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Jack Hertz

Topic: Karlheinz Stockhausen: Helicopter String Quartet

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Behind the scenes of the premier of "The Helicopter String Quartet" he dreamt of it and he did it.

Karlheinz Stockhausen is the composer of the superlative: in everything, he is "the most" (crazy, prolific, demanding, committed, innovative, radical, extravagant, etc.). Born near Cologne in 1928, he left a world that had become too small for him on December 5th, 2007. Before doing so he left three hundred and sixty works which experiment with all genres: serialism, electronics, pointillism, quotations, the collage and the aleotary. He will be remembered as a master of electro-acoustic music and of the spatialisation of sound, as revealed in this documentary dedicated to the world premiere, on June 26th, 1995 at the Holland Festival, of his Helicopter String Quartet.

This is not a joke. Karlheinz Stockhausen dreamt of it and he did it. He wrote a score for a string quartet whose musicians (in this instance the Arditti Quartet) would each play in a helicopter, while their music would be mixed on the ground by Stockhausen and broadcasted in the concert hall. The helicopter rotors are naturally present.

Frank Scheffer enables us to take part in the preparation of this "borderline" experiment: a huge amount of work rehearsing with the participation of the Dutch Navy, who supplied the helicopters and the pilots. Thanks to a camera fixed on the fifth helicopter, we fly in the sky with the "musicians" helicopters over Amsterdam. Magical.

A "concert" that really isn't like any other in that after landing, when the members of the Arditti Quartet enter the concert hall to receive the audience's applause, they haven't even heard what they played.

View full movie

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