The German composer’s widow takes part in Jacaranda’s tribute to the enfant terrible of classical music

Members of the vocal ensemble VOXNOVIA make their American debut Saturday in Santa Monica

Members of the vocal ensemble VOXNOVIA make their American debut Saturday in Santa Monica

By Michael Aushenker

Until his death in 2007 at 79, late avant-garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen remained a polarizing figure in classical music — an agent provocateur who never ceased to challenge conventional thought.

This weekend, the Santa Monica-based Jacaranda music company pays homage to the German composer in its season opener by welcoming Stockhausen’s muse and second wife, Mary Bauermeister, from Germany.

On Saturday in Santa Monica, “Hallucination” features the music of Stockhausen and fellow avant-garde composer Iannis Xenakis. “Mary Electrifies,” a spotlight on Bauermeister, follows on Sunday in Mid-city.

“Stockhausen was really an enormous figure,” said Patrick Scott, co-founder of Jacaranda with conductor/organist Mark Alan Hilt. “His work was so out there, people couldn’t ignore it. Like Philip Glass today, he was admired and reviled and a figure of fascination in the 1960s and 1970s.”
Because of Bauermeister, Stockhausen moved to America in the 1970s and wound up meeting The Beatles, Yoko Ono and Leonard Bernstein and receiving a whole new wave of recognition. According to Scott, “Tomorrow Never Knows,” off The Beatles’ “Revolver” album in 1966, was inspired by Stockhausen’s music, and the German composer appears as one of 70 personages on the collage cover of the Fab Four’s landmark 1967 album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”

Stockhausen’s experimentation with electronic music and adopted persona as a visiting space alien anticipated and surely influenced performers such as David Bowie, Kraftwerk and Nina Hagen, Scott said
During Saturday’s performance at the First Presbyterian Church of Santa Monica, cellist Timothy Loo will attempt the complicated “Nomos Alpha” (1966) by Xenakis, an architect and mathematician with whom Stockhausen shared a mentor who used “stochastic music,” Scott said, “to change a string from a synthetic string to a gut string and detune it so it’s almost slack and has a completely different character, and then go back.” Loo, Scott said, has figured out a way to play this virtually un-performable piece.

Stockhausen’s protégé, Nicholas Isherwood, will also lead his six-person VOXNOVA Italia, ensemble group — making its American debut this weekend — in “Stimmung,” Stockhausen’s 70-minute masterpiece utilizing six amplified voices.

The evening also includes Stockhausen’s harmonic music — akin to Tuvan throat singing or that of Tibetan monks — and a performance of Stockhausen’s erotic poetry. Inspired by his relationship with Bauermeister, his poetry is usually performed only in German due to its graphic language.

The Stockhausen tribute concludes Sunday on Museum Row, where art critic Peter Frank will moderate a conversation with Bauermeister, 79, an avant-garde artist who was a catalyst of the Fluxus movement.

“Hallucination” begins at 8 p.m. Saturday at First Presbyterian Church of Santa Monica, 1220 2nd St., Santa Monica. $20 to $45. Call (213) 483-0216 or visit jacarandamusic.org
“Mary Electrifies” starts at 3 p.m. Sunday at Goethe Institute, 5750 Wilshire Blvd., Ste. 100, Los Angeles. Free with RSVP at jacarandamusic.org.
michael(at)argonautnews.com

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