In 1974, Stockhausen composed the 12 melodies of the star signs for music boxes and produced them in collaboration with technicians at the Reuge music box factory in Ste. Croix, Switzerland.
In the mid-seventies, Karlheinz Stockhausen composed the 12 melodies of Tierkreis (or Zodiac), one for each star sign. He assigned the 12 notes of the chromatic scale to the 12 astrological signs: the central pitch of “Aquarius” is E-flat, the central pitch of “Capricorn” D.
The Tierkreis melodies first appeared in Musik im Bauch, a 1975 piece for six percussionists and three music boxes. In part, it was inspired by a dream Stockhausen had about a birdman with music boxes in his stomach. Robin Maconie’s list of equipment for a performance of Musik im Bauch is suggestive:
A life-size mannequin with the face of an eagle, garlanded with Indian jingles; 3 x 2-octave chromatic scales of crotala, sounding c5 – c7, mounted on boards; stick glockenspiel; 3 switches; bell plates, humming-top in e3 (or tubular bell with very long resonance); marimbaphone, 3 musical boxes (chosen from the 12 Tierkreis musical boxes). Duration: 38’.
A Libra music box (via Stockhausen-Verlag)
Stockhausen contracted the Swiss music box concern Reuge, which continued to manufacture the zodiac boxes into the eighties. In ‘98, Stockhausen-Verlag produced a limited run for the composer’s 70th birthday, followed by another series in 2005. The Pisces, Aries and Sagittarius boxes are sold out, but the shop still has a few of the others left at €310 a piece. Hear the Cancer music box below.
You can hear every music box here: