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Members include Jennifer Culp (joined group, 1999), cello; Hank Dutt (born on November 4, 1952, in Muscatine, IA), viola;David Harrington (born on September 9, 1949, in Portland, OR), violin; John Sherba (born on December 10, 1954, in Milwaukee, WI), violin. Other group members have included Ella Gray (group member, 1977-78), violin; Walter Gray (group member, 1973-78), cello; Joan Dutcher Jeanrenaud (born on January 25, 1956, in Memphis, TN; group member, 1978-99), cello; Michael Jones (group member, 1976-78), violia; Tim Killian (group member, 1973-76), viola; Roy Lewis (group member, 1975-77), violin; James Shallenberger (group member, 1973-75), violin. Addresses: Office--Kronos Quartet, P.O. Box 225340, San Francisco, CA 94122-5340. Record company--Nonesuch Records, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, 8th Floor, New York, NY 10019. Website--The Kronos Quartet Official Website: http://www.kronosquartet.org.
Since its debut in 1973, the Kronos Quartet has carved out its own niche in the world of string quartets. In its self-proclaimed role as a champion of new music, the quartet exclusively plays works of twentieth-century composers, commissioning pieces by composers throughout the world. Initially music critics were skeptical of the group's musical ability. Yet the Kronos Quartet has over the years proven itself. It has played to full houses worldwide, attracting nontraditional audiences with a repertoire that ranges from the works of early twentieth-century Hungarian composer Bela Bartok to rock 'n' roll guitarist Jimi Hendrix and jazz artist Ornette Coleman.
The quartet was founded in Seattle by David Harrington, who had then decided to discontinue his musical studies at the University of Washington. The name Kronos refers to a god in Greek mythology who devoured his own children and makes allusion to time, a necessary component of music, as chronos is the Greek root of the word chronology. While the group's personnel has varied over the years, in 1978 the ensemble settled on the membership of David Harrington and John Sherba, violins; Hank Dutt, viola; and Joan Dutcher Jeanrenaud, cello.
In 1977 the Kronos Quartet moved to New York, where it served two years as the quartet-in-residence at the State University of New York at Geneseo. The quartet later moved to the San Francisco Bay area, where for a while it was in residence at Mills College in Oakland, then at the University of Southern California. In its early years, the quartet often performed on campus and with grant sponsorship, gathering a steady following among young and old alike. By the late 1980s Kronos played concerts in major venues worldwide, at jazz festivals, and even in clubs, its sponsorship a mixture of public, corporate, and private funds; as of 2002, the group was performing more than 100 concerts a year. Unlike most members of string quartets, who teach or work other jobs to supplement their incomes, Kronos players make their living solely through performing with the quartet.
Kronos's astounding success is in part due to its daring programming. The "old" pieces on any concert program might include works by Bartok, Dimitri Shostakovich, Aaron Copland, Alban Berg, or Anton Webern. Works by minimalist composers Terry Riley and Philip Glass and such jazz artists as Max Roach and Ornette Coleman are well represented in the group's repertoire. The quartet has had more than 450 pieces written or arranged for it, has premiered more than 300 new pieces, and each year receives hundreds of unsolicited scores of new pieces from around the world. Kronos maintains 400 pieces in its active repertoire at any one time.
"We look for music that excites us," declared Harrington in an interview with the Star-Ledger, "that has a point of view, that's real. We see ourselves as involved in extending, developing and enriching a great tradition. We are seeking consciously and with perseverance to move the focus of this tradition out of the nineteenth century, out of Central Europe. We want to bring the vitality of the world's music into this tradition. We're examining the radical nature of the art form and continuing it. Some of the music being written for us is the best there is today.... If we didn't believe that, we wouldn't play it. I run into exciting music every day that's not in our repertoire. There's no end to the possibilities."
Kronos has avoided the often heavy-handed involvement of East Coast music managers by basing itself on the West Coast, hiring its own staff, and taking on many management responsibilities itself. Harrington acts as the artistic director and is responsible for public relations and repertory development. Dutt is the road manager and curator of the more than 3,000 scores in the Kronos library. Sherba manages the group's library of recordings, and Jeanrenaud settled questions of attire until her departure from the group in 1999. She was replaced on cello by Jennifer Culp. The quartet is run on the same principles as a small business (the Kronos Performing Arts Association) and has a board of directors that consists of the quartet members and several philanthropists from the San Francisco Bay area.
The members of most string quartets wear tuxedos to perform, but in this, as in other matters, the Kronos Quartet is nonconformist. Each year the group comes up with a new look, which has ranged from a squeaky clean appearance in the 1970s to a jaded worldly look in the 1990s. "We all came to the conclusion that it wasn't necessary for us to wear the same things that everybody wore, and I think that's just an outgrowth of our music. We're not approaching things the same way anyone else is," Jeanrenaud explained to Musician writer Joe Goldberg in 1990.
The Kronos Quartet maintains a hectic concert schedule of as many as 150 concerts a year, playing regular concert series in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, and Minneapolis. It has been the subject of a Public Broadcasting System (PBS) special and has produced a regular series, Kronos Hour on PBS radio, which features live performances by quartet members and discussions with composers.
To make the music more accessible to the public, Kronos might create a particular atmosphere using special costumes, theatrical lights, and even stage sets. Harrington told John von Rhein of theChicago Tribune, "We have been experimenting for a long time with how a visual experience becomes a musical experience. For us the senses are linked. Every concert is partly a visual experience. I mean, we have always used body language as a way of demonstrating the music. String players play with a bow and that bow responds to body language. We're always looking for ways to graphically bring home the music. Costumes, lighting, and all the rest are another way for us to incorporate, let's say, new information into our performances."
Kronos has recorded more than 30 albums for such labels as Nonesuch, Gramavision, Landmark, and CRI. Many of its recordings have demonstrated enormous crossover appeal that reflects the quartet's diverse audience. Six albums recorded for Nonesuch during the 1980s and 1990s were Grammy Award nominated, including Kronos Quartet Plays Alfred Schnittke: The Complete String Quartets, Early Music, Black Angels, White Man Sleeps, Terry Reily: Salome Dances for Peace, and Different Trains, and the album Kronos Quartet spent more than 40 weeks on the top 20 on Billboard's classical music chart. The group celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary in 1998.
by Jeanne M. Lesinski
The Kronos Quartet's Career
Quartet formed in Seattle, WA, 1973; moved from Seattle to New York, 1977; in residence at the State University of New York at Geneseo, 1975-77, at Mills College, Oakland, CA, beginning in 1977, and at the University of Southern California, beginning 1982; since the mid-1980s has performed in clubs, at jazz festivals, and in concert at major venues worldwide.
The Kronos Quartet's Awards
San Francisco Focus Award, Best Contemporary Music, 1984; Western Alliance of Arts Administrators Distinguished Service Award, 1989; Australian Broadcasting Company Classic FM, Best International Recording of the Year for Black Angels, 1991; Edison Award (Netherlands) in Popular Music for Pieces of Africa, 1993; Kenwood Classical Music Awards, Chamber Group of the Year, 1994; National Public Radio New Horizon Award for Significant Contributions to Classical Music in America, 1996, 1998; Edison Award for Chamber Music for Kronos Caravan, 2001; National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences--San Francisco Chapter, Governor's Award for Lifetime Achievement, 2002.
- Selected discography
- Monk Suite , Landmark, 1985.
- Music of Bill Evans , Landmark, 1986.
- The Complete Landmark Sessions , Landmark, 1985-86; reissued, 32 Jazz, 1997.
- Kronos Quartet , Nonesuch, 1986.
- Cadenza On the Night Plain , Gramavision, 1988.
- Steve Reich: Different Trains; Electric Counterpoint , Nonesuch, 1988.
- Different Trains Nonesuch, 1989.
- Terry Reily: Salome Dances for Peace (two volumes), Nonesuch, 1989.
- Winter Was Hard , Nonesuch, 1989.
- Black Angels , Nonesuch, 1990.
- White Man Sleeps , Elektra/Nonesuch, 1990.
- Pieces of Africa , Elektra/Nonesuch, 1992.
- Short Stories , Elektra/Nonesuch, 1993.
- Kronos Quartet Performs Philip Glass , Nonesuch, 1995.
- Howl, U.S.A. , Nonesuch, 1996.
- Early Music , Elektra/Nonesuch, 1997.
- Kronos Quartet Plays Alfred Schnittke: The Complete String Quartets, Early , Nonesuch, 1998.
- 25 Years: Retrospective , Elektra/Asylum, 1998.
- Kronos Caravan , Nonesuch, 2000.
- Nuevo , Elektra/Asylum, 2002.
- Holtje, Steve, and Nancy Ann Lee, MusicHound Jazz: The Essential Album Guide, Visible Ink Press, 1998.
- Advocate, September 15, 1998.
- American Record Guide, January-February 1999.
- Chicago Tribune, April 10, 1988.
- Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph, January 8, 1988.
- Daily Camera (Boulder), January 27, 1989.
- Desert News (Salt Lake City), April 10, 1988.
- Maclean's, March 9, 1998.
- Milwaukee Journal, April 2, 1989.
- Musician, May 1990.
- Newsweek, November 19, 1984.
- New York Times, November 17, 1985.
- Peninsula Times-Tribune (Palo Alto), September 11, 1986.
- San Jose Mercury News, October 24, 1986.
- Seattle Times, April 20, 1989.
- Star-Ledger (Newark), November 22, 1987.
- "The Kronos Quartet," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (July 12, 2002).
- The Kronos Quartet Official Website, http://www.kronosquartet.org (July 12, 2002).
The Kronos Quartet Lyrics
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