Karlheinz Stockhausen


Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928-2007) began his career studying piano alongside musicology, philosophy and German linguistics. He took his first lessons in composition, with the Swiss composer Frank Martin, in 1950 and in the summer of 1951 embarked on courses in new music at Darmstadt. There he became obsessed with serialism, a post-war method of composition in which elemental parts of the sound (pitch, duration, volume and timbre) are ordered according to row structures. The year after that he studied with Messiaen in Paris and, with a few ground-breaking works, managed to establish himself at the forefront of new music. From the second half of the 1950s onwards he achieved great artistic successes with a freer approach to the principles of serialism. At the WDR-studio in Cologne (which he went on to direct in the 1960s) he experimented with electronica as well as the placement of the orchestra in relation to the audience, extremes of tempo and music from all over the world. In 1964 an ensemble was established, dedicated exclusively to the performance of his work and in 1970 he set up his own music press.

In the 1970s his approach to music took a markedly cosmic turn: he wanted to find a way to express his connectedness to the cosmos, nature and his fellow man. With LICHT (1977-2003), a cycle of seven colossal operas, one for each day of the week, he created a work intended to encapsulate the whole of his life. In 2019 Holland Festival, The Dutch National Opera and the Royal Conservatory in The Hague will present a broad selection from the series under the title aus LICHT. From 2003 to his death in 2007 Stockhausen worked on Klang, a comparable cycle about the hours in the day.