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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Karlheinz Stockhausen - ELECTRONIC MUSIC "Song of the Youths" / "Contact" (Deutsch Gramopon)


Karlheinz Stockhausen's first electronic piece, which he wrote in 1955/56.  What I have read is that it is a personal, even spiritual music for the composer.  "Song of Youths" have children singing in German, with intrusive electronic sounds  - cutting in and out of the children's chorus.  Abstract, and quite remarkable in scope.   The live version was supposed to take place in a church, but due to the electronic/speakers issue, it never happened.  Still, the original set piece is five speakers.  This recording was reconstructed for two speakers.    My first listen to this piece I found it cold, but by the second time around, I find it emotional.  There is a Wagnerian feel, in that it's quite grand.  Still, big sounds can bring deep emotions to the table. 

The score to "Song of the Youths."

"Contact" (Kontakte) was realized 1958-60.  A more meditative piece of music than "Song of the Youths."  Still, there are loud krangs among the hums, so it keeps one's toes in operation.  To me, Stockhausen's music deals very much with space.  The actual space that the music or speakers are placed as well as the sound becoming either a sculpture or architectural model of some sort.  In other words, I don't think this music would be good on YouTube or through your computer speaker.  You need two big speakers, nice room, and a glass of wine (of course).  



The spectacle of Stockhausen's compositions is a big part of the overall experience.  In that sense, I think he shares that quality with Wagner.  The 1950s, which is often thought of as a conservative era, brought electronics into music in a very thoughtful and serious manner.  Stockhausen and others were truly the light coming out of the 20th-century headlights.