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Baker's Dozen

A Kind Of Visceral Quality: Jóhann Jóhannsson’s Favourite Records
Karl Smith , October 27th, 2016 10:38

With the imminent release of his score for Arrival, the latest in a now thriving partnership with Denis Villeneuve that will see him take on Blade Runner next year, the Icelandic composer shows traditional reluctance in crafting a list of defining albums and opts instead of 13 works that exemplify a philosophy of minimal gestures with maximum impact

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Karlheinz Stockhausen – ‘Stimmung’
Stockhausen in a fascinating composer and his writings are really worth reading; he has fascinating ideas, delving into mysticism and religion and cosmology and it’s relationship to music and to mathematics and physics.

‘Stimmung’ is a piece for six voices, sung through microphones, and the score is very complex – it’s full of instructions and allusions and explanations for each and every part of it: it’s made up of these cells, these notes and sets of ideas, that each singer performs until he or she feels it’s time to move on. There’s a great degree of freedom for the performer despite the complexity, and no performance and no recording of the piece is ever the same.

Stockhausen uses the human voice in a way that was revolutionary at the time: using harmonic singing, and overtone singing that sometimes resembles the throat singing which appears through many Asian countries.

That must make it, in the truest sense, one of the most unique pieces of music ever composed?

It’s unique in the sense that the instructions are very precise but there’s so much freedom for the performer – in terms of how the cells interact and intersect: I’ve heard it live a number of times and if you have the chance to see it, it’s a really strong experience – even more so than on record.


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