For the sound production technology, see Octophonic sound.
Stockhausen in the WDR studio during the production of Oktophonie in 1991
Octophonic cube

Oktophonie (Octophony) is a 1991 octophonic electronic-music composition by Karlheinz Stockhausen. A component layer of act 2 of the opera Dienstag aus Licht, it may also be performed as an independent composition. It has a duration of 69 minutes.

Function in Dienstag

Oktophonie forms a layer of the music in act 2, Invasion—Explosion mit Abschied (Invasion—Explosion with Farewell). The very forceful nature of the electronic music required a technical solution in order that the instrumentalists, who perform at the same time, can always be heard. Stockhausen solved this problem by providing each player with a microphone and a transmitter for amplification, which allows them to move freely throughout the auditiorium. This became a central part of Stockhausen’s performance practice in subsequent parts of the Licht cycle (Toop 2008).

Materials and technique

Yamaha DX7-II synthesizer, similar to one of the synthesizers used in producing Oktophonie
Oberheim Matrix 1000 synthesizer module, of the type used in producing Oktophonie
Casio FZ-1 sampler, of the type used in producing Oktophonie

Oktophonie was realised in the Studio for Electronic Music of the Westdeutscher Rundfunk, Cologne, in two phases of work: from 23 August to 30 November 1990, and from 5 to 30 August 1991. Studio collaborators were recording engineers Volker Müller and Daniel Velasco-Schwarzenberger, and recording technician Gertrud Melcher (Stockhausen 1994, O IX, O XIX; Stockhausen 1998, 340). Production was made using a single 24-track tape recorder. A 64-track recorder would have been preferable, or alternatively three synchronisable 24-track recorders, but the WDR studio had only the one machine. Spatialisation was facilitated by the use of a QUEG (Quadrophonic Effect Generator), a device manufactured by EMS in the early 1970s. It was developed by Stockhausen in collaboration with Peter Zinovieff, owner of the firm at that time. Despite having only four outputs, the QUEG could still be used to produce an octophonic output, by manually switching to four outputs, not only between the square on the floor and the one on the ceiling, but between all six squares forming the sides of the cube (Stockhausen 2000, 68–70). A number of synthesizers and modules were used in the production of the sound layers (Stockhausen 1994, O IX, O XIX):

In addition, an EMS Synthi 100 was used for control of the spatialization in some layers during the concluding portion (Stockhausen 1994, O XV–XVI, O XXV–XXVI).


The music of Oktophonie is developed, like everything in Licht, from the basic superformula, and consists of eight musical layers, each provided with different spatial distributions and sound movement patterns (Misch 1998, 152). For technical reasons of playback the music had to be produced in two segments, with the second tape beginning at 36'23" and a "bridge" tape used only for performances of the second act of Dienstag (Stockhausen 1994, O IX, O XIX; Stockhausen 1998, 342).

Performance history

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Old Billingsgate Fish Market, London, where Stockhausen performed Oktophonie on 25 October 2005



Further reading

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