December 13, 2007

Quotes: The Death of Stockhausen & the End of Twentieth Century Music (Seven Years Late)

I'm sick as a sick dog, eating mock chick soup, drinking yogi teas, trying to polish off my essays for grad school application before I go see Beowulf in 3D IMAX. The Guardian has posted a collection of surprisingly moving recollections of Karlheinz Stockhausen, the humongous intergalactic composer who died last Wednesday at 79. The last two are my favorite:

'He thought himself superior'
Richard Steinitz, director of Huddersfield contemporary music festival during one of Stockhausen's visits in 1988

He was an enormous person, not only very tall - more than 6ft 6in - but massively built. He radiated a presence. I think he thought himself superior to just about everyone else, so I can't say I felt personal warmth from him when I went out to see him in 1998. He thought of himself as having arrived from the outer cosmos, a disseminator of important spiritual truths. We sat at the table discussing possibilities as he dispensed tea and cakes in a rather grand manner.

He could be warm and human, however. When he came to Huddersfield, we had very pleasant conversations, particularly over dinner. You were rather in awe of him. Kathinka and Suzanne came over twice, so I got to know them. It was amazing that they collaborated so agreeably. There was a sense of a Stockhausen entourage, and we were careful to give him the best accommodation in town - a suite at the George hotel, with connecting doors between the bedrooms.

Once Stockhausen was happy one was doing one's best to meet the challenges of his music, he was pleasant to work with, appreciative, and inspirational with students. He went on sending me little signed greetings for a long time afterwards.

'It was like a harem in his room'
Graham Sheffield, artistic director at the Barbican and organiser of a Stockhausen season

Going to interview Stockhausen was like going to interview God. I think he did think he was God, although he was quite rational in conversation. I remember sitting in his room. It was like his harem with the sleeping arrangements, his wife and mistress hovering in the background - although they were strong-willed women, not wispy things. I was amazed somebody could live in that way.

Stockhausen was immensely popular. When we did a Barbican series on him, it sold incredibly well. In my early years at the Southbank, we tried to do his helicopter quartet, but it was so completely bonkers it would have used up the Royal Festival Hall's entire budget for the year in one afternoon. That was the way he worked - on a grand scale. In a way, his death marks the end of 20th-century music.

That's an interesting thought, & Alex Ross elaborates on it: "the twentieth century, the epoch of vastly ambitious, at times megalomaniac musical conceptions, which really began with the late works of Wagner, is indeed over. But its echoes reverberate all around us. What next?"

Here's from his girlfriends' press release:

Stockhausen always said that GOD gave birth to him and calls him home.


…for love is stronger than death.

IN FRIENDSHIP and gratitude for everything that he has given to us personally and to humanity through his love and his music, we bid FAREWELL to Karlheinz Stockhausen, who lived to bring celestial music to humans, and human music to the celestial beings, so that Man may listen to GOD and GOD may hear His children. On December 5th he ascended with JOY through HEAVEN’S DOOR, in order to continue to compose in PARADISE with COSMIC PULSES in eternal HARMONY, as he had always hoped to do: You, who summon me to Heaven, Eva, Mikael and Maria, let me eternally compose music for Heaven’s Father-Mother, GOD creator of Cosmic Music. May Saint Michael, together with Heaven’s musicians in ANGEL PROCESSIONS and INVISIBLE CHOIRS welcome him with a fitting musical GREETING. On behalf of him and following his example, we will endeavor to continue to protect the music.

And on the subject of the hugely ambitious & otherworldly 20th Century musicians, don't miss Brian Wilson's lost rap song, Smart Girls.

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