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Classical Composers A-Z: Karlheinz Stockhausen

Peter Wintersgill introduces is to the German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen who devoted his life to experimenting with sound.

22nd August, 1928, in Burg Modrath, Germany (near Cologne).

Simon, village schoolmaster.

Gertrude, depressive, died in mental hospital.

Piano lessons at five, also violin and oboe.

Worked as farm hand, then as pianist in dance band. Studied at Cologne High School and University with Frank Martin.

Worked alone on the music of Schoenberg, Bartok and Webern.

Adult Life
Studied later at Darnstadt Summer School with Messiaen and Boulez, wrote Kreutzspiel for piano (1951). Then experimented with sound in Paris. Wrote Kontrapuncte for ten instruments (1952); continued with this work in Cologne with taped music.

Wrote Gesang der Jungelinge (1955) and Gruppen for three orchestras (1956).In these compositions he worked with large groups of notes.

He went to the USA in 1958 to lecture on serial music and wrote Kontake for piano, percussion and tape (1960) and Momente for soprano, choir and thirteen instruments (1964).

Had a great effect on contemporary composers, e.g. Boulez and Berio. Made Professor of Composition at Cologne.

He developed Webern's method of composing "small cells" into group compositions, and applied his methods to the piano in Klavierstucke, where the parts are playable in any order, and similarly for percussion in Zyklus (1959).

He is still alive and still experimenting!


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