Sound Director: André Richard
© 2003, approx. 32 mins. + subsequent discussion,
a co-production with Red Bull & Salzburg Festival
Karl-Heinz Stockhausen’s "Helicopter String Quartet" is one of the most complex musical works to put on stage. BFMI took 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 and their pilots accompaigned 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 beat 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 an audience. During this – through the glass cockpits of the helicopters – also 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 to a grand scale. The performance furthermore, was recorded for television as well. However, due to the composer’s restraints, the extraordinary "Helikopter Streichquartett" will also remain unique in a superior meaning: it was reserved exclusively to the live-audience to experience the staging of Stockhausen’s dream coming true that day.
"Helikopter-Streichquartett ist allen Astronauten gewidmet."
("The Helicopter String Quartet is dedicated to all astronauts.")