At Julie’s suggestion, I, along with two of my dormmates, made the harrowing 3 minute bike ride to Memorial Auditorium to watch the Kronos Quartet play Sun Rings. To be honest, I had never heard of—much less heard—the Kronos Quartet before, but looking at their program, it seemed like something cool and new.
The program was a ten movement piece, filled with the sounds of space (and no, it wasn’t just the sound of a vacuum; though I feel like the Kronos Quartet might totally pull a John Cage like that) and a complete lighting and cinematic accompaniment. The Kronos Quartet sat in a typical string quartet arrangement on the stage, with poles of lights around them, sensors before them, a screen behind them, and the Stanford Chorale below them. Combined with speakers playing ambient sounds, I had no idea what was going on.
The visual design was obviously well-choreographed. It’s often difficult to pair a musical performance with appropriate visuals. Fireworks are only a “wower”, and a movie in the background is just a distraction. This particular set, however, had more abstract elements on the screen, such as flashing equations, solar flares, and a gyroscope.
The musical performance was good. My friend Ben put it very well, however, saying that “I didn’t like it, but I can appreciate it.” Taken out of the auditorium and put into my iTunes, I would probably skip that track for something more accessible. Sitting there with no other distractions, however, I almost put it together. I wasn’t being forced through processing it; I was given many opportunities to see it through.
It’s not catchy stuff. Now, I can’t really remember any particular passage of what they played. What I do have is a track of feelings, and a grasping for meaning. For maybe 20 seconds, I felt like I understood the whole experience, from playing to ambiance to visuals. Maybe the synaesthesia coming out in me. But I definitely haven’t quite been able to touch that aspect in me. At least, not in this form.
While touring a contemporary art museum several years back, I remember looking at every work, and saying, “I don’t get it.” My sister’s boyfriend replied at some point, “It’s not about getting it. It’s about seeing it.” Naturally, my response then changed to “I don’t see it.” Comtemporary art, I still can’t see. At least I heard this concert.