Karlheinz Stockhausen wows at numusic festival, day three 27 Aug 2005     

The legendary composer performs two sets at the Norwegian electro-fest.

Performances by avantgarde composer Stockhausen, a gorgeous interlude by Mara Carlyle, vagaries by Rother & Moebius and total lift-off courtesy of Jamie Lidell spelled a day-3 numusic climax on Friday.

Starting in the late afternoon Karlheinz Stockhausen, the 77-year-old patron of electronic music, gave the first of two concerts. His 'Gesang der Junglinge' (Song for the Youths) and 'Kontakte' (Contacts), composed in the mid to late 1950s, served to broaden horizons in true form, but it was the literally titled 'Oktophonie' (1991), perhaps for being a more recent piece, that best explained what Stockhausen is about.

In brief you have a rectangular auditorium with eight speaker clusters, one in each corner on the floor and in the ceiling. Then the sound is allowed to travel, migrate, flash, chase and spiral between all eight channels in this original super surround system, not only horizontally - back to front, left to right, diagonally across - but vertically, often along two axes, drawing the mind to visualise, in the darkness, the visiting alien's first proper appearance in 'The Abyss'.

It is the stuff of genius and truly enjoyable. The composer opens with a helpful introduction of name, nature, era and of how best to enjoy and follow the progress of the piece. The auditorium is a rectangular setup on a large factory floor surrounded by black curtains, and has 300 seats in its centre. In the middle sits the composer at the controls, to some only a foot or two away, projecting the music. His presence adds to the sense of purpose and of imminent departure. Lights fade to black and we're away.

Any contemporary music festival should open with works by Stockhausen. His exquisitely crafted sounds and the play they're allowed to enjoy forms a natural benchmark and frees thought. It provides a point of reference for successive festival acts - although not necessarily in the next guy's favour.