Kronos Quartet with Laurie Anderson at BAM

The Kronos Quartet–whose founding member, David Harrington, will soon be appearing in our Music in 21st Century Society lecture series–recently concluded a week-long run at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, performing Landfall, a new work inspired by the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, with composer Laurie Anderson. The multi-media work is a 100 minute song cycle (“stories with tempos”) for a singer with string quartet and electronics, which are comprised of both pre-recorded sounds and live processing of the players. Behind the musicians were projected images, synced at a climactic moment to the rhythm of the violinists.

In the work, Anderson recalls seeing her basement flooded, where a lifetime of mementos floated in the filthy water: “How beautiful. How magic. And how catastrophic.” Using this experience of loss during the hurricane as a springboard, Anderson journeys through our larger experience of loss as citizens of the planet–not merely human, individually felt loss, but biological, environmental loss, as in a passage where Anderson recites a list of species that have gone extinct. From the destruction of the nests we have built for ourselves to the destruction of the natural world, what is the price of our tenure on this planet?

The work seizes a striking opportunity to take a moment from local New York life and use music, the so-called universal language, to relate it to a global concern. Kronos’ David Harrington will be joining us at the Graduate Center on October 22 to discuss his part in this dialogue between modern life and modern art. Please join us then for our conversation not only about Kronos’ contributions to the string quartet, but the string quartet’s continuing role in contemporary classical.