Tuesday, August 6, 2013

an evening with the Kronos

The Cabrillo Festival concert I was sent down to Santa Cruz for on Sunday was a recital by the Kronos Quartet. No, not a recital: an event. A happening.

I used to attend Kronos concerts regularly when minimalism was still the latest thing, because I liked the music. But Kronos' ethos of playing only the most contemporaneous of music requires them to throw all the babies out with the bathwater every few years, and whatever came after that I didn't like so much, so I stopped going. This must be the first time I've heard them since before Joan Jeanrenaud left.

Kronos used to play concert recitals. You know, with acoustic sound, ordinary lighting, intermissions, and all. Not any more. Not only did many of the works have added electronics, but even the live sound was amplified, which in my line of music is très tacky. The lighting was all oo-ee-oo subdued and focused entirely on the performers, which meant there wasn't even enough ambient light to read the program book. As a result, if you hadn't already memorized the program, you had no idea where in it you were or what would happen next.

That only increased the "submerged in a butt of malmsey wine" feeling of being stuck there, in the dark, for two full hours without an intermission, exposed to ceaseless new and unfamiliar music. No break to mentally process and absorb what you'd heard. And another thing which, with a higher word count limit, I'd have alluded to in the review by quoting Allan Sherman: "If you sit there, my friend / from beginning to end / Then your bladder better be strong."

I had my notebook. I took notes by scribbling blindly on the pages and turning them whenever I was afraid I was about to write over myself. Then I transcribed it all, what I could read of it, into the computer when I got home, and out of that wrote the review.

(One more item: the encore. Harrington introduced this by saying, "You know, Kronos is originally from Seattle, and Seattle was the home of one of America's greatest composers ..." and I'm hoping he'll say Alan Hovhaness. Or even Kurt Cobain would be tolerable at this point. But no, it's Jimi Hendrix. Blech. And don't ask me which song they played, because I do not know any of them, nor could I retain its shambling chaos (to use the appropriate Lovecraftian imagery) in mind long enough to check up on it afterwards.)

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