A riveting collaboration of sound and text resonates through Clarice Center

|
Entertainment,Music,Marie Gullard

For more than 39 years, the Kronos Quartet has been commissioning bold new musical works for violins, viola and cello. For almost the same amount of time, Laurie Anderson, writer, director, visual artist and vocalist, has been creating daring multimedia presentations with innovative uses of technology that result in groundbreaking works in art, theater and experimental music.

When these two joined forces, a new work commissioned by the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at College Park was born. "Scenes From My New Novel," a riveting interplay between text and music, debuts at Clarice Smith's Kay Theatre this Friday and Saturday.

"I have hoped that Laurie Anderson would write for Kronos for the last 30 years," said violinist David Harrington, spokesperson for his San Francisco-based quartet. "One thing that is consistently said about her is that there is a magic she creates. She's one of those rare composers that allows us to hear her work in new ways. When I encounter it, I feel like my hearing is refreshed."

The performance, as Harrington explains it, is a quintet and then some. There are video and technical aspects to the libretto that Anderson has written and that she, along with the quartet (two violins, one viola and one cello) presents to the audience.

Onstage
'Scenes From My New Novel': Laurie Anderson and the Kronos Quartet
Where: University of Maryland, Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, Kay Theatre, University Boulevard and Stadium Drive, College Park
When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Info: $10 to $50; 301-405-ARTS (2787); claricesmithcenter.umd.edu

"Laurie is the singer and narrator, and she'll also be playing keyboard and violin," Harrington explained. "The video component is happening live on screen as we play, [and] our sound is continually changing through the use of computer software."

The result is a fascinating interplay between text and music, with a custom-built program, Wordjam, allowing the instruments to initiate language within the piece. The end result is a new way of hearing music -- not distorted, Harrington cautions, but more like a great magnification of sound that the audience will remember.

"Our job is to create memorable experiences," he said. "From the youngest age, we had a song, or an instrument, or a voice, or a rhythm that kept going over and over in our minds and wouldn't leave. I want to add to the listener's collection."

View article comments Leave a comment