PRINT March 2008


Stockhausen performing at Expo ’70, West German Pavilion, Osaka, Japan, 1970. Photo: Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR).

BORN IN 1928, Karlheinz Stockhausen grew up in rural Germany under Nazism, endured deprivation and war, flirted with poetry, and studied philosophy, finally deciding in 1950 to devote his life to defending so-called degenerate art, and to composing a new music of transcendent abstraction. Inspired by the power of radio, he first came to public attention as a white-coated, nuclear-age modernist and composer of the awe-inspiring Gesang der Jünglinge (Song of the Youths, 1955–56), a five-channel tape composition dedicated to the Catholic faith and grounded in information science and linguistics. In both his electronic and his instrumental music, Stockhausen pursued a poetics of spatiality and movement prefigured in Disney’s 1940 Fantasia but ultimately abandoned by Hollywood. To his musical inventions he brought an unparalleled fluency in acoustics and a rejection of cliché. The

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