"We have to know the electronics perfectly"
PREVIEW While electronics have transformed the very core of contemporary dance music, rap, and pop, so-called art music of the concert hall persuasion still centers on acoustic instruments reverberating in real time. But some of the earliest feats of sound manipulation, predating the Beatles' trippy tape loops and even the '60s soul tracks destined for an afterlife in eternal sampledom, were achieved by German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, who was decidedly not a populist. In current terms, "electronic" music tends to denote the limitless reorganization of beats and breaks, but Stockhausen dispensed with regular rhythms altogether, turning his attention to the most basic components of sound itself, using now-primitive equipment to generate sine waves and splice magnetic tape. The most famous result of his experiments, aside from a nod from the Fab Four on the cover of Sgt. Pepper's, may be the 40-minute tape-based work Kontakte, for piano, percussion, and electronics, premiered in 1960. Pianist Julie Steinberg, who also moonlights as a percussionist for this performance by the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, emphasizes the prohibitive complexity of performing Kontakte live. "We have to know the electronics perfectly," she says of playing along with Stockhausen's original four-channel futuristic noise collage, now a digital version realized by a sound projectionist as the performers play. Conceived in recognition of the late composer's 80th birthday by percussionist Willie Winant, whose cutting-edge creds include work with Mr. Bungle, John Zorn, Sonic Youth, Wilco, and the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, this is a rare realization of what Winant calls "a masterwork" and a "seminal piece."
SAN FRANCISCO CONTEMPORARY MUSIC PLAYERS Mon/17, preconcert talk 7:15 p.m., concert 8 p.m.; $10$27; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission, SF; 978-ARTS, www.sfcmp.org