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Thread: Does anybody actually like Stockhausen's Helicopter String Quartet?

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    Senior Member Cnote11's Avatar
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    Default Does anybody actually like Stockhausen's Helicopter String Quartet?

    All I ever see are negative comments towards it about the poor quality or the stupid gimmickry. Does anybody actually enjoy this piece on here? Is there anybody who places it as one of their favorite pieces? We don't seem to have too many Stockhausen lovers around here period and I never seem being discussed outside of attacking/defending him from time to time when he is brought up in a negative light. I also never see anybody mention that they are listening to him or placing him in the upper echelon of anything. I've been wondering this for awhile...
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    I loved the rendition of John Cage's "4'33" played simultaneously in four helicopters.

    On topic: I don't buy this whole thing. I think many development in the 20th century were dead end streets. Schoenberg's 12 tone system was one in my opinion. For sure he recognized that the possible means became exhausted, but why then 12 tones? Just because there are 12 tones in our scales? Schoenberg has a legacy, but I would say that he was a great composer despite his 12 tone innovations. Most of this modern music with this typical "Sixties" mentality was another cul-de-sac. It's so self-indulgent: let's make a piece without music and call it 4"33, let's write a string quartet played in a helicopter. The worst legacy of this period was that every idiot from now on could consider himself an artist by coming up with something crazy. Which is not to be said that those who experimented in those days were all lousy composers. Just they took a dead end street. The best proof is that it largely has remained unsuccesfull and can stand no comparison to the system of tonality that lasted for centuries.
    Last edited by martijn; Apr-20-2012 at 23:53.

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    Senior Member Jeremy Marchant's Avatar
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    Yes, I enjoy listening to it.

    Even though hearing a two channel audio-only recording is a very poor substitute for the experience of the piece live – something I am looking forward to getting when Mittwoch is staged in Birmingham later this year.

    It’s not my favourite scene from Licht – I would easily place Michael’s journey around the world, Lucifer’s dream, Synthi-Fou, to say nothing of the wonderful Outer space above them if I were ranking the scenes from Licht in terms of “favourite”. Still less is it one my favourite pieces of all music – it probably wouldn’t make the top thousand, given my liking for music as varied as Monteverdi’s Duo seraphim, Schubert’s last piano sonata and Mary Chapin Carpenter’s song Only a dream.

    But whether or not it is one of my favourite pieces, or whether or not I like it, says nothing about the quality of the music – as a composition, as a valid component of a stage work, as a concept, or as anything else. To imagine that my liking for any piece of music confers on it some objective recognition of quality would be taking hubris to new levels.

    If people don’t like the Helicopter quartet because of the noise it makes, that’s fine. It’s just that that says nothing about the music, only the individual listener’s response to it.

    If people don’t like it because they don’t understand how it’s put together, then to criticise it or the composer because of that is just intellectually moribund. The answer is to find out how it’s constructed and then assess it. If people don’t want to make the effort, that’s fine, too, but again it says nothing about the music.

    Anyone who has read an analysis (or made their own) of the piece – even at a simple level – and then wishes to criticise it is on firmer ground.

    I’ve already made my case (briefly) for Stockhausen here: Stockhausen, a real composer or a put on?. I pointed out that, between 1950 and 1964, each of the 23 works he wrote in that period is, axiomatically, completely different from all the others (and every other piece of music ever composed). That makes it hard to assess the quality of the composer because you have to know most of the works well. It’s not like hearing half a dozen Mozart piano concertos in the K400s and being able to make a reasonably accurate assessment of the whole canon, and being able to make inferences about Mozart’s concertante style in general, his approach to the orchestra, his approach to the piano, and so on. An understanding of Kontra-punkte, say, ain’t going to help you with Gruppen or Kontakte. Of course, as a listener, you don’t need to know any of this, you only need to surrender to the hedonistic pleasure of the music.

    Between 1964 and the start of Licht in 1977, there are many further unique works, though a bit of repetition creeps in: eg, Telemusik is a dry run for Hymnen, Sternklang is a vast extension of Stimmung and so on.

    For those people who just want to use Stockhausen as a whipping boy (and there are some on TC) – just go ahead. It says nothing about the composer.

    For those who are genuinely bemused by the composer, but have an open mind, I would not suggest the Helicopter quartet – or Gruppen. Bearing in mind what is actually available easily, I suggest choosing Kontakte. There is a fine performance by Jonny Axelsson and Fredrik Ullen on Caprice CAP21642. In this work for piano, percussion and electronic music, Stockhausen extends the range of timbres available from a piano and a large battery of percussion instruments into the electronic realm. It is essentially a duet for electronics and humans (and the electronic component is a satisfying stand-alone work). If you hear it as a work about sounds, sound quality and timbre, and if you think of it as that duet, you’ll get it with half a dozen listenings.

    Have I answered the question?
    Last edited by Jeremy Marchant; Apr-21-2012 at 00:17.

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    Senior Member Jeremy Marchant's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by martijn View Post
    ...The best proof is that it largely has remained unsuccesfull and can stand no comparison to the system of tonality that lasted for centuries.
    Far from being a proof, that is just an opinion. As Mr Wikipedia would say, "citation needed". Please make your case.
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    Senior Member violadude's Avatar
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    I love it. I have not studied it or anything as it seems Jeremy has. But I think the sound of the helicopters gives a power and a certain depth in its own right to the sound of the string quartet.

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    Same answer that <violadude>.
    However, I don't think it's one of my favorites pieces.
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    Senior Member ComposerOfAvantGarde's Avatar
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    I love it, but it isn't my favourite excerpt from Licht. What has to happen is for an opera company to perform the entire cycle one opera a night from Monday through to Sunday.

    EDIT: Actually I know someone who detests all classical music except for that half hour selection from Licht. They love the Helicopter SQ but hates Beethoven.
    Last edited by ComposerOfAvantGarde; Apr-21-2012 at 10:42.
    It's the greed of huge companies and huge organizations which control life in a kind of a brutal way ... It's gotten worse and worse, somehow, because physical science has given us more and more terrible deadly weapons, and the human spirit has been destroyed in so many cases, so what's the use of having the most powerful country in the world if we have killed the soul.
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    quite good, but is NOTHING compared to my nuclear explosion piano quintet. The only problem for a performance is the current price of the uranium and you know, the radiations.
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    I like conceptual works - if they work, and I think the Helicopter SQ does - 4 independent lines playing in formation, is enhanced to the nth degree by a formation of 4 'copters with communication rigged so the SQ players can hear each other. I love it. I also have a thing about helicopters. Have flown in a few, and would love to own and fly one myself.

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    Junior Member LudwigNAV's Avatar
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    More pretentious garbage from our culturally devoid modern era that relies on gimmicks rather than honest music.

    When I'm trying to listen to music and low flying planes or helicopters rattle the whole house, I get very irritated and angry, and when you live close to the busiest airport in the world, it gets a little annoying when this happens several times in the span of a few minutes. My neighbor and I always have good conversations that are constantly interrupted when we can no longer hear ourselves speak due to especially noisy helicopters.

    I am, and I'm sure many others are, the type of people who enjoy listening to the singing of the birds when we step outside, whereas these modernists seem to enjoy the sound of traffic accidents, noisy, yapper dogs incessantly barking, foundation rattling jet engines, and jackhammers at a construction site.

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    Senior Member elgars ghost's Avatar
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    I genuinely like the music but the visual excerpts I have seen are pretty ludicrous - perhaps this aspect of it makes more sense when considering it as part of 'Mittwoch aus Licht' rather than as a stand-alone work. For me I think this is one multi-media piece with which I could happily make do with the music only.

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    Senior Member violadude's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LudwigNAV View Post
    More pretentious garbage from our culturally devoid modern era that relies on gimmicks rather than honest music.

    When I'm trying to listen to music and low flying planes or helicopters rattle the whole house, I get very irritated and angry, and when you live close to the busiest airport in the world, it gets a little annoying when this happens several times in the span of a few minutes. My neighbor and I always have good conversations that are constantly interrupted when we can no longer hear ourselves speak due to especially noisy helicopters.

    I am, and I'm sure many others are, the type of people who enjoy listening to the singing of the birds when we step outside, whereas these modernists seem to enjoy the sound of traffic accidents, noisy, yapper dogs incessantly barking, foundation rattling jet engines, and jackhammers at a construction site.
    Exactly what percentage of pieces from the 20th century are "gimmicks?" Exactly how mant of these gimmicky pieces are out there?
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    Senior Member some guy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LudwigNAV View Post
    More pretentious garbage from our culturally devoid modern era that relies on gimmicks rather than honest music.
    Well, thanks for sharing.

    Quote Originally Posted by LudwigNAV View Post
    [T]hese modernists seem to enjoy the sound of traffic accidents, noisy, yapper dogs incessantly barking, foundation rattling jet engines, and jackhammers at a construction site.
    And birds singing. Don't forget that "we modernists" like the sound of birds singing, too.
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    Senior Member emiellucifuge's Avatar
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    Idont particularly like it, but then I havent seen Licht live. Stockhausen to me is one of the greatest composers of the last 100 years, yet discussions of him hardly survive the first page on this forum. IMO he should have 4 or 5 in any top 50 list of 'modern' classical music.
    "Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody." - Rousseau

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    Senior Member aleazk's Avatar
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    I don't like it, but I don't hate it. I don't like it in the same way that I don't like Ligeti's piece with the metronomes, that kind of experimentations are not very interesting to me.

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