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ARTIST PROFILE

Kronos Quartet

BIOGRAPHY

David Harrington, violin
John Sherba, violin
Hank Dutt, viola
Jeffrey Zeigler, cello

For more than 30 years, the Kronos Quartet—David 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 latest 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.

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.