Karlheinz Stockhausen talks trash...
January 14, 2002 7:11 PM   Subscribe

Karlheinz Stockhausen talks trash... A wonderful interview with the composer picking apart some young electonic upstarts.
posted by nonreflectiveobject (24 comments total)
It's also hearing the electronicatistas talking back that's really interesting.

Great post. Makes me want to run out and educate myself sonically on Stockhausen...a little bit.
posted by BT at 8:29 PM on January 14, 2002

Great post! Here's an Aphex interview from Space Age Bachelor magazine.
posted by shoepal at 8:39 PM on January 14, 2002

Hymnen was the ultimate psychedelia for me when I was younger. Just dial up the neurotransmitters, strap on some headphones and dive in.
posted by rodii at 8:40 PM on January 14, 2002

So I guess I'm the only one that thinks Mr. Stockhausen is an elitest prick? "I heard the piece Aphex Twin of Richard James carefully: I think it would be very helpful if he listens to my work Song Of The Youth, which is electronic music..."

I've seen this before... Just when photoshop art and 3D Art started to get big. It's exactly the same nonsense the traditional painters were spouting. "Oh look, I can photoshop, too! (which they couldn't) But paint is a valid medium, and computers aren't." They did the same thing to airbrushers.
posted by phalkin at 8:49 PM on January 14, 2002

I'm just responding, and I agree with phalkin. I quiet enjoyed Richard's reply, it was almost as insulting as Rochahusen's original comments. And you know he's not just replying this way to flip the guy off, he's like that to everyone.
posted by tiaka at 9:08 PM on January 14, 2002

As someone involved with and interested in both pop & art music, I can sympathize with both Stockhausen and the "upstarts"... this dialogue was fascinating to me. Though, I wish Stockhausen would have recommended some electronic works other than his own...

Really, it just comes down to an aesthetic preference, I think. There's nothing inherently wrong with repetition, but some people like it and some people don't, there's no denying that.
posted by speicus at 9:47 PM on January 14, 2002

It'd be nice to include some song samples with that story...

I'm not sure what I'm supposed to think from this article... That a "classic" electronic musician somehow has more authority on the issue of music than the modern artists? I mean, if it's all self-expression, than who's to say if it's acceptable or not.

The current artists' reaction to Stockhausen's comments is natural, as would anyone who was told from an elder that they're not meeting a certain standard.
posted by Down10 at 11:54 PM on January 14, 2002

Fascinating article - excellent post...as a DJ I really respect what Stockhausen did for music...almost the 'grandad of techno'....

And again - very interesting to hear the 'modern' artistes reply...I agree with Aphex Twin...loops are good to dance to...I'm having that printed to a T-shirt as we speak!
posted by mattr at 2:04 AM on January 15, 2002

Great link shoepal. That's the most coherent Aphex Twin interview I've ever read.
posted by rhizome23 at 2:07 AM on January 15, 2002

Stockhausen on Plastikman: I know that he wants to have a special effect in dancing bars
LOL! Such a wonderful put-down. A great article, but my only criticism is in the choice of listening material for Karlheinz. It'd be interesting to get him to listen to 'pop groups' more in line with what he was doing in the 60's, such as pan sonic, oval, christophe charles, hecker, david shea, the mego crew, speedranch^jansky noise etc etc. I'd also be fascinated to know what he thinks about stock, hausen and walkman. But i guess the point is not to get him to comment on the contemporary analogues of his, rather to get him to listen to the logical and commercially focussed progressions from his pioneering groundwork. I do have a problem with scanner though, one of the most overrated excuses for artistry ever to hide lame dance beats behind a veil of intellectualism.
I went to the recent Stockhausen festival of the Barbican in London, and his Song for the Youth, Kontakte and erm, some other piece, were absolutely astonishing. As in genuinely breath-taking. I can well imagine that having created that 40 years ago he'd be a bit pissed off with the feeble attempts at experimental pieces by today's adored musicians, especially given the overwhelming diversity of technology available to them. Call him an arrogant old goat if you will, but...well, i think he has a good point, even if he's perhaps a little blinkered.
posted by nylon at 4:02 AM on January 15, 2002

Is this the same Stockhausen who defined the WTC attack as "the greatest work of art that is possible in the whole cosmos"?
posted by matteo at 4:24 AM on January 15, 2002

Heh, yeah, aparantly.

"What happened there is - now you must readjust your brain - the biggest
artwork of all times. That spirits achieve in a single act what we in
music cannot dream of, that people rehearse ten years long like mad,
totally fanatical for a concert and then die. This is the biggest
artwork that exists at all in the whole universe... I couldn't match
it. Against that, we - as composers - are nothing."

This guy is begining to sound all the more like a loon to me.
posted by tiaka at 5:03 AM on January 15, 2002

he actually said that the attacks were LUCIFER'S greatest work of art, and the quote has been taken out of context.
links can be found here, and here's a statement by stockhausen himself.
posted by nylon at 5:25 AM on January 15, 2002

FYI, the Stockhausen interview was published in The Wire sometime in 1995, so it's not really breaking news. The magazine does an invisible jukebox feature with someone new each month, and they're always worth checking out.
posted by proleptic at 8:33 AM on January 15, 2002

Stockhausen's "Greatest work of art..." quote sounds like "After Auschwitz, there can be no poetry" sentiment, which is pretty common among 20th century European artists.
There's still that unfortunate gap between 'academic' or 'serious' electronic composers, as pop-oriented as they might be (Eric Lyon is a favorite of mine) and 'pop' (or at least self-taught) composers, who may have heard of stockhausen or xenakis or berio but have never been walked through the rigors of serial or stochastic composition in a university setting.
I'm encouraged that the next generation of music geeks will have both the pop sensibility and accessability and the formal training to create really remarkable music.
posted by twitch at 8:49 AM on January 15, 2002

Reading his jabs and the comebacks makes me wish for a musical version of Iron Chef. :)

"I unveil the ingredient: Yamaha DX-7!"

I didn't like Stockhausen's "you should listen to [my piece] and you'd change your ways" attitude, but then I always cheer when Morimoto does something funky to outrage the traditional Japanese chefs... :)
posted by Foosnark at 10:23 AM on January 15, 2002

There's still that unfortunate gap between 'academic' or 'serious' electronic composers, as pop-oriented as they might be (Eric Lyon is a favorite of mine) and 'pop' (or at least self-taught) composers, who may have heard of stockhausen or xenakis or berio but have never been walked through the rigors of serial or stochastic composition in a university setting.

And this seems to be the reason that we find these two groups 'disagreeing' with each other. Aphex, et al., are all pop musicians -- no matter how "difficult" their music might at times seem, they don't seem to be academically concerned with music in the same way that folks in university electronic music programs are. I know a lot of people who make/have been making "experimental/ambient/noise/broken/whatever" type music, yet don't have the same concerns as academic composers.

While I don't think it lessens the music produced by either group (and I don't know if I'd agree that pop musicians *should* be academically trained -- or if that would be advantageous to their work), I don't find it particularly shocking that their tastes diverge. It would be similar, perhaps, to the difference in interests of, say, someone in a fine arts program and someone learning illustration.

Meanwhile, I've got to side with the untrained folks a bit, because it seems to me that the academics are chin-scratching their way into unlistenable elitism. As much as Stockhausen hates repetition, there's sure seems to be of a lot of it between pieces by academic composers. One of my favorite pieces on this particular critique is ... New Music Is Dead.

Of course, I'm sure I'd enjoy the academic pieces a lot more if I understood more of what they were about -- when Stockhausen starts talking about this and that in parallel is not interesting, he's completely lost me. This might be why afx, etc., are eventually more listenable to the layperson: there's really no context necessary.

To sum it up: Academic Music: Process oriented. "Pop" Music: Product oriented.

(and possibly 'ne'er the twain, etc, etc.'? )
posted by fishfucker at 11:19 AM on January 15, 2002

I originally posted this interview because of the blatant division Stockhausen suggests between 'academic' and 'pop/dance' music. As a music student who happens to also appreciate IDM and glitch/microsound, I really enjoy watching this 'untrained' music slowly move toward the aims I percieve in 'academic' music; i.e appealing toward the individual's analysis rather than a community's analysis. Yet, much of this music also still has 'listenable' a quality that I thought was absent from serial/stochastic music until recently, when I really paid attention. Bjork also interviewed Stockhausen here, very interesting.
posted by nonreflectiveobject at 12:47 PM on January 15, 2002

Yeah. A group like Autechre could (if they don't already - I've yet to see a good bit by bit explanation of one of their tracks) write a 12-tone serial track and it would still sound just like Autechre, since their music is so mathematically-determined as it is.
At the same time, I wish that a lot of the IDM/glitch crowd would have a little more variation in their music - and I think that is what Stockhausen is getting at. That a piece of music should build and resolve instead of just spluttering in some complex way for 6 minutes.
Once again, this could be seen as just the 21st century take on Romantic vs Classical aesthetics.
posted by twitch at 2:26 PM on January 15, 2002

This stuff is over my head and all...but after downloading Hymnen, Amok, Kontakte and Model, I don't see how this is seen as music. It's trippy and sounds like something Lynch would put on one of his movies, but I don't see what his criticism is founded on.

As I said, I don't know jack about this kind of thing, but to an untrained ear, I would prefer Aphex and Autechre any day of the week.
posted by catatonic at 6:02 PM on January 15, 2002

this was a fascinating article and thank you so much for posting it nonreflective

i'd be very intrested to hear your own personal anlaysis.
if this indeed is a debate on 'aesthetic values', what exactly does that mean? [no, i'm not going to get into a semantic debate here, honest!]

perhpas another way of asking it: what do you think that both groups agree on as fundamental to music?
posted by sarosh at 6:09 PM on January 15, 2002

catatonic: maybe it's just me, but gwarek2 off of drukqs and stockhausen don't seem so far apart...
posted by juv3nal at 6:38 PM on January 15, 2002

This reminds me of an interview with Aphex Twin where he says (approximately) 'I started mucking around with keyboards when I was 13. Then techno came along, and it sounded kind of like what I was doing, so I went with it.'
sarosh: offhand, i think both groups the exploration of new sounds and new kinds of synthesis. Granular synthesis is a synth technique that is very common in IDM - think stuttering vocals or the creepy pitch-bending / time-stretch vocals on Aphex Twin's 'Come To Daddy' EP. The technique was proposed by Iannis Xenakis, who is right up there w/ Stockhausen as a heavy, macrocosmically-oriented European composer. I think that musical creation that is not wholly determined by the composer - music based on algorithms or music that is modeled after on a scientific principle - is another technique common to both groups. Math in music goes all the way back to the Renaissance - electronics makes complex math in music practical.
The European Modernists (Stockhausen, Xenakis, Varese, Boulez) appealed to my untrained ear the first time I heard them but I think that's because I had been really into psychedelic/noise rock for a few years before I heard them- musique concrete was all psych with non of the rock. aphex etc I think are more accessable because tonality and rhythm are still fundamental to their music.
I was thinking about this thread earlier today and I think what frustrates me most about glitch techno is that most of it is still stuck in the drum-machine-and-synthesizer paradigm (or for that matter, the paradigm of a Classical orchestra!) of mid-80's house music. There's tons of software availble (free, commercial, command-line and
GUI) that can run on any current desktop or laptop that can create sound out of anything, with any structure and any form. I was really into Aphex etc. a few year ago, but now alot of the breakbeat-loop-sequenced stuff sounds kinda dead-end and stale.
(here's two more of my favorite non-linear sound toys:
Granulab, a granular-synthesis program, and Coagula - a graphical image synth program. both are freeware for Windows platforms.)
posted by twitch at 10:05 PM on January 15, 2002

coagula is cool. thanks twitch.
posted by juv3nal at 12:17 AM on January 16, 2002

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