Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ

Karlheinz Stockhausen is one of the most influential composers of the 20th century, and certainly the most divisive. His experiments with magnetic tape and other electronics in the 50s and 60s had a lasting impact on the early techno pioneers decades later. In fact, the German composer’s influence spans all the way from bands like Can (who were students of his during his time teaching in Cologne) to Juan Atkins.

With this collection of pieces, Muziekgebouw delve into some of Stockhausen’s most intriguing and challenging works. The first two works Gesang der Jünglinge and Telemusik are both played solely from Stockhausen’s tape recordings. This puts the focus fully on the music’s remarkable, fully immersive sonics, which translate beautifully thanks to the concert hall’s acoustics. In the second half of the show these layers of pre-recorded sound become the backdrop for a duo of musicians performing Kontakte, Karlheinz’s first electro-acoustic piece composed in the late 50s.

The two huge gongs which sit at centre stage are intermittently returned to throughout, sometimes struck, other times scratched, scraped or caressed to create a resonant tone somewhere between live percussion and recorded sounds. The two performers’ ability to synchronise all of this with complex percussive passages as well as with each other was gripping to watch. I’m not ashamed to admit that the technical depth in Stockhausen’s work is sometimes over my (and most people’s) heads. However, this particular performance successfully brought the composer’s complex ideas to life and made them fascinating, no matter your level of musical education.