Ever since his first compositions in the 1950′s, Karlheinz Stockhausen, born 1928, from Germany, has stood at the forefront of musical development. Concurrently, he has regularly found himself in the midst of controversy. While no contemporary composer has generated as much heated discussion as he does, no one can deny Stockhausen’s importance and pivotal role.
Before embarking upon his public career, Karlheinz Stockhausen had completed thorough studies in piano and composition with, amongst others, Martin and Messiaen, as well as in languages and philosophy. He enthusiastically joined the group of young composers who felt that it was time to break with the Goebbels era and rediscover pre-1930 avantgardism and primarily the work of Webern. The result was serialism, which was introduced at the famous Darmstadt summer courses and the Donaueschingen festivals. From their inception Stockhausen was one of the leading personalities associated with these activities.
At that time, Stockhausen became acquainted with Professor Werner Meyer-Eppler of the University of Bonn, a physicist who advocated using electronic equipment for generating music, in order to gain complete control of musical and acoustic parameters. These ideas led to the design of the first electronic musical studio at public broadcaster WDR in Cologne.
Stockhausen’s early development, with the advent of and even after serialism, can be assessed from his series Klavierstücke I – XI, composed between 1951 and 1957, and Gesang der Jünglinge, which he composed in 1957. The latter work first brought electronic music to the public eye and is still considered to be one of the masterpieces of its kind.
At the start of the 1960′s, Stockhausen turned his interest toward live electronics, with works ranging from Mikrophonie I, where a solitary tomtom provides the basic sound, to the magnificent Mixture, in which an entire symphony orchestra is connected to the electronic modification instruments. At the same time, he began exhibiting an interest in oriental philosophy and religion and became a pioneer of world music and the meditative form. This is best illustrated in Hymnen, a work of electronic music, based on songs and national anthems from around the globe.
Since 1977, Stockhausen has been working on his soon to be completed, Licht-Oper, the greatest musical endeavour since Wagner’s Ring. In this venture, the days of the week are portrayed individually in varying lengths and with their own special combination of instruments.