A rhapsodic modern day paean
spun from the skin of history
for string quartet, chorus, and narrator
Music by Michael Abels
Text and Narration by Nikky Finney
Conducted by Valérie Sainte-Agathe
Co-Commissioned by Texas Performing Arts
NPR All Things Considered Previews The World Premiere
For over 45 years, San Francisco’s Kronos Quartet – David Harrington (violin), John Sherba (violin), Hank Dutt (viola), and Sunny Yang (cello) – has pursued a singular artistic vision, combining a spirit of fearless exploration with a commitment to continually reimagine the string quartet experience. In the process, Kronos has become one of the most celebrated and influential groups of its generation, performing thousands of concerts worldwide, releasing more than 60 recordings of extraordinary breadth and creativity, collaborating with many of the world’s most accomplished composers and performers, and commissioning more than 1,000 works and arrangements for string quartet.
At War With Ourselves is an evening-length piece for string quartet, chorus, and spoken word. The music is composed by Michael Abels, who is best known for his scores for the Oscar-winning film Get Out and for Jordan Peele’s Us, for which Abels won multiple critics’ awards and nominations. The hip-hop influenced score was short-listed for the Oscar, and named “Score of the Decade” by online publication The Wrap.
The text is written by National Book Award-winning poet Nikky Finney, inspired by her 2013 poem The Battle of and for the Black Face Boy. Finney’s evocative poetry, which directly inspired Abels’ music, was written in 2019, the 400th anniversary of the African presence in America. The intimate, emotionally charged text — in turns both bold and seductive, and always deeply personal — flits throughout history with allusions to slave ships, Harriet Tubman, black astronomer Benjamin Banneker, and Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos. In Finney’s words, the work is addressed to “both black and white, both enslaved and free, bystander and non-bystander. We were then and now, At War With Ourselves. All of us, one human battlefield.”
Inversion Ensemble, an Austin-based chorus specializing in new music, will perform alongside Kronos Quartet and narrator Nikky Finney. The chorus will be conducted by San Francisco-based choral director Valérie Sainte-Agathe, Artistic Director of the San Francisco Girls Chorus.
Thursday November 18, 12pm-1pm
The Foundry, Doty Fine Arts Building 3.200 (inside the Fine Arts Library)
David Harrington, founder and artistic director of Kronos Quartet, acts as DJ for this session, sharing picks from the vast personal music collection he's built over nearly five decades of world tours with Kronos.
Past listening sessions have included the sound of sled dogs in the Arctic, Kronos “covers" played on kotos, Wagner’s ring cycle condensed to one minute, insect electronica, and more. Don’t miss this insider look into the sounds that inspire one of the world’s most adventurous musical ensembles.
Presented in collaboration with the Foundry and the University of Texas Libraries.
Thu, Nov 19 and Fri, Nov 20, 6:45 pm
For Ticket-holders Only
with Nikky Finney and Michael Abels
The Kronos Quartet has broken the boundaries of what string quartets do.
– The New York Times
Kronos Quartet’s residency at UT Austin is supported by funds from the O’Donnell Visiting Artist Endowment, generously provided by the College of Fine Arts.
Media Sponsor: KMFA-FM
Kronos Quartet: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert from NPR Music on YouTube.