Personalities | Karlheinz Stockhausen | Modern Era | Opera

1928–2007, German

A master of electronic composition, Stockhausen forged a unique path by creating and reinventing musical forms while recasting the fundamentals of musical content. One of his works lasts 24 hours. Another mixes electronic sounds with the voice of a boy soprano. As composer-conductor Pierre Boulez said: ‘He invented a new kind of relationship between music’s components. He has changed our view of musical time and form.’

Stockhausen’s desire to break with the past was more than justified. His father was reported missing in action during the Second World War, while his mother, hospitalized in 1932 for severe mental lapses, succumbed in 1941 to the Nazis’ euthanasia programme. Raised in Cologne, he lived in a complex that housed his own theatre, rehearsal areas and music studio; an environment attuned to his ongoing operatic quest from 1977 to rival Wagner’s Ring cycle. Licht: Die Sieben Tage der Woche (‘Light: The Seven Days of the Week’) was conceived as seven large sections, each corresponding to a day of the week. Each day is then divided into smaller sections, culminating in ‘Sonntag aus Licht’, the day on which all of the work’s musical and dramatic elements come together.

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