Empirical Performance Analysis as a Means of Creation in Stockhausen’s Klavierstück X

Gabriel Jones

University of Leeds, UK


The traditions and methodologies of empirical performance analysis that have developed and stabilised over the course of the last thirty years have tended to focus on stylistic and historical trends in the performance of common-practice-period repertoire. With some notable exceptions, very little research has been dedicated to radical developments in post-WWII avant-garde composition and performance practice, in spite of the many unique possibilities offered by the now substantial recording corpora of a number of key works. In response to this lacuna, this paper illustrates how existing performance analysis methodologies may be adapted to tackle this often highly challenging repertoire, offering historical and stylistic insights, while also clarifying the complexity and performative ambiguity of the music, particularly in the realms of rhythm and tempo. Finally, I show how these same methods may then be used by the performer as a means of creative practice during the learning process, drawing inspiration from analysis of the recorded tradition to produce new and experimental performances, which may not have been conceivable otherwise.

As a case study, I present my empirical performance research on Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Klavierstück X (1961), highlighting the diversity of the storied recording tradition and its often unpredictable relationship with the challenging and ambiguous demands of the score, which includes many different configurations of clusters, cluster glissandi, grace notes, delimiting durational values, and the overriding direction to perform the piece ‘as fast as possible’. This is followed by video demonstrations and excerpts from my own experimental performances, produced using self-reflective empirical analysis as a tool for approaching the complex rhythmic strata of the piece, in direct response to the current limitations of the performance tradition. In addition to opening up new expressive possibilities for this seminal piece, my innovative methodology is shown to have broader applications in the creative interpretation of other complex music.

Keywords: Stockhausen, Performance Analysis, Creative Performance


I am a pianist and musicologist, born and raised in Brighton, UK currently pursuing a practice-led PhD at the University of Leeds, exploring the performance practice of Stockhausen’s Klavierstücke. My hybrid methodology brings together empirical analysis of the recorded tradition, score analysis, new and archival performer testimony, and my own pianistic insights to inform new ways of listening and performing these pieces. The finished project will feature experimental studio recordings of Klavierstücke I, VII and X, offering a range of alternatives to the established performance traditions surveyed in the thesis. Recent conference presentations have explored the concept of irrationality and methods of empirical performance analysis in Klavierstück I, and the creative relationship of Stockhausen and David Tudor in the 1950s. My current research interests lie in the aesthetics and performance practice of post-WWII New Music, new methodologies of performance analysis, and the future of musical practice as research.