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Karlheinz Stockhausen's 21-Hour 'Klang' Cycle Performed at The Met

By Philip Trapp on Mar 28, 2016 07:26 PM EDT

Karlheinz Stockhausen's ambitious, multi-hour composition cycle, Klang: Die 24 Stunden des Tages (Sound: The 24 Hours of the Day) was resourcefully performed at The Metropolitan Museum of Art last week. The U.S. premiere of Klang utilized three of The Met's locations for the performance March 25-26.

The two-day production, presented in collaboration with Analog Arts, celebrated the opening of The Met's new Breuer campus at Madison Avenue and 75th Street on the Upper East Side.

Klang was controversial German composer Stockhausen's final effort, a piece intended to contain 24 different chamber music compositions representing the hours of a day. The avant-garde artist worked on the cycle from 2004 until his death in 2007, completing only 21 hours.

The cycle is a broad overview of Stockhausen's musical interests, containing music for keyboard, strings and the composer's last electronic composition. As reported by The Guardian, the work is a metaphysical journey designed to astonish listeners:

"Filled with spiritual references to Stockhausen's childhood Catholicism as well as his later interest in the mystical Urantia Book, the hours of Klang often reflect the composer's typical desire to melt minds and ears."

Writer Zachary Woolfe of the New York Times took in most of the performances while expressing the physical impossibility of enjoying all 21 hours of the cycle as presented. In his review, Woolfe noted the canon's nonsequential delivery and overlapping lineup at the venue's three locations:

"The hours of 'Klang' ran concurrently and in jumbled order at the Met, the Met Breuer and the Cloisters on Friday evening and all day Saturday. The Met's Fifth Avenue flagship hosted the pieces requiring the controlled conditions of a standard auditorium."

It is unclear how Stockhausen would have developed the absent hours 22-24 of the cycle, as the composer left no notes or instructions for their completion. The Met performances made no such attempt at the three omitted hours, presenting the completed 21 as composed.

During its creation, the composer had interesting extramusical ideas for Klang, associating each component of the piece with a corresponding color. There is a representative "color circle" for the cycle presented on the cover of Stockhausen's Natural Durations, the score for the third hour.

Stockhausen's lifetime of works are highly recommended for the fan of avant-garde classical and musique concrète.

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TagsKarlheinz Stockhausen, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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