Modern masterpieces versus the beep and ringtone

Laura and I went to hear a short programme of music by Stockhausen and Boulez last night. It was part of the Southbank Centre’s The Rest Is Noise festival.


I’m interested in how the experiments of this era relates to post-1960s electronic pop music, and had expected the auditorium to be half full of young techno musicians. There, however, none, the audience really dominated by old Sixties radicals like this chap.


And this one, if you can make him out.


The arrangements of musicians, backdrops and screens was interesting.



And it was strange being in the auditorium while the tapes of Gesang Der Junglinge were played over loudspeakers. That’s ‘strange’ as in ‘not sure where to look/try not to stare at the men with very long beards while there’s nothing obvious to train your eyes on.’

One thing it made me realise was that in 2014 we hear Stockhausen’s pieces, with all their synthetic electronics beeps and buzzes, cry differently to how the original audiences did fifty or so years ago. Back then, the sounds were new and unfamiliar. ¬†For us, those sounds are now parts of everyday experience, from the sound of the alarm clock to the warning beep of a reversing dustbin lorry to a memory of fax lines. More often than not they are the sounds of work and danger.

So while the original audiences heard new worlds, as Joe Meek put it…

…we hear the sound of emails arriving, the car’s GPS system and the television whingeing as we try retune its channels. Listening to the music last night, I found myself listening to the sounds and enjoying their futuristic-ness as something almost quaint, and feeling a sort of nostalgia – a nostalgia for the future, I suppose.