When I got an email from David Harrington of Kronos Quartet, my heart leapt out of my chest. No kidding. I was grabbing a coffee early morning after what at the time was my biggest show and musical achievement yet and I was so high on adrenaline I could not sleep. That show was at Ecstatic Music Festival in NYC 2012. The email said that he had listened to the live stream of the show and he was interested in meeting with me. My adrenaline plus coffee plus this news turned into nearly having a panic attack because my body and mind was simply not used to this much incredible news and energy! I had been a fan for many years and as with a lot of people, Kronos was one of a small hand full of music makers that exposed me to classical music in the first place.
It took a while to finally get to be in the same room with David as both or our schedules were/are insane. We finally found time in Adelaide at Adelaide Music Festival where we were both performing. We went out for coffee and I was totally blown away by his energy. He was super humble and had the most amazing stories about hanging with Piazzolla and Bernstein… Crazy!
Eventually we were able to find an opportunity for me to write a piece for them that is named A Semiperfect Number. They are celebrating their 40th (!) anniversary this year and to kick it off they did a week of shows at Lincoln Center Out Of Doors. Lincoln Center commissioned the work and we played it at the festival back in July 2013.
Writing for Kronos is intimidating to say the least. To have the opportunity to write for a group that could pull off ANYTHING that you put in front of them is a confusing (to me anyways) proposition. My music to be frank is generally on the easier side of things and I also write more in pop song form than most composers as I come from a more rock background than anything else. It is very tempting to write something overly notey for Kronos Quartet… I made 2 conscious decisions. One was to simply write from the heart, not the brain. Two was to try to give each player an equal presence because they all are such expressive players, but seriously, it was very tempting to write something really far out and crazy with 10 billion notes.
Now we get to the “love letter” part of this. Rehearsing this piece for the first time with the quartet was one of the most inspiring musical moments of my life. Kronos Quartet has been an ensemble for 40 years and they blew me away with their focus, love, attention to detail and desire to make the best music they could. It is a truly collaborative effort. After becoming a household name (of cool households anyways!), being so successful and traveling the world performing so prolifically, it could be easy for an artist/band/performer to fall into a “phoning it in” mentality. Kronos was the exact opposite! They broke down my piece bar by bar and would continue to experiment with ways to play each part until we would find something that we all felt great about, and then we would try to take it one step even further! Sometimes that extra step was a big breakthrough, and many times we would all say, no… lets go back to the other way. It was always worth giving it a try and each member had great input. Seeing them take the time and really go for it full on AFTER 40 YEARS, is just amazing. It has inspired me to keep pushing forward and to continue to push my own boundaries. To not stop when things sound good without at least trying to make it sound even better. I hope that I have as much energy and presence in my music making 25 years from now, and if I do, Kronos will absolutely be to thank.
Thank you to the entire beautiful Kronos family. You are all amazing.