Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Interesting Interview with Karlheinz Stockhausen

Here's an interesting interview with electronic music pioneer Karlheinz Stockhausen from 1995 with an interesting twist. They gave him a CD with music by Aphex Twin, Plasticman, Scanner, and Daniel Pemberton - members of what was at the time the "new breed" of electronic music - and asked Stockhausen's opinion of them.


Psychepoppet said...

I love Aphex's response. Classic.

"Would I take his comments to heart?
The ideal thing would be to meet him in a room and have a wicked discussion.
For all I know, he could be taking the piss. It's a bit hard to have a
discussion with someone via other people."

Wi_ngo said...

Stockhausen is definitely important in the continuum of 20th century music exploration, but I think the days of purely academic and overly self-important (dare I say 'snooty'?)musical elitists has finally come to an end. Thank god.

Yes, some musicians make music purely to be enjoyed by people in 'dance bars', grandpa. And the term 'post-African repetitions' is hilarious (and racist?). He must've loved jazz.

It's pretty amusing that he feels he is so important, that guys like Aphex Twin (who have OBVIOUSLY never heard Stockhausen??) would suddenly be enlightened and actually learn about serious rhythm or something, just from listening to a piece of his from 50 years ago. Yeah, I know you are famous and they write about you in music history books, but COME ON, my man.

Tom said...

Wi_ngo - Yeah, when I was first getting into electronic music, I attended some lectures and performances of some of Stockhausen's original works and found it mostly unlistenable and tedious. I certainly respect him as a pioneer and an academic, but I don't think music should BE academic. There is something to be said for using repetition effectively, or learning how to write a memorable pop hook. In fact, although many would probably disagree, I think it takes an equal amount of skill and intellect to write a pop song that appeals to millions of people, especially one that endures for decades. It would've been an interesting approach to ask Stockhausen what he felt HE could learn from that breed of electronic musicians, but that probably would've ended the interview. heh

Anu said...

Stockhausen's music isn't "fun to listen to", whereas pop music always MUST be.

Stockhausen's music contains incredible compositional rigor, however. He's not trying to make something catchy or that people will like.

As someone who's written both pop songs and electro-acoustic art music, I think they're both valid. But pop music is FAR easier to write.

Stockhausen's pieces are also quite varied. Really, no two are alike.

Stockhausen wrote a lot about music, and has some incredibly enlightening and passionate thoughts about it. He's hardly a dry academic.

Stockhausen also had to do such painstaking work in the studio to achieve his objectives that it is difficult to comprehend how hard it was. No synths. No multitrack.

Stockhausen made Art with a capital "A", music from the head, heart, and soul. He's not trying to belittle pop music. From his perspective, though, he's painting Hieronymous Bosch and Aphex Twin is finger painting. And frankly, he's not that far off.

He's a little bit arrogant, but if you were as much of a musical bad-ass and hard worker as Stockhausen, you could be arrogant too. There's plenty of arrogant pop stars as well.

I don't like listening to Stockhausen's music. But I have tremendous appreciation for the ideas, passion and rigor it contains, and great respect for its creator. He was really one of a kind.

Joshua said...

Damn it, now I have "Alberto Balsam" in my head and I'll have to go through another Aphex Twin phase to exorcise it....

Anyway...yeah, with all due respect to pioneers and such, I didn't like Stockhausen's tone (so to speak). Suggesting your own work will "help" other artists is pretty damn lofty. This guy could broaden his own horizons, as well.
Also, anyone who can't get into something with "repetition" has waaaayy - over-intellectualized music. I'm all for complex composition but good god man...

And Tom... I agree writing a memorable pop tune takes skill, but in most cases, not much intellect is required, at least for the music end of it (not that it's necessarily bad). There are patterns people like to hear over and over that don't really change and require more intuition than anything to produce.

But maybe I'm "over-intellectualizing" my analysis of pop music...HA

Tom said...

@Anu - I guess when I said that I Stockhausen's music is academic, I meant that his music seems more about technique and structure (or lack thereof) as opposed to conveying an emotion or passion. To me, if you're making music this way, it's purely an academic exercise. I still respect him and the difficulty involved in doing what he did when he did it, but let's be honest... if you played his music and then a piece constructed of R2-D2 sounds and random edits, most people wouldn't know the difference. That probably says a lot about both the listening public as much as it does Stockhausen's music.

@Joshua - I would disagree that pop music doesn't require much intellect (well done pop music, anyway). It is for sure a different kind of intellect than, say, a brilliant jazz improviser, or an accomplished classical composer, but knowing how to make something incredibly simple work is much harder than most people give credit for. Sure, some people get lucky, but most of the enduring pop writers like Carol King, or even Linda Perry are no dummies even if the people who consumer their music are. ; )