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Karlheinz Stockhausen

'My life is extremely one-sided: what counts are the works as scores, recordings, films and books. That is my spirit formed into music and a sonic universe of moments of my soul.' - Karlheinz Stockhausen, September 2007

German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen died on 5 December 2007 aged 79, at his home in Kuerten-Kettenberg.

Stockhausen was born on 22 August 1928 in Mödrath, near Cologne. Both his parents were killed in World War 2. From 1947-51 he studied piano and music education at the National Conservatory of Music and German philology, philosophy and musicology at the University of Cologne, first writing and performing his own works from about 1950. His extraordinary and visionary creative life included experiments in musique concrète, the first synthesis of sound spectra with electronically generated sine waves and the first compositions of purely electronic music. He studied with Olivier Messiaen in the 1950s, and from 1964 he was director of a group performing live electronic music.

His life was filled with a long series of important international commissions, and with academic appointments in countries including Germany, Japan and the USA, and a string of honours and awards. He created more than three hundred works, the largest of which is the multi-part operatic Licht project. This includes the notorious Helicopter String Quartet, in which each member of a string quartet performs in an airborne helicopter, with sound and vision fed from each by radio to the audience in a concert hall.

He was often extremely controversial, and his outspoken comments about terrorism and art at a press conference on 17 September 2001, suggesting that the 9/11 attacks in the USA were 'the greatest work of art imaginable for the whole cosmos' were later denied, although a recording by Norddeutsche Rundfunk proves otherwise. In a backlash against his work, four concerts which were to have formed the centre of that year's Hamburg Music Festival were cancelled.

The Stockhausen website features a memorial leaflet which can be downloaded as a PDF.


Posted: 9 December 2007

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