Sound Director: André Richard
© 2003, approx. 32 mins. + subsequent discussion,
a co-production with Red Bull & Salzburg Festival

Stockhausen Helikopter Streichquartett

Karl-Heinz Stockhausen’s Helicopter String Quartet is one of the most complex musical works to be performed. BFMI undertook the exciting challenge to realize this piece – being a part of Stockhausen’s oeuvre "Mittwoch" from "Licht" at the occasion of the opening of Hangar-7 at Salzburg Airport on August 22, 2003. Commissioned by Salzburg Festival in 1991, this unique sound experience, written for a string quartet ensemble playing separately in 4 helicopters with their pilots accompanied by 4 sound engineers, 4 video transmitters, 4 x 3 sound transmitters and an auditorium with 4 video screens and 4 loudspeaker’s towers, the sound director and a moderator, finally in Salzburg, was performed for the second time on Stockhausen’s 75th birthday.

Not hearing each other, only able to synchronize through the reference of the beating time provided by a click-track, the strings mostly play tremoli that blend so well with the timbre of the rotor blades’ rhythms that they sound like music instruments. Therefore, the pilots of the Austrian Airforce flying Black Hawk helicopters became instrumentalists too. As they play, the four musicians are transmitted by cameras and microphones to four towers of television screens and four towers of loudspeakers at the ground station for the audience. At the same time, through the glass cockpits of the helicopters, the world can be seen from above.

From BFMI’s point of view, this project is one of the most important ones in terms of what can be accomplished technically on a grand scale. The performance was recorded for television as well; however, due to the composer’s restraints, the extraordinary "Helikopter Streichquartett" remains unique in a superior meaning: it was reserved exclusively to the live-audience that day to experience the staging of Stockhausen’s dream come true.

"Helikopter-Streichquartett ist allen Astronauten gewidmet."
("The Helicopter String Quartet is dedicated to all astronauts.")

Karl-Heinz Stockhausen