Elektronisches Studio des WDR Köln / Karlheinz Stockhausen - Gesang der Jünglinge; Kontakte (1962), 7/10

Gesang der Jünglinge or Song of the Youths is one of the earliest recordings that shows a clear understanding and command of electronic sound, foreshadowing its potential in all spheres of music. The vocal samples provided by twelve-year-old Josef Protschka, an operatic tenor, are fluidly complemented by Stockhausen’s sounds. The recording integrates musique concrète with harsh yet beautiful electronic noise to form a superbly interesting, engaging, and absorbing experience. The form of the recording consisting of pulses and white noise behind the youthful soprano vocals achieves a unique sound, of course, but thematically presents an aesthetic masterpiece, especially considering the religious message of the vocal passages. The two part Kontakte combines electronic sounds and textures with Stockhausen’s superbly detailed compositional techniques that would be even further developed in future efforts. This recording is the result of a composer with exceptional foresight and artistic bravery, focused on all of the right aspects of music in the right time and space, existing as a unique testament to Walter Benjamin’s ideas on technical reproduction. The dynamics and spatial qualities are a strongpoint during this second movement, along with a collection of stirring tones and pulses that again sound far ahead of their time. The resulting influence on pop music, particularly “Tomorrow Never Knows” by The Beatles, just adds another layer to its significance, both musically and historically. While there are stronger and even more interesting experiments with electronic sound, Stockhausen’s ambitious project is a wonderfully fascinating and captivating exploit in forward-thinking music.