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San Francisco's Kronos to Play Local Music

February 19, 2013

Kronos: Hank Dutt, Jeffrey Zeigler, David Harrington, John Sherba Photo by Michael WilsonThe Kronos Quartet, which turns 40 in November, has been a San Francisco resident for 35 years, and it is concluding a multi-year joint project with Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on Thursday and Friday with a program of hometown composers.

There will be two world premieres: the Kronos-YBCA co-commission of Pamela Z's And the Movement of the Tongue, and Nathaniel Stookey's String Quartet No. 3, The Mezzanine. The program, "Listen Local," also features the West Coast premiere of Carrying the Past by Dan Becker, Chair of the Composition Department at the S.F. Conservatory of Music, and four (unspecified) works arranged by longtime Kronos collaborator Stephen Prutsman.

"I’m so excited about these concerts, because San Francisco is a huge part of Kronos’ identity," says Kronos founder and artistic director David Harrington:

If you look at all of the cultures and traditions around the world that we've explored in our music, you're really holding up a mirror to San Francisco's own incredibly diverse culture. And the audience will definitely experience this amazing breadth in the music of these San Francisco composers. Here, "Listen Local" really means "Listen Global."

Pamela ZPamela Z’s piece is about speaking in accents — specifically those found in abundance around San Francisco. Stookey describes his string quartet as a work "about escalators, drinking straws, shoelaces, vending machines and cigarette butts." inspired by Nicholson Baker’s first book The Mezzanine, which was written in a stream-of-consciousness style about what goes through a man’s mind during his lunch break.

Becker's work is his "latest exploration of the relationship between my own musical sensibilities and the witty and sweetly guileless music that I rediscovered through my grandfather’s recordings." His grandfather, Eddie Sandson, played the trumpet in big bands during the early 1920s, and he made several 78 rpm records.

Prutsman’s long collaboration with Kronos has resulted in over 40 arrangements and compositions for the quartet, with a wide variety of pieces, including Bollywood, Ethiopian, and Lebanese influences. Among his contributions to Listen Local are reimagined traditional and pop songs from four countries.

From Indian composer Rahul Dev Burman comes a sultry “cabaret” number used in a Bollywood film; from Tanburi Cemil Bey, a master of the Turkish Tanbur (a long-necked fretted lute) comes Evic Taksim. There is also a traditional Lebanese devotional hymn, and the throaty, expressive cry of Ethiopian saxophonist Gétatchèw Mèkurya’s playing is captured in Prutsman’s arrangement.