from the BBC:

German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen has died at the age of 79.

Born in Modrath, near Cologne, the prolific musician wrote more than 300 works from orchestral pieces to pure electronic music during his career.

He also appeared on the cover of The Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper album – with Paul McCartney one of his numerous fans in the world of rock and pop.

The composer died in Kuerten, western Germany, on Wednesday, the Stockhausen Foundation announced in a statement.

Best known for his avant-garde electronic work, Stockhausen was an experimental musician who utilised tape recorders and mathematics to create innovative, ground-breaking pieces.

His Electronic Study, 1953, was the first musical piece composed from pure sine wave sounds.

Electronic Study II, produced a year later, was the first work of electronic music to be notated and published.

But the composer rejected the idea that he was making the music of the future, writing in 1966: “What is modern today will be tradition tomorrow.”

Stockhausen’s most ambitious work was the seven-part operatic cycle Licht, each part of which is named after a day of the week.

It took Stockhausen 25 years to compose, beginning in 1977, and is due to be performed in full for the first time next year at The European Centre for the Arts Hellerau in Dresden, Germany.

The composer studied at the State Academy for Music in Cologne and the University of Cologne from 1947 to 1951.

In 1952 he went to Paris, where he worked under the composers Olivier Messiaen and Darius Milhaud.

Musicians such as Miles Davis, Frank Zappa and Bjork have cited him as an influence.

But he was not universally popular. The conductor Sir Thomas Beecham was once asked whether he had conducted any Stockhausen. He replied: “No, but I once trod in some.”

The composer also attracted controversy after the terrorist attacks on New York on 11 September 2001, which he reportedly described as “the greatest work of art there is in the entire cosmos”.

He apologised for the upset caused by the comments, but denied making the statement, saying he had been misquoted.

Stockhausen, who was married twice and had six children, will be buried in the forest cemetery in Kuerten.

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About Jay Babcock

I am an independent writer and editor based in Tucson, Arizona. In 2023: I publish an email newsletter called LANDLINE = Previously: I co-founded and edited Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curated the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages, Grand Royal and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was somehow listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. From 2010 to 2021, I lived in rural wilderness in Joshua Tree, Ca.


  1. In defense of KS, here are a couple of relevant posts from over at ILX:

    Oh, and I can’t believe that the BBC is not placing Stockhausen’s remarks about September 11th in their context. He said that the attacks were Lucifer’s greatest artwork, a very different matter. It is irresponsible and insulting to disseminate a partial quotation that is likely to be so widely misunderstood all over again. Shame on you, BBC.

    — Drew Daniel, Friday, 7 December 2007 23:22 (2 days ago) Link

    Yeah, that misquote is lazy, annoying and ubiquitous. Here’s his take on it (from wikipedia) :

    At the press conference in Hamburg, I was asked if Michael, Eve and Lucifer were historical figures of the past and I answered that they exist now, for example Lucifer in New York. In my work, I have defined Lucifer as the cosmic spirit of rebellion, of anarchy. He uses his high degree of intelligence to destroy creation. He does not know love. After further questions about the events in America, I said that such a plan appeared to be Lucifer’s greatest work of art. Of course I used the designation “work of art” to mean the work of destruction personified in Lucifer. In the context of my other comments this was unequivocal.

    — Matt #2, Friday, 7 December 2007 23:33 (2 days ago) Link

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