It did not occur to me when I referenced the "venerable Kronos Quartet" in an earlier blog here, that I would run into David Harrington, the founder and musical director of the Quartet, a few weeks later. When I mentioned the article he sighed whimsically. "Has it finally gotten to that? Have we actually become venerable?" "I'm afraid so," I joked back.
Harrington was in town for a series of concerts at Zankel Hall, playing with a host of world music artists, and I snagged him for an interview. In the process he gave insight into his early years as a musician, and the early days of the Quartet. They have become such an institution that we tend to forget just how groundbreaking they are, how difficult it was to gain recognition and acceptance at first, and just how BADLY NEEDED an ensemble like this was and still is. Harrington's fascination with music from other cultures has contributed to a heightened awareness of world music in classical circles as well as an appreciation of classical music in the broader listening public. I wanted to draw him out about the world music aspects of the Quartet's work, but found that it is all inextricably part of Harrington's fascination with SOUND.
Harrington may play the violin, but to me, he actually "plays the quartet." He's in love with the way that specific combination of instruments and teamwork creates the timbres he so enjoys experimenting with. This is apparent in his musings on those pieces of music in his life that had a profound effect upon him, from the acoustic sonorities of Beethoven's late quartet in E-flat major to the electrified keening in Crumb's "Black Angels."
He's musical in his speech too. In particular, check out the subtle tonal spin he gives the word "k" in the last part of the interview.