I was in a car driving towards Miami yesterday afternoon when I learned of the death of composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, age 79. You can find many tributes to him around the 'net; the Times obituary is here. Aside from being (basically) the father of electronica and a massive influence on both classical and popular music over the past fifty years, he never sounded out-of-date, constantly updating his sound with the advent of new technology. He completed a cycle of seven operas called Licht (one for each day of the week) and finished more than half of Klang, a series of 24 hour-long compositions that would have eventually been performed in the course of a single day.
I had the chance to meet Stockhausen briefly after a performance back in May in Rome of "Wednesday Greeting" from Licht and the world premiere of "Cosmic Pulses" from Klang, which turned out to be his final completed work. "Cosmic Pulses" was especially memorable: with speakers placed all around the hall, the experience was alternately trancelike and intense to the point of maddening. Most of those in the audience were in their 20's or 30's, far too young to have known Stockhausen during his heyday in the 50's and 60's, but well aware of the now-prevalent soundscape he helped give birth to. At the end, we all gave him a raucous ovation, and mobbed his soundboard in the center of the hall.
I was one of those who approached him. Thinking about some of the experimental and new music venues that have cropped up in New York over the past few years, I told him that I hoped he would bring this music to America sometime soon.
"I hope so too," he said, a bit haltingly.
It's too bad he didn't get the chance to experience that same embrace on these shores. Here's hoping some sympathetic venue will give his music a hearing soon.