Karlheinz Stockhausen

In the Sky I Am Walking

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Though Bull and Cree tepees adorn the CD book, there are only eight minutes of folk songs here, which, despite percussion, sound distinctly European (somewhere between Fauré's Requiem and Stravinsky's Les Noces -- when did the Tlingits sing in perfect close harmony?). Pascal Dusapin's Red Rock is a pleasant but brief outtake from his opera Romeo and Juliet with extra "ethnic" percussion, and Stockhausen's In The Sky I Am Walking... sets Indian texts but uses no Native American musical material -- calling this "Songs of the Native Americans" is a bit like marketing Mahler's Song of the Earth as Traditional Chinese Music. Still, Nicholas Isherwood and Isabelle Soccoja's interpretation of Stockhausen's 1972 vocal duet is impressive, even if it takes certain liberties: Isherwood incorporates his Tuva-inspired "diaphonic singing," Soccoja adds something called "erotic whispering," and they transpose the whole piece down a minor third, substantially changing its tone color. Anyone expecting Hymnen-style post-apocalyptic electronica might be disappointed: this curious but touching work may look back to 1966's Telemusik and 1968's Stimmung in its intoning of magic names, but more importantly, it prefigures the melodic simplicity of the later Licht operas. As a work of music theater, there are necessarily some elements not appreciable on disc, though the ending with the singers receding into the distance is magical.

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