The string quartet—usually two violins, a viola, and a cello—originated more than 250 years ago with works by Joseph Haydn. But you’ll hear neither Haydn nor any of his long-dead brethren at 7 p.m. Sunday, when the San Francisco-based Kronos Quartet plays at Oregon State University’s (OSU) LaSells Stewart Center.
The Kronos Quartet, founded in 1973, stands out among string quartets for its commitment to living composers, as Dana Reason explained. Reason is an OSU instructor whose focuses include contemporary composition.
“They’re taking the string quartet, which is the pinnacle of classical music, and they are repositioning it as a vehicle for expressing what it means to live now,” Reason said.
The group regularly commissions new work, and last year they commissioned 50 new pieces—by 25 men and 25 women—for the initiative “Fifty for the Future,” which includes educational outreach and free online distribution of the new compositions’ scores.
In Corvallis, the quartet is scheduled to perform two “Fifty for the Future” pieces and work by nine other living composers, including some perhaps surprising names. The group will play arrangements of The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” and a piece by the Icelandic rock band Sigur Rós.
According to Reason, Kronos’s engagement across musical boundaries matches how people live.
“The film composer now moves into a string quartet or the pop musician now writes string quartets,” she said. “It’s blurry, and that’s, for me, very exciting.”
The Kronos Quartet will play at the Austin Auditorium at OSU’s LaSells Stewart Center at 7 p.m. Sunday, October 2. Tickets range from $30-50 or $10 for students. Students may purchase one balcony ticket each.
By Maggie Anderson