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December 09, 2007

Stockhausen's death was a great work of art

Call me a boor, but in my entire life, I've listened to exactly one composition of Karlheinz Stockhausen, the avant-garde composer who died the other day. It was about 35 years ago, and I have no recollection which composition it was, as if it makes any difference.

Stockhausen made some waves in the days following 9/11:

Not all of his "theories" deserved respect. Immediately after Sept. 11, 2001, Stockhausen outraged much of the world when he called the attacks "the greatest work of art imaginable for the whole cosmos." "Minds achieving something in an act that we couldn't even dream of in music, people rehearsing like mad for 10 years, preparing fanatically for a concert, and then dying, just imagine what happened there," he elaborated. "You have people who are that focused on a performance and then 5,000 [sic] people are dispatched to the afterlife, in a single moment."
Of course, he said it in German, not in English, but you can read the original here.

I don't exactly care whether it was taken out of context, as Stockhausen claimed. I'm not sure how you could say such a thing, out of context or not.

What's fitting, now, is that Stockhausen has finally performed a limited test of his theory of art. And he's proved that his death is a great work of art, greater by far than the rest of his opus.