Stockhausen: Momente for soprano, 4 choral groups & 13 instrumentalists (1965 version)
Soloists / Chorus and Members of the Symphony Orchestra of Radio Cologne / Karlheinz Stockhausen, conductor
The first thing you hear in Karlheinz Stockhausen’s first major work is several rounds of applause from the performers. Early audiences were indignant, believing, perhaps rightly, that they were being mocked, and so Momente became a minor sensation even by the avant-garde standards of the early 1960s.
Momente’s sounds occur in seemingly random sequences of vocal and instrumental noise–conversational monologues from the soprano, quick jabs from the organs, silences. It blurs the line between theater and concert, like some indie score to an underground NYC “happening”. Nothing about Momente smacks of classical music or, really, music in general.
Four small choruses, subdivided almost scientifically and lettered to represent various tonal ideas, it presents 30 sections of individuated sound–what the composer called “categories of sensation” in the philosophically-sounding method of “modular transposability”. Needless to stay, it’s certainly one of the most abstract listening experiences available on vinyl. It’s not necessarily pleasant, yet it is absolutely compelling.
And if that isn’t experimental enough for you, a later composition of Stockhausen’s calls for a quartet of helicopters.
Revised by Stockhausen in 1965, this pressing has the composer himself conducting. When other labels were shying away from avant-garde works, you could always trust Nonesuch to produce the most modernist recordings.