Program Notes


Concrete Jungle (2021) world premiere

Film by Joel Tarman and Miguel Navarro
featuring Tadi Todi, dancer

Music sampled from Aleksandra Vrebalov’s My Desert, My Rose from Kronos’ 50 for the Future, remixed by Cameron “BEAMONEM” Collier

Produced by Joel Tarman and Sunset Youth Services

Concrete Jungle was developed as part of Kronos Music: Remix, a collaboration between Kronos Quartet / Kronos Performing Arts Association and Sunset Youth Services in San Francisco. Sunset Youth Services (SYS) has a long track record of helping in-risk youth realize their potential as artists, musicians, recording engineers, and community leaders. SYS serves 14–24-year-olds who struggle with chaotic family systems, destructive behavioral patterns, trauma, and drug use. Because the youth served by SYS often experience traumatic life events, programs are designed to create physically and emotionally safe spaces where activities are flexible, age appropriate, gender responsive and relationally rich. Kronos and SYS share a commitment to encouraging work that addresses social issues, especially in marginalized or adversely impacted communities.

Participants of Kronos Music: Remix engage with works commissioned for Kronos’ 50 for the Future, a learning library of pieces by composers from around the world designed to introduce student musicians of all ages to contemporary music. Kronos’ professional recordings of selected works from 50 for the Future are provided to participants as source material for the creation of their own new work as remixes and original songs. This material encompasses a diverse array of musical traditions and cultural backgrounds, which participants are empowered to incorporate into their own personal expression. The structure of the project prioritizes opportunities for youth to collaborate one-on-one and in small groups, with creative mentorship from Kronos and technical guidance from the staff of SYS.

Kronos Music: Remix is supported in part by the California Arts Council, a state agency. Additional support is provided by The Sam Mazza Foundation and San Francisco Grants for the Arts.

Satellites: III. Dimensions (2015)
Garth Knox

“Dimensions” is the third and final movement of Satellites, about which Garth Knox writes:

“‘Dimensions’ deals with the many possible dimensions which surround us, represented by the physical movements of the bow through space. In the first dimension, only vertical movement is possible. In the second, only horizontal movement along the string is possible. Then only circular motion, then alternating between the two sides of the bow (the stick and the hair). 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 techniques including the ‘whip’ and the ‘helicopter’, producing a huge range of other-worldly sounds.”

KRONOS FESTIVAL Science Report: Snails
with Alyssa Tam, correspondent
Filmed by Jung Park
Script by Fionn Quinn
Video edited by Kayla LaCour

Excerpt from 3000 Reefs (2020)
Film by Julia Sumerling
Music: Daughters of Sol (2017) by Aftab Darvishi

About 3000 Reefs, Julia Sumerling writes:

“During my 93-day surface interval, being completely landlocked, I found what kept me sane was seeking out beautiful things, creating new work and listening to beautiful music or just photographing nature in my back garden. It kept my mind active and myself busy with constantly creating new work. After the first several weeks I had a new routine and a new creative world started flowing like it hasn’t in a long time. During this time, 3000 Reefs was made.

“When I hear music, I have always seen imagery in my head, like a film, So, when I was given the opportunity to create a short film using a piece of music played by the Kronos Quartet from San Francisco, by Iranian composer Aftab Darvishi, all I could see was the fish and beautiful marine life of The Great Barrier Reef inside my head. I missed being amongst the 3000 Reefs. But this piece of music transported me back there and I could almost reach out and touch it. Making 3000 Reefs gave me the hope I needed and reminded me of the world I had to look forward to once I could get back to the underwater realm again.

“Special thanks to: David Harrington, from the Kronos Quartet and everyone from Kronos Performing Arts Association; Aftab Darvishi for composing such an exquisite piece of music; and Mike Ball Dive Expeditions for continually giving me opportunities to work in the most beautiful office in the world amongst the 3000 Reefs of The Great Barrier Reef”

About Daughters of Sol, Aftab Darvishi writes:

Daughters of Sol is inspired by a poem by Ahmad Shamloo who is a contemporary Iranian poet. This piece contains gentle transitions and detailed changes, which leads to dissolving of different shades and colors. It is a constant evolution between shadows and lights. It is a journey about conveying gentle circular movements, which I think it resembles cycles of life. We evolve and dissolve in gentle and harsh conversions. We change colors, yet we tend to go back to our roots despite of our differences.”

Fire Scene from Users (2020)
Film by Natalia Almada
Music: Colibrí by Dave Cerf

This scene is excerpted from Users, a new film by Natalia Almada that captures the ruthless locomotion of technology. Her camera flies with ferocious speed alongside jet streams, trains, trucks, and underwater cables that carry data at the speed of light. But just as her lens documents the power of frenetic human invention, so does it dive into technology’s greatest existential competitor: rising oceans, crackling fires, scorched mountain tops—a planet at war with so-called societal progress. In the center of this storm, Almada’s young son stares unquestioningly into his computer screen and is rocked to sleep by a seamlessly paced electronic crib. He’s soothed by forces outside of Almada’s—or, for that matter, any parent’s—influence. With transcendent camerawork that peers into the internal organs of a technologically dependent planet, Users both marvels at and fears for a world in which a child is not only at risk from a warming Earth but comes to trust a perfectly constructed artificial caretaker over his own biological mother.

Eiko Otake with David Harrington in A Body in Fukushima (2021) world premiere
Film by Eiko Otake
Music by David Harrington
Photographs by William Johnston
David Harrington filmed and recorded by Emily Quinn in Willits, California

About A Body in Fukushima, Eiko Otake writes:

“Created specifically for the 2021 Kronos Festival, A Body in Fukushima emerged from my larger project of the same name, which I have been editing with selected still photographs of myself, shot in irradiated Fukushima by photographer William Johnston over five visits (2014–2019). I first visited irradiated Fukushima five months after the triple disaster occurred in March 2011: the magnitude 9 earthquake, nearly 70-foot high tsunami, and three nuclear meltdowns. Approximately 165,000 people were forced to evacuate the area. I will never forget the deep upsets and remorse I felt in the evacuation area of Fukushima. Since then, I have returned to Fukushima five times with Bill. Each visit motivated me to keep asking myself: How can I change the sense of distance between myself and Fukushima and how can I use my body as a conduit between my audiences and Fukushima landscapes?

“The first exhibition of A Body in Fukushima was at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 2014–2015. Since then, the exhibition has travelled to cities in the US and abroad. Throughout these times, I kept editing various length of video versions of A Body in Fukushima for screenings in theaters, galleries, and museums around the world. The project also exists as a book: published in June 2021, A Body in Fukushima contains my and Bill’s essays with the photographs from all five visits to Fukushima, printed on recycled paper with biodegradable ink.

“It was at Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts in 2018 that Kronos’ David Harrington, a longtime friend, first saw the photos of me in Fukushima. He immediately offered to help, and began playing right there on the grass, and I recorded him. The subsequent recording happened in my home in New York, where he improvised while watching my video. After many conversations with me during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, he took a week to play alone in Redwood, California, thinking about Fukushima, and asked his granddaughter Emily to record him. His sound and trust so encouraged me. In this version of A Body in Fukushima, our goal was to share the core of the larger Fukushima project with the Kronos audience. For me, it is also a story of friendship and imagination, both of which alter the sense of distance between people and to a disaster far away.

“As a project as a whole, A Body in Fukushima has continued to grow in scope and expand in form its facets of presentation, thanks to ever-willing Bill and presenters across the globe. My sincere thanks go to everyone who has studied with me. Without you, I would not have returned to Fukushima so many times, exhibited the photos, or published the book. I am deeply grateful for the support I have received from Wesleyan University, its Dance Department, College of East Asian Studies, Center for the Arts (CFA), and Wesleyan University Press. Thank you to generations of assistants, all of whom studied with me at Wesleyan. And I am deeply indebted to Bill, David, Iris, and Allison Hsu, my current assistant. Lastly, I invite you all to visit my Fukushima project page and learn from this horrific environmental disaster.”

Eiko Otake’s A Body In Fukushima with David Harrington is an extension of Otake’s larger work of the same name, which was commissioned by Wesleyan University’s Center for the Arts. 

Grackle (2021)
Music box automata
Created by Yuliya Lanina
Music by Yevgeniy Sharlat

Grackle is a part of the series Music Figures, which combines elements of music box automata, painting and collage.

Music boxes are often associated with childhood dreams and innocence. Music Figures incorporate these elements and also represents fantasy, brokenness and nostalgia.

Tegere Tulon: III. Kalime (2018) world premiere
Music by Hawa Kassé Mady Diabaté (arr. Jacob Garchik)
Film by Moustapha Diallo and Lucy Durán
with Hawa Kassé Mady Diabaté and Rokia Kouyaté, vocals

Hawa Kassé Mady Diabaté’s Tegere Tulon takes her back to her roots and forwards into the realm of composition. Commissioned to compose a piece for Kronos’ 50 for the Future project, Hawa decided to revisit the handclapping songs of her childhood, which were such formative experiences for her, and which are gradually dying out except in remote villages.

Performed exclusively by girls outdoors in a circle, usually on moonlit nights, the handclapping songs are normally very short, consisting of one or two phrases repeated in call and response, often involving counting, each one with its own dance. Children make them up spontaneously, using the rhythms of language to generate musical rhythm, with playful movements, some individual, some coordinated by the whole circle. Building on her own memories of the handclapping songs she used to do as a young girl in Kela, Hawa has created four new pieces in handclapping style, which she hopes will encourage Malians not to abandon this rich cultural heritage. The lyrics are humorous and poignant—they talk about the importance of family, the teasing relationship between kalime “cross-cousins” (a man’s children and his sister’s children are cross-cousins), a girl who loves dancing so much she falls into a well and then climbs out, and how long it takes to get to Funtukuru, her husband’s village, where she went to film handclapping.

“Kalimè,” the third of Hawa’s Tegere Tulon songs, is named after a word in Maninka (Hawa’s mother tongue) that refers to a very specific type of first cousin, which in anthropological terms is known as “cross-cousin.” When a brother and sister each have children, those children are first cousins. But they are considered different from cousins who are related through two sisters or two brothers. In southern Mali, the kalimè relationship is accorded a special status which is demonstrated in particular ways that are played out humorously in the handclapping songs. This is the basis for Hawa’s third piece for the Kronos Quartet.

When a male kalimè cousin gets married, his female kalimè cousins are supposed to show in a light-hearted way just how well he has treated them and how much they hold him in esteem. At the celebratory party for the wedding, there is a specific kalimè dance they will perform. This consists of tying a scarf around their waists leaving a floppy bow in back, which they then wag or fan like a bird’s tail in rhythm to the music. At one point, they also fall on the floor and dance facing down, much to the delight of everyone present—this is meant to show that their male cousin has been so generous and hospitable that they have seriously overeaten, and have toppled over because their stomachs are so full.

These dances are performed with great amusement and gusto, and of course, the male kalimè cousin is then supposed to reward them with more food and other gifts. Thus, the special type of cross-cousin relationship is reinforced and played out for everyone to see. Hawa has composed this handclapping song to honour this wonderful tradition. She uses the evocative minor pentatonic scale of central Mali to do so.

Program note by Professor Lucy Durán

Third in the World (2021) world premiere
Written and performed by Tongo Eisen-Martin, poet
Music: Drones by David Harrington
Film by Nurie K. Mohamed

Produced by Nikolás McConnie-Saad and Reshena Liao
Audio mix by David Harrington and Nikolás McConnie-Saad

Filmed at the St. John Coltrane Church in San Francisco, California, May 2021. Special thanks to Archbishop Franzo King, Reverend Marina King, Pastor Wanika Stephens, and Ira Moseley. Original iconography by Rev. Deacon Mark Dukes, and portrait of St. John Coltrane by Emory Douglas.

Third in the World – Text:

Societies wander together like hopeful drops of a virus

Citizen-testaments bent on offing me

A nation of bread winners to hold me back
like it’s a Brink’s, I wrinkle the concrete sometimes
like flesh, my Martin Luther King permanence

turning away from a podium into the reeds

Like God is the dangerous twin

Black August to the mountain top
balcony on my bedroom floor

They steal you from the earth itself and suspend you and your broken neck
from their fullest euphoria

from the loyalty oath of their gray superstitions

loyalty oath of their agrarian reform

I return to my mother
completely disrespected

For peeling the heat off of purgatory, they kill poets like me

Walk me away from my poems; never to be heard from again

in this final industrial complex or bloodlines picked over/picked through
A sport in spiritual death or your devil at least half made

Police become a pretty word

I’m reading a lynch mob’s shoe strings like they were tea leaves
Teaching you how to write about cities

It’s the 25th century in the mirror, people
Tyranny against your chump change
You’re a chump to be mocked even with a gun in your car

A cubit of needle work spelled tomb for the proletariat
The relapse ministry

Talented people curled up in the fetal position next to a diamond dying

Just another service day in the theatrics of tea house fascism
In a bouquet of surveillance cameras

In the poverty of God

New blue eyes
Corpses of water
Newly potted presidency or one big shiny coin
if you ask an animated capitalism and other non-literal voids

Killing is white freedom
The deification of hyphens
Medicine bread and picture shows

Gray protestors in LA
Guests of our ink
drop kicking roses in a graveyard
D.C. mink

Like a stone torn in half
the pen advances despite cia guideposts
despite non-Afrikan pasts and futures

a metaphorical but not surreal day in a horn-ridden life
horn player improvising King

Like a radio prize fight featuring Shango himself
A real hand sweeps the land of racism

May I return to the ground
May I make progress with the gun
My Mother Emanuel

They put on music that evening
A swinging type body language
For you to drink with fermented five-dollar bills

For your body language, some applause
My past stomach lining

Neither a good thing nor a bad thing
Like being psychic on the way to a lethal injection

It will sit you down with Lady Day
Lady Day leading youth who surrendered their souls to Afrika too soon

Polity thought floating in the cup of water she saved me
Accessing my stomach
Accessing the love of the american lynched

Coat sleeves wooden and avalanching to the wrist
Our Mother Emanuel
avalanching to the sharp keys

Pain… the deal you make with pain

a piano makes sense for them
laying hands on the world gradually.
addressing the bend of necks on the streets of the North.
travelers sailing in pain/ repeating pain in the North.

ten trigger fingers on that piano
if Harmony would have me

Putting a hundred fights on every direction offered her

Lady Day leaning on trees again
recruiting the country side itself

Lay your plan out on this lightning
Make your poems the corner pocket of men

I’ve greeted the Blues itself

america may clean my dead body, but will never include me

there goes the poet – killing without killing – don’t mind this… this painting of your language

may I be a meaningful lynching

a crow’s passing

good and dead by the afternoon

Strange Fruit (inspired by Billie Holiday) (1939, arranged 2016)
By Abel Meeropol (arr. Jacob Garchik)

Best known from Billie Holiday’s haunting 1939 rendition, the song Strange Fruit is a harrowing portrayal of the lynching of a black man in the American South. While many people assume that the song was written by Holiday herself, it actually began as a poem by Abel Meeropol, a Jewish schoolteacher and union activist from the Bronx who later set it to music. Disturbed by a photograph of a lynching, the teacher wrote the stark verse and brooding melody under the pseudonym Lewis Allan in the late 1930s. Meeropol and his wife Anne are also notable because they adopted Robert and Michael Rosenberg, the orphaned children of the executed communists Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.

Strange Fruit was first performed at a New York teachers’ union meeting and was brought to the attention of the manager of Cafe Society, a popular Greenwich Village nightclub, who introduced Billie Holiday to the writer. Holiday’s record label refused to record the song but Holiday persisted and recorded it on a specialty label instead. The song was quickly adopted as the anthem for the anti-lynching movement. The haunting lyrics and melody made it impossible for white Americans and politicians to continue to ignore the Southern campaign of racist terror. (According to the Center for Constitutional Rights, between 1882 and 1968, mobs lynched 4,743 persons in the United States, over 70 percent of them African Americans.)

The lyrics read, in part: “Southern trees bear a strange fruit, / Blood on the leaves and blood at the root, / Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze, / Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.”

Adapted from notes by Independent Lens for the film Strange Fruit.

Jacob Garchik’s arrangement of Strange Fruit by Abel Meeropol was commissioned for the Kronos Quartet by the David Harrington Research and Development Fund.

Civil Rights and the American Folklife Center (2021)
By Todd Harvey and the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress

Excerpt from Peace Be Till (2017)
featuring the recorded voice of Dr. Clarence B. Jones
Music by Zachary James Watkins
Film by Evan Neff

About Peace Be Till, Zachary James Watkins writes:

“My compositions are interested in questions most of which I have yet to define. One clear concern is high vibration resonance. This can be understood any way you wish, as each of the three words have complex meanings. For me this phrase represents an interest in imagining radical energy exchange / transformation. Composing relationships that have potential to excite, resonate, grow, energize.

“Over time my output for new through-composed works has focused on site specificity, individuals, economy of resources. I often attempt single-page scores and I always try to write for specific individuals and rooms if at all possible. Strategies designed to investigate high vibration resonance.

Peace Be Till written for the Kronos Quartet is my first truly substantial commission. When David Harrington contacted me in early 2017, I was absolutely beside myself. We met soon after and he proposed a vision that involved an important historical time and place: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a Dream Speech” during the March on Washington on August 28, 1963. David shared an inspiring moment during this speech when Mahalia Jackson, artist and close friend of Dr. King, shouts: “Tell them about the Dream! Tell them about the Dream!” This instinctual cry to action is understood to have inspired Dr. King to stray from his prepared speech and launch into an improvised version of “I Have a Dream” that comrade Clarence Jones played a role in drafting.

Peace Be Till is about the legacy of America’s Civil Rights Movement, the important role artists play in critical Social Justice movements and the necessary dreams today. As an American born in 1980 of mixed raced African and European American heritage, I feel that I am a direct result of this struggle. A family that believed that we are one and that America is capable of embracing diversity. From day one I have always experienced racialized America and yet feel a privilege being male and heterosexual. Times are still tough. This piece pays homage to the artist’s instinct to inspire and activate, as well as our ability to wrestle with the sensitive nature of things. In my case I deal with the physics and potential power of sound.

“In the Spring of 2017, David Harrington and I met with Dr. King’s personal lawyer and speechwriter Dr. Clarence B. Jones at the Women’s Audio Mission in San Francisco. We placed microphones in a room and recorded a conversation that focused on Dr. Jones’s own upbringing, his love of music, how he met Dr. King (a life-changing event which he calls “the making of a disciple”), the powerful “I have a Dream” speech, as well as sharing ideas about current realities. These recorded stories became my blueprint for this composition. The role of Mahalia in our human story is equally substantial and I invited a close friend and collaborator Amber McZeal to contribute by resonating her energy and voice sympathetically throughout the accompanying sound collage. This work explores simultaneous threads that weave in and out of each other with an intention to nurture and breathe.

“I want to deeply thank the Kronos Quartet for believing in me; Dr. Clarence B. Jones for his power and service to each of us; Amber McZeal for her love, depth and inspiration during this intense process; Mahalia Jackson for her unbelievable artistry and strength; and lastly Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., for living, breathing, sacrificing for love and social justice.”

Zachary James Watkins’s Peace Be Till was commissioned for the Kronos Quartet by Carnegie Hall, with additional support from the David Harrington Research and Development Fund.

One Earth, One People, One Love from Sun Rings (2002)
By Terry Riley

In the 2002 work Sun Rings, technology meets the expansive imagination of Terry Riley, bringing the music of the spheres to life. The evening-length composition includes sounds harvested from our solar system—the crackling of solar winds, the whistling of deep-space lightning, and other cosmic events. The project began with Dr. Don Gurnett, a plasma physicist at the University of Iowa who had spent the last 40 years recording extraterrestrial sounds called “whistlers,” created by, amongst other things, lightning discharges in the plasma of space. Bertram Ulrich, curator of the NASA Art Program, had been long intrigued by Gurnett’s “whistlers” and a great fan of the Kronos Quartet, and so offered Kronos a commission to turn these random tones from outer space into music. Kronos’ David Harrington then turned to longtime Kronos collaborator Terry Riley to serve as the project’s composer.

The Sun Rings project was nearly de-railed by the tragic events of September 11, 2001, after which all parties concerned questioned Sun Rings’ relevance in the wake of the terrorist attacks and the impending war in Afghanistan. But then, Riley discovered a breakthrough in a new and vital link. As the L.A. Times put it: “Riley heard poet and novelist Alice Walker on the radio talking about how she had made up a September 11 mantra—‘One Earth, One People, One Love.’ It suddenly occurred to him that contemplating outer space could be a way to put the problems on Earth into perspective.”

Alice Walker’s mantra not only gave Riley the inspiration to continue—it also provided a title and focal point for Sun Rings’ concluding movement, the excerpt performed by Kronos in the present program. Furthermore, the sound of Walker’s voice intoning the words “One Earth, One People, One Love” became an integral component of the movement itself.

As Riley describes his fully realized, post–September 11 conception of Sun Rings: “This work is largely about humans as they reach out from Earth to gain an awareness of their solar system neighborhood….Space is surely the realm of dreams and imagination and a fertile feeding ground for poets and musicians. Do the stars welcome us into their realms? I think so or we would not have made it this far. Do they wish us to come in Peace? I am sure of it.”

Program note by Matthew Campbell

Sun Rings was commissioned for the Kronos Quartet by the NASA Art Program, the National Endowment for the Arts, The Rockefeller Foundation’s Multi-Arts Production Fund, Hancher Auditorium/University of Iowa, Society for the Performing Arts, Eclectic Orange Festival/Philharmonic Society of Orange County, SFJAZZ, Barbican, London, U.K., and University of Texas Performing Arts Center, Austin (with the support of the Topfer Endowment for Performing Arts). Additional contributions from Stephen K. Cassidy, Margaret Lyon, Greg G. Minshall, and David A. and Evelyne T. Lennette made this work possible.

Aleksandra Vrebalov’s My Desert, My Rose, Garth Knox’s Satellites, Aftab Darvishi’s Daughters of Sol, and Hawa Kassé Mady Diabaté’s Tegere Tulon were commissioned as part of the Kronos Performing Arts Association’s 50 for the Future: The Kronos Learning Repertoire, which is made possible by a group of adventurous partners, including Carnegie Hall and many others.

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Performed by Kronos Quartet

For KRONOS FESTIVAL David Harrington, Artistic Director Janet Cowperthwaite, Executive Producer

Produced by Janet Cowperthwaite, Sarah Donahue, Reshena Liao, and Nikolás McConnie-Saad Video edited by Nurie K. Mohamed

Dom the Sign Painter, Logo Design Mona Baroudi, Public Relations Steven Swartz, DOTDOTDOTMUSIC, Public Relations Adrienne Andisheh, Public Relations Kaitlyn Kojian, Synchronization Licensing

KRONOS FESTIVAL is made possible by generous support from the Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and San Francisco Grants for the Arts. Additional support is provided by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Bernard Osher Foundation.

KRONOS FESTIVAL Partners: American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, Korean Cultural Center, Los Angeles, Nonesuch Records, McEvoy Foundation for the Arts, Serious, and Sunset Youth Services

Special thanks to: Natalia Almada, Dave Cerf, Jonathan Greenberg, Todd Harvey and John Fenn, Chris Lorway, Bonnie Quinn, and Stanford Live

Kronos Performing Arts Association: Janet Cowperthwaite, Executive Director; Mason Dille, Development Manager; Dana Dizon, Business Manager; Sarah Donahue, Operations Manager; Reshena Liao, Creative Projects Manager; Nikolás McConnie-Saad, Artistic Administrator; Kären Nagy, Strategic Initiatives Director



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