P.I. - For whom do you compose then?
Stockhausen - I compose. I've never ever said for whom. I like it of course when some fellow musicians, whom I know and perform with, find a work good or interesting. But I really don't know what the world might think about it. In any case my works are finding a sympathetic public in increasing measure. The halls are full. Resistance comes from the concert organizers - and I understand it - because the works demand long rehearsals and because of the costs of equipment, loudspeakers, mixers, etc....
For whom does he compose? Certainly for me (and I know that fortunately I am not the only one
). With a few exceptions, Stockhausen’s works are consistently among the music of the last 50 years that gives me the most enjoyment and impresses me the most. This holds up until his most recent music. For example, Himmelfahrt (Ascension)
(2004/5) for synthesizer (or organ), soprano and tenor, and Licht-Bilder
(2002) for tenor, trumpet, basset-horn, flute and ring-modulation are, in my view, simply in a league of their own when it comes to not just quality, but also sheer originality of ideas and the authoritative execution of these in the finest detail and with sublime compositional technique.
One of my favorite at-home concerts is currently Gruppen
followed by Himmelfahrt
. Both works feature polyphony of strands in different tempi – in the latter, the two hands of the keyboard player play in different simultaneous tempi (!) – and both employ the concept in distinct ways. While Gruppen
is gestural music, Himmelfahrt
applies a more melodic approach. Both works offer complex listening experiences. At the end of such a “concert” I am exhausted but happily so.
The Helicopter Quartet
– alas the only more recent work of Stockhausen that is available outside Stockhausen-Verlag – certainly does not tell the whole story about his more recent music.
1. Apart from the very good beginning and the terrific end (ascension and descent) I find it most of the time boring, and I seem to share this experience with many others. I have had some moments where I thought I had started to like the music, but then, after listening to some other recent Stockhausen music, like the two above mentioned works, I really couldn’t bear it.
2. The extravagant perfomance requirements are the most outrageous in Stockhausen’s oeuvre and not typical. While other works are difficult to perform not just in terms of technique but also in terms of costs, none is of such a forbidding nature. And many recent works, not just the composer’s own chamber-music-like excerpts from Licht
, but also his compositions from the new Klang
cycle, are relatively easy to perform in monetary terms.
I've heard Stockhausen give pre-concert speeches in London three or four times now. On each occasion, he was lucid, amusing, enthusiastic, unpretentious and, above all, quite sane. I have no idea why comes across as such a basket case in interviews.
Yes, in real-life Stockhausen is a very nice, un-arrogant and down-to-earth person – I have experienced this during the summer courses, in personal conversations and in exchange of letters.