The Cusp of Magic

The Cusp of Magic

Terry Riley, Kronos Quartet and Wu Man


“It is in six movements, lasts 45 minutes and explores with remarkable ease the seemingly distant sound and aesthetic worlds of the Western string quartet and the plucked Chinese pipa. Riley says in his notes that he wanted in this quintet to give Western themes an Eastern accent and vice versa. But the crossing over goes deeper than that, with traditions nested within traditions. Several movements are structured according to Indian rhythmic cycles… The great beauty of this rich score, though, comes from the fact that it needs no translation.”

Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times

About the album

Commissioned for the Kronos Quartet on the occasion of its longtime friend and collaborator Terry Riley’s 70th birthday, The Cusp of Magic is a six-movement piece composed by Riley that features Kronos and Wu Man, who joins on pipa (a Chinese plucked string instrument, similar to a lute) and vocals, with all musicians also playing a variety of percussion instruments, toys, and noisemakers.


Kronos Quartet
David Harrington, violin
John Sherba, violin
Hank Dutt, viola
Jeffrey Zeigler, cello

Wu Man, pipa

Elisabeth Commanday, vocals

Produced by Judith Sherman
Executive Producer: Robert Hurwitz

Kronos dedicates this recording of The Cusp of Magic to the memory of Hamza El Din, who was introduced to them by Terry Riley. Hamza’s gentle, pioneering work connected music and musicians in countless ways.

The Cusp of Magic

  1. The Cusp of Magic
  2. Buddha’s Bedroom
  3. The Nursery
  4. Royal Wedding
  5. Emily and Alice
  6. Prayer Circle

Released by Nonesuch Records



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