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November 03, 2011

Premiere: Douglas Quin’s “Polar Suite” with K-Bow

On November 9, Kronos premieres Douglas Quin’s Polar Suite, the first string quartet composed for and performed with K-Bow, a Bluetooth Sensor Bow designed by Berkeley based Keith McMillen Instruments. The work premieres at Setnor Auditorium at Syracuse University, College of Visual and Performing Arts on November 9, 2011 at 8 pm, as part of Kronos’ weeklong residency.

Written by Quin, a sound designer, naturalist, public radio commentator, educator, and music composer who has been hailed as the “Audubon of Audio” by the Washington Post, Polar Suite integrates the sounds of traditional instruments processed with captured sounds all controlled by movements of Keith McMillen Instruments’ K-Bow. K-Bow is a Kevlar and graphite bow that integrates sensors and CPUs with the feel of a traditional violin bow. Polar Suite brings together violin, viola, cello, digitally processed samples and interactive electronics controlled by the K-Bow.

In developing this new work, Kronos Quartet founder David Harrington commented, “this is an opportunity to essentially relearn our instruments and to transform how we approach live performance. Polar Suite is a very different kind of string quartet and an extraordinary sonic adventure—thanks in large part to the K-bow and what is now possible.”

Keith McMillen has been a pioneer in electronic and computer music for over 30 years. His instruments and inventions have been used by artists like Laurie Anderson, Grateful Dead, and Led Zeppelin. He invented the first programmable audio mixer and the Zeta violin, the gold standard for electric stringed instruments.

“Working with Kronos is the culmination of five years refining K-Bow. Douglas Quin’s demanding need for rapidly changing timbres and the incredible insights Kronos has into sound and beauty helps push technology to a level where it becomes secondary to the music it creates. New instruments should enable truly original music. When an instrument excels and merges with a great performer, an experience exceeding both can be achieved,” says McMillen, who has hand-made over 100 sensor bows to finally satisfy these demands.

Composer Douglas Quin said, “K-bow is an extraordinary and visionary invention in every sense. Keith’s passion for strings shines through in the detail and elegance of the bow’s design: packing in as much technology and punch as possible without losing sight of the feel of a traditional bow. As a composer the possibilities are endless and I finally have an opportunity to create what I have been conceiving in my mind’s ear.”

Douglas Quin’s Polar Suite premieres at Setnor Auditorium at Syracuse University, College of Visual and Performing Arts on November 9, 2011 at 8pm, as part of Kronos’ weeklong residency. Learn more about the performance here. Learn more about K-Bow here.

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