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.