Cal Performances preview: An Evening with Kronos Quartet
By Lou Fancher
Remarkably, for 45 years, the Kronos Quartet has avoided repeating itself.
The San Francisco-based contemporary string quartet returns to Zellerbach Hall with its astonishing tradition of innovation, novelty, and discovery for a one-night program on Feb. 13 as part of the 2019-2020 Cal Performances season.
An Evening with Kronos Quartet features a solo piano set performed by renowned minimalist composer Terry Riley and a panel conversation with members of Kronos and New York-based documentary filmmaker Sam Green in the first half of this two-part evening. After an intermission, there will be a screening of A Thousand Thoughts, Green’s documentary, co-written and directed with filmmaker/writer/editor Joe Bini. The documentary details the group’s history; the quartet will be joined by pipa virtuoso and composer Wu Man, who together provide a live score to the film as Green narrates the sections in real time.
The film caused a sensation at the Sundance Film Festival in 2018: its blend of theater, projection, and live music performance is a rare, authentic, deeply profound, andhuman experience.
The evening therefore promises what Kronos has always delivered: an unrepeatable, invigorating concert experience. The documentary traces the lineage, history, personal stories, motivations, struggles, accolades and performances of the quartet. Live music coupled with Green’s participation lend spontaneity to the event. Because there are no plans or intentions to package or record the live documentary, there is no possibility of streaming, renting or “owning” it later. Seeing A Thousand Thoughts live becomes a unique opportunity.
In addition to the documentary, Kronos has released over 60 recordings, sold over 200 million albums, won a Grammy and multiple notable music industry awards and commissioned more than 950 new works for string quartet. In 2015, Kronos established Fifty for the Future, a learning library offering hundreds of original, contemporary string quartet works commissioned from living composers at no charge. The quartet’s members for the Feb. 13 performance include founder and violinist David Harrington, John Sherba (violin), Hank Dutt (viola) and Paul Wiancko (cello), who performs as guest artist during cellist Sunny Yang’s maternity leave.
Green’s most recent live documentaries include The Measure of All Things (2014), The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller with Yo La Tengo (2012), and Utopia in Four Movements (2010). His 2004 feature-length, Academy Award-nominated documentary, The Weather Underground, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and has screened worldwide.