A Selective Guide to the Arts in Los Angeles

Jacaranda pushed into a music rarely heard at Villa Aurora in Pacific Palisades on Jan. 22.  Karlheinz Stockhausen’s “Kontakte” was given flight again with Los Angeles composer Jennifer Logan’s new high-definition digital restoration of an original recording. The highlight of the evening came as baritone Nicholas Isherwood sang “Capricorn” accompanied by electronic sounds, a piece that was written expressly for his voice.

The program contextualized Stockhausen’s relationship with German artist Mary Bauermeister.  The premiere in 1960 of “Kontakte” was the occasion when they met. Bauermeister was present at this concert, and she spoke about Stockhausen’s life and their artistic and personal relationships. Her insights into the music and its intent were fascinating and added an understanding of the composer and the times.

Logan captured the localization and movement of the sound as Stockhausen intended it. There were four channels coming from multiple speakers clustered in the corners of the room and centers along the walls. The realization of depth was very effective; she captured Stockhausen’s “whirling” sound that he created by spinning speakers and microphones in his original tapes.  The music itself was distinctly “un-digital,” created from oscillators, filters and pure recording technique — the stuff of pioneering music at the edge. Bravo to Jennifer Logan on her beautiful conservatorship of this seminal work.

Bass baritone Nicholas Isherwood, a mentee of Stockhausen, created the role of “Lucifer” in Stockhausen’s “Licht” operatic cycle. It was special to hear him perform “Capricorn” as he wore the original costume designed by Bauermeister in 1974. He was a commanding character, looming large in the small room, and standing with tight tonus and rigid gestural hand and body positions as if to communicate some sort of code. His facial expressions were almost modular and supported a mix of language and linguistic elements with distortions in timing and articulation of phonemes and words. His eyes glazed as he communicated with the Universe.  His voice was deep and strong, yet he expressed a wide range of expressive timbres that he used to nuance his song. Bravo to Isherwood on this unique connection to Stockhausen’s vocal art.

~Theodore Bell/Culture Spot LA

For information about upcoming Jacaranda concerts, visit www.JacarandaMusic.org.