Friday, December 07, 2007

Auf Wiedersehen Karlheinz

I just found out a little while ago about Karlheinz Stockhausen's passing. I've never really ventured that far into his massive body of work but he'll always hold a special place in my personal music listening history.

When the internet was still a new thing for me and I started exploring music that wasn't familiar to me, he happened to be the first composer that I started reading about. I have a very distinct (hazy) memory of reading something about his early work w/ tape recorders when they started becoming available right after World War Two and it fascinated me. It was something about him taking a second or so of recorded material and stretching that to last an hour and how it would take him an incredibly long period of time to do that in those tape splicing analog golden days.

It must've been in that same article (or around that time), talking about his use of ring modulators or something else I was reading at the time? But I developed a pretty healthy obsession w/ ring modulation; what a ring modulator actually was, what they looked like, and more importantly what they sounded like. A little while after that mini-obsession began I chanced upon a used copy of Stockhausen's 1970 piece Mantra. I bought it I'm pretty sure just b/c it was by Stockhausen not knowing that it was utilizing ring modulators (and two pianos and various small percussion instruments). I've listened to that piece so much since I first bought it that I can hear it in my head now as I type this nonsense and I'm sure it's been at least two years or so since I actually listened to the disc. Finding that disc though is still one of greatest used disc finds among a handful or so that I still remember fondly but w/ some disbelief.

After Mantra though I never really pursued Stockhausen much further, I moved onto other things Messiaen and Minimalism and then I found Morton Feldman and that re-awakened an interest in John Cage. I think though that if more Stockhausen discs would have been available when he was still new to me I would have listened to him more.

After just having read an article in the New Yorker about the resurgence in classical music sales or something(?), that article though, had this great passage by a pianist talking about an ecstatic experience he had while playing Messiaen's "Quatuor pour la fin du temps" that was so beautiful,
it got me thinking about how little modern classical, avant garde (whatever you call it) musics I listen to anymore. Maybe once I dig out my copy of Mantra and give it a few listens that will get me listening to that type of music more?

Karlheinz Stockhausen
August 22, 1928 – December 5, 2007

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