Stockhausen quartet for strings and helicopters to be played at Paris arts all-nighter

Karlheinz Stockhausen
Karlheinz Stockhausen AFP

German avant-garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen's notorious Helicopter String Quartet is to be composed in Paris next weekend as part of the French capital's culture all-nighter, la Nuit blanche.


On the evening of Saturday 5 October four helicopters, each containing a member of the Elysian Quartet, will fly over Paris, performing the famous but, for obvious reasons, rarely performed piece.

"We will be starting the concert in the Monnaie de Paris, before heading through the hopefully-not-too-busy streets of Paris to our choppers and flying along the Seine, trying not to take our eyes from the scores as we pass the Eiffel Tower etc," the quartet announce on their website. "Do wish us luck. Or come and see it!"

The Helikopter-Streichquartett, to give its German name, was first performed and recorded in 1995 and was Stockhausen's response to a 1991 commission, which he initially rejected but accepted after a dream in which he was flying above four helicopters, each carrying a musician.

It has been described as a "memorable spectacle" and Parisians, who are invited to gather on the banks of the Seine to watch it, are unlikely to forget it in a hurry.

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The Nuit blanche, an annual event that started in Paris in 2002, is to be opened by a rerun of British performance artist Martin Creed's opening of the London Olympics - Parisians are invited to ring their bells at 7pm to start the night's cultural activities.

The Stockhousen performance will be followed by a fireworks display, put on by Chinese-born artist Cai Guo-Qiang.

There are hundreds of other events in Paris and around it, and galleries, cafés and restaurants will stay open all night.

There's even something for the kids this year - the Place Stalingrad in the north of the city will become a temporary playground from 2-6 October.

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