Becoming and Disintegration in Wolfgang Rihm's String Quartet No. 5, 'Ohne Titel'

David Hier, Eastman School of Music

Wolfgang Rihm's music of the 1980s poses unique challenges because it lacks systematic rigour and expresses numerous apparently unrelated gestures. The diverse gestures of the Fifth String Quartet, "Ohne Titel," stand in relation to the "ideal-music" of German Romanticism despite its absence in the piece. I trace these gestures through a Cartesian Graph mapping the music's directedness toward the ideal ("becoming") and its energy level. The resulting form reflects Stockhausen's theory of "statistical form" which eschews traditional formal sections, harmonies and motives in favour of tracking musical changes in other dimensions. Rihm innovates by directing these shapes toward a reclamation of Romantic music. This unifying principle lends the quartet a systematic foundation which might be applied to Rihm's later works and to "statistical" works more generally.