2013 was the 40th anniversary of Kronos Quartet. I first heard of them about eight years after they started with their cool arrangement of “Purple Haze.” And then I learned that they were like a sponge, soaking up and playing music from all over the world: In just one year they released albums with tango, songs by South African composers, Polish composers, jazz musicians and so much more.
I have many of their releases, although I realized I more or less stopped listening to new stuff from them around the turn of the century (since when they have released some 16 albums!).
Well, amazingly, the Quartet is still the same original players (except for the cellist–the cello is like Kronos’ drummer as they seem to replace her every couple of years).
They play three pieces here and the three range the gamut from dark and broody to rather sweet to quirky. In other words, typical Kronos.
For more info:
The musicians — David Harrington (violin) and longtime members John Sherba (violin) and Hank Dutt (viola) and new (as of 2013) cellist Sunny Yang — could reminisce over more than 800 new works and arrangements they’ve commissioned in 40 years. But instead, the new-music train pushes ever onward to new territories. They remain a living, breathing world-heritage site for music.
Now in the midst of its 40th-anniversary tour, Kronos brings to this Tiny Desk Concert a new arrangement, a work from a new album and, for Kronos, something of a chestnut, a piece the group recorded a whopping five years ago.
“”Aheym” (Yiddish for “homeward”) was written for Kronos by Bryce Dessner; a member of the Brooklyn rock band The National, he studied composition at Yale. The music thrives on nervous energy, pulsating with strumming and spiccato (bouncing the bow on strings) while building to a tremendous fever.”
I love this piece. It is intense and dramatic with its 4-3-3 bowing from all four members. There’s an interesting cello melody with pizzicato strings from the rest. The overall melody seems somewhat circular with different instruments taking on different leads. But this song also plays with some interesting bowing techniques. In addition to the spiccato (about 4 minutes in), the players drag the bow for momentary scraping and scratching sounds.
Another wonderfully dramatic moment comes at 7 minutes where each musician takes a turn bowing his or her note while the violin plays a super fast series of notes. The song builds and build in dramatic until it gets to about nine and half minutes and it reaches its powerful ending.
“Lullaby,” opens with plucked cello notes and strummed viola. “It is a traditional song with Afro-Persian roots (from the group’s Eastern-flavored 2009 album Floodplain), [and] is woven from different cloth altogether. Colorful tones that lay between our Western pitches are threaded through the music, anchored by a gorgeous solo from violist Dutt; his contribution takes on the warm and weathered sound of a grandmother singing to a child.” It is slow and moody and beautiful.
Harrington introduces the final piece by saying it’s by a performer that no one had heard of–including, until recently, even himself.
“Kronos caps off the concert with another hairpin turn, this time to a fresh arrangement of “Last Kind Words,” a little-known blues song from around 1930, recorded by singer and guitarist Geeshie Wiley. In Jacob Garchik’s exuberant arrangement (which Kronos premiered this fall), interlocking strums and plucks provide a kind of rhythm section, while Harrington’s violin stands in for the now-forgotten blues singer.”
There’s lots of plucked notes from everyone–including plucked bent note on the viola which gives it a real “early” guitar sound. While I don’t know what Geeshie sounded like, so I can’t compare the violin to her vocal, the whole thing sounds great together. In fact the whole thing is unlike any string quartet I’ve heard–so different and wonderful.
I’m going to have to bust out so Kronos CDs.
[READ: September 10, 2016] There’s a Monster in My Socks
I’ve been quite puzzled about the publication history of the Liō books. And this just adds another layer of confusion. This book covers the exact same time period as Happiness is a Squishy Cephalopod which was published in 2007. The difference is that Cephalopod placed all of the strips in order, while this one seems to move things around quite a bit (the thinner format also means that it can’t quite handle the single panel strips very well. But more egregious is that this volume (remember, the one printed after the previous one) prints the Sunday color strips in black and white.
The book also leaves some of the strips out. It covers the date range from May 15, 2006 – Feb 16, 2007 (Cephaolopod went to May 23), but while it has the Feb 14 strip, it does not have the Feb 15 strip. Weird.
So, basically this is an inferior version of the same book, but the publishers presumably wanted the books in this more friendly size (or some other nefarious reason).
I’ll include the review of Cephalopod below.
And, here’s the current list of existing Liō books. It’s a shame that there are years and years of strips thus far uncollected.
(2007) Happiness Is a Squishy Cephalopod [covers May 15, 2006 – February 23, 2007]
(2008) Silent but Deadly: Another Liō Collection [covers February 25, 2007 – December 2, 2007.]
(2009) Liō’s Astonishing Tales: From the Haunted Crypt of Unknown Horrors [collection of first two years with commentary; not read yet]
(2010) There’s Corpses Everywhere: Yet Another Liō Collection [3rd year? (2008/2009) not read yet]
(2011) Reheated Liō: A Delicious Liō Collection Ready to Devour [4th year? (2009/2010) not read yet]
(2012) Zombies Need Love Too: And Still Another Lio Collection [5th year? (2010/2011) must confirm dates]
(2012) Liō: There’s a Monster in My Socks [covers May 15, 2006 – February 16, 2007]
(2003) Liō: Making Friends [covers April 5, 2010 – November 25, 2010]
Since Cephalopod covers the same turf, here’s what I said about hat book:
This is the first collection of Lio strips. And it covers the date range from May 15, 2006 – Feb 16, 2007 with one extra strip at the end.
There’s not a lot of words in the strip, which makes them easily transported to other languages. A simple panel strip of him playing The Game of Life against The Grim Reaper is very funny and really sets the tone of the strip.
Some naughty things that Lio does in the early strips: He learns ventriloquism to hilarious effect; he makes a robotic scary scarecrow; he makes a zip line across his room; he writes words in sunblock on sleeping people at the beach; he gives a hunter a trick shotgun (it says “BANG”); he drops a steak on a fishing line into the Society for Vegans room (to shrieks and screams).
In some meta jokes, Lio’s spider wraps up Babe the Pig; he tries to lure in ET for experimentation; he climbs through an MC Escher print. There’s also some very funny jokes that play with the conventions of comic strips. He hammers something with the sound effect “squish squish.” When he looks over, the sound effects guys has the sounds all mixed up.
In some of the more surreal jokes, death comes over to play cards with a mummy, a skeleton and Lio. He teaches woodland creatures self-defense; giant mice watch him in a game of Mousetrap; frogs laugh at hm when he tries to reach cookies with his tongue; and his pets have painted a mustache on him and a shirt that says “I’m with stupid” pointing to his face.
And he doesn’t always win. he gets pepper sprayed by a girl when he shows off his vampire teeth; he gets hit with a football from an inflatable guy on a lawn; he also slips on a banana peel thrown by the monkeys in the primate house.
He starts messing with other comic about 50 pages in to this book. Its hilarious. The first one has him selling a periscope that goes up through the other strips on the page (it breaks up the word search, crashes through the Boondocks’ parody Brothers Watching Television (with them saying “Yo, something busted our TV, ya heard?” In another one, he walks in on the sound stage for Mary Worth and is embarrassed by their dialogue. He tries to capture Garfield; he traps a kids from The Family Circus and frightens Mark Trail with mice. Lio also walks past a tree that spits out a kite and then Charlie Brown’s shirt
I loved the giant snakes in a garbage can joke and the terrible pun of the Cow Poke action figure which shows Lio holding his eye.
I assume the Boondocks stopped this year because in a Sunday strip he has the Boondocks moving and Lio bringing his stuff in. One of the Boondocks’ kids says, “There goes the hood.”
As the book draws to a close, we first meet the girl with whom he falls in love. She pops his balloon and then burns his heart (the one floating above his head).
I haven’t laughed so hard at a newspaper strip in a long time, and I look forward to reading the rest of the collections.