Karlheinz Stockhausen

Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928-2007) was a German composer. He is considered to be one of the most influential composers of the second half of the 20th century.

Stockhausen (1928-2007) studied piano, musicology, philosophy and German linguistics. In the late 1940s he harboured ambitions to become a writer, even receiving letters of encouragement from Hermann Hesse. It was not until 1950 that he began taking lessons in composition with the Swiss composer Frank Martin, and subsequently a summer course in new music at Darmstadt in 1951, where he became fascinated with serialism. The following year he studied under Messiaen in Paris and composed several groundbreaking works that catapulted him to the forefront of new music.

From the mid-1950s onwards, Stockhausen achieved major artistic successes with his freer interpretation of serialist principles. He experimented with electronic music at the WDR studio in Cologne (of which he was director in the 1960s), and elsewhere with the position of the orchestra and audience, with extreme tempos and with music from all over the world. In 1964 an ensemble was formed to focus solely on the performance of his works, and in 1970 he established his own publishing company.

During the 1970s Stockhausen’s music took on a cosmic dimension, expressing his sense of kinship with the cosmos, nature and fellow man. His LICHT (1977-2003) is a cycle of seven monumental operas spanning the seven days of the week and intended to encapsulate the whole of life. From 2003 until his death, Stockhausen subsequently worked on KLANG, a comparable cycle on the hours of the day.