The film on Karlheinz Stockhausen's “Helikopter-Streichquartett” captures for the viewer a musical event that did not at all seem to be composed for being captured or replayed at all: four string players in four different helicopters. The Helicopter String Quartet is one of the most controversial works of art produced in recent years. Composed for the Arditti Quartet and premiered at the 1995 Holland Festival, it involves the four members of a string quartet playing in four different helicopters flying through the air. The music is then sent to a central space and mixed at a soundboard. In his film, Frank Scheffer documents the complex preparations in the month leading up to the premiere of the work, and elicits insights from the composer regarding how he conceived and executed the piece. Frank Scheffer is internationally recognized as a master of films exploring the relationship between sound and image – he has portrayed Francis Ford Coppola, Wim Wenders and Tom Waits. Scheffer goes behind the scenes and, stage by stage, shows the enormous production required to realize the “Helikopter-Streichquartett”. Stockhausen holds numerous rehearsals with the Arditti Quartet, coaching them on every possible performance detail. He personally handles all the matters of sound himself, even down to the final mixing at the concert. With one spectacular shot near the close of Helicopter String Quartet, Frank Scheffer captures the breathtaking poetry inherent in what he calls Stockhausen’s "boy's dream.” From a camera positioned inside a fifth helicopter, we see the string quartet flying in the skies above Amsterdam in a peaceful moment of almost unnerving freedom and release.
Karlheinz Stockhausen: Helicopter String Quartet
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