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Turning Points: Stockhausen

Discover the works of Stockhausen, their context and the composer’s creative mind with playlists, interviews and more. 



Turning Points is the first event of a new series, in which we explore remarkable moments in music history. Presented in partnership with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and Kings Place, it's also a chance to turn your understanding on its head.

Starting with Karlheinz Stockhausen, one of the most innovative and controversial figures of the 20th century, an hour-long performance of two seminal works is presented from the stage. Before and afterwards you can meet our players at the bar, catch a film about the composer, or try your hand at Mikrophonie I – Stockhausen’s piece for tamtam and microphones that makes perceptible those “objects usually beneath our notice”. We hope the evening will open up a world of altered sound you never knew existed.

Ahead of Saturday's concert, we have compiled a playlist which includes works featured on the night, as well as some other Stockhausen staples.


Usually for this step, we would share with you a quickfire interview with one of the composers featured in the upcoming concert. On this occasion however, we have made an exception. In the run up to Saturday's event at Kings Place, we have sourced this fascinating interview with a young Karlheinz Stockhausen.

The interview was conducted by members of the Society for the Performance of Contemporary Music in California and took place in  January 1967 in Karlheinz's apartment. This was in the run up to a performance at the San Francisco Museum of Art which was held on 24 February 1967. The performance included the San Francisco premiere of KONTAKTE - one of the works that you will be able to hear performed by members of the London Sinfonietta tomorrow night at Kings Place.



Today's installment is a sneak preview of 'eight things you didn't know about Stockhausen', put together by Jonathan Cross (Professor of Musicology at Oxford University), who has co-curated Saturday's event. Each is a window onto Stockhausen's life and music, leaving you (we hope) with a better picture of the man and his work. Although this step isn't audio-illustrated yet, you can read the eight chapters in full around the foyer on Saturday evening, and hear them illustrated live by the performances.

In preparation for Saturday's Turning Points concert, we are lucky to have some shots from rehearsals for Kontakte – one of the works that will be performed during the evening. Take a look at the photos to get an insight into the composition and its instrumentation.


Last Saturday (Saturday 15 October 2016) was the first installation of our Turning Points series in association with Kings Place and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. The aim of the series is to establish a new-format of concerts which explores game-changing masterworks in music history. Audiences were encouraged to soak up the music of Stockhausen through listening, watching, reading and discussing. Throughout the evening, we posted pictures of backstage, set-up and during the event over on our Instagram page. Check out the photos below or follow us now to see what we got upto!


The debriefing that followed last Saturday's TURNING POINTS: STOCKHAUSEN event was abundant! After the performances, the audience had the opportunity to sit in on a presentation by Jonathan Cross (Professor of Musicology at Oxford University); attend a Q&A with the London Sinfonietta, Jonathan Cross and musicians; try their hand at Mikrophonie I and meet with musicians informally at the bar. We were delighted to see such enthusiasm amongst our audience, and a big thanks to everyone for coming out on what was very wet evening indeed.

On entering the event space, people were handed a Stockhausen quiz that they could fill out throughout the evening, as they learnt about Stockhausen and attended performances of his works. Below, we have published the questions and answers to that quiz:

1. In what colour did Stockhausen dream? He dreamt of the string orchestra in Trans bathed in this colour light. It represented the idea of ‘good’ to him.
Answer in St Pancras Room talk: violet-red

2. In 1970 Stockhausen, along with an architect, constructed a completely spherical hall. It seated 550 people, who were then surrounded by loudspeakers, which projected sound in circles, lines and spirals amongst them. Where was this?
Answer in St Pancras Room talk: Osaka, Japan, at the World Fair

3. What is the last ‘live’ instrument played in Kontakte?
Answer in Hall One performance: snare drum with brush

4. How many individual units are there in Piano Piece XI?
Answer in St Pancras Room talk: 19

5. How many implements are used to resonate the tam tam in Mikrophonie I?
Answer on the night:  50-65

6. What is the title of Stockhausen’s famous 1955 essay, which attempted to uncover the relationship between rhythm and pitch?
Answer in foyer (chapter 4): …how time passes…

7. A 1969 performance of Stimmung was disrupted by young composers, in protest at this ‘too authoritarian music’. Which now famous Dutch composer challenged Stockhausen to defend himself?
Answer in St Pancras Room talk: Louis Andriessen

8. What does ‘stimmung’ mean in English?
Answer displayed in foyer (chapter 6): Trick question!
‘Stimmung’ is a German word whose meaning is difficult to render in English. Stockhausen himself suggests it can denote ‘tuning’ or ‘true intonation’. But it also has implications of ‘attuning’, as well as ‘mood’, ‘feeling’, ‘atmosphere’ and ‘spirit’. Stockhausen’s work entitled Stimmung (1968) explores all these aspects. In the most basic sense, the work is concerned with tuning, in that it presents just a single well-tuned chord across its c.70-minute duration, sung by six singers. It is, in fact, the ‘pure’ sound of harmonics above a fundamental B-flat, that is, it presents the harmonic ‘spectrum’ of that sound. Clearly it was a product of his analysis of sound in the studio.




Published: 16 Oct 2016