Saturday, February 23, 2008

Stockhausen: Useful?

Karlheinz Stockhausen, famous primarily for his electronic music (and for his unfortunate remarks about the 9-11 attacks) was capable of producing amazingly interesting sounds and raw material, but like most composers of electronic music, had no idea how to incorporate them into real musical pieces. His random arrays of interesting sounds aren't music, and so I don’t consider him a real composer. Maybe he'll be instrumental in providing a palette of sounds for real composers to draw from in the future, but most of his pieces (for example, the Helicopter Quartet) deserve nothing but derision.

Speaking of which, most Stockhausen fans I've talked to have never actually listened to the Helicopter Quartet, yet they love the idea that it exists. They're intrigued that the score is written in 4 different colors, and they’re more interested in the concept behind the piece than in the piece itself. This, as far as I'm concerned, is proof that it's nothing but a silly gimmick. It's been fashionable for the past 80 years to pay attention to this sort of buffoonery, and to snobbishly deride anyone who refuses to fall into the same trap. I can only hope future composers focus on the useful aspects of Stockhausen’s legacy, and resist the urge to write meaningless concept pieces.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Try 'Freude' one of his last compositions. It was written for 2 harps, lasts 40' and the text 'Veni creator spiritus' is part of the work, intoned by the harpists. Like many of Stockhausen's works there are no electronics. It's a terrific masterpiece by any standards. You can cet the CD from Stockhausen Verlag; expensive but you owe it to your readers to listen to it having sounded off somewhat. There are plenty of other Stockhausen works you are obviously missing...

11:31 AM  
Anonymous Pavel said...

I think Stockhausen's Helicopter Quartet is work of art, not work of music. As one commentator has written in the Guardian newspapers, it really is beautiful if you watch the youtube clip, and see the helicopters flying etc. It is not music, it is a multimedia artwork.

3:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really think that Stockhausen is much more progressive and influential than your giving him credit for. Helicopter Quartet is fairly dynamic. There are many more popular bands that are emulating this sonic approach to music.

4:34 AM  

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