HumanitiesWeb.org - Karlheinz Stockhausen - Leader of the Cosmopolitan Avant-garde [Recommended Recordings]
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Karlheinz Stockhausen
Recommended Recordings



Stockhausen: Kontakte
(Christoph Caskel, Gottfried Michael Koenig, et al.)
One of the ironies of German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen's career is the way in which his radical approach to music--once the epitome of the most esoteric avant-gardism--has been filtered into popular culture. The influence of this visionary pioneer of electronic music extended to the studio experiments of the Beatles (particularly in Sgt. Pepper's) and can still be heard in the sampling of today's techno records. The seminal Kontakte (1959/1960) introduced a brave new world of aural experience, replacing traditional music's linear flow of development with the concept of "Moment Form"--Stockhausen's catchphrase for concentrating on the validity of the "now," of each particular musical gesture independent of its larger context. He originally conceived of the work as purely electronic sounds, but this second version introduces two live players (a pianist and percussionist) interacting--in points of "contact"--with a prerecorded array of frequencies. On first impression, Kontakte may seem nothing more than a 35-minute babble of chaotic noises (though it is, paradoxically, planned to a very high level). Forget about the theory, forget about the once-utopian dreams of giving music the prestige of scientific objectivity, and just listen to the stream of electronic burps, squawks, whizzes, and--toward the conclusion--serene cloudlike mists as they metamorphose. It's a stunning soundscape and document of a particularly potent period of revolution in modern music. (review by Thomas May)

Stockhausen: Piano Music
(Elisabeth Klein)


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