Q&A: Kronos Quartet Founder David Harrington On Collaborating With Philip Glass

Every day this month, in conjunction with our Feb. 1 cover story "Philip Glass, An East Village Voice," Sound of the City will post excepts of interviews with Glass and his collaborators, as well as reviews of several concerts celebrating his 75th birthday.

Today we're publishing our interview with violinist David Harrington, the founder of the Kronos Quartet. In addition to several collaborations with Glass, some of which were specifically written for the quartet, Kronos has worked with the music and talent of Meredith Monk, Daren Aronofsky, Bill Evans, Ornette Coleman, Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk, John Adams, Noam Chomsky, DJ Spooky, and Dave Matthews.

This interview began with a chat about a 2005 outdoor concert in Prospect Park of the score to Dracula, which Glass composed for the quartet. The concert—where Glass and Kronos performed together—was aborted under rather dramatic circumstance when a lightening storm blew in suddenly.

I was at the screening of Dracula at Celebrate Brooklyn! in 2005, where you were trying to play live with Philip Glass!

[Laughs] Wow, you were there?

Yes. And I escaped!

We were so excited to be there, and the audience was great, and in fact nobody can forget that concert. The other thing was that it was going so great. I thought everybody was just on. And then the storm happened exactly—

Was the first bolt of lightening as the tracking shot moved in on Dracula?

Actually, it was during the storm scene!

That's right.

Yeah, it was during the actual storm scene when the show had to be called. It was amazing.

Were you getting nervous?

I wasn't nervous. I was worried about the sound and lighting booth people, and the electrical situation. I think the right thing was done, of course.

In preparing for the pieces I am writing about Mr. Glass's 75th birthday, I was listening to the soundtrack to the film Mishima yesterday. Not being a professional musician, I hadn't realized for some time that it featured a string quartet—you! But of course, listening to it after I knew this, I could hear Kronos in with keyboards and other instruments. Was that your first project together?

The first music we ever played of Philip Glass's was "Company," and that was in the early '80s. And, I can't remember which year, it was probably about 81 or 82. So, we've worked together for about 30 years now. And of course the first recording we did of his was Mishima.

Did he approach you on Mishima?

I think the way we worked together was that I heard the soundtrack as it was being recorded, and I realized, wow, we should be in on that. And it was being recorded for Nonesuch Records, and it was being recorded right at the beginning of our contract with Nonesuch, which began in 1985. That must have been the year Mishima was recorded.

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