Saturday, December 8, 2007

Karlheinz Stockhausen, 1928 - 2007

The important German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen has died. Stockhausen, especially with his works of the 1950s through the 1970s, was one of the more influential composers of the past few decades, influencing music across multiple genres, including contemporary classical or art music, jazz, electronic musics and sampling of all sorts, rock and pop.

The following is from the New York Times:

“In “Song of the Youths” (1956), he used a multichannel montage of electronic sound with a recorded singing voice to create an image of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego staying alive in Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace. In “Groups” (1957), he divided an orchestra into three ensembles that often played in different tempos and called to one another. (My inserted note: As with any creative and original person, the sorts of things Stockhausen did were not completely without precedent. Much of what he did is anticipated, albeit with a decidedly different flavor by the earlier 20th century American composer Charles Ives, e.g. the use of musical montage, or the division of orchestra into different ensembles playing at different tempos but relating to one another in his “Universe Symphony.”)
Such works answered the need felt in postwar Europe for reconstruction and logic, the logic to forestall any recurrence of war and genocide. They made Mr. Stockhausen a beacon to younger composers. Along with a few other musicians of his generation, notably Pierre Boulez and Luigi Nono, he had an enormous influence. Though performances of his works were never plentiful, his music was promoted by radio stations in Germany and abroad as well as by the record company Deutsche Grammophon, and he gave lectures all over the world.
By the 1960s his influence had reached rock musicians, and he was an international subject of acclaim and denigration.”

The following excerpts are from

“Paul McCartney and John Lennon of the Beatles were Stockhausen fans, and the group honored the composer by using his image on the cover of its 1967 album, "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.'' The single "Strawberry Fields Forever'' showed Stockhausen's influence.
He inspired some of the music by Frank Zappa, Pink Floyd, Miles Davis and Brian Eno. His groundbreaking electronic beats found echoes in long compositions by Can, Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream in the 1970s. Of classical composers, Igor Stravinsky was an admirer, though not an uncritical one. Stockhausen's music was compared to Arnold Schoenberg and Oliver Messiaen before him. He went on with Pierre Boulez to offer a vision of the future.
Stockhausen was seen by some as the greatest German composer since Wagner. To others, his music was empty and devoid of merit. Conductor Thomas Beecham was asked, ``Have you heard any Stockhausen,'' and said, ``No, but I believe I have trodden in some.''

“His breakthrough came in 1956, with the release of ``Gesang der Junglinge'' (Song of the Youths), which combined electronic sounds with the human voice, the Guardian newspaper said.
In 1960, he released "Kontakte'' (Contacts), one of the first compositions to mix live instrumentation with prerecorded material.”

For more on Stockhausen, see “Composer Karlheinz Stockhausen is Dead” from Yahoo News, “Karlheinz Stockhausen, Composer, Dies at 79” from the New York Times, and “Karlheinz Stockhausen, Pivotal German Composer, Dies at Age 79” From I recently wrote of Stockhausen, albeit briefly, in my post, “Mythic Music: Stockhausen, Davis and Macero, Dub, Hip Hop, and Lévi-Strauss.”

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