Frieder Butzmann Wie Zeit Vergeht

[Pan; 2011]

Styles: this is not a collage
Others: Karlheinz Stockhausen, Diego Chamy

Throughout 1966 and 1967, Karlheinz Stockhausen completed Hymnen, producing a tape/concrète composition sourced most prominently through familiar national anthems. With Hymnen, Stockhausen sought to “make it possible to experience — as musical vision — the unity of peoples and nations in a harmonious human family.” This year, Frieder Butzmann released Wie Zeit Vergeht, again a concrète composition sourced through Stockhausen’s articles “… wie die Zeit vergeht …,” his compositions Telemusik and Kurzwellen, and the aforementioned Hymnen. Eschewing the lofty intentions of Hymnen through a Dadaist narrative, Butzmann’s Wie Zeit Vergeht is simultaneously an affecting composition and a compelling interpretation of one of the 20th century’s most notorious cultural figures.

Stockhausen’s works from the 60s and 70s are often the first cited examples of early electronic works, as well as those to receive the harshest criticisms. As a result, the likes of Kontakte and Hymnen are as much a shared tradition among the electronically initiated as national anthems are to lay folk. Therefore, any reconfiguration of these compositions has the potential, as Stockhausen did in Hymnen and Telemusik, to accentuate how well sources were integrated. As Stockhausen said when describing Hymnen, “The more self-evident the What, the more attentive one becomes to the How.” Although this penetrating effect is present, it neither seems focal nor a particularly laudatory component of Butzmann’s work.

My attention is instead squarely on the humor and subversion found in Wie Zeit Vergeht, perhaps a function of Butzmann’s extreme source obfuscation. Indeed, Butzmann’s re-appropriation of the re-appropriated is novel, but Frieder’s machinations seem less technical and more rhetorical. Mimicking Hymnen and Telemusik’s structure via their actual sounds is not a linear extension of Stockhausen, but a fractured quotation and prompt for critique. Lampooning Stockhausen is far from uncommon: Morton Feldman’s nickname “Krazy Karlheinz,” Cornelius Cardew’s book Stockhausen Serves Imperialism, Henry Flynt’s declaration “FIGHT FASCIST MUSICAL THOUGHT! STOCKHAUSEN GET OUT!,” etc. But these quips, in addition to others, are of a more serious tone, unlike Butzmann’s absurdist assault. Neither contempt nor contention, laughter may be the most appropriate reaction to the man who wrote the operatic cycle Licht (which requires four helicopters and “twelve very different objects like rockets flying.” I implore everyone to read as much you can about this opera).

It is this Lichtian surrealism that dominates Butzmann’s first track, “…wie Zeit vergeht…” Inorganic noises whirl around staccato spoken-word (presumably taken from Stockhausen’s articles of the same name) to form a circus atmosphere akin to the opera that demands for “a giant syringe moving toward a woman.” By comparison, “Blauwellen” and “in einem Netzwerk” are far less bizarre, instead manipulating passages for uncomfortable effect. The repetition of familiar sounds (from Hymnen and Telemusik, as far as I can discern) in brief segments is juxtaposed against original sounds, distorting and poking fun at what the listener knows.

In these last two tracks is where Butzmann shines, devilishly towing the line of seriously employing Stockhausen’s sounds without taking Stockhausen too seriously. One false move could have had disastrous consequences, but Butzmann’s craft is so deft that Wie Zeit Vergeht could survive a lack of acknowledgement and appreciation for who he is ‘modulating.’

Links: Frieder Butzmann - Pan


Some releases are so incredible we just can’t help but exclaim EUREKA! While many of our picks here defy categorization and explore the constructed boundaries between ‘music’ and ‘noise,’ others complement, continue, or rupture traditions that provide new forms and ways of listening. Not all of our favorites will be listed here, but we think each EUREKA! album is worthy of careful consideration. This section is a work-in-progress, so expect its definition to be in perpetual flux.

Most Read