The prize for the most bizarre string quartet goes to …
The Helikopter-Streichquartett is for string quartet and 4 helicopters. No, we’re not kidding. An excerpt from his 7-day opera Licht, the piece has each of the 4 string players in a helicopter, connected by wireless communication, playing music inspired by the sound of the rotor blades.
The following, from the 2003 Salzburg Festival and a 2009 performance in Rome, are not the complete work but they’ll leave you in no doubt about what the piece is like.
Here’s an ingenious solution for those times when you just don’t have 4 helicopters around to use.
The performers (Digital Music Ensemble) write:
“Helikopter-Streichquartett has been performed only three times in its original form. A full-scale production requires four large helicopters, each with a pilot, a live musician, and a sound technician inside, as well as an elaborate communications and audio-visual transmission apparatus.
Faced with the daunting task of mounting a performance of even one scene of this huge work, the Digital Music Ensemble decided to stage its own interpretation of the piece. Thus we are using model helicopters instead of full-scale ones, a quartet of electric guitarists in place of a string quartet, and we’re adding a live video processing dimension. Sonically, we have taken considerable liberties at variance with the printed score, as did Stockhausen himself on his recording with the Arditti Quartet (1995). We believe we have been true to the spirit of the piece.”