Thursday, August 25, 2011
Karlheinz Stockhausen, KONTAKTE
Wergo, 1963; available
Technically 2 tracks, 35:07
Well, it was about time Stockhausen ended up here! This disc is a performance of the title piece* spread over two tracks. Stockhausen and Gottfried Michael Koenig handle the electronics, while Christoph Caskel and David Tudor provide drums (and piano, in Tudor's case). For a hair over thirty-five minutes, this quartet manages to astound. The electronic sounds come in bursts, while Caskel and Tudor respond organically on their respective instruments. The effect is one of violence fading into tranquility, which is exactly what Stockhausen intended. It's short, sweet, and one of his most accessible works (!). I highly suggest this edition as a Stockhausen primer; if you're already familiar with his work, this is an important addition. There is another realization recorded in 1978 with James Tenney on percussion and William Winant on percussion. It' was released by Ecstatic Peace! on CD and vinyl in the late '90s. Some folks prefer this to the Wergo disc, but I find it to be a little less exciting.
*Composed in 1959, "Kontakte" exists in two versions: this one, for electronics, drums, and piano, and the earlier electronics-only version. The electronic sounds are identical, but it is worth seeking out the other version to hear how much the drums and piano add to the piece.