Karlheinz Stockhausen R.I.P.

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I had posted this some days ago, only to discover that for whatever reason it did not take, so I will repost.

Karlheinz Stockhausen died in his home in Germany on 5 December. While I do not think that he is a great composer, or for that matter much of a composer at all, I do think that his work was enormously influential, giving rise to entire strains of electronic and ambient music. Moreover, he did have an effect on the Classical World, in both directions. He inspired those inclined to experimental music to go forth and experiment and he provoked a strong reaction against the atonalism and structural chaos of the post-modern school of composers.

I know Erik would disagree with me in this evaluation, and I welcome the retort, but maintain the stand. Stockhausen is a divisive figure. However, whatever he may be in the realm of the art himself, he was an essential catalyst and a genius of sorts. His influences has permanently shaped that face of music. Much of what comes after him (in the classical realm) will be in some way influenced by him, either by reaction or inspiration. When the art world loses such a figure, it is always a great loss.

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I absolutely agree with you on his influence, although I still maintain that Stockhausen was one of the greatest composers ever. Even the insipid neo-banalist John Taverner, who delights in trashing music much better than anything he could ever create, learned from Stockhausen. All have learned from him. He took the delightful, yet naive experiments of the French musique concretistes and showed the world how to take it to the heights. Anyone who is interested in sound as art and in music as the governing principle behind all of the arts would do well to study Stockhausen.

I almost went to Germany to become his student. I was talked out of it, not because he wasn't great, but because two teachers of mine who knew him and knew me, convinced me that it would only result in personal grief. I respect their wisdom and grant that they are probably right, and yet...there is this part of me that slightly regrets not going over there. I credit Stockhausen with turning me towards being a music major in college. Even though I have remained much more of a visual artist, his work has tremendous influence on me: even my recent classical oil paintings derive some of their structural ideas to the music and ideas of Stockhausen. I even love the oft-derided Helicopter Quartet. It is among my most listened to works, alongside Bach's Goldberg Variations, Scarlatti's incomparable harpsichord sonatas, usw.

His loss is a personal loss to me, even though I never met the man.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on December 10, 2007 8:07 AM.

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