Classical Check-Up – 1959

Although 1959 was a landmark year in pop music history, it was an uncharacteristically quiet 12-months when it came to classical. Only two compositions — both by Karlheinz Stockhausen — are worth writing home about in this edition of Classical Check-Up.

1958     |     1959     |     1960



Artist: Karlheinz Stockausen

Genre: Serialism

Grade: A

Karlheinz Stockhausen is most famous for his experiments with electronic sound. For example, “Gesang der Junglinge” stretched the very definition of music. By comparison, “Zyklus” is much more accessible.

Nevertheless, this percussion “concerto” is full of surprises. Scored for one musician responsible for playing marimba, vibraphone, tom-toms, snare drum, güiro, African log drums, cymbals, cowbell, triangle, bells and gong, “Zyklus” stretches the very definition of classical music. This landmark aleatoric composition kickstarted a new wave of classical music sans strings.

Watch the live performance in the previous hyperlink to truly grasp the greatness of what Stockhausen has accomplished. Music like this needs to be seen, not just heard.


Artist: Karlheinz Stockhausen

Genre: Serialism

Grade: A-

One of Karlheinz Stockhausen’s most deceptively complex compositions, “Refrain” benefits from strategic use of space and silence. Although the music may sometimes appear too complex for its own good, it still represents Stockhausen’s willingness to break away from the avant-garde underground and inject some much-needed emotion into his technique.   

Classical Check-Up – 1959

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