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Karlheinz Stockhausen in Buffalo (1964)

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Item Type: Sound Recording Duration: 77 min
Event Type: Lecture / Panel Discussion Program Origin: KPFA

Host Charles Shere provides an account of the events accompanying the American premieres of Karlhienz Stockhausen’s “Momente.” Included are descriptions of lectures and discussions of the work and contemporary choral music in general which were held from February 29th to March 1, 1964, and which was attended by a variety of church choir directors, high school and primary school teachers, university professors, and conductors who were already challenged by the changes wrought by such modern composers as Webern and Schoenberg and were unprepared for the radical notions of a Luigi Nono or Karlheinz Stockhausen. Shere reads from a lengthy message written by the respected Canadian choral master Brock McElheron in which he relates his impression of “Momente “when he encountered the work in 1963. McElheron tells of the near impossibility of performing the work with a traditional chorus as it first required them to learn an entirely new form of notation as well as go against their basic instinct as to what composes a choral work. Yet after initially abandoning the work as too difficult the group ultimately renewed their efforts to perform the work if only to be able to later publicly renounce it. McElheron relates how he traveled to meet with the composer to discuss the work and was favorably impressed by Stockhausen’s musical knowledge, enthusiasm, and grasp of idiomatic English. What finally convinced him of the worthiness of the work was the reception it was receiving from sophisticated East Coast audiences.

Shere then attempts to reconstruct the rehearsals for the work, which he had attended and during which he had taken copious notes; as well as providing a play by play with extended quotations of a panel discussion by conductor Lucas Foss, music professor Allen Sapp, composer George Rochberg, music critic Eric Salzman, and Stockhausen concerning contemporary music and “Momente.” Taken as a whole this program functions as a kind of painless introduction to the work for the layman, as well as a detailed historic record of its initial reception by the traditional classical music community in the mid 1960s.

A note from Charles Shere, on the experience in Buffalo [From his book: Getting There, my memoir of my first thirty years. ISBN 978-0-6151-5935-5 ]

"In the meantime I worked on my report of the Stockhausen premiere.

This turned out to be my first attempt to communicate with a public: I wasn't writing a paper for an English teacher, but a journalistic report - not a "review" - of a serious event, new and complex enough

to require a certain amount of explanation beyond the simple where-and-when.

I'd taken careful notes on the Momente premiere and on returning to Berkeley I lost little time making my radio report. I'm not sure how I knew how to do this: probably simply by having heard so much radio

reportage of such events before, on KPFA broadcasts. In any case I typed up a script, reporting on the workshops and rehearsals I'd witnessed; and then reporting on the piece as I'd actually heard it:

how it evolved in its set- ting, on the stage facing its audience, the percussion and keyboards at the front of the stage along with the brilliant and dramatic soprano soloist (Martina Arroyo), the chorus standing in a semicircle behind the instruments. The audience politely applauded when the composer walked out from the wings to begin conducting the piece, and he acknowledged the applause, and turned to his musicians, and suddenly they in turn began to applaud the audience, and the piece had begun.

I described the sounds that followed, and how they were made and how they related to one another. I had the tape recording of the Cologne performance of the same piece, and no doubt quite illegally I

spliced appropriate excerpts of it into the recording I narrated of my review; and at the end of the "documentary" report of the Buffalo performance we broadcast the Cologne performance in its entirety.

The result was, I see clearly now, a combination of didactics and criticism , music appreciation and journalistic report; and it set a pattern I would follow in a number of radio programs at KPFA and

television programs at KQED. I suppose it reflected the two aptitudes I'd shown so many years earlier, when the test results suggested any career for me would lie in teaching or, perhaps, preaching. It was the first serious such work I had done, and left me both a little exhilarated and a little ashamed of my own audacity.”

[http://www.lulu.com/shop/charles-shere/getting-there/paperback/product-1487909.html ]

Musical Selections:  Momente, Op. 13, for soprano, 4 choral groups, and instrumental ensemble [excerpts, text from the Song of Solomon, M. Bauemeister, Karlheinz Stockhausen, et al.] (1962, rev. 1964)
Genre:  Avant-Garde
Subject:  Avant-garde (Music) ; Choral music -- Analysis, appreciation; Music rehearsals; Choruses, Secular (Mixed voices) with instrumental ensemble
People:  Shere, Charles, 1935-; Stockhausen, Karlheinz, 1928-2007; McElheron, Brock; Foss, Lukas, 1922-; Rochberg, George ; Sapp, Allen, 1922-1999 ; Salzman, Eric
Recording Date:  6/16/1964
 
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