The Commander beats another one

Karlheinz Stockhausen, 1928-2007. “Say who?” some of you want to know. Well, if you click on the links, you’ll find out that he was a pioneering and often controversial composer of avant garde music. Let’s just say that if you are the kind of person who likes to sit quietly in your seat wearing your diamond earrings and fur coat while the orchestra plays Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony for the umpteen millionth time, it’s a pretty good bet that you are probably not going to like much of Stockhausen’s music. Not to stereotype or exaggerate or anything.

And here’s an interesting little tidbit: Stockhausen’s picture is on The Beatles’ 1967 album cover for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. He appears fifth from the left in the back row and Brian Epstein sent him a last-minute telegram to get his permission to use the photo so that the album could be released on time. I knew that entire album by heart back in 1967. There was one sort of dreamlike ah-ah-ah-ah-ah passage that was really fun to “sing” along with, especially if you currently had food in your mouth. But I never knew that Stockhausen was on the album cover. Come to think of it, I’m not sure I was aware that *any* of the people on the cover were real people. Except the Beatles, of course. I guess all I’ve got to say about that is, “DUH!”

As a classically trained musician, I have long been aware of Stockhausen. Back when I was an active flute player, I loved playing contemporary avant garde music. It was great fun to break out of the scale patterns of traditional western tonality and play lots of accidentals or jump back and forth through octaves and I loved parsing complex rhythmical structures and learning special tone effects. But I’ve never played any of Stockhausen’s works and I don’t *actively* listen to music these days and the NPR stations that rumble along in the background of my life don’t play much Stockhausen.

A couple months or so ago, somebody on one of the flute loop email groups sent a link to a YouTube video showing excerpts from a performance of the Helicopter String Quartet. I had never heard of this musical work and I can’t put into words why I am so absolutely enthralled with it. I even bookmarked it on my iPhone. And, of all things, Stockhausen sort of crept into the edges of my everyday thoughts. Here it is, do you like it or not? (Note: If you click the video and a message says it no longer exists, refresh and try again or click here to view it at the Youtube site. Dunno what the problem is.)

Karlheinz Stockhausen, rest in peace.

One Response to “The Commander beats another one”

  1. Webmomster Says:

    watched the video, and I think I understand the “enthralled” bit… still absorbing the whole thing, 4 choppers, quartet – one to each craft, and a 5th doing the exterior shots. Plus the coordination of the 4 interior cameras, sound, etc. I am amazed!