Karlheinz Stockhausen

Karlheinz Stockhausen: Spiral

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This 1968 composition by German spaceman Karlheinz Stockhausen is one of his least musical and most interesting. Written for a single performer and shortwave radio receiver (at least two microphones and loudspeakers are necessary for execution and playback respectively), Spiral consists of a series of "events," recorded in four "realizations." All but the first can contain any combination of lack thereof of instruments, voice, and shortwave receiver. The first "event" must feature all elements involved so there is a text for the others to build on as the short-wave receiver transmits almost simultaneously what is being received into it. The others are all based on "alternations" where dynamic; the performer determines register, segmentation, and the like. There is also the issue of reception from the short-wave receiver, and these elements are to be built into the work as well. What does it sound like? What do you think? It sounds like organized noise, with an overly academic interpretation of an overly academic conception. Given that this is the prolific sonic pioneer Stockhausen we are talking about, it is easy to see why such a work should have been recorded. It is not so easy to argue the point that a recording of this work should be purchased. Even the geniuses mess up big sometimes.

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