I just heard that Karlheinz Stockhausen died today. For a proper obit, you can read the Guardian Unlimited article. I just figured that since I was playing Stockhausen’s work last week, I’d write a little bit about why Stockhausen matters to me– this is, after all, a blog.
I first heard one of Stockhausen’s works just over ten years ago, having been “introduced” to the master by Tony’s older brother Wess, who has long had a serious passion for modern and avant-garde composition. Tony and I could enjoy groups like Negativland, but on a deeper level, I guess I always wanted something more personally meaningful. When his brother started telling me about a German composer who would work months intricately splicing tape shards together, only to discard the resulting few moments as unacceptable… well, I knew I had better find out more about the mysterious Stockhausen.That first day, Wess let me make a copy of his “Elektronische Musik 1952-1960,” which he had ordered from Stockhausen’s own label. With the earliest of his electronic and tape pieces, including the amazing “Gesang der Junglinge,” it was a great place to start. Every track was exciting, full of new sounds, and very much what I wanted to hear.
It wasn’t long after that I found copies of “Mantra,” “Hymnen,” and “Mikrophonie,” all of which took numerous listens. I didn’t even like Mantra for quite a while, being unable to understand the ideas behind the music.
Of course, doing some reading helped. Hearing more of Stockhausen’s contemporaries helped. Even John Cage helped, as odd as that may seem.
It would be foolish to try to enumerate the many ways in which his work has influenced music, but it is amusing to see the unexpected ways he manages to pop up– it was only a few years back that I was remixing Harold Schellinx’s “Vicki’s Mosquitos,” a computer-read story set during one of the yearly Stockhausen summer courses.
There’s a lot more to hear, and a lot more to learn… and that’s the way I’m choosing to look at this. I’m still on my journey with Stockhausen, and perhaps you are as well. Good luck,
Update: A memorial booklet from the Stockhausen Foundation can be found here.