Stockhausen: Helicopter String Quartet – documentary by Frank Scheffer

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COMPOSERS: Stockhausen
LABELS: Medici Arts
ALBUM TITLE: Stockhausen
WORKS: Helicopter String Quartet – documentary by Frank Scheffer
PERFORMER: Arditti String Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: 3077508

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Anyone who harbours doubts that Stockhausen’s creativity was, for better or worse, different in scope to that of other composers should watch this film. As for many of his works, a dream was the starting point of his Helicopter String Quartet. What set Stockhausen apart was that, rather than compose a sonic metaphor, he made a determined attempt turn a dream into reality. The Helicopter Quartet takes a genre founded on communication, and places each performer in a separate helicopter, flying in different directions, yet maintaining cohesion through a click track. The performers are apart, yet absolutely together, viewed and heard back in the concert hall through banks of screens and speakers, the music intertwining with the noise of the rotor blades. Frank Scheffer’s film charts some of the rehearsal process, with the Arditti Quartet starting together, then in separate rooms and, finally, negotiating the logistics of playing in a helicopter. Throughout, Stockhausen comes across not as some crazed meglomaniac, but a genial, very likeable but quietly determined man with a youthful enthusiasm for sound in all its forms. He is aware that the concept seems wacky, yet it seems progressively less so, while the music itself is typically novel in the way that the instrumental lines are treated. As such – despite some frankly annoying camerawork – this film is a marvellous portrait of the working relationship between a great composer and committed musicians. Christopher Dingle