Kronos Quartet at Lincoln Center, 2013
|Origin||Seattle, Washington, United States|
The Kronos Quartet is an American string quartet based in San Francisco. They have been in existence with a rotating membership of musicians for over forty years. The quartet covers a very broad range of musical genres, including contemporary classical music. More than 900 works have been written for them.
The quartet was founded by violinist David Harrington in Seattle, Washington. Its first performance was in November 1973. Since 1978, the quartet has been based in San Francisco, California. The longest-running combination of performers (from 1978 to 1999) had Harrington and John Sherba on violin, Hank Dutt on viola, and Joan Jeanrenaud on cello. In 1999, Joan Jeanrenaud left Kronos because she was "eager for something new"; she was replaced by Jennifer Culp who, in turn, left in 2005 and was replaced by Jeffrey Zeigler. In June 2013, Zeigler was replaced by Sunny Yang. With almost forty studio albums to their credit and having performed worldwide, they were called "probably the most famous 'new music' group in the world" and were praised in philosophical studies of music for the inclusiveness of their repertoire.
By the time the quartet celebrated their twenty-fifth anniversary in 1999, they had a repertoire of over 600 works, which included 400 string quartets written for them, more than 3,000 performances, seven first-prize ASCAP awards, Edison Awards in classical and popular music, and had sold more than 1.5 million records.
When Kronos turned 30, in 2003, they decided on a commissioning process for composers under the age of 30, in the hope of bringing some of the talented young composers to light. The program, called the Under 30 Project, is now run in cooperation with Carnegie Hall, Cal Performances at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Montalvo Arts Center. The first recipient was Alexandra du Bois (at the time a student at Indiana University, later a Juilliard School graduate), followed by Felipe Perez Santiago (born in Mexico in 1973), and Dan Visconti (born in Illinois in 1982); in 2007, Israeli composer Aviya Kopelman became the fourth.
To celebrate the fortieth year of the organization, the Kronos Quartet decided to return to Seattle, the city in which they first played, and work in collaboration with Seattle's Degenerate Art Ensemble to create a piece incorporating music, dance and video. They celebrated their 40th anniversary with a sold-out performance at Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley, in December 2013. The same year, Michael Giacchino, a soundtrack composer who often names his pieces with puns, published a piece named after them as a part of the soundtrack to Star Trek Into Darkness (the name of the piece is "The Kronos Wartet"), for a scene that takes place on the fictional planet "Kronos" (also spelled "Qo'noS").
Over 900 pieces have been created for the Kronos Quartet, which has a long history of commissioning new works. They have worked with many minimalist composers including John Adams, Arvo Pärt, George Crumb, Henryk Górecki, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Terry Riley, and Kevin Volans; collaborators hail from a diversity of countries - Kaija Saariaho from Finland, P?teris Vasks from Latvia, Franghiz Ali-Zadeh from Azerbaijan, Homayun Sakhi from Afghanistan, Victoria Vita Polevá from Ukraine and Fernando Otero,Astor Piazzolla, and Osvaldo Golijov from Argentina. Some of Kronos' string-quartet arrangements were published in 2007.
Kronos covers a very broad range of musical genres: Mexican folk, experimental, pre-classical early music, movie soundtracks (Requiem for a Dream, Heat, The Fountain), jazz and tango. Kronos has also recorded adaptations of Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze", Sigur Rós's "Flugufrelsarinn", Television's "Marquee Moon", Raymond Scott's "Dinner Music for a Pack of Hungry Cannibals", and Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right".
Kronos has also worked with a variety of global musicians, including Bollywood playback singer Asha Bhosle; Mexican-American painter Gronk; American soprano Dawn Upshaw; jazz composer/performer Pat Metheny; Mexican rockers Café Tacuba; Azerbaijani mugam singer Alim Qasimov; and the Romanian gypsy band Taraf de Haïdouks among others.
Kronos has performed live with the poet Allen Ginsberg, Astor Piazzolla, The National, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Tom Waits, David Bowie, Paul McCartney and Björk, and has recorded with Nelly Furtado, Rokia Traoré, Joan Armatrading, Brazilian electronica artist Amon Tobin, Texas yodeler Don Walser, Faith No More, Tiger Lillies and David Grisman.
On the 1998 Dave Matthews Band album Before These Crowded Streets, Kronos Quartet performed on the tracks "Halloween" and "The Stone". They also recorded for the 2007 Nine Inch Nails remix album, Year Zero Remixed doing a rendition of the track "Another Version of the Truth"". They also performed Lee Brooks' score for the short film 2081, based on the Kurt Vonnegut short story "Harrison Bergeron."
In 2017, the quartet performed as featured artists on the songs "Lost Light" and "Journey" on the soundtrack to the videogame Destiny 2.