Most of the events described below happened a little while ago now, but it shouldn’t matter to you unless you use this site as a news source (hint: don’t
). I was trying to get this posting (and other long ones) to break from the main page onto a page of their own, without success. Hey, more photies uploaded, but!
One of the benefits of of taking advantage of a loophole in the UK visa system to escape my Australian creditors
would be, I told myself, having greater access to the more esoteric reaches of culture which float my boat. Yet tonight I’m contentedly sitting at home in the bunker when I could be out copping a gawk at Karlheinz Stockhausen
There are several reasons why I’m shunning a live! appearance by the man responsible for some of the most exciting music of the past 50-odd years (Did you know he was on the cover of Sergeant Pepper?). The main reason is because he’s charging £36 a ticket (Did you know he was on the cover of Sergeant Pepper? Hang on, I think I already said that). The other reasons are less materialistic, but all stem from that basic deal-breaker.
You’ll pay £36 to hear him play tapes. Furthermore, jaded Stockhausen fans report that whatever special Stocky-magic he may purport to imbue to a live mix of his electronic music is, at best, indistinguishable
from shelling out about as much for the CDs – yours to keep! Another danger sign: he’s playing one undisputed solid-gold classic (Kontakte
) paired with a new work no-one really knows (Oktophonie
). I still have a short stack of half-played Steve Reich albums
I keep around to remind of that particular lesson I learned the hard way.
Oktophonie may be a great work, but everything he’s done over the last 30 years has been obscured by his public persona of a megalomaniacal loony, inextricably intertwined with an impossibly huge project of a seven-opera cycle called Licht that has occupied his entire working life since (but now, amazingly, seems to have been completed).
To make matters worse, recordings of his music are not readily available. About fifteen years ago he reacquired the rights to most of them and has never licensed them to a record company. Oh sure, you can get pretty much everything he’s written on CD through his mail order company
, but throughout the 70s and 80s he was complaining that his record label was restricting access to his music. His solution has exacerbated the problem, which makes it seem that he is more interested in cultivating an uncritical cult of acolytes than reaching a wider audience. Incidentally, his CD prices match his gig prices.
This attitude, the white clothes, his claims to alien ancestry
, his ivory-tower pronouncements on the destruction of the World Trade Center
and its inhabitants, result in a crowd turning up to Billingsgate tonight (I’d bet my unchanged Euros from the Spanish holiday
) will be a motley of said cultists, baby boomers who remember back when Stockhausen seemed to be the one composer who mattered (Did you know he was on the cover of Sergeant Pepper
? – sorry), and people who just want to see a great artist make a pork chop
Anyway, what I was going to write about was the weekend I spent camped in the Royal Festival Hall listening to Xenakis
a week or so ago, but that can wait a little longer. Four concerts of live musicians for the price of Stockhausen maybe hitting the right button on a tape deck. I’ve heard enough of Stockhausen’s music to want to hear anything he’s written at least once. A composer I respect immensely has repeatedly praised a Stockhausen piece that I think is the most laughable load of cobblers I’ve ever sat through, outside of performances conceived by teenagers. Any Stockhausen recording you can find is worth paying for, unless it’s a CD of Grüppen
(because the performance will probably be sucky) or if it mentions Aus den Sieben Tage
(a real 60s you-had-to-be-there “project”).
is an excellent blog that has posted on the mutual interdependence of the highs and lows of Stockhausen’s art, particularly as part of his excellent Music Since 1960