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One Earth, One People, One Love Kronos String Quartet performs at Mac accompanied by NASA recordings

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Photo C/O Kronos Quartet

Space, the final frontier — these are the words uttered by television’s space captain Jean-Luc Picard aboard the starship Enterprise-D. Star Trek nurtured the world’s passion for space exploration, inspiring awe and wonder about the dark abyss that surrounds us. We exist in this unknown under the twinkling lights of the stars, in the midst of the slow harmonious orbit of planets dancing to the music of outer space.

Back on Earth, Kronos String Quartet is playing along to this music. For David Harrington, founder and violinist of the group, music is as mysterious as space. 

“To me music is a very personal, it’s almost human substance that we create for each other. We get to share it with each other. As a musician, all it means is that from a very early age, that’s what you wanted to have around you all the time, but it’s a mystery. How it works? I cannot tell you. I do not know. I’m in awe of music,” said Harrington.

Growing up in Seattle, Washington, Harrington started forming string quartets — a group of four musicians comprising of violin, viola, cello and bass — when he was 12 years old. When he turned 14, something did not make sense to him. He looked at the globe that sat in his family home and realized that all of the music he played and listened to were by the same people out of Vienna: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert.

“The globe has more cities and religions. I needed to explore the world of music. That started me on a voyage that I continue to this very day of wanting to know more of music, more about cultures, languages, religions, traditions and forms of music,” said Harrington.

“The globe has more cities and religions. I needed to explore the world of music. That started me on a voyage that I continue to this very day of wanting to know more of music, more about cultures, languages, religions, traditions and forms of music,” said Harrington.

Growing up towards the end of the 1960s, the U.S.-Vietnam war shook American values and left a long lasting impression on Harrington. He and his wife left the United States in 1972 in fear that he would be drafted for the war. Signing a one-year contract with the Victoria Symphony Orchestra, Harrington played in British Columbia until returning to his home one year later. 

“[The war] influences all of us a great deal . . . I feel like Kronos was created in 1973 in the shadow of that war . . . The idea that music can be an essential aspect of life and even a counterbalance to events and can actually become a way of responding and even countering directions that things are moving in. That’s right at the heart of why we started this group,” said Harrington. 

Kronos String Quartet is based out of San Francisco, California. Harrington has been at the helm of the group as a violin player ever since its inception in November of 1973. The group’s other members are John Sherba (violin), Hank Dutt (viola) and Sunny Yang (cello), who play together to form a dynamic mix of stringed voices.

The quartet will be performing “Sun Rings” composed by Terry Riley, a friend of the group. The idea for the piece came in 2000 when Harrington’s manager received a phone call from NASA. NASA asked if the group would be interested in using recordings from the Voyager space probes, which were launched to conduct close-up studies of Jupiter and Saturn. While space itself does not emit noise, plasma waves can be recorded via a receptor and transposed into sound waves, producing audible noise.

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After hearing the recording, Harrington quickly called Riley to ask him to compose a piece that complimented the music of space. However when disaster struck on Sept. 11, 2001, Riley stopped composing and reconsidered the entire piece. He rewrote “Sun Rings” as a musical response to 9/11, finishing the piece in 2002.

The composer knew that somehow he wanted to integrate the pain he was feeling into the music. In the performance’s final song entitled “One Earth, One People, One Love”, Riley used voice recordings of poet Alice Walker as she chants “One Earth, one people, one love”. Riley recorded Walker during a demonstration following the 9/11 terror attack the day before.

The composer knew that somehow he wanted to integrate the pain he was feeling into the music. In the performance’s final song entitled “One Earth, One People, One Love”, Riley used voice recordings of poet Alice Walker as she chants “One Earth, one people, one love”.

Riley also used audio recordings of Gene Cernan, the most recent astronaut to walk on the moon. Cenran’s voice can be heard at the opening of the piece as he says, “You have to literally just pinch yourself and ask yourself the question, silently, ‘Do you really know where you are at this point in time in space and in reality and in existence, when you look out the window, and you’re looking back at the most beautiful star in the heavens?’” This was Cernan’s testament to the beauty of Earth. 

“We hope that “Sun Rings” as an experience will radiate out into the community, through the audience, through the choir that joins us, through all of us,” said Harrington.

Kronos String Quartet brings a unique performance to McMaster, not only through the music involved, but also through the message that they convey. The piece was created to instill hope and bring the world together during a time where many felt isolated. Combining these ideas with the vast unknown that is outer space, the piece emphasizes the unity of humankind.

“I think that my allowing Sun Rings to enter your life, I think a person will find a larger sense of appreciation for what we have right here, right now,” said Harrington. “Music is very mysterious, we never know when we will connect with another listener . . . it just gives more of a sense of wonder and wonder is such a beautiful thing.”

Kronos String Quartet will be playing “Sun Rings” (T. Riley) accompanied by the McMaster University and Women’s Choirs on Nov. 9 at 8 p.m. and on Nov. 10 at 2 p.m. in L.R. Wilson Concert Hall as a part of The Socrates Project.

 

 

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Author: Andrew Mrozowski

Andrew is in his third year of Political Science. He enjoys stressing himself out for no good reason! When he’s not writing or editing, he can be found working at Starbucks or performing at a gig.