We at KQED Arts often say that Kronos Quartet puts on more inventive programming than we can possibly cover — but this year's Kronos Festival deserves a special mention.
The long-running San Francisco quartet constantly commissions ambitious collaborations, spotlighting outstanding composers who typically don't get much shine in the white- and male-dominated classical music world. Fittingly, this year's Kronos Festival prioritizes genre-bending, unexpected sounds while delving into the social issues of our time.
Taking place Apr. 26–28 at SFJAZZ's Miner Auditorium, Kronos Festival kicks off with a collaboration with indie duo CocoRosie, two sisters who rose to cult status in the 2000s freak-folk scene with their hypnotic pop tunes, which utilize toys and found objects as musical instruments. After a joint performance with CocoRosie, Kronos Quartet performs John White's Drinking and Hooting Machine, a piece where players blow air over bottles of liquid, changing the pitch by taking sips of whatever the drink may be.
Also on Thursday night, Kronos Quartet performs Charleston by late saxophonist Ralph Carney, which he wrote in homage to victims of the Charleston church massacre. Kronos will also play the piece that Carney says he was thinking of when he wrote Charleston: John Coltrane's "Alabama," about a Birmingham church bombing at the hands of the KKK.
The festival continues on Friday, Apr. 27, when Kronos performs works by a variety of composers, including Philip Glass, "post-Mexican" experimentalist Guillermo Galindo, and folk-country singer Jolie Holland; the latter two are premiering new works at the festival. Kronos closes the night with a joint performances with Malian group Trio Da Kali.
Saturday, Apr. 28, is the Kronos Festival's most ambitious day of programming, starting a family concert at 11am. Amaranth Quartet then performs works from Kronos' Fifty for Future project, which commissions works from diverse, international composers.
Experimental composer and multi-instrumentalist David Coulter (who has worked with a wide variety of A-listers, including Tom Waits and Gorillaz) performs an improvisational set. And finally, Kronos closes out the festival on Saturday evening with a night of music by various composers, including spellbinding Vietnamese multi-instrumentalist Vân-Ánh Võ and Oakland's Zachary James Watkins, whose Kronos-commissioned work Peace Be Till zeroes in on a defining yet unexpected moment behind the scenes of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream" speech.
For more information and tickets for the Kronos Festival, click here.