Kronos Quartet with Matmos and Walter Kitundu
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The last date listed for Kronos Quartet with Matmos and Walter Kitundu was Saturday April 22, 2006 / 8:00pm.
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For more than 30 years, the Kronos Quartet Harrington and John Sherba (violins), Hank Dutt (viola) and Jeffrey Zeigler (cello)—has pursued a singular artistic vision, combining a spirit of fearless exploration with a commitment to expanding the range and context of the string quartet. In the process, Kronos has become one of the most celebrated and influential ensembles of our time, performing thousands of concerts worldwide, releasing more than 40 recordings of extraordinary breadth and creativity, collaborating with many of the world’s most eclectic composers and performers, and commissioning hundreds of works and arrangements for string quartet. Kronos’ work has also garnered numerous awards, including a Grammy for Best Chamber Music Performance (2004) and “Musicians of the Year” (2003) from Musical America.
Kronos’ adventurous approach dates back to the ensemble’s origins. In 1973, David Harrington was inspired to form Kronos after hearing George Crumb’s Black Angels, a highly unorthodox, Vietnam War-inspired work featuring bowed water glasses, spoken word passages, and electronic effects. Kronos then went on to start to build a compellingly eclectic repertoire for string quartet, performing and recording works by 20th-century masters (Bartok, Shostakovich, Webern), contemporary composers (Sofia Gubaidulina, Arvo Part, Alfred Schnittke), jazz legends (Ornette Coleman, Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk), and artists from even farther afield (rock guitar legend Jimi Hendrix, Pakistani vocal master Pandit Pran Nath, avant-garde saxophonist John Zorn).
Integral to Kronos’ work is a series of long-running, in-depth collaborations with many of the world’s foremost composers. One of the quartet’s most frequent composer-collaborators is “Father of Minimalism” Terry Riley, whose work with Kronos includes the early Sunrise of the Planetary Dream Collector; Cadenza on the Night Plain and Salome Dances for Peace; 2002’s Sun Rings, a multimedia, NASA-commissioned ode to the earth and its people, featuring celestial sounds and images gathered by the space agency; and, most recently, The Cusp of Magic, commissioned for Kronos in honor of Riley’s 70th birthday celebrations and premiered by Kronos and Chinese pipa virtuoso Wu Man in 2005. Kronos has also collaborated extensively with composers such as Philip Glass, recording his complete string quartets and scores to films like Mishima and Dracula (a restored edition of the Bela Lugosi classic); Azerbaijan’s Franghiz Ali Zadeh, whose works are featured on the full-length 2005 Kronos release Mugam Sayagi: Music of Franghiz Ali Zadeh; Steve Reich, whose Kronos-recorded Different Trains earned a Grammy; Argentina’s Osvaldo Golijov, a MacArthur Fellow whose work with Kronos includes both compositions and extensive arrangements for albums like Caravan and Nuevo; and many more.
In addition to composers, Kronos counts many artists from around the world among its regular collaborators, including the legendary Bollywood “playback singer” Asha Bhosle, featured on Kronos’ Grammy-nominated CD, You’ve Stolen My Heart: Songs from R.D. Burman’s Bollywood; the renowned American soprano Dawn Upshaw; Mexican pop-rockers Cafe Tacuba; the Romanian gypsy band Taraf de Haidouks; and the unbridled British cabaret trio, the Tiger Lillies. Kronos has performed live with the likes of icons Allen Ginsberg, Modern Jazz Quartet, Tom Waits, Betty Carter, and David Bowie, and has appeared on recordings by such diverse talents as singer-songwriters Dave Matthews, Nelly Furtado, Rokia Traore, Joan Armatrading, and Texas yodeler Don Walser.
Kronos’ music has also featured prominently in other media, including film (Requiem for a Dream, 21 Grams, Heat, True Stories) and dance, with noted choreographers like Merce Cunningham, Twyla Tharp, and the duo Eiko & Koma setting pieces to Kronos’ music.
The Quartet spends five months of each year on tour, appearing in concert halls, clubs, and festivals around the world including BAM Next Wave Festival, Barbican in London, UCLA’s Royce Hall, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, and the Sydney Opera House. Kronos is equally prolific and wide-ranging on disc. The ensemble’s expansive discography on Nonesuch Records includes collections like Pieces of Africa (1992), a showcase of African-born composers that simultaneously topped Billboard’s Classical and World Music lists; 2000’s Kronos Caravan, whose musical “travels” span North and South America, Europe, and the Middle East; 1998’s ten-disc anthology, Kronos Quartet: 25 Years; a celebration of Mexican culture, the Grammy- and Latin Grammy-nominated Nuevo (2002); and the 2003 Grammy-winner—Berg’s Lyric Suite.
Matmos is M.C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel, aided and abetted by many others. In their recordings and live performances over the last nine years, Matmos have used the sounds of: amplified crayfish nerve tissue, the pages of bibles turning, a bowed five string banjo, slowed down whistles and kisses, water hitting copper plates, the runout groove of a vinyl record, a $5.00 electric guitar, liposuction surgery, cameras and VCRs, chin implant surgery, contact microphones on human hair, violins, rat cages, tanks of helium, violas, human skulls, cellos, peck horns, tubas, cards shuffling, field recordings of conversations in hot tubs, frequency response tests for defective hearing aids, a steel guitar recorded in a sewer, electrical interference generated by laser eye surgery, whoopee cushions and balloons, latex fetish clothing, rhinestones on a dinner plate, Polish trains, insects, ukelele, aspirin tablets hitting a drum kit from across the room, dogs barking, people reading aloud, life support systems and inflatable blankets, records chosen by the roll of dice, an acupuncture point detector conducting electrical current through human skin, rock salt crunching underfoot, solid gold coins spinning on bars of solid silver, the sound of a frozen stream thawing in the sun, a five gallon bucket of oatmeal.
Kronos’ recorded work reveals only a fraction of the group’s commitment to new music, however. As a non-profit organization based in San Francisco, the Kronos Quartet/Kronos Performing Arts Association has commissioned more than 450 new works and arrangements for string quartet. One of Kronos’ most exciting initiatives in this area is the “Kronos: Under 30 Project,” a unique commissioning and composer-in-residence program for composers under 30 years old, launched in conjunction with Kronos’ own 30th birthday in 2003. By cultivating creative relationships with such emerging talents and a wealth of other artists from around the world, Kronos reaps the benefit of 30 years’ wisdom while maintaining an approach to music making as fresh as the new century.
Kitundu is a, sound/visual artist, graphic designer, composer and instrument builder. He uses an interdisciplinary approach to develop compositions-installations-instruments that blur the boundaries between media. He has constructed elemental turntables that rely on wood, water, fire and earthquakes for their power and pitch. Kitundu is the creator of a family of Phonoharps, beautifully crafted multi-stringed instruments made from record players. He strives to reconnect the technology of new music to fundamental principles drawn from the natural world.
Kitundu has an ongoing residency at the Exploratorium Museum of science, art and perception in San Francisco. He has recently been in residence at Eagle Rock School in Colorado, the Science Museum of Minnesota, and the Singapore Science Centre. Kitundu is also developing a Geologic Sound Casting project for volcanically active regions and was granted a five week artist residency at Skriduklaustur in Eastern Iceland in September 2004. He was raised in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.