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Listening to Stockhausen

On December 10th covering

In the round of online obituaries for the composer, I found this link to a site (thanks, The Standing Room and ANABlog) where you can listen to his Hymnen in its entirety. This is a big paperwork day and I’ve been listening on and off all day.

Never mind whatever you might think about Stockhausen being forbidding, difficult avante-garde classical music for the black-turtleneck crowd — think the Mike Myers SNL bit “Sprockets”

Just listen to it and you will hear sounds that are echoed all over our music culture, from the Beatles and Freak Out-era Zappa to other purveyors of gorgeous noise such as Sonic Youth and Radiohead, to all of the practitioners of sampling from early Steve Reich to Moby and beyond. This avante-garde vocabulary now conveys spooky atmospherics on film and video game soundtracks. If you’ve been awed by rich guitar feedback or the sound of an orchestra warming up, you can hear and enjoy this work. I’m struck by the warm analog-ness of the electronic sounds — he was using tools such as shortwave radio and ring modulators and manipulated tape.

Another example that all you need to approach “difficult” music is a couple of ears and a curious attitude. And it’s better to listen to music than talk about it.

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