Stockhausen, enigmatic maestro, dies aged 79

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The Independent Culture

Karlheinz Stockhausen, one of the most influential composers of modern times, has died aged 79, it was announced yesterday. The German, whose work pushed the boundaries of modern music, died at his home in Kuerton, western Germany on Wednesday.

His unique blend of classical, avant-garde and electronic music propelled him to musical fame in the Fifties, and he has continued to influence a host of musical luminaries, from Miles Davis and Aphex Twin, to Brian Eno and Bjork.

Born in Moedrath, a small village near Cologne, in 1928, Stockhausen studied German, philosophy and musicology at the University of Cologne. A prolific writer, he created some 362 works during his extensive career, and won numerous awards.

His career breakthrough came in 1956, when he released the song Gesang der Junglinge (Song of the Youths). This strange fusion of electronic sounds and the human voice has been described as "the first masterpiece of electronic music".

He was one of the pioneering composers to use aleatory, or controlled chance, a method which allowed performers more artistic license. The piece Kontakte (Contacts), which he composed in 1960, was one of the first compositions to mix live instrumentation and pre-recorded material.

Stockhausen was revered by many and reviled by others. Perhaps the most notorious critique of his work came from Sir Thomas Beecham, who, when asked if he had heard of Stockhausen's music, replied "No, but I believe I have trodden in some."