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String Quartet Synesthesia

May 13, 2012

The Kronos Quartet rounded out its year-long residency at San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts this weekend with a concert featuring the music of a bunch of incredible women composers and vocalists.

From the hushed, sepulchral creepings of Laurie Anderson's "Flow," sensitively arranged by Jacob Garchik, to the strident, mystical incantations of Van-Anh Vanessa Vo's "All Clear," the music was consistently inventive and emotionally panoramic.

It was also visually stunning.

One thing you rarely want to do during a Kronos concert is close your eyes. I often several minutes at concerts with my eyelids down, just to get a pure taste of sound through deprivation of the more primary sense of sight.

But if you so much as blink at a Kronos gig, you risk missing a magical, humorous or bizarre visual moment.

This concert was no exception.

Watching the players ceremonially walk across the stage to beat hanging gongs, stick pacifier-like objects in their mouths and then emit kazoo-esque parps, or pass sand through their fingers into a concave "drum" the size of a small satellite dish, was an immersive experience.

In fact, the visuals were so well incorporated into the rich and diverse sonic landscape that I felt like I was experiencing temporary synesthesia. My senses of sight and hearing merged into one.

No matter how well they play, few string quartets are capable of transforming people in this way.

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