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Meditating on music & meaning: Kronos Quartet brings 'A Thousand Thoughts' to Tucson stage

The Kronos Quartet returns to Tucson this Thursday with a multimedia meditation on music and meaning. "A Thousand Thoughts" is a 'live documentary,' merging Sam River's film of the same name about Kronos and their multifaceted projects with live performance by the ensemble.

"A Thousand Thoughts" features 20 selections from the group's nearly 40-year life. The composers range from minimalists Phillip Glass and Terry Riley to world musicians Wu Man and Fode Lassana Diabate and beyond, to the undefinable such as George Crumb, John Zorn or Laurie Anderson.

"To tell the story of our work and to actually get into the way it really works, is tough to do," said David Harrington, Kronos violinist and spokesperson, in a phone conversation. "Sam did a really fine job of giving listeners a sense of some of the concerns, background and history and telling a story. It's easy to remember all the main themes and I think you want something you can leave the concert hall, maybe not humming, but remembering."

The Kronos Quartet has had a storied career. Formed in 1973, the group pushed the boundaries of classical music. First attracting attention for string arrangements of Jimi Hendrix and Thelonious Monk, Kronos has created more that 40 albums of stunning range and diversity. They have used their collective power to commission more than 1,000 works of music. No person or group has had as much influence on the string quartet repertoire since Beethoven redefined the genre 200 years ago.

In addition to Harrington, the Quartet includes John Sherba, violin, Hank Dutt, viola and Sunny Yang, cello.

"When I'm exploring the world of music," Harrington notes, "There are many things that pull and magnetize me. But I'm also thinking about what might be something that someone else could get magnetized and pulled into."

"When you think about the way music works, there's the person who originally has an idea or a thought, a melody or a rhythm, or in the case of Mozart all at the same time. There is that person who is critical. And we've worked with hundreds of composers from many different backgrounds, cultures and religions," Harrington said.,

"And then there's other people who try to take that information. We're in that camp. In some cases, it's written down. In some cases, it's transmitted verbally or with body language," he said. "We're trying to take information from someone who we've come to love and respect, and we want to bring that information to our own lives and into reality for other people."

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"And then there's the audience," Harrington said. "For me, this kind of large, beautiful triangle is really what makes music work. I think it's the audience, made up likely of very different people with many different backgrounds. You never know what's happened in the life of a person listening to our music, you just have no idea what it could be. But what we get from the audience is this immense energy, the energy of listening and concentrating."

"I've always made the assumption that an audience is there to get something that they can take with them. And to me that's what gives music it's power, is the audience, actually. When we've had our best performances, it felt like the audience was pulling the music out of us. That doesn't happen in the same way with a recorded experience," the violinist said.

The film/concert format of "A Thousand Thoughts" is facilitated by a narrator. Kronos has been to Tucson before in film/concert format, notably in 2000 playing the Phillip Glass score for the 1941 movie, "Dracula" live, also at Centennial Hall.

"I just saw him (Glass) last week and we were reminiscing how many fun times we had doing 'Dracula'," Harrington said, adding, "We're looking forward to coming back to Tucson, it's one of our favorite destinations."

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Mary Cybulski, via Kronos Quartet

Kronos performing 'A Thousand Thoughts.'

Youtube Video

What, where & when

  • Kronos Quartet, A Thousand Thoughts
  • University of Arizona Centennial Hall, presented by Arizona Arts Live
  • 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 11
  • Tickets $45–70 (plus fees) available through Ticketmaster
  • Masks will be required throughout the performance