Focusing Stockhausen at Musikfest Berlin / Interview with Sound Director Paul Jeukendrup

Karlheinz Stockhausen, 1960

Karlheinz Stockhausen, one of the most influential composers of the 20th century and important forerunner of today’s electronic music, created compositions that are less pleasurable stimulants than interdisciplinary works of art. Even though they leave the impression of emotion and intuition, their structure is always based on strict rational and scientific forms. Towards SPEX Stockhausen expressed his belief that even after his death, his complex and multilayered way of composing will remain – and indeed, his influence has continued ever since. Thus, eleven years after he died, his music will be focused by this year’s Musikfest, Berlin’s renowned festival for orchestral music. Presented by SPEX.

13th–18th September at Haus der Berliner Festspiele various of Stockhausen’s piano pieces are performed as well as Inori, a meditative work for a large orchestra and two dancers. SPEX talked to Paul Jeukendrup, the sound director of Inori, who has already worked with artists like John Cage and directors such as Pierre Audi or Christoph Marthaler. Jeukendrup told us about his profession, his personal relationship to Stockhausen and what to expect at the Musikfest in Berlin.

Paul Jeukendrup, could you first explain the term and profession of a Klangregisseur?
Stockhausen himself used to call it Sound Projectionist. It is a combination of music and technology, whereby the music is the goal and the technology is the tool. It requires a deep involvement in and understanding of the music, because only in this way one will choose and apply the right technology to serve it. It all starts with the conceptual sound design, where the artistic material is studied and the concept of the amplification is derived from the music. Next, the technical sound design works out the conceptual sound design into technical lists with equipment, signal paths and loudspeaker positions. All of that happens before the actual performance, on stage the Klangregisseur is just replaying it.

„The art is to make something meaningful based on those fundamental ideas.“

Inori is primarily dealing with prayer, with a transcendent experience. How can one imagine, that a subject that is highly emotional is worked on with so much system and also some sort of academicism?
I think, that those two apparently very different things can also be very close together. Much in Stockhausen’s music is about precision. In order to reach this precision, a mind-set of extreme focus and extreme concentration is needed. This is also the case with meditation and prayer. Religion played a big role in Stockhausen’s music and in his life, but at the same time he composed in a very structured way. You have to imagine that for instance the entire composition of Inori is based on one Superformula (multilayered formula, editor’s note) from which everything is derived. The art is to make something meaningful based on those fundamental ideas.

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