A change of opinion
For many years my 'knowledge' of Stockhausen's music was based on once or twice hearing (not listening to) some of his music and reading excerpts from his Texte zur Musik I and II – actually I had spent far more time reading Stockhausen than hearing his music.
Heavily armed with all this 'knowledge', I wrote on a classical music message board on September 19th, 1998, in a discussion entitled "Modern audiences – stuck in the Romantic Era?", these immensely immortal words (well, that message board is now immensely defunct anyway):
<<I concur with most of the panelists in that I hate the "ivory tower" serial stuff of Stockhausen & Co., who in the 1950s and 1960s only made new music just for it to be new.>>
Hmm. Did I really say that?
Well, I was in good company:
Talking loud and knowing little, or at least not enough, seems to be a common denominator shared by many – though not necessarily all – of those who are critical of Stockhausen.
In April 1999, at a live concert, I listened to – not just heard – Stockhausen's music for the very first time (KREUZSPIEL). From then on, it was a quick road of discovery, of his music and of that of many other important composers post-1950 that I did not know yet.
Today, I am absolutely stunned by the greatness of Stockhausen's music, from the 1950s to the present.
Upon listening to Stockhausen, some of the music may speak to you immediately. But yes, some other music may be challenging, not the least because practically every work by Stockhausen is a new world in itself, and often a very unusual one at that, which has to be discovered by the listener. But once you are willing to put effort into listening and trying to discover what the music has to communicate, you may be highly rewarded by finding compositional quality, depth and imagination that all equal the best, in a music full of exciting and multi-layered inner life.
Indeed, nearly each one of the many works by Stockhausen is a new world in itself, not only because he is able to compose with high quality for a wide palette of musical forces (instrumental, electronic, vocal ones, all of very diverse kinds), but also because every work tends to differ to a remarkable extent in its compositional design and character, and in the way the musical forces are used. This results in works that are so unique and distinct from one another that each one almost brings about an own "style". This characteristic is an exceptional strength of Stockhausen's artistic output, and it is a characteristic that to such an extreme extent is hardly found in the work of any other composer. Of course it also allows for an almost unbelievable variety of music.
The combination of the extraordinary musical quality of Stockhausen's large output with this characteristic has led me to the conclusion that Stockhausen's complete works, as composed so far, may be one of the richest musical outputs ever created by a single composer – a musical output that has the power to provide never-ending fascination.
Quite a drastic change of opinion, isn't it?
Al Moritz, November 2002