s chart, his abilities as a teacher were renowned, challenging his students to face their own issues. And with Jupiter and Chiron in Taurus, the sign of the senses, his approach to the very nature of physical sound was to take it into new dimensions, beyond anything that had been done before.
In addition, Stockhausen’s sun in Leo is in a grand trine with two other centaurs, Pholus and Okyrhoe. Sun trine Pholus connects to the myth of Pholus who opened a flask of wine that had been gifted by the god Dionysus, releasing ancestral spirits into the world. Pholus’ influence can manifest as involvement in an ecstatic cult either as a member or as the leader. Out of all of the composers of his generation, Stockhausen alone seems to have inspired a cult-like following. While the centaur Okyrhoe, the daughter of Chiron in mythology, had the ability to read the destiny of individuals and to see the future. And Stockhausen’s music and his approach to sound represent a quantum leap into future possibilities.
After completing his magnum opus, Licht, a cycle of seven operas, one for each day of the week, Stockhausen produced in his latter years another cycle called ‘Klang’ (Sound), planned to be 24 pieces for different instrumental and electronic combinations, one for each hour of the day. He had completed 21 at the time of his death.
But along the way (1975) he had composed a sequence of twelve melodies based on the signs of the zodiac. They were originally part of a piece called “Musik im Bauch” (Music in the Belly), to be performed by percussionists and specially produced music boxes. These delightful pieces are called in German ‘Tierkreis’ (Zodiac). In Stockhausen’s own words:
“I began to busy myself with the 12 human characters of the zodiac of which I had until then only a vague idea. In inventing each melody, I thought of the characters of children, friends, and acquaintances who were born under the various star signs and studied the human types of the star signs more thoroughly.”
Later these melodies were arranged for various soloists and instrumental ensembles including solo voice, solo piano, clarinet and piano, and orchestra. And since July 2009 the melody from ‘Tierkreis’ corresponding to the current zodiac sign is played daily at noon on the 48-bell carillon in the ancient tower of Cologne City Hall as a tribute to the composer.
Here we have the whole cycle of ‘Tierkreis’ played by members of the WDR Symphony Orchestra where you can hear Stockhausen’s take on each of the zodiac signs as he returns from his explorations of sound using sophisticated electronics to the simplest musical statements of melody. The circle is complete.