© Christophe Urbain

MUSIC IN THE BELLY – Karlheinz Stockhausen, Simon Steen-Andersen

Composition: Karlheinz Stockhausen (1975)*
Concept, staging, electronics: Simon Steen-Andersen
Performers: Léa Koster, Olivia Martin, Vanessa Porter, Lou Renaud-Bailly, Hsin-Hsuan Wu, Yi-Ping Yang.
Technical Team: Claude Mathia, Etienne Dumoulin, Raffaele Renne
Building of the stage: Albane Aubin

*Original piece premiered in 1975 at the Festival de Royan, commissionned and performed by les Percussions de Strasbourg
Edition: Stockhausen Verlag

Executive production and commission: Les Percussions de Strasbourg
Festival Musica, La Muse en circuit
A production carried out within the framework of the “Mondes Nouveaux” programme of support for artistic creation.

Duration: 60’

In 1975 Karlheinz Stockhausen composed an enigmatic work for les Percussions de Strasbourg. The score contained more stage directions than music – and the music consisted of twelve melodies linked to the signs of the zodiac, the Tierkreis cycle, and embodied in music boxes that the composer had made himself. The idea for the piece and its title came from his daughter Julika’s surprise when, at the age of two, she discovered small noises inside her, stomach rumbling: “You have music in your belly”, told his father. A few years later, he suddenly woke up one morning after dreaming the piece and put it down on paper.

Nearly fifty years after the composition and premiere of the work at the Royan Festival, les Percussions de Strasbourg have asked Simon Steen-Andersen to imagine a new interpretation and staging. While remaining faithful to the score and without changing a single note, the Danish artist proposes his vision of the work’s potential for the eyes and ears of today through the use of simple scenic concepts and technologies directly inspired by other pieces by Stockhausen. A simple question guided Steen-Andersen’s approach: what could Music in the belly have looked and sounded like inside Stockhausen’s dream, even before he woke up?

“Considered as a blend of children’s story and Native American tribal myth, Musik im Bauch stages a ritual, sometimes strange, around a mysterious bird and sober instrumentation.”

Minh-Tâm Nguyen, Artistic director of Percussions de Strasbourg

“In my stage-works I always find myself looking for ways and motivations to enter surrealistic spaces where the things we know and the connections between them are no longer the same.
In ‘Music in the Belly’ from 1975, legendary composer Karl Heinz von Stockhausen tried to reconstruct a bizarre dream of his, where six life-sized automata performed ‘cosmic’ melodies at different speeds, while circling an oversized bird-man to evoke the birth of three music boxes from his stomach that went on to play the same melodies yet again … In the score Stockhausen describes the incident preceding the dream: His two year old Daughter had noticed loud noises from her stomach to which he said ‘wow, you really have music in your belly!’. She couldn’t stop laughing and kept repeating ‘music in the belly’ over and over, uncalmable, half choking and with tears in her eyes until she finally fell asleep of exhaustion, still mumbling the sentence.
Only after reading the score I went on to watch performances of ‘Music in the Belly’ and found that I was unable to re-find the touching, but also uncanny feeling and the dreamy and mystical images I had been imagining. In my staged interpretation of the piece I tried to use this first feeling as a guiding line and to imagine what it might have looked and sounded like inside Stockhausen’s dream, before it was translated to earthly instruments and acting performers.”

Simon Steen-Andersen,Concept, staging, electronics