This week the Kronos Quartet — David Harrington (violin), John Sherba (violin), Hank Dutt (viola) and Sunny Yang (cello) — revisited their career through a collection of songs designed to evoke happiness and remind us to grasp each moment.
The two A Thousand Thoughts concerts at Melbourne Recital Centre as part of the Melbourne International Arts Festival were directed and written by Sam Green and Joe Bini. A far cry from your typical performance, this recital is a product of Green’s recent interest in making ‘live documentaries’.
Green’s narration of the Kronos Quartet’s success and ethos is supported on screen through a series of footage, images, and testimonies from the quartet and their colleagues.
Amongst stories of how the quartet came to be, we hear traditional pieces from Philip Glass and Terry Riley as we’re eased into a false sense of this simply being another strings performance. Then the quartet show us what they are really capable of.
We hear selections from George Crumb’s Black Angels where the musicians transform the calming tone of their instruments into wails and screeching. It’s refreshing to see an orchestral performance explore so far beyond classic techniques. Take the use of wine glasses, for example – a highlight along with the demonstrations of both vibrato and bow expression.
The most fascinating and well-executed idea is the mix of live performance supporting a recorded video of composers Tanya Tagaq, Fodé Lassana Diabaté and Wu Man. These songs display Kronos Quartet’s admiration for their peers while also showcasing their own immaculate skill.
The message of the story Green, Bini and the Kronos Quartet present is to live your life in the moment, experience all you can. Not only do they show this through the inclusion of the many people who have helped them across their career, but in the format of the show itself. Unlike a regular documentary, this performance has the ephemeral experience of a live crowd and we are reminded to “be in the moment”.
A well deserved standing ovation for this performance. The only complaint is that they don’t currently have any more gigs booked in Australia. Let’s hope they return soon.
Melbourne International Arts Festival runs until Sunday October 20.