Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Perspectives Holger Czukay, Musician, on Karlheinz Stockhausen

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Perspectives Holger Czukay, Musician, on Karlheinz Stockhausen

Article excerpt

"When I was a schoolboy in the early 1950s, there was a new-music programme on Radio Cologne where they transmitted serial and electronic music, jazz -any compositions that were adventurous. The first studio for the creation of electronic music had been founded in Milan, but the output from Cologne was huge: you could hear new things every week. It became a world centre of music. New York, for example, could not compete.

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Among the music I heard was that of Stockhausen, who was actually employed in the station's Studio for New Music, and I found his compositions extraordinary, pieces like "Gesang der Junglinge" (Song of the Youths). He wanted to create a type of music that had never been heard before. I thought then, and think now, that Stockhausen was a hero, and his music the centre of the world.

Then around 1958, while I was a student at the conservatory at Duisberg, near Dusseldorf, he visited with Christoph Caskel, his percussionist, and they played his first electronic pieces and explained what he was trying to do. People in the audience were laughing - it was too unusual for them. And Stockhausen said, "I have also seen people laugh while watching a traffic accident." A guy in the audience said he could make music like we were hearing on the spot. So Stockhausen invited this guy on to the stage and he proceeded to bash the keys of the piano while singing like a child, or an animal. Stockhausen listened quietly and then said, "Very good, but when you've practised a little more, you will be much better."

A musician who was sitting beside me said, "Mr Stockhausen, all you do is make a lot of money by shocking the public." Stockhausen replied, "I can promise you I do this only for musical reasons, and where money is concerned I have a rich wife, so I don't need money. …

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