Monday, March 06, 2006

The Kronos Quartet

One of the most experimental string quartets around is the diverse and successful Kronos Quartet. Founded almost 30 years ago, the Kronos not only plays modern classical music from Glass, Gorecki, Riley, and others, but the works are often written especially for them. But the Kronos never confine themselves by playing one type of music; they have played international music, movie soundtracks, and they even covered the Jimi Hendrix song Purple Haze. Early Music is yet another direction the Kronos have taken. Half the CD is performances of what the title implies, some of the first polyphonic pieces in Western music. It includes transcriptions of medieval and Renaissance chants, early Baroque songs, and an interesting study on ancient Greek scales. The Greeks did not use the 12-tone scale, so in the piece the violin plays notes that you can't find on a piano. These early pieces are juxtaposed with modern music from John Cage and others, showing surprising similarities between the composing styles of the 10th century and of the 20th.

Beware though: this disc can be a difficult listen. Don't expect many exciting passages or memorable melodies. Some of the tracks are more valuable as a history lesson than as a great piece of music; when Seth heard the first piece, from the 1300s, he remarked "sounds like the guy was inventing music as he wrote this thing."

Kronos Quaret- Early Music

Due to the overwhelming positive response to our little minimalist series, I've also included a Terry Riley piece written for the Kronos called Requiem for Adam- Adam being the son of two members of the Kronos who tragically died. The first movement in particular is very beautiful, and sounds like it is indeed Ascending the Heaven Ladder.

Terry Riley, Kronos Quartet- Requiem for Adam

Requests? Feedback? Feel free to comment, or email us at
And please remember to vote in the poll below- Brahms has a slight lead over Beethoven as I write this.

Jazz fans, don't worry. We haven't forgotten about you- Seth has some great stuff coming up, and we've invited a new jazz specialist to the crew.


At March 10, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My first encounter with Terry Riley was about 35 years ago when I bought 'Reed Streams' from Ray's in London. Thick vinyl in a heavy card sleeve on an obscure New york label. Wish I kept it! But it got scratched and eventually I went over to cd - where, at least I can listen to it again. Not heard this piece so am really looking forward to it.

At March 11, 2006, Blogger rentstrike said...

Everybody should meet the Kronos Q.

At August 26, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excelente blog, estoy impresionado.
Si les interesa yo tengo material de Berio , Nono , Boulez , y muchos mas compositores del siglo XX.


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