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

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