Helicopter String Quartet

By Frank Scheffer

Flying over Amsterdam in four helicopters, the musicians of the Arditti String Quartet play a composition by Karl Heinz Stockhausen, which was premiered at the Holland Festival in 1995. The sounds produced by the strings and the helicopters were transmitted live into the concert hall and mixed by the composer.

“I have not written symphonies, sonatas, piano concertos, violin concertos, etc. Each of my works has its own form, instrumentation, and performance practice. And then I had a dream: I heard and saw four string players in four helicopters flying in the air and playing. At the same time I saw people on the ground seated in an audio-visual hall, others were standing outdoors on a large public plaza. In front of them, four towers of television screens and loudspeakers had been set up. At each of the four positions, one of the four string players could be heard and seen in close-up. Most of the time, the string players played tremoli which blended so well with the timbres and the rhythms of the rotor blades that the helicopters sounded like musical instruments. When I woke up, I felt strongly that something had been communicated to me, which I never would have thought of on my own. I did not tell anyone anything about it.” (Karl Heinz Stockhausen)

One of Frank Scheffer’s most humorous films, shot in “direct cinema” style with several cameras and an additional helicopter, it became the only authorized documentation of Stockhausen’s fantastic project.

We present the newly restored 35mm film print by the Filmmuseum Amsterdam.