German composer of modern music, electronic music and operas. He was initially influenced by the music of Anton Webern, and by serialism (a method of composing non-tonal music). He studied under Olivier Messiaen in 1952, and his early works, like "Spiel" and "Kreuzspiel", show the influence of both these masters. He was one of the first composers to write electronic music, having first studied phonetics and information/communication theory at Bonn University.
"Kontakte" is a compostion which includes a tape playback of electronic sounds which zip and swirl about via loudspeakers placed around the audience. The "Klavierstücke" (Piano pieces) start out using strict serial principles (Klavierstücke I - IV), but later become expansive (VI), exquisite (VII), and even dramatic (IX and X). "Zyklus", for solo percussion, is written so that the performance can start on any page, and it may be read upside down, or from right to left, or not, as the performer chooses. "Refrain" is somewhat meditative with its rarefied, ringing chords of bell-like sonorities, and occasional tutti vocalizations by the three instrumentalists.
The piece "Mantra" is written for two pianos, the sounds from which
are modulated in real time by ring modulators. If you are not accustomed
to dissonance, "Stimmung" might be a good place to begin. It is for 6 unaccompanied
singers, with texts based on the names of gods and deities throughout world
history, as well as erotic poems by the composer. The basic musical material
for the entire 70 min. piece is a B-natural 9th chord. "Stimmung" means
"attuning", but also "mood", "disposition", as in "good mood" (guter Stimmung).
Stockhausen has written over 200 individual works for a variety of musical media. Since 1977, he has been in the process of writing "LICHT", a massive series of seven operas, each named after a day of the week. Five of them are completed as of this date (Feb. 1996).
Stockhausen is a conceptual composer - his texts and his musical designs
reflect occidental and oriental musical concepts, as well as eastern and
western spiritual truths. Every composition is a complete rethinking of
the term "music", incorporating European and non-European tradition, the
latest musical technolgy, and a wide range of musical cultures.
A young Karlheinz Stockhausen can be spotted on the Beatles' famous Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover.