Tierkreis (German for zodiac) is Stockhausen’s most accessible, most adapted, and likely best-known work. It may also be the most symmetrical, its twelve movements conforming to the zodiac’s twelve signs, each melody based on a twelve-tone row, the pieces arranged in the sequence of the chromatic scale. The original sound source ensures the piece’s celebrity: Stockhausen had a music box constructed for each of the melodies. Bruno Heinen, an English jazz pianist whose parents played with Stockhausen, has arranged Tierkris for a jazz sextet with five of the music boxes in hand.
From the opening sound of a music box being wound, Heinen keeps finding ways to expand and vary the material, deploying the members of his band in surprising ways. “Gemini,” a quartet feature for tenor saxophonist Tom Challenger, is reharmonized into a moody ballad that suggests mid-’60s Wayne Shorter, while “Libra” has Heinen playing the music box in a duet with drummer Jon Scott. Contrasts abound: Fulvio Seguria’s clarion trumpet adds an element of baroque fanfare to the theme statement of “Leo,” while bass clarinettist James Allsopp takes free-jazz liberties with “Scorpio.”
Touching on the furthest precincts of nostalgia and commemoration, this work provides fresh perspectives on both Tierkreis and the methodologies of modern jazz.