JACK Quartet explores musical dimensions

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Entertainment,Music,Emily Cary

The JACK Quartet brings a passion for new music to the Barns of Wolf Trap, where it and clarinetist Derek Bermel will perform the world premiere of Bermel's "A Short History of the Universe," a Wolf Trap commission. Also on the program are the Brahms Clarinet Quintet in B minor and Ligeti's String Quartet No. 2.

As artist in residence at Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study, Bermel became intrigued by famous theoretical physicist Nima Arkani-Hamed's cosmological narrative, "A Short History of the Universe," so he set about expressing the depictions and diagrams of gravity in musical terms.

"My work presents musical depictions of our constant companion -- gravity -- expressed both horizontally and vertically," Bermel said. "Glissandi on the clarinet and in the strings spring away from and bounce back to the original notes. By exploring various ways of stretching and compacting, or 'curving' musical space-time, I hope to evince a sort of general relativity for the ears. The movements are entitled: 1. multiverse, 2. heart of space, 3. twistor scattering."

Like the award-winning Bermel, the JACK Quartet thrives on creativity and seeks opportunities to educate, electrify and astound audiences worldwide with giant leaps into the music of the future. Violist John Pickford Richards, violinists Ari Streisfeld and Christopher Otto, and cellist Kevin McFarland first met while studying composition and their respective instruments at the University of Rochester's Eastman School of Music.

Onstage
The JACK Quartet
» Where: The Barns at Wolf Trap, 1635 Trap Road, Vienna
» When: 8 p.m. Friday
» Info: $35; 877-WOLFTRAP (965-3872); wolftrap.org

Streisfeld explained that their name began as a joke. "One of the pieces we played together at Eastman by the German composer Helmut Lachenmann was 'Grido,' his third string quartet," he said. " 'Grido' is an acronym of the Italian word that means scream. JACK is an acronym of our first names, so we began using that, and it stuck.

"Over the years, we've worked with Lachenmann many times and have recorded his complete string quartets on DVD and CD. They call for extended playing techniques with interesting textures and new sounds. All of us have eclectic tastes, and when we're looking for a work to add to our repertoire, we all have to be on board. Sometimes a discovery happens as we're traveling in a car and listening to a stack of CDs. If everyone becomes quiet, that signals a find.

"For this program, we also chose Ligeti's String Quartet, written in 1962, because it is revolutionary and every composer of string quartets since then has been inspired by him. We hope the Wolf Trap audience enjoys the concert and is excited by Derek's work. It has a wonderful jazz element and rhythm that are similar to the Ligeti quartet."

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