Born in a small farm town in Germany in 1928, progressive composer Karlheinz Stockhausen found his greatest pleasure in listening to the radio with his mother and playing what he heard on the piano. He began piano lessons at the age... [more]
Born in a small farm town in Germany in 1928, progressive composer Karlheinz Stockhausen found his greatest pleasure in listening to the radio with his mother and playing what he heard on the piano. He began piano lessons at the age of six. At eight, he was performing popular tunes for tips and food at the local cafe. Stockhausen says his first understanding of musical practicalities came when he realized that the more tunes he knew, the more success he would attain.
Stockhausen lost both parents during World War II. Nevertheless, he managed to complete high school, supporting himself with a series of odd jobs such as playing accompaniment for dance classes. Next, he worked his way through music school, by night performing jazz and lounge music in local venues, by day throwing himself into classical studies of the techniques and styles of such composers as Stravinsky and Webern.
It was the music of Webern that convinced Stockhausen to become a composer himself. He was fascinated by the new concept of "serialism" being pioneered by Webern, Messiaen, and Boulez. While studying with Messiaen in 1952, and meeting with Boulez around the same time, Stockhausen came into contact with early forms of electronic music. Consumed by the potentials of this new medium, Stockhausen would eventually make electronic music the focus of his career and his favorite form of instrumentation.
Stockhausen has consistently ventured into unknown musical territory. Notable achievements include the composition "Klavierstucke XI," which consists of 19 note groups meant to be played in any order that the pianist chooses, and "Mixtur" (1964), which melds the sounds of a conventional orchestra with the electronic melodies of ring modulators and a sine-wave generator. The resulting symphonic sounds are music for the electronic generation. Years ahead of his time, Stockhausen set the stage for the rise of a whole floriculture of electronically based popular music.