Photo courtesy Kronos Quartet

A Conversation with David Harrington of Kronos Quartet

June 5, 2017
Mitch Glickman, Director, Music Programs

The renowned Kronos Quartet will be playing at LACMA on Thursday, June 8, 2017. Recently, LACMA’s director of music programs Mitch Glickman chatted with David Harrington, artistic director, founder, and violinist of Kronos Quartet, about its latest project, Fifty for the Future, which will be featured at LACMA’s concert. 

Part of your upcoming LACMA concert revolves around your latest project Fifty for the Future. This marks yet another ambitious commissioning project from Kronos. Now that you're about halfway through the five-year program, how has it been working for you? 

With Fifty for the Future: The Kronos Learning Repertoire, Kronos is assembling a mosaic of new pieces that explores the musical world we all share. We are trying to inspire composers to make their finest work as an offering to future generations of string quartet players. Through these pieces, we are hoping to tell some of the story of our own work, and make a body of music that is fun to play, beautiful to listen to, and that will open doors for other groups to begin or extend their own explorations. Currently, there are 16 scores (and parts) available on our website, all downloadable for free and augmented by Kronos recordings, instructional material, and background information. This means that anywhere you are in the world, any time of the day or night, if you are interested in playing this music or in any way exploring it, you can download it, print it out, and begin right away. Since November 2016, these pieces have been downloaded more than 2,400 times by musicians from 48 countries and territories.

Kronos has been mentoring many groups from high schools, conservatories, and music departments, as well as young professional groups at Carnegie Hall, in our Fifty for the Future pieces. We've been featuring many of these pieces in our concerts and, for our LACMA concert, we will feature five of Kronos’s Fifty for the Future pieces. We hope that the audience will be encouraged to plunge into Kronos’s Fifty for the Future as listeners, players, educators, and forward-thinkers. We hope that word will spread about the vitality of this music—its scope, its beauty, and its availability. Those Fifty for the Future pieces we will bring to LACMA are: Aleksandra Vrebalov’s “My Desert, My Rose,” Fodé Lassana Diabaté’s “Bara kala ta” movement from “Sunjata’s Time,” Aleksander Kościów’s “Hílathi,” Soo Yeon Lyuh’s “Yessori” (“Sound from the Past”), and Rhiannon Giddens’ “At the Purchaser’s Option with variations.” 

We have found that Kronos’s Fifty for the Future pieces work in concert seamlessly with other pieces from our repertoire to give our audiences a sense of the some of the immense number of possibilities available to us in 2017. We hope to celebrate humanity and creativity as a way forward in our troubled time.

I noticed there are a lot of California composers in the program. Is that typical for Kronos?

Based in San Francisco, Kronos has direct access to the wealth of musical viewpoints that exist there and throughout California. We are delighted to give audiences a chance to hear for themselves some of what has been created in this sanctuary city. We are constantly revitalized by musicians, teachers, activists, scientists, writers...all of those people asking the questions that define paths to our future and those who are finding more questions that can give us the energy to demand answers we can believe.

How does a musical group—in any genre—stay vital for over 40 years?

Music teaches listening, listening allows exploration, and, through our private aural microcosms, we each can greet the universe with what we have heard. Kronos is continually inspired by the music being written for us and we are energized by our collaborators as we learn new lessons about the expanding world of music. Time moves on, and we are continually amazed by the fact that music always seems new and refreshed.


Kronos Quartet plays at LACMA’s Bing Theater on Thursday, June 8, 2017, at 7:30 pm, as part of the Art & Music series. Tickets are $30 general admission, $25 for members and seniors (65+), and $10 for students with ID.

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