Karlheinz Stockhausen

I went to music school from the age of five and then, when I was 12 or 13, I was into musicology and this Icelandic composer and teacher at the school introduced me to Stockhausen.

I remember being almost the fighter in the school, the odd kid out, with a real passion for music, but against all this retro, constant Beethoven and Bach bollocks. Most of it was this frustration with the school’s obsession with the past. When I was introduced to Stockhausen it was like ’aaah’ ! Finally somebody was speaking my language.

Stockhausen has said phrases like, "We should listen to ’old’ music one day a year and the other 364 days we should listen to ’now’ music. And we should do it in the same way as we look through photo albums of when we were children. If you look at old photo albums too often they just become pointless. You start indulging in something that doesn’t matter, and you stop worrying about the present. And that’s how he looked at all those people who are obsessed with old music.

For a kid born of my generation who was 12 at that time it was brilliant, because at the same time I was also being introduced to the electronic music of bands like Kraftwerk and DAF.

I think when it comes to electronic music and atonal music, Stockhausen’s the best. He was the first person to make electronic music before synthesis- ers were even invented. I like to compare him to Picasso for this century, because like him he’s had so many periods. There are so many musicians who’ve made a whole career out of one of his periods. He goes one step ahead, discovers something that’s never even been done before musically and by the time other people have even grasped it he’s onto the next thing.

Like all scientific geniuses, Stockhausen seems obsessed with the marriage between mystery and science, although they are opposites. Normal scientists are obsessed with facts : genius scientists are obsessed with mystery. The more Stockhausen finds out about sound, the more he finds out that he doesn’t know jack shit ; that he’s lost.

Stockhausen told me about the house he built himself in the forest and lived in for ten years. It’s made from hexagonal pieces of glass and no two rooms are the same, so they are all irregular. It’s built out of angles that are reflective and it’s full of spotlights. The forest becomes mirrored inside the house. He was explaining to me how, even after ten years, there would still be moments when he didn’t know where he was, and he said it with wonder in his eyes. And I said, "That’s brilliant : you can be innocent even in your own home", and he replied, "Not only innocent, but curious."

He’s such a humorist.

Dazed&Confused, #23, august 1996