Karlheinz Stockhausen, German pioneer of avante garde ‘difficult music’ has died aged 79 and can be easily credited with a long line of influence that extends into classical and avante garde music, the art of sound recording via his experiments with Musique concrète and extending into influencing many of the early pioneers of electronic music and its influence within popular music.
He was always a controversial figure. When Stockhausen emerged in the 1950s many American avante garde composers would decide to take music in a different direction very precisely opposed to the aesthetics that Stockhausen was bringing to the experimental music arena, Philip Glass certainly being on record as not wanting to be aligned with this particular branch of musical experimentation.
Such was Stockhausen’s influence and stature that he was featured on the Beatles Sgt Pepper’s lonely hearts club band album cover, Frank Zappa cited him as an influence whilst founding members of ‘Krautrock’ group Can, Holgar Czukay and Irmin Schmidt studied under Stockhausen along with the original Kraftwerk.
His influence is enormous and his body of work will no doubt divide critics and listeners alike for many years to come.
More from the tape archives and an extract from a little ditty I heard played live 10 years (!!) ago by the godfathers of electronic music, Kraftwerk who were making their first appearance anywhere after a very long haitus at The Tribal Gathering in Luton (home of electronic music!!) which along with two other numbers never saw the light of day officially anywhere other than on the internet and rare bootlegs. The unreleased tunes are known to this day as either Untitled ,Tribal or less glamorously Luton. Kraftwerk would not tour extensively again until 2003 when they finally released new material (which wasn’t really that ground breaking) and that did not feature any of the tracks previewed in 1997. They are famously reclusive. Their recording studios in Germany are notorious for not being on the phone and being without a letter box. Whenever any new product is available somebody calls the record company on their behalf and arrangements are made to deliver the master tapes. In 2003 Kraftwerk live was an even odder experience than the experience I had in a cold tent just after midnight in 1997 as they no longer seem to play any keyboards live but just stand in front of laptops and on which they might tap once in a while.
An animation to Kraftwerk’s Autobahn by Roger Mainwood, a record that I first heard when played to us at school via some “trendy” physics teacher desperate to have something to fill time after being picked to do a school assembly. He placed the schools only stereo speakers way apart in the school hall and played the whole album track which neatly ate up most of his allotted assembly time and got him off the hook of actually talking about something.The head of Music was not impressed as he had loaned out his departments stereo (teachers are very territorial) which got a right cranking up of volume and bass. I was mesmerised by the sound which probably prepared me for a love of the experimental and minimalist.At the time though my memory of the reaction from my fellow pupils was not, as I recall, enthusiastic. Maybe it was a little too avant garde for young 70′s minds. This animation, I believe ,was made in 1979. If you can, check out the wonderful latin interpretation of this by Senor Coconut who do wonderful versions of Kraftwerk tunes(and whom David Bowie, no less, invited to play at his meltdown festival some years ago)