KARLHEINZ STOCKHAUSEN (1928 - 2007)
Stockhausen was among the leading avant-garde figures in German music from the 1950s onwards. In spite of material difficulties, he studied in Cologne with Frank Martin and was subsequently strongly influenced by attendance at Darmstadt, where summer sessions contributed largely to the development of new music. He went on to study with Messiaen in Paris. Parallel to his work in electronic music, he explored the human element in performance, moving from total serialism, in which every aspect of a piece is controlled by a predetermined serial pattern, to a more flexible approach, making use of every device available.
The numbering of Stockhausen’s works allows his earlier compositions the numbering of fractions, with his Kontre-Punkte of 1952 as the first whole number, No. 1. A varied and fascinating series of compositions includes Stimmung for electronically treated voices, Mantra, for two pianos, woodblocks and crotales, the result of a visit to the Osaka World Fair, at which his music was featured. Zyklus has an important part in modern percussion repertoire, while the work Licht, a project divided into seven days and involving dramatic use of instrumental performance, remained a preoccupation from 1977 until its completion in 2003. The size of this work is characteristic of the composer’s Wagnerian tendencies. It was followed by a cycle based on the hours of the day, Klang.
Instrumental & Vocal Music
Of particular interest in the development of Stockhausen’s ideas is Gruppen, first performed in 1958, and using three orchestras surrounding the audience. Use of short-wave radio occurs in Hymnen, Spiral and his celebration of the bicentenary of Beethoven’s birth, Kurzwellen mit Beethoven (Short-Wave with Beethoven). Aus den sieben Tagen (From the Seven Days), a series of fifteen compositions, is written without notes but with verbal directions to performers, on whose particular imagination and ability he as so often relies. Licht (Light) allows a significant dramatic element for solo trumpet in Donnerstag (Thursday), and Mittwoch (Wednesday) has, as its third scene, a Helicopter Quartet, with the players flown in the aircraft of the title, in a performance involving also four cameras and four television transmitters. All in all the comprehensive nature of Stockhausen’s work and its development over nearly sixty years defy succinct summary.