Avant-garde artist influenced Zappa, Bowie

BERLIN — Karlheinz Stockhausen, whose innovative electronic works made him one of the most important composers of the postwar era, has died at age 79.

Stockhausen, who gained fame through his avant-garde works in the 1960s and ’70s and later moved into composing works for huge theaters and other projects, died Wednesday, Germany’s Music Academy said, citing members of his family. No cause of death was given.

He is known for his electronic compositions that are a radical departure from musical tradition and incorporate influences as varied as the visual arts, the acoustics of a particular concert hall, and psychology.

Stockhausen was considered by some an eccentric member of the European musical elite and by others a courageous pioneer in the field of new music. Rock and pop musicians such as John Lennon, Frank Zappa and David Bowie have cited him as an influence, and he is also credited with having influenced techno music.

Stockhausen sparked controversy in 2001, when he described the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States as “the greatest work of art one can imagine” during a news conference in the northern German city of Hamburg, where several of the suicide pilots had lived.

The composer later apologized, but the city still canceled performances of his concerts.

Stockhausen was born in the village of Moedrath near Cologne in western Germany on Aug. 22, 1928. His father was killed in World War II and his mother also died, leaving him orphaned as a teenager.

After completing his studies in musicology, philosophy and German literature at the University of Cologne, he went on to study under composer Olivier Messiaen in Paris from 1952 to 1953, where he also met his French contemporary Pierre Boulez.

Stockhausen wrote more than 280 works, including more than 140 pieces of electronic or electro-acoustic music and brought out more than 100 different albums.

He was known for conducting nearly all of the premiere performances of his works.

The composer is survived by six children from two marriages.

Services were not immediately announced.

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