Karlheinz, revisited

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Because I really do want to try to see the beauty in things that others recognize as beautiful, I listened through a couple of things on Erk's site and then went here to sample the music of Karlheinz Stockhausen. It had been some time ago that I first formed my impressions of this composer and it was time to revisit.

While I have to say that my impressions were a good deal less negative than those of a while back, I still come away with the sense that "There's no there, there." (I'm quoting someone in saying that, but I don't recall who.) There is sound--I won't label it with the seemingly perjorative "noise" but it doesn't seem to do much of anything. There may even be some principles of composition--I can't say, I haven't studied the matter and probably would come as close to understanding this as I do understanding Aquinas (it is a good thing to recognize one's limitations.)

But what I can say is either that my prayers for patience have paid off, or that there is some other intrinsic mellowing device such that these pieces no longer try my patience. I listen and the music stops and I am left with an impression of some interesting moments, but generally an unresolved and unresolvable sound mass.

But I will continue to try from time to time. As with Aquinas and others, I don't anticipate success. We come with intrinsic boundaries and it appears that Mr. Stockhausen is well outside of mine--which I'm sure would come as enormously gratifying to him-- (I tend to get the impression that he has no time for "middlebrow" music listeners who cannot appreciate his genius)--but that is as it may be. If there's something there, persistence will break down the barriers and I will get from it what there is for me.

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"There's no there, there." (I'm quoting someone in saying that, but I don't recall who.)

Oh the irony. That was Gertrude Stein on Oakland, the city she grew up in. The corner she grew up on (but not the house), is the very same one that I currently live on (well, we are two houses from the corner, and she was one house the other side), and where I am sitting writing this.

I much prefer Pierre Boulez, especially his Second Piano Sonata. Somewhat more "conservative" radicals like Elliot Carter (First String Quartet, wow!), Messiaen and Dutilleux are dazzling.

And of course those staid, stick-in-the-mud old-fashioned types like Schoenberg (Erwartung and Pierrot Lunaire, oh my goodness!) and Webern (String Quartet and Symphony) and serial Stravinsky (Agon--gosh!; Requiem Canticles--zowie!; the Owl and the Pussycat--yummy!) must not be forgotten.

I have to say that the only reason I like serial Stravinsky is that it represents his flying of the white flag in front of the superiority of Austro-Germanic art music.


Whaaaaat? No!

Listen to the "Surge Aquilo" from the Canticum Sacrum or the opening of the Requiem Canticles. Or the Owl and the Pussycat, for heaven's sake! Such scrumptious stuff.

Dear Steven,
On the strength of your interesting report, I visited Mr. Stockhausen for the first time -- and hopefully not my last. There being some thin strain of hermit within me as well as musician, I easily settled into the broadspectrum colors of his presentation. Shortly after he flicked off the low-tech light, my iBook's screensaver unexpectedly engaged, treating me to a miscellaneous pick of over 350 frosty pastel views from the top of Mt. Washington NH, slowly fading in and out, sliding this way and that, dancing about with a richness I'd never before noticed on the 'Book.

I regretted the all-too-soon but exciting conclusion of Stockhausen's "Set sail for the Sun" but hope to settle in to it again when the time is just right.

For a stretch of your intellectual consideration, may I suggest a little snippet of Diogenes on Esalon and Hillaire Belloc? I think you'll understand the connection to this discussion afterwards; read it at: http://www.cwnews.com/offtherecord/offtherecord.cfm?task=singledisplay&recnum=3962

Dear Joachim,

I'm pleased that you found something worthy of your consideration there. Perhaps, in time, I will hear it as well. Presently, it sounds a lot like orchestra tuning to me. But then, I'm not a musician. Perhaps you have to belong to the guild to appreciate it.





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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on December 2, 2006 11:01 AM.

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