Webern’s Clockwork

Webern Uhr Werk, by Karlheinz Essl.

WebernUhrWerk (translated: Webern’s Clockwork) is a work of algorithmic music for computer-controlled Carillon by Karlheinz Essl which commemorates the death of Anton Webern on 15 Sep 1945.

The text on this page is adapted from information provided by the composer.


After escaping from the Russian invasion, the Austrian composer Anton Webern was accidentally shot dead by an American soldier in Mittersill, Salzburg on 15th September 1945.

In 2005, for the 60th anniversary of Webern’s death, Karleinz Essl created an open-air sound installation on the market place at Mittersill. A loudspeaker was put into the open roof window of the city hall and a short musical phrase was played every quarter of an hour.

This action continues each year on September 15th, and in 2019 I am pleased to install Webern’s Clockwork on the pier formally known as the ‘Watch Pier’ in Stromness, overlooking the waters of Scapa Flow.

Compositional Aspects

WebernUhrWerk is based on the twelve-tone row of Anton Webern’s last opus which he started in Mittersill, and never finished.

This tone row serves as the basic material for a composition algorithm that generates music in real time, never repeating itself. The algorithm uses the structure of the series as its own permutation program.

Pitch classes are mapped onto five fixed register models, using major seconds, minor thirds, major thirds, a combination of minor and major seconds and finally a sort of all-interval row. Each model is represented by a twelve-tone chord where each pitch class occurs in a fixed register.

Four independent rhythmical models have been created, one for each quarter of the hour. Their outlines are defined, but variations in the resulting rhythmical structure are created using random procedures and aleatoric methods.

Software written in Max/MSP by Karlheinz Essl, version 4.0, released: 1 Aug 2018:

Installed on the former Watch Pier, Stromness by Amy Beeston, 15 September 2019:

Amy Beeston