Karlheinz Stockhausen / Aug 22, 1928 - Dec 5, 2007

Karlheinz Stockhausen, a leading figure in avant-garde "contemporary" European music, made several records that could be enjoyed by rock & free jazz & noise fans, as well as those into experiments in orchestral music, serialism and nutty orchestral ideas.

While the brainiac set will go off about his theories and how they apply to academic sound art, acoustics and music, the fact is that some of his music is also appealing to street jerks like me. Whether percussion pieces, chamber works, pieces for voices, pieces for piano, musique concréte, operas or single instrument concepts, his ideas fleshed out pretty well on disk.

He came from the Cologne, Germany area and his mother entered an insane asylum when he was a small boy, later gassed by the Nazis for her disease (he would later utilize this as a scene in his late-period opera Donnerstag aus Licht). His father was killed in the war.

He studied piano, oboe and violin and in the '50s went to Paris to study with Olivier Messiaen and to work in a brand new electronic music studio. The dude wrote or produced nearly 400 works, whether tape music, multiple orchestras, "space music", crazy combinations of instruments, electronic works, reed ensembles, improvised music, chance composition, etc etc. His explorations in sound and various instrumentation were quite expansive and he created music that nobody ever dreamed of.

Why does an uneducated, high school drop-out piece of trash like me dig this shit? Because it is so wide-ranging and exciting to hear all the different tonalities and combinations. I am sure some snooty professor could explain the rest of his theories to you. This I do know: he was teacher to members of seminal krautrock bands Can & Kraftwerk, as well as Jon Hassell and LaMonte Young and was influential on Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, the Beatles, Frank Zappa, Grateful Dead, Cecil Taylor, Sonic Youth, Pink Floyd, Bjork and many more. Check out his shit, a true maverick composer and sound artist.

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