Karlheinz Stockhausen

Karlheinz Stockhausen

Biography

Born in a small village outside of Cologne, Germany, in 1928, Karlheinz Stockhausen became a giant of 20th century composition. His prolific catalog includes 35 works for orchestra, 46 for choir and 200 works of electronic music, while his life and influence encompassed several progressive musical movements, including total serialism, electronic music, spatial music, chance music and even world music. He spent his early career studying the serial techniques of Schoenberg and Webern, taking them to unexplored regions in works such as Kontra-Punkte and Kreuzspiel. In 1953, the composer began working in West German Radio's Studio for Electronic Music, a tenure that lasted until 1998. Pieces from this period, the haunting Kontakte and his groundbreaking spatial composition, Gesang Der Junglinge, had immeasurable influence on the Avant-Garde, and are perhaps his most enduring concepts. By the late 1960s, Stockhausen's vision had exploded into the cosmos. His work became increasingly expansive as he struggled to find sonic material worthy of his extraordinary ambitions. Elaborate staging and choreography became an integral part of works such as Inori and Sirius, but these were a prelude to what became his masterpiece: the seven-part opera cycle entitled Licht. Composed between 1977 and 2004, it is enormous in its narrative scope, spanning history from the birth of the universe to the final stages of man's evolution; indeed, it is 29 hours long. Shortly after its completion, a new song cycle, Klang, based on the 24 hours of the day, began to take shape. He would only compose a fraction of the "days," however, before his death in December of 2007. In a letter written in early 2006 Stockhausen speculated on the direction of his new work. "It seems that each hour contains the spiral of the 24 hours of the day, and that the contents of the hours concern all of us. (It is recommended to ensure your entry to a heaven's door already now)."
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