Applying Stockhausen's 4 Criterion of Electronic Music in Ableton Live

This post looks at ways of using Ableton Live to apply concepts introduced by pioneering composer Karlheinz Stockhausen in his lecture at the Oxford Union (England) on May 6th 1972, where the he used excerpts from his seminal electronic work KONTAKTE to demonstrate “4 Criteria of Electronic Music”. This lecture and its transcription are classics of the field. You can 
Here are some steps for application.

1. Unified Time Structuring

  • Take a sound or series of sounds. Play in a loop (either as a Clip or in Simpler) until the loop forms a rhythm. 
  • Make the loop repeat faster and faster until it creates its own tone (change the Clip tempo in Warp, or change the loop length in Simpler) 
  • Slow down the loop (change the Clip tempo in Warp) or sound (play a lower octave in Simpler without Warp) until it creates a new tone.
  • Take all of the above, and play them one after another, or play them overlapping one another 

2. Splitting of the Sound

  • Split the sound into parts, by making copies and processing them differently e.g. 
    • trimming each copy at different points, 
    • or filtering out different frequencies for each copy (using EQ or AutoFilter), 
    • or transposing differently, 
    • or panning differently, 
    • or some combination of audio effects (Distortion, Chorus, Delay etc)
  • Automate the split - draw automation curves for the different types of processing

3. Multi-Layered Spatial Composition

  • Layer several sounds and play them together
  • Over time, remove some layers, add some layers back
  • Automate Reverb, Delay, and Filter, to create the feeling of moving forwards and backwards in space

4. Equality of Tone and Noise

  • Use the MIDI Effects Arpeggiator and Random to apply some of the Aleatoric concepts - combining loops and random chance - from this video

Stockhausen on 4 Criterion of Electronic Music