Kronos’ Fifty for the Future Composers

Garth Knox - Ireland / France

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About Satellites

Video: Garth Knox demonstrates and discusses key techniques in his Fifty for the Future piece, “Satellites.” Participating quartets, Ligeti, Argus, and Friction Quartets, perform excerpts as part of the Kronos Quartet Workshop presented by the Weill Music Institute of Carnegie Hall.

Notes on I. Geostationary begin at 0:00
Notes on II. Spectral Sunrise begin at 9:18
Notes on III. Dimensions begin at 18:13

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Satellites Videos

Program Notes

About Satellites, Knox writes:

“In space, the seemingly simple idea of standing still becomes a complex notion, demanding great precision and enormous effort, and is achievable only by travelling at great speed. In ‘Geostationary,’ I wanted to capture this paradox in music, with always at least one instrument (usually the viola) in perpetual mechanical motion while the violins try to float their static melody—which never succeeds in leaving the starting note behind and falls back each time into the vacuum. At regular intervals their stationary orbit sweeps our four astronauts through the same meteor shower where they are bombarded by high-energy micro-particles scattering in every direction.

“‘Spectral Sunrise’ was inspired by hearing an astronaut talking on the radio of seeing several sunrises a day when he was in space, and the undiminishing wonder he felt each time at the intensity of the light and the absolute darkness which followed. I wanted to combine this idea with a type of slow movement commonly used by baroque composers, which is sometimes just a few simple chords over which the players improvise. In this piece we hear three sunrises in three minutes, each one followed by darkness illuminated only by a short improvisation by one of the players. “‘

Dimensions’ deals with the many possible dimensions which surround us, represented by the physical movements of the bow. In the first dimension, only vertical movement is possible, then only horizontal movement, then only circular, then the two sides of the bow (the stick and the hair) express a binary choice. The fun really starts when we begin to mix the dimensions, slipping from one to another, and the piece builds to a climax of spectacular bow fireworks!”

Garth Knox’s Satellites was commissioned as part of the Kronos Performing Arts Association’s Fifty for the Future: The Kronos Learning Repertoire, which is made possible by a group of adventurous partners, including Carnegie Hall and many others.

About Garth Knox

Garth Knox (b. 1956) is one of today’s leading performers of contemporary music, and his vast experience as a member of first Pierre Boulez’s Ensemble InterContemporain and then as violist of the Arditti Quartet has given him a very comprehensive grasp of new music. Stimulated by the practical experience of working on a personal level with composers such as Boulez, Ligeti, Berio, Xenakis, and many others he channels and expands this energy when writing his own music.

Garth Knox’s solo and ensemble pieces have been played all over Europe, USA, and Japan. Viola Spaces, an ongoing series of concert studies for viola published in 2010 by Schott, combines groundbreaking innovation in string technique with joyous pleasure in the act of music making and the pieces have been adopted and performed by young string players all over the world.

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