Karlheinz Stockhausen's Klavierstück V is one of the works from the composer's second set of piano pieces, collectively designated Composition No. 4 (1954 - 55/61). In the time between the first group of four Klavierstücke (1952 - 53) and the second group, Stockhausen had concentrated his energies on working in the electronic studios of Paris and Cologne. In returning to the timbral world of the piano, the composer intended to explore some of the considerations that arose during his work in the field of pure electronic sound. (Stockhausen's theories to this end are set out in his technical-philosophical article "...how time passes....") Stockhausen, in short, applies new structural ideas based on an evolving realization of the nature of acoustics within the relatively narrow confines of piano performance practice.
In both the first and second groups of Klavierstücke, the means and techniques of three of the pieces are summed up in a fourth. In the second group, Klavierstück IV is the culmination of processes used in the other three pieces (IX and X were completed at a later date): Klavierstück VIII is the simplest, while V and VII are similar in scope to one another. In Klavierstück V, Stockhausen further develops further the idea of "group" composition. The primary aural advancement of the piece is the use of "constellations" consisting of a note or chord of determinate duration preceded and followed by grace notes. By means of this device, Stockhausen increases the complexity of each articulation or sonic node, changing the idea of what constitutes an individual "note." This idea, too, comes from the composer's study of acoustics: Stockhausen realized that however closely a sound was controlled in theory, there would always be uncontrolled aspects when the sound was executed. This sort of unpredictability became a primary concern in Stockhausen's work of the late 1950s.
The second set of Klavierstücke was commissioned by the City of Darmstadt. The first four pieces in the set were premiered by Marcelle Mercenier (who had also premiered the earlier group of Klavierstücke) at the Darmstadt Summer Courses on June 1, 1955.