by "Blue Gene" Tyranny
Completed in 1993, this string quartet also requires four helicopters, sound technicians and pilots, four television transmitters, sound transmitters, four columns of televisions and four columns of loudspeakers, a mixing technician with console, and a moderator. It is a minor miracle that this piece actually made it to disc, and engineers Wernet Wairavens and Martin Clichy should be complimented on their technical decisions.The half-hour work begins with the introduction of the string performers, here the internationally famous Arditti String Quartet. From the point of their embarcation, the actions and sounds of each performer are picked up by (1) cameras focused on close ups of the face, hands, bow, and instrument, (2) television transmitters, and (3) three microphones (contact mic on the instrument, one directional mic for vocal sounds, and a microphone outside the helicopter which picks up the sound of the rotor blades. The helicopters rise, and, at the five minute point, the players produce steady pitches that are bowed at different specified rates. The pitches gradually ascend and descend in glissandi, with a consequent change in the rate of the bowing, making an effect that closely imitates or suggests the rhythmic heterodyning or fluttering of the helicopters' rotors. The helicopters fly in a circle, individually changing the altitudes. At various times the performers in declarative tones call out numbers that test the synch signal on the players' headphones. Toward the end of the piece there are more obvious correlations between the players, who attack chords together. During the five-minute descent, various bowings on odd parts of the fingerboard produce harmonic sounds that imitate the buzzing phase sounds of the engines, a wonderful effect perfectly realized by these players. Stockhausen's rich imagination once again opens our ears to a new experience.