The Force of Noise, or Touching Music: The Tele-Haptics of Stockhausen’s “Helicopter String Quartet”


The American composer John Adams writes “One needs the stimulation of the tactile contact with the sound” (191). He illustrates this point with a kind of tautology, for he says that Beethoven, when deaf, insisted on composing on the piano, “even if he had to lay his head directly on the sounding board of the instrument to receive the vibrations through his bones” (ibid.). The tautology results from the fact that tactile contact is not only something one needs with sound, but absolutely something one cannot avoid. Beethoven would have been able to feel the music in his bones if he could hear or not, but the reverse is not the case. The fact that the sound could not touch his ears, move the necessary parts of the complex system of the ear, rendered him deaf. Beethoven’s deafness was due to a lack of tactility.

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