Very few string quartets would tolerate rampant laughter during their performances, let alone one as acclaimed as the Kronos Quartet. John Cage”s legendary ‘Thirty Pieces For String Quartet’ was expressly written for Kronos, who have had recent success with a stirring score for the movie ‘Requiem for a Dream’ and the trailers for the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy.
The unexpected, postmodern aspects of the Quartet”s ‘Visual Music’ performance did make for an absurdly amusing concert, with the performers hitting their string instruments like drums, playing the 20th Century Fox jingle before the movie score of ‘The Day the World Stood Still’ and barking like dogs at times. Indeed, it was as amusing as it was perplexing.
However, through the entire show, Kronos remained devoutly serious, showing minimal emotion whether playing large diamond-shaped ambient motion detectors or ‘playing’ feedback with large pendulum microphones passing over exposed speakers. To their credit, Kronos Quartet avoided the usual postmodern mess; the concert was never simply a mass of noise. If nothing else, ‘Visual Music’ was sheer spectacle in every sense of the word.
At many times, the audience was perplexed; there were simply too many notes played for the concert to remain coherent. To end the show, the Quartet played a very traditional rendition of a Sigur R–s vocal track. It was stirring and earned Kronos a standing ovation. Though their postmodern performance was fascinating, those seeking a more traditional string quartet would be better served listening to one of the Kronos Quartet”s film scores.