I felt pretty exhausted over the weekend, probably the result of staying up late on Tuesday to follow the results over the pond and then having to use the rest of the week’s energy tapping Refresh until somebody finally wheezed over the line. After all of that kerfuffle I would imagine that something like a round or two of golf would have been the best way to relax, but for the fact that we are barely allowed out of the house.
Still, I perked myself up by listening to the archived Composer Of The Week podcast about Karlheinz Stockhausen, whose music is usually guaranteed to frighten the horses, put the cats among the pigeons, and cause large, orange men to TWEET WITH THE CAPS LOCK ON, but whose output I find endlessly fascinating. It is all the by-product of that visionary, revelatory first year at university that had us studying music either from before 1600 or after 1910.
I think that it was Gesang der Jünglinge that first got me into his oeuvre, and Stimmung was not far behind, that particular recording, directed by Gregory Rose, having something of a hallowed status and being one of the first to enter my collection. I worked with Greg later several times, loved the whole experience, and also gathered a couple of Stockhausen anecdotes from him, which certainly lived up to my expectations.
For all that his public reputation seemed to centre around some of his odder statements, Stockhausen was nevertheless a relentless pioneer, and not for nothing is he tucked away there on the cover of Sgt. Pepper, such was his cross-cultural influence even in the sixties. His ideas were – indeed, still are – revolutionary for composers, though, even if the theories behind them will forever remain way beyond my capacity to understand them.
I always knew that Stockhausen had a deep-rooted hatred for a regular pulse, equating it immediately with militaristic ambition, not surprising as he grew up in 1930s Germany and both his parents were victims, in one way or another, to that machine, and when I mentioned this to one of my classes at Trinity a student asked me what happened when his phone rang. I wrote, more in hope than in expectation, to the Stockhausen-Verlag and, to my surprise, they wrote back with a huge package of goodies and a reply from one of his secretaries – he did not have a phone, they explained, but he had composed melodies for the mobiles owned by his staff.