Digital Music Ensemble – Helicopter String Quartet

Helikopter-Streichquartett has been performed only three times in its original form. A full-scale production requires four large helicopters, each with a pilot, a live musician, and a sound technician inside, as well as an elaborate communications and audio-visual transmission apparatus.

Faced with the daunting task of mounting a performance of even one scene of this huge work, the Digital Music Ensemble decided to stage its own interpretation of the piece. Thus we are using model helicopters instead of full-scale ones, a quartet of electric guitarists in place of a string quartet, and we’re adding a live video processing dimension. Sonically, we have taken considerable liberties at variance with the printed score, as did Stockhausen himself on his recording with the Arditti Quartet (1995). We believe we have been true to the spirit of the piece.

Stockhausen: "Gesang der Junglinge"

Gesang der Jünglinge (literally “Song of the Youths”) is a noted electronic music work by Karlheinz Stockhausen. It was realized in 1955–56 at the Westdeutscher Rundfunk studio in Cologne.

The work, routinely described as “the first masterpiece of electronic music” (Simms 1986, 391; Kohl 1998, 61) and “an opus, in the most emphatic sense of the term” (Decroupet and Ungeheuer 1998, 97), is significant in that it seamlessly integrates electronic sounds with the human voice by means of matching voice resonances with pitch, and creating sounds of phonemes electronically. In this way, for the first time ever it successfully brought together the two opposing worlds of the purely electronically generated German Elektronische Musik, and the French Musique Concrète, which transforms recordings of acoustical events. Gesang der Jünglinge is also noted for its early use of spatiality; it was originally in five-channel sound, which was later reduced to just four channels (mixed to monaural and later to stereo for commercial recording release). When composing Gesang der Jünglinge, Stockhausen attempted to expand on the earlier work of Anton Webern, and composed the piece as a work of Total serialism, serializing the pitch, duration, dynamics, and timbre of every electronic and vocal event.

There are three basic types of material used: (1) the recorded voice of a boy soprano, (2) electronically generated sine tones, (3) electronically generated pulses (clicks). Each of these may be composed along a scale running from discrete events to massed “complexes” structured statistically (Decroupet and Ungeheuer 1998). The last category occurs in Stockhausen’s electronic music for the first time in Gesang der Jünglinge, and originates in the course of studies Stockhausen took between 1954 and 1956 with Werner Meyer-Eppler at the University of Bonn.

The text of Gesang der Jünglinge is from a Biblical story in The Book of Daniel where Nebuchadnezzar throws Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into a fiery furnace but miraculously they are unharmed and begin to sing praises to God. This text is presented in a carefully devised scale of seven degrees of comprehensibility, an idea which also came from Werner Meyer-Eppler’s seminars (Stockhausen 1960; Heike 1999, 210–14).

-From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Stockhausen: "Kontakte" Part 1

Stockhausen: “Kontakte” Part 1

Stockhausen: “Kontakte” Part 2

Stockhausen: “Kontakte” Part 3

Stockhausen: “Kontakte” Part 4

Kontakte (“Contacts”) is a celebrated electronic music work by Karlheinz Stockhausen, realized in 1958-60 at the Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR) electronic-music studio in Cologne with the assistance of Gottfried Michael Koenig.

The title of the work “refers both to contacts between instrumental and electronic sound groups and to contacts between self-sufficient, strongly characterized moments. In the case of four-channel loudspeaker reproduction, it also refers to contacts between various forms of spatial movement” (Stockhausen 1964, 105). The composition exists in two forms: (1) for electronic sounds alone, and (2) for electronic sounds, piano, and percussion.

According to the composer, “In the preparatory work for my composition Kontakte, I found, for the first time, ways to bring all properties [i.e., timbre, pitch, intensity, and duration] under a single control” (Stockhausen 1962, 40), thereby realizing a longstanding goal of total serialism. The most famous moment, at the very center of the work, is a potent illustration of these connections: a high, bright, slowly wavering pitch descends in several waves, becoming louder as it gradually acquires a snarling timbre, and finally passes below the point where it can be heard any longer as a pitch. As it crosses this threshold, it becomes evident that the sound is comprised of a succession of pulses, which continue to slow until they become a steady beat. With increasing reverberation, the individual pulses become transformed into tones once again.

Stockhausen also made advances over his previous electronic composition, Gesang der Jünglinge, in the realm of spatial composition, adding the parameters of spatial location, group type, register, and speed (Toop 2005, 170). Kontakte is composed in four channels, with loudspeakers placed at the corners of a square surrounding the audience. With the aid of a “rotation table”, consisting of a rotatable loudspeaker surrounded by four microphones, he was able to send sounds through and around the auditorium with unprecedented variety.

-From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia