Doctor of Musical Arts Dissertations


The Stillness of the Silent Sound: A Tantric Analysis of Karlheinz Stockhausen's Aus den sieben Tagen

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)


Music Composition

First Advisor

Marilyn Shrude (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Mary Natvig (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Mikel Kuehn (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Patricia Sharp (Committee Member)


The music of German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen (August 22, 1928 – December 5, 2007) continues to be the focus of intense scholarly research. However, due to the special characteristics of what Stockhausen labeled as intuitive music, it represents a period of his compositional output that has yet to be thoroughly analyzed. This document proposes an analysis of Stockhausen’s cycle of intuitive music, Aus den sieben Tagen (From the Seven Days), from the perspective of the ancient Indo-Tibetan tantric theory and praxis of sound, as propagated through Vajrayana Tibetan Buddhism.

After discussing the proper context for the composer, the composition, and the proposed analytical model of the tantric mandala template found in Nada Yoga Tantra praxis, an in-depth, multi-layered analysis is presented that includes significant features of the cycle, including architectural and layout design, semantic and literary fields, esoteric aspects, and a mandala–based tantric analysis.

The particularities of each layer of analysis are examined using principles of sacred geometry, mathematical concepts, and esoteric praxis that result in a set of meaningful conclusions about the cycle as an artifact based on tantric principles. These conclusions are a synthesis of analytical data obtained through score study, research concerning Stockhausen’s cultural background, personal experience with the tantric methods alluded to in this cycle, and pre-existing scholarly literature on the subjects of Aus den sieben Tagen, intuitive music, and Tantra. Supportive evidence is comprised of tabular data as well as graphical representations and logical inferences based on the mathematical, geometrical, and esoteric principles discussed therein.

A comprehensive analysis shows the tantric mandala template as the underlying principle at the core of Aus den sieben Tagen, which illustrates Stockhausen’s preoccupation with the notions of enlightenment, transcendence, and the functional aspects of music composition at the time at which Aus den sieben Tagen was written. This work is not a metaphor for, nor a representation of tantric practice, but is in itself a tantric practice.