Der weisse Gott, aus dessen Spucke alle wächst,steigt Puls auf Pulsschlag höher in mir auf

The Proms! the Proms!
How I love the Proms when they come to the Royal Albert Hall every summer. 70+ concerts in 50 odd days and every day, one, or maybe 2 world class ensembles.

This is the first Prom season in a while where I’ve been really smitten by lots of the programming. That’s partially to do with the good fortune of anniversaries. There are Vaughan Williams and Messaien anniversaries this year, two of my faves, and a healthy dose of modern composers. Not least Karlheinz Stockhausen who died last year, at 79.

Stockhausen the epitome of rigorous German experimentalism was one of my first exciting discoveries at Gosport Public Library. His still fabulousSong of the Youths is one of the seminal works of electronic music from the 50s and he was ferociously – perhaps, obsessively – interested in the furthest expanses of sound experimentation.

The opera cycle Licht runs for about 9 days in total ( I exaggerate) and includes a string quartet played in four helicopters. When he died he was working on Klang another enormous cycle. 24 pieces, one for each hour of the day.

At the Prom on Saturday, there was a ragbag of Stockhausen pieces. The early (and frankly rather academic) Gruppen, and the amazing Kontakte for electronics, piano and percussion (a hair-tingling performance from Colin Currie and Nicholas Hodges). But the best for me was Cosmic Pulses a 32 minute electronic piece where sound rotated around and around the massive circle of the Albert Hall, creating a living, morphing landscape of sounds. Please don’t listen to it on the BBC iPlayer because it sounds dreadful in paltry stereo. In 24-dimensional circular space it was like an ayahuasca trip.

If you want a taste of Stockhausen, better listen to Stimmung that was sung by Theatre of Voices at the Late Night Proms that night. 70 minutes of amplified voices from the late 60s.


  1. Stephen Fitterman

    August 5, 2008 at 8:05 pm

    Tell me, did you manage to attend Yevgeny Sudbin’s Prom’s debut and, if so, were they cheering in the rafters?
    (I’ll admit to a prejudice, being on the board of the Vancouver Recital Society, which debuted him two years ago and is having him back this Fall).

  2. Do Buddhists Watch Telly? » The Falsely-Funnelled Olympic Footfall

    August 4, 2012 at 11:17 am

    […] to fund a 3 day run of Karlheiz Stockhausen’s Mittwoch aus Licht. Don’t get me wrong I love Stockhausen – but what does that really have to do with London, with the Olympics or the […]

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