Stockhausen, Karlheinz

Tagged: Music | People

(1928-2007). Avant-garde classical composer, revered and reviled in equal measure for his uncompromising musical experiments. From the 1950s on Stockhausen developed his own style, challenging standard definitions of quantities like tone, scale and rhythm, utilizing aleatory and formulaic methodologies, and happy to work with electronic and other unconventional instruments: for instance: 1992's Helikopter-Streichquartett is scored "for string quartet and four helicopters" (see Postmodernism and SF). The resulting soundscapes are very often science-fictional in mood and feel (especially Gesang der Jünglinge ["Sung by Children", 1955-1956], Kontakte [1958-1960] and Klang ["Sound", 2004-2007]). The titles do not often make specific reference to sf, but Stockhausen was fascinated with "space", both in the mundane and extraterrestrial senses: eccentrically enough, he claimed on several occasions that he had been born on the star Sirius. Stockhausen reworked his concertos for trumpet and electronica, Sirius, variously 1975-1980; and in his later career he composed over thirty separate pieces with the title Licht ("Light") or variations thereof, most of them assembled into an opera cycle in seven full-length parts, Licht: Die sieben Tage der Woche ["Light: The Seven Days of the Week"] (1977-2003), which incorporates sf elements into an intensely metaphysical text. There is something restless and choppy about much of Stockhausen's experiments in music, but everything he wrote evinced a passion for the encounter with newness that is itself inherently science-fictional. [AR]

Karlheinz Stockhausen

born Mödrath, near Cologne, Germany: 22 August 1928

died Kürten, Westphalia, Germany: 5 December 2007

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