Karlheinz Stockhausen

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Related to Karlheinz Stockhausen: John Cage, Leonard Bernstein

Stockhausen, Karlheinz

(kärl`hīnts shtôk`houzən), 1928–2007, German composer, music theorist, and teacher; his first name also appears as Karl Heinz. He studied composition with Frank Martin in Cologne (1950–51) and with Olivier MessiaenMessiaen, Olivier
, 1908–92, French composer and organist, b. Avignon. Messiaen was a pupil of Paul Dukas at the Paris Conservatory. He became organist of La Trinité, Paris, in 1931 and taught at the Schola Cantorum and the École Normale de Musique
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 and Darius MilhaudMilhaud, Darius
, 1892–1974, French composer. Milhaud studied at the Paris Conservatory. In Brazil (1917–19) as an aide to Paul Claudel, poet and French minister to Brazil, he became acquainted with Brazilian folk music.
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 in Paris (1951–53). Stockhausen is ranked with the most inventive of avant-garde composers. He frequently employed serial musicserial music,
the body of compositions whose fundamental syntactical reference is a particular ordering (called series or row) of the twelve pitch classes—C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B—that constitute the equal-tempered scale.
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 techniques in his works, was a major developer and proponent of electronic musicelectronic music
or electro-acoustic music,
term for compositions that utilize the capacities of electronic media for creating and altering sounds.

Initially, a distinction must be made between the technological development of electronic instruments and the
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, and was enormously influential with many younger classical composers. His wide-ranging influence was also felt by a number of rock, pop, and jazz musicians of the 1960s and 70s. Often using complicated contrapuntal systems, Stockhausen's compositions are characterized by much emphasis on free rhythms, tonal repetition, dissonance, and percussive effects. He was an adherent of aleatory musicaleatory music
[Lat. alea=dice game], music in which elements traditionally determined by the composer are determined either by a process of random selection chosen by the composer or by the exercise of choice by the performer(s).
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 and allowed performers to determine certain aspects of a performance, e.g., they can improvise, begin and end at different points, and decide at what speed to sing and play.

Stockhausen's unique approach is well illustrated by his composition Gruppen [groups] (1957); in this piece three separate orchestras, each with its own conductor, play simultaneously; sometimes their music coincides; sometimes they play against one another; sometimes they play antiphonally. Among Stockhausen's other compositions are Kreuzspiel (1948); Kontrapunkte No. 1 (1953), for 10 instruments; Kontakte (1960), for electronic music; Stimmung (American premiere, 1971), for voices; and Jubilee (1981), for orchestra. His monumental Licht [light], a cycle of seven operas (one for each day of the week) with mystical and cosmic overtones, was begun in 1977 and completed in 2003. His final electronic work, Cosmic Pulses, debuted in 2008. During his late period of composition, he and his work were venerated by a small circle but largely ignored in the larger world of contemporary classical music. In all, Stockhausen wrote about 300 works, approximately half of which had electronic elements.


See R. Maconie, ed., Stockhausen on Music: Lectures and Interviews (1989); biographies by K. H. Wörner (1973) and M. Kurtz (1991); J. Harvey, Music of Stockhausen: An Introduction (1975); R. Maconie, Works of Karlheinz Stockhausen (1976, repr. 1981, 1990) and Other Planets: The Music of Karlheinz Stockhausen (2005).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Stockhausen, Karlheinz


Born Aug. 22, 1928, in Mödrath, near Cologne. German composer (Federal Republic of Germany). Leading exponent of avant-garde music.

In 1951, Stockhausen graduated from the Hochschule für Musik in Cologne, where he had studied piano; he later studied composition under F. Martin, O. Messiaen, and D. Milhaud. In 1953 he began composing in the electronic music studios of West German Radio in Cologne. Most of his compositions, notably Counterpoints (1953), Groups (1957), Cycle (1959), and Moments (1962), are the result of explorations in aleatoric and electronic music and are devoid of any significant ideological or artistic content. Stockhausen’s music, a typical example of elitist bourgeois art, has not gained recognition from the public.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Birthdays: Former Royal Opera House chief executive Mary Allen, 49; Tarmac chairman Sir John Banham, 60; actress Honor Blackman, 74; dress designer Marc Bohan, 74; science fiction writer Ray Bradbury, 80; town planner Prof Sir Colin Buchanan, 93; French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, 92; snooker player Steve Davis, 43; composer and conductor Karlheinz Stockhausen, 72.
In 1967, after attending Karlheinz Stockhausen's composition seminar at the University of California, Davis, Gehlhaar was invited by Stockhausen to become his private student and personal assistant in Cologne, Germany.
While Cardew worked with avant-gardist Karlheinz Stockhausen from 1958 to 1960 (as his assistant on the realization of CARRE), he subsequently rejected him (in his book Stockhausen Serves Imperialism and Other Articles with Commentary and Notes [London: Latimer, 1974]).
In December 1956, following the Soviet invasion of the previous month, he escaped with his wife to Austria, and from there made his way to Cologne at the invitation of Karlheinz Stockhausen, who was pioneering electronic music.