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Stockhausen: Helicopter String Quartet
Stockhausen Helicopter String Quartet
Actors: Stockhausen, Arditti String Quartet
Director: Scheffer
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
NR     2008     1hr 53min

Karlheinz Stockhausen's Helikopter-Streichquartett is one of the most controversial and talked-about works of art in recent years. Composed for the Arditti Quartet and premiered at the 1995 Holland Festival, it involves th...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Stockhausen, Arditti String Quartet
Director: Scheffer
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
Sub-Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Classical
Studio: Euroarts
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen
DVD Release Date: 06/24/2008
Original Release Date: 01/01/2008
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2008
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 1hr 53min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 2
Edition: Classical
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: German, English
Subtitles: English, French, Norwegian, Spanish, Japanese

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Movie Reviews

An entertaining DVD on what is perhaps the most oddball of m
Christopher Culver | 07/31/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This DVD contains a documentary by Frank Scheffer on Karlheinz Stockhausen's "Helicopter String Quartet", one of the oddest and most ambitious pieces of contemporary music around. When Stockhausen received a generous commission shortly after dreaming of flying, he conceived a work where the four players of a string quartet would each be lifted up into their air in their own helicopter, and their playing (synchronized by a click track) would be relayed to the ground, mixed at a central control panel, and then spatialized through speakers in the hall for the audience.

As the Arditti Quartet began rehearsing for the work's premiere under Stockhausen's guidance in 1995, Scheffer was there to capture the challenges and joys that this unusual work posed. Each of the members of the quartet presents their thoughts -- violinists Irvine Arditti and Graeme Jennings, violist Garth Knox and cellist Rohan de Saram. Stockhausen does most of the talking, however, explaining how he wrote the piece and how it fits into his overall aesthetic. (Strangely, however, Stockhausen nowhere explains how the quartet fits into his opera LICHT.) Even those who are fairly familiar with Stockhausen's late music will learn something here. I was surprised that the counting in the piece, where the performers take turns saying "Eins", "Zwei", "Drei", "Vier" etc. was not originally meant to show the players were synchronized (it was just another example of Stockhausen's nutty numerology in LICHT), but this was a mere bonus. The documentary does cover all aspects of the piece, from the actual string quartet, to Stockhausen's mixing and spatialization, and even the logistics of flying and broadcasting from the Helicopters.

The Helicopter String Quartet was an immense spectacle through its massive proportions, but all late Stockhausen works had some element of spectacle in them simply because Stockhausen was at this point completely insane. In Schaeffer's documentary, he comes across more as a lovable dotty uncle than as the cult leader or burnt-out hippie of other sources. His wives appear in the background of many of the rehearsal scenes while assisting Stockhausen, thus giving an idea of life in the composer's studio.

In my opinion, the Helicopter String Quartet is not terribly great music. It is however fun performance art, and it already seems to have struck a chord with the public. I'd recommend the DVD to fans of modernist music, and I think even those fans who don't care much for Stockhausen would enjoy seeing the Ardittis take on a new piece."