50 for the Future: The Kronos Learning Repertoire

The NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Center joins Kronos Quartet/Kronos Performing Arts Association, lead partner Carnegie Hall, and an adventurous list of legacy partners on an ambitious multi-year initiative: a string quartet commissioning, performance, education and legacy project of unprecedented scope and potential impact.

What would happen if we could, through our years of working with hundreds of composers from many places, make a body of incredibly interesting, fun music that could serve the next generation as an entry point to a world of discovery?
— Founder and Artistic Director, Kronos Quartet

The NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Center joins lead partner Carnegie Hall% and an adventurous list of legacy partners on an ambitious multi-year commissioning initiative with Kronos Quartet/Kronos Performing Arts Association.

Fifty for the Future: The Kronos Learning Repertoire is a string quartet commissioning, performance, education and legacy project of unprecedented scope and potential impact. Beginning in the 2015/16 season, Kronos’ Fifty for the Future will commission a collection of 50 new works – ten per year for five years – devoted to the most recent approaches to the string quartet, designed expressly for the training of students and emerging professionals. The works will be commissioned from an eclectic group of composers – 25 men and 25 women – and the collection will represent the truly globe-spanning state of the art of the string quartet in the 21st century.

The NYUAD Arts Center is committed to arts education, artistic creation and research alongside the presenting of some of the world’s finest performers. This project with Kronos Quartet – with NYUAD Arts Center as the sole academic partner in the Middle East – marks one of the NYUAD Arts Center’s inaugural activities supporting the creation of vital new work, alongside its co-commissioning of puppet theater troupe Phantom Limb Company’s Memory Rings.

Visit the Kronos Quartet website to learn more about the project.

Here’s what Kronos Quartet Founder and Artistic Director David Harrington has to say about 50 for the Future:

I was lucky. The very first string quartet piece I ever heard was Beethoven’s Op. 127, his twelfth string quartet. Even now, I can hear those opening E flat major chords inside of me. The resonance is amazing. The thick, rich, human sound, where each tone seems to amplify the others, where each instrument’s color seems perfectly balanced with all the others—this was my introduction to a magical, interior world of expression. And I kept playing those opening chords over and over again on the LP. The Budapest Quartet in 1961 made the kind of sound I wanted to make, I had to make. I went to the Seattle Public Library and checked out the score and parts to Op. 127. I called some friends from the Seattle Youth Symphony and very soon, with three others, I was in a small practice room at the University of Washington giving the opening cue. For an instant we made that sound! I had a tingle up my back that I can remember even now and that has propelled me all of these years. In 2014, I still want to make that sound.

That’s how it works, in my opinion. You hear something that changes the way you think, then you try to make that sound for yourself and you have begun to add to your collection of essential homemade musical experiences. With some practice you get a little closer to replicating that original point of entry. You discover a process, a social fabric that leads to the sound you have now internalized, and there is no turning back. Because nothing else feels as right.

So in my case, my point of entry into the world of the string quartet was in the experienced, exceptional hands of one of the greatest artists in musical history. It was not watered down to make me like it. This was the real thing. Beethoven forged something beautiful from the life he had to deal with. People know when they are being told the truth. Kids know when adults are giving them the very best information. As a twelve year old I recognized something enormously wonderful in those opening chords. And when I was able to be involved in making it myself I was hooked.

The inspiration for wanting the greatest, most creative and imaginative composers to make string quartet pieces for young people that they can use as points of entry to their future is precisely my own experience, having the guidance for all of these years of those unforgettable E flat major chords. What would happen if the best possible composers were able to marshal their years of experience, their very best thoughts and consciously create a body of musical information that would provide young players with the emotional and technical tools to improve their skills? What would happen if we could, through our years of working with hundreds of composers from many places, make a body of incredibly interesting, fun music that could serve the next generation as an entry point to a world of discovery

And so I have begun to have a personal discussion with composers about this need that I see for there to be a thought out primer, created by our very best collaborators. This primer is in part inspired by Béla Bartók’s Mikrokosmos, which he wrote for his son as an entry point to piano studies. Each piece explores necessary issues needed for the future. Each piece is a real piece, a real investment in making a future in music possible. At this point I have access to the worldwide community of exceptionally creative people capable of making a multiafaceted primer for the youngest enthusiasts among us. I have spoken with several composers so far. In each case Kronos has worked for years with these composers. In each case the composers are enthusiastic about this idea, about contributing to something that will lead young players toward the music of the future. What the composers I’ve spoken to all have in common is that they have all agreed to make one spoke in this wheel. With careful work, I am confident we will end up with magical entry points for players to enter the world of string quartet ensemble music for the 21st century.

— David Harrington, Founder and Artistic Director, Kronos Quartet