Sweding Stockhausen

Sunday 23 March 2008

A.O. Scott’s review of Be Kind Rewind in The New York Times (found via Greg Sandow’s blog) praises the movie’s understanding of how people relate to popular culture:

It treats movies as found objects, as material to be messed around with, explored and reimagined.

Sandow cites this review to show that people are not passive recipients of corporate cultural artifacts, but have an active relationship with them. “Classical music lives in a bubble” he writes, meaning that the cultural elite often lives in ignorance of how popular culture works in society, but also raising the question of whether capital-A Art enjoys the same lively, engaged response from its audience as popular movies and songs.
Having just seen some DIY Stockhausen last week, it’s great to see a perfect example of Sweded Stockhausen. Sequenza21 has posted a link to the Digital Music Ensemble, University of Michigan’s wondrous small-stage interpretation of the composer’s most notorious work, Helicopter String Quartet. (An excerpt of the Stockhausen original is on YouTube.)

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.
Two Quicktime movies (hi-fi and lo-fi) show the reimagined composition in all its glory.