Friday, December 7, 2007

German Musical Inspiration Stockhausen Dies

"BERLIN (Reuters) - German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, one of the world's most influential 20th century composers and renowned for his pioneering work in electronic music, has died aged 79.

German media quoted Stockhausen's former wife Mary Bauermeister as saying he died after a short illness at his home in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Best known for experiments with electronic music in the 1960s and 70s, Stockhausen, who composed more than 300 individual works, also had a significant impact on avant-garde and classical music.

"Any sound can become music if it is related to other sounds ... Every sound is precious and can become beautiful if I put it at the right place, at the right moment," he once said in an interview.

Early in his career, Stockhausen dabbled in "musique concrete," recording everyday sounds, distorting them electronically and joining them together to form a composition.

From works for solo instruments to large-scale events mixing opera, dance and mime, Stockhausen said he aimed to awaken "a completely new consciousness" in listener and performer.

Born on August 22, 1928, in Burg Modrath, a village near Cologne, Stockhausen said he was badly scarred by his experience of World War Two, in which he was a stretcher-bearer.

In his 20s Stockhausen flirted with jazz, playing the piano to support himself through the Cologne Music School, where he gained a teaching certificate in 1951.

He had already begun to compose, and moved to Paris to study under composers Darius Milhaud and Olivier Messiaen.

His experiments with electronic music took off at the newly-founded West German Radio Studio for New Music in Cologne, where he worked from 1953, later becoming its artistic director.

He found his own ways of assembling sounds to form a composition, developing the ideas of an earlier generation of European composers, like Schoenberg, who composed around a series of sounds instead of developing and repeating a theme.

In early works Stockhausen explored not melody, but the quality and relation of one sound to another. "Gesang der Juenglinge" (1956), staged for five sets of loudspeakers, has been described as a "sonic ballet," where the position of each loudspeaker is crucial for the acoustic images produced.

In a mix of solo and ensemble music, electronic and concrete techniques together with mime, a key work "Licht" was premiered at Milan's La Scala opera house in 1981, marking Stockhausen's increasing stature in conventional classical circles.

(Reporting by Madeline Chambers; editing by Peter Millership)" ~ Reuters Canada