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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Mauricio Kagel Has Died

One of the world’s leading composers in avant-garde classical music, film, and theater has passed away. Mauricio Kagel died on September 19th at the age of 76. His list of fans in contemporary music is a long one and includes the likes of Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth) and John Zorn. I recall very well the first time I heard his seminal piece “Der Schall” and the stunning effect it had on my musical sensibilities. The inventive piece remains one of my all time favourite recordings.

Download the entire recording here if you are so inclined.

Its been a sad week in music. Read Tom Service's erudite tribute to Mauricio Kagel from the Guardian here:

Mauricio Kagel's death yesterday, at the age of 76, is a huge blow for contemporary music. First of all, there's the shock of the news – Kagel was hugely active as composer, teacher, and inspirational figurehead for generations of musicians, and he was due to take part in a major retrospective of his music in Frankfurt this weekend – and the knowledge that music has lost one of its most important and ironic consciences. Growing up in Argentina, where he studied with Borges, he moved to Cologne in 1957, and spent the rest of his life in Germany. He was both an essential part of the avant-garde and a knight's move away from it, both in terms of his identity and his compositional priorities. But it's precisely that lateral gaze on the conventions of music, theatre, film, and politics that gives Kagel's music its lasting power and ability to communicate. He had a reputation as musical humorist and absurdist in the 1950s and 60s, in pieces like Match, scored for two cellists and a percussionist-cum-referee who polices their musical battle, or Antithese, a piece he filmed in which a studio technician fights a losing battle with the mechanics of the music technology, ending up mummified by a nightmarish web of magnetic tape. But there's more than parody going on his music, whether of the serial techniques of Stockhausen or Boulez, or of the monuments of classical music history, paradigmatically in his film, Ludwig Van, his scurrilous contribution to Beethoven's double centenary in 1970.

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