The Music Club recently had the opportunity to attend a performance of Stockhausen’s Oktophonie at the Park Avenue Armory. Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928-2007) was a German composer who pushed the boundaries of traditional music and greatly influenced electronic music. While his compositions have influenced many artists, from Miles Davis to The Beatles, his music is not like the typical music we are used to hearing. Students described it as “scary”and the “music from my nightmares.”
Stockhausen’s music is meant to be listened to differently than other music. When we arrived at the Armory, we were ushered into a giant, dark room. We then were asked to remove our shoes, put on cloaks, and “enter the lunar surface.” The lunar surface was a white, circular platform that was brightly lit and had white chairs in circular rows. We sat in the chairs facing the center of the circle, where a woman mixed the levels of the recording during the show. With our white cloaks, we blended in with the chairs and stage and became part of the performance (see pictures below).
Once Oktophonie began you could visualize where the speakers were. There were 8 sets of speakers that surrounded the stage (4 near the ceiling and 4 near ear level on the ground). The music was not enjoyable in the sense that typical music with melody and rhythm is, but the experience was unique because we were literally surrounded by noise. It is rare to hear sound of that quality (especially compared to iPod ear buds). The other intriguing aspect of this composition was that it created different imagery for each listener and encouraged the mind to wander on an unexpected journey, which would not be possible with music that fits a standard form.
To listen to the full sixty nine minute audio of Stockhausen’s Oktophonie, click on the YouTube link below.