INSIDE THE QUARTET
By: Graham Roberts and Daniel J. Wakin, Sept. 19, 2014
Founded 40 years ago, the Kronos Quartet has broken the boundaries of what string quartets do, commissioning hundreds of new works that have brought jazz, tango, experimental and world music into the genre. The string quartet, based in San Francisco, has released 57 albums, sold more than 2.5 million of those recordings and has become a mentor to several generations of quartets that have followed in its innovative wake.
One day earlier this year at a studio in downtown Manhattan, the members — David Harrington and John Sherba, violinists; Hank Dutt, violist; and Sunny Yang, cellist — were game for an experiment: to create a video that would serve as a new way to explain the special mystery of how a quartet communicates. They found themselves surrounded by a battery of laptops, video cameras and microphones as well as sensors that turned their movements into data that eventually rendered the players kind of as “dot clouds” who would appear and disappear according to their individual participation in the music.
They played and then talked their way through two very different pieces, “Canção Verdes Anos” by Carlos Paredes (arranged by Osvaldo Golijov) and “Aheym” by Bryce Dessner. In their commentary about the lilting, sinewy Paredes work, the quartet members talk about the essential nature of quartet playing.
The musicians dig a little deeper into the nitty-gritty of how quartets work — cueing, body language, establishing rhythms — in the segment on “Aheym,” a propulsive and sometimes manic piece in 11 short sections, marked A through K.