Stockhausen’s Helicopters

One of the things I’m trying to do differently this year (not a resolution as such) is to avoid reading the trashy free papers that come as part of the commuting package. I’m pretty sure their particular brand of reporting-lite has infected my brain and made me much less likely to self-flagellate after reading pieces about pop-tarts’ handbags. So I’ve started reading other things, like books and newspapers that you have to pay for.

And thank heavens I have, otherwise I’d never have known about Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Helicopter String Quartet. From an article called Sublime – or ridiculous? The art of noise in today’s Independent.

You can see it being performed in 1993 in Austria right here:

Karlheinz, who sadly died last year, is reported as saying:

“I had a dream: I heard and saw the four string players in four helicopters flying and playing. At the same time, people on the ground seated in an audio-visual hall, others standing outdoors on a large plaza… When I woke, I strongly felt that something had been communicated to me which I never would have thought of.”

That’s the kind of creative process I like.

I enjoyed this interview with him. But I still can’t tell if he’s a genius or a nutjob. And I still don’t think I could actually listen to any of his compositions for fun, but it’s interesting to see him composing using sketches and grids that look to the untrained eye quite a lot like modern music production software.

And if you’re still interested in Stockhausen, this remembrance piece from the Guardian from a few weeks ago has some interesting anecdotes from collaborators and friends.