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@body:Other selections on the Scottsdale program include the sparse Quartet No. 2 by Sofia Gubaidulina, and John Oswald's ominously chaotic "Spectre." Oswald is the father of "Plunderphonics," a method of fusing together various found noises. Harrington describes "Spectre" as "Kronos and metal meeting somewhere in between."
Both "Spectre" and the Gubaidulina piece are on Short Stories, a full-length CD released last year. Kronos also just recently released a remarkable recording of Morton Feldman's Piano and String Quartet. Feldman, who died in 1987, was an American composer fascinated with time and the space between different noises. As such, the Piano and String Quartet lingers with more than 80 minutes of infrequent, seemingly random splashes of notes. Kronos collaborated on the piece with Aki Takahashi, a longtime Feldman interpreter. The result is one of the most intoxicating Kronos efforts on record.
"Morton Feldman was unlike any other composer we've ever worked with," says Harrington. "He wrote pieces that have a sense of time and a kind of realm that is very particular to his music. And I think Piano and String Quartet is one of his great, great pieces. It's almost like feeling these incredible, warm, slow, beautiful drops of water over a long period of time. Not like a water torture, but--for me--a kind of sensual experience. You begin hearing the passage of time differently after listening to Morton's music."
@body:People are beginning to hear classical music differently after listening to the Kronos Quartet. But not everyone's convinced. Kronos is often sniffed at by classical purists. And elements of the avant-garde chastise Kronos for being too trendy--a point well taken considering the group's clever but emotionless covers of things like Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze" and Willie Dixon's "Spoonfull." Even 1992's mostly excellent Pieces of Africa CD sounded at times like a fashionable follow-up to Paul Simon's Graceland.
But hits and misses are to be expected with Kronos. Classical music is currently in a critical transition. Performances are no longer strictly suit-and-tie sessions with musicians propped on wooden chairs; stage design and theatrics are now the norm. (Kronos years ago used to perform James Brown songs onstage with an eight-foot "robot" dubbed "Elvik." Such is the stuff of legend.)
And album bins, once the domain of familiar, centuries-old reportoire, are now being bombarded by obscure works and performers; the new is all the rage these days for classical audiences and ensembles.
Credit Kronos with the revolution.
"We've had a lot of help from a lot of great people," says Harrington. "Each of the composers, for example, who've written for us put some of their greatest thoughts into our music. And that's what we're looking for--those people who can give our music dimensions and textures and ways of thinking that simply haven't been part of our world."
Kronos Quartet will perform on Friday, March 18, at Scottsdale Center for the Arts. Showtime is 8 p.m.