Tiny Desk

Kronos Quartet

Kronos Quartet: Tiny Desk Concert

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/246393060/246393671" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Sunny Yang joined Kronos Quartet in June 2013. Now, just five months later, the cellist she says she's learned quite a few new works — not just a handful, but about 70 pieces.

That degree of dedication to contemporary composers, coupled with an insane concert schedule, has propelled Kronos Quartet forward over the past four decades. If they wanted, the musicians — who also include founder David Harrington and longtime members John Sherba and Hank Dutt — could reminisce over more than 800 new works and arrangements they've commissioned in 40 years. But instead, the new-music train pushes ever onward to new territories. They remain a living, breathing world-heritage site for music.

Now in the midst of its 40th-anniversary tour, Kronos brings to this Tiny Desk Concert a new arrangement, a work from a new album and, for Kronos, something of a chestnut, a piece the group recorded a whopping five years ago.

Aheym (Yiddish for "homeward") was written for Kronos by Bryce Dessner; a member of the Brooklyn rock band The National, he studied composition at Yale. The music thrives on nervous energy, pulsating with strumming and spiccato (bouncing the bow on strings) while building to a tremendous fever. It also opens Kronos' new album of Dessner works.

"Lullaby," a traditional song with Afro-Persian roots (from the group's Eastern-flavored 2009 album Floodplain), is woven from different cloth altogether. Colorful tones that lay between our Western pitches are threaded through the music, anchored by a gorgeous solo from violist Dutt; his contribution takes on the warm and weathered sound of a grandmother singing to a child.

Kronos caps off the concert with another hairpin turn, this time to a fresh arrangement of "Last Kind Words," a little-known blues song from around 1930, recorded by singer and guitarist Geeshie Wiley. In Jacob Garchik's exuberant arrangement (which Kronos premiered this fall), interlocking strums and plucks provide a kind of rhythm section, while Harrington's violin stands in for the now-forgotten blues singer.

Set List
  • "Aheym"
  • "Lullaby"
  • "Last Kind Words"
Kronos Quartet
  • David Harrington, violin
  • John Sherba, violin
  • Hank Dutt, viola
  • Sunny Yang, cello
Credits

Producers: Denise DeBelius, Tom Huizenga, Anastasia Tsioulcas; Editor: Gabriella Garcia-Pardo; Audio Engineer: Kevin Wait; Videographers: Denise DeBelius, Becky Harlan, Abbey Oldham, Meredith Rizzo; photo by Meredith Rizzo/NPR

[+] read more[-] less

More From Tiny Desk

Antonio Lizana performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Jan. 25, 2017. (Marian Carrasquero/NPR) Marian Carrasquero/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Marian Carrasquero/NPR

Tiny Desk

Antonio Lizana

The traditions of flamenco and jazz are disparate, but in the hands of a few Spanish jazz musicians, these two worlds commingle and find common ground.

Chicano Batman performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Mar., 30, 2017. (Marian Carrasquero/NPR) Marian Carrasquero/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Marian Carrasquero/NPR

Tiny Desk

Chicano Batman

Chicano Batman comes with a sound that perfectly captures dark lounges, quinceñera dances, car shows and backyard parties.

Ljova & Kontraband perform at Tiny Desk Concert on Feb. 13th 2017. (Marian Carrasquero/NPR) Marian Carrasquero/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Marian Carrasquero/NPR

Tiny Desk

Ljova And The Kontraband

Composer, arranger and viola player Ljova lead his Kontraband to the Tiny Desk for an eclectic swirl of Western classical, jazz, tango and Eastern European and Balkan folk music.

Sinkane performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Feb. 21, 2017. (Claire Harbage/NPR) Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Tiny Desk

Sinkane

You can hear a great New York jazz band in the rhythms of Sinkane, but you can also hear the influence of Bob Marley and the hypnotic repetition of Sudanese desert sounds.

Noname performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Feb. 28, 2017. (Claire Harbage/NPR) Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Tiny Desk

Noname

The power of language to penetrate a difficult subject, and the power of performance to share that language, are the gifts Noname brought to the Tiny Desk.

Delicate Steve performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Mar. 3, 2017. (Marian Carrasquero/NPR) Marian Carrasquero/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Marian Carrasquero/NPR

Tiny Desk

Delicate Steve

This fierce and lyrical guitar player writes playful instrumental music led by hooky vocals — but there is no voice, just the human-like twang of a glass slide on a guitar.

Sampha performs a Tiny Desk Concert on Feb. 7, 2017. (Claire Harbage/NPR) Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Tiny Desk

Sampha

A Tiny Desk Concert as intimate as it gets (that's saying something). Just Sampha, a piano and three heart-wrenching songs that seem to double as coping mechanisms.

Red Baraat performs at Tiny Desk Concert on Feb. 8, 2017. (Marian Carrasquero/NPR) Marian Carrasquero/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Marian Carrasquero/NPR

Tiny Desk

Tiny Desk Special Edition: Red Baraat's Holi Celebration

The Brooklyn bhangra band come to the Tiny Desk in celebration of Holi, the Hindu festival of color that welcomes the coming of spring.

Tank And The Bangas perform perform a Tiny Desk Concert on Mar. 6, 2017. (Niki Walker/NPR) Niki Walker/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Niki Walker/NPR

Tiny Desk

Tank And The Bangas

Tank And The Bangas' victory lap around the Tiny Desk was momentous, celebratory and deeply touching, with a flair and alchemy of styles that could come from New Orleans.

Maren Morris performs perform a Tiny Desk Concert on Feb. 16, 2017. (Claire Harbage/NPR) Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Tiny Desk

Maren Morris

One of the newest Grammy winners stops by the Tiny Desk to share her winking, sometimes tongue-in-cheek songs.

Back To Top