Mittwoch aus Licht: Catch the spectacular 'helicopter' opera live tonight...
He's not a household name - though the Beatles put him on the Sergeant Pepper's... album cover - but avant-garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen is an experimental titan. With the some might say equally inaccessible John Cage, Stockhausen had a huge influence on electronic music and the breaking down of genre barriers in the latter half of the 20th century.
Tonight, in the skies above Birmingham, at 6.55pm precisely, four helicopters and all members of string quartet will rise above the city and perform the third scene from Mittwoch aus Licht for an audience ensconced below in Birmingham's Argylle Works, a former chemical plant in the middle of the city.
This scene has only been staged once before (by the Arditti Quartet, in Amsterdam in 1995) and Mittwoch itself makes up Stockhausen's Licht cycle (based on the concept of an eternal spiral that, like the days of the week, has neither beginning nor end; Stockhausen composed its seven operas over the grand scale of 36 years).
Mittwoch, or Wednesday, has never before been performed in its entirety. The sounds produced by Birmingham Opera's orchestra interact with the helicopters' rotary blades, and all is filmed and relayed by video link to the sold-out Argylle Hall below.
The piece's score: somewhat baffling
Confused? The BBC & Arts Council joint digital venture The Space is currently hosting a plethora of archive footage featuring the man and his beliefs. In addition, they will be live streaming tonight's performance - complete with narration from Radio One DJ Nihal Arthanayake.
If you're still struggling, Nihal will be fielding questions to put to performers via Birmingham Opera's social media channels.
A controversial figure till the end (his comments on the ‘performative' aspect of the 9/11 attacks a prime example), Stockhausen was nonetheless a man who dreamt in ‘sound visions', and the extravagantly off-the-wall nature of this grandiose production would surely be nothing short of a dream come true - particularly on what would have been his 84th birthday.
Part of the London 2012 Festival.
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- Opera & Dance