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This article is taken from PN Review 186, Volume 35 Number 4, March - April 2009.

Facing the Music: Stockhausen's Wizard of Oz Robin Maconie

for Clark Rundell

‘Father, what is it?’
‘Hush, my child, it is the Bogey-Man.’
‘Should I be frightened?’
‘Of course you should. Now be still.’

After the early evening launch party for the first edition of my Works of Stockhausen in 1976, a few of us went straight from the publisher’s London office in Conduit Street to a Rolling Stones concert at Earl’s Court, the centrepiece of which was a giant mockup of the band’s iconic Mick Jagger lips with a poking tongue that actually moved. The same message of impish disobedience is reflected in Stockhausen’s rather more challenging image of a wind band as a grimacing face, on the one hand the taunting clown face of a circus hall of mirrors, on the other a tribute to the machinelike discipline, svelte orchestration, and curious up-and-down, side-to-side gymnastics of American jazz of the big band era of Duke Ellington and Glenn Miller. From newsreel footage of the 1930s it is obvious that the conventions of solo and section standing on cue and swaying left to right, and stacking of players on a near-vertical plane, were well established when Stockhausen was a child. However contrary they appear to modern audiences, these conventions had legitimate acoustical implications in a radio era of limited microphone resources, and were designed to allow the musicians the freedom to vary the balance of solo and ensemble, without having to rely on spot microphones or an offstage ...


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