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Of Swedish Meatballs, The Kronos Quartet and Diamanda Galas

June 6, 2011

A few days ago, Barbara Sachs Osher, the Honorary Swedish Consul General in San Francisco and a well-known philanthropist and chair of the Bernard Osher Foundation, hosted a dinner for the members of the Kronos Quartet.

The San Francisco-based string ensemble recently won the 2011 Polar Music Prize, Sweden's most prestigious music award. The prize, which Kronos won in tandem with Patti Smith, is typically shared by a pop artist and a classical musician. It was founded by Stig Anderson, the manager of the Swedish pop group ABBA, in 1989.

The musicians are flying to Stockholm in August to accept the prize of 1 million kronor ($166,000) and shake the hand of Sweden's King.

The dinner provided an opportunity for guests to eat Swedish meatballs and exchange anecdotes about ABBA. It seemed like everyone in the room had an ABBA story, whether it was to do with bumping into one of the members of the rock band running through the forest or how a favorite ABBA song transformed a key moment in someone's life.

I'm wracking my brains to remember what it is that David Harrington, the leader of Kronos, said about ABBA in the short, sweet speech he made during the dinner. Whatever his reminiscence about Sweden's premiere pop cultural export was, it didn't leave as strong an impression on me as the discussion we had over the buffet table about Diamanda Galas.

While filling our plates with delicious food, Harrington told me about the Kronos Quartet's collaboration with the amazing Greek-American avant-garde composer and vocalist a while back. The tracks were scheduled to be the apex of a Kronos' album but then Galas changed her mind about the music and ordered the ensemble to pull her contribution from the CD.

Harrington described this decision of Galas' as one of the low points of his career. It had been an amazing musical collaboration and the violinist couldn't get his head around why Galas refused to allow the music to be heard. Harrington has forgiven Galas for the stunt she pulled, but there's still some lingering befuddlement bordering on resentment there.

One day, hopefully, the singer will relent and that long-shuttered recording will be set free. And when that day arrives, I'll think fondly back to our evening discussing the ins and outs of musical collaboration over a steaming pile of Swedish meatballs.

4 Comments:

  • I am delighted that David discussed
    this incident:I did indeed record KEIGOME KEIGOME for the ensemble to accompany
    with an arrangement from a composer
    we both respect. This was at David's request, although it was
    not the original terms of our
    contract, which was original music.

    However, the playing and attached arrangement arrangement had nothing to do with
    rembetiko music. The sensibility
    shocked me. It was something composed
    by Freud, and completely antithetical
    to the music of Smryna . It was stiff,cold,
    and whatever passion displayed was
    something no Greek would ever
    have any interest in.

    What is unfortunate is that I
    had been comissioned to write a new
    work and I had presented it in
    part to Harrington but he then decided he wanted to do something more along the lines of music
    from my recent recording, Malediction and Prayer.


    I wanted to do new music and the
    piece i have just been thinking
    of sending them again is the piece
    I eventually performed solo--the HEX piece composed by me to the text of Henri Michaux, JE RAME. If you
    listen to my orchestration of it
    just for voice and piano, you can
    see why I thought it would be ideal
    for KRONOS.

    This is a glorious ensemble and I
    would love an opportunity to give
    them anything,of course, but as
    a Greek I know the sound of our music. That is my only boss.

    I have incurred the wrath of many
    musicians because if I do not
    not like something, it is merely
    because I do not like it.

    I always warn other musicians that
    risking any collaboration with me
    can be fatal. I warn them that
    when it comes to music I am not
    a nice person. But they never believe me and then....need I reiterate the above paragraph.....?

    Thanks for the platform.
    Sincerely yours,
    Diamanda Galas
    p.s. I do not do my own stunts.
    Someone has me confused with Angelina
    Jolie.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At June 6, 2011 at 12:34 PM  

  • I would so love to hear that (or any) collaboration between the Kronos Quartet and Diamanda Galas!

    I am a bit confused that Kronos wouldn't be able to do an adequate rendition of rembetiko, but *sighs* would still love to see it released someday.

    By Blogger Jon Silpayamanant, At June 9, 2011 at 10:18 PM  

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