Karlheinz Stockhausen

German Born 22 Aug 1928

Born in Mödrath, near Cologne, Karlheinz Stockhausen studied piano at the local Hochschule für Musik between 1947 and 1950 and took a course in composition the following year with Frank Martin. The next few years were spent in Paris, studying with Messiaen and Milhaud and beginning his experiments into musique concrete. From the very beginning were present the elements which were set to define his style; there was an apparent disparity between his extremely complex contrapuntal dissonance and his focus on long, sustained tones and their harmonic makeup.

Stockhausen did much to promote new music and its composers, and fittingly he used a wide variety of the new techniques of the age. Aleatory, serialism, electronic music, indeterminism and multiphonic sound projection were among resources he combined, often in concerts with a sense of occasion and spectacle. For example, the 1970 Osaka World Fair concert involved a spherical auditorium with hundreds of speakers distributed througout the space.

Many saw Stockhausen as a faceless intellectual; certainly there are few clues to be heard in his works as to their authorship. To an extent he saw himself as an inventor, creating a different method of composition for each of his works. As with music, he was evangelical regarding the benefits of meditation and practised it both aside from and in conjunction with his work. Pieces such as Aus die Sieben Tagen require a degree of participation from the performers arguably hitherto untouched upon; Stockhausen required a quasi-psychic level of involvement. The idea of a composer asserting their identity through a piece was anathemic to him; indeed, when congratulated on a performance, he would suggest that the listener congratulate themselves for the state attained in its perception.

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