by Maggie Molloy
[Editor’s Note] JACK Quartet’s performance tonight will be streamed LIVE on Second Inversion from Meany Hall, presented by Meany Center for the Performing Arts.
To listen, tune in tonight at 7:30pm PST. In the meantime, read all about the concert below, including our special Q&A with JACK violist John Pickford Richards!
In the classical music world, it’s quite rare to see a string quartet perform works by the 20th century avant-gardist Morton Feldman or, say, the mathematical musical revolutionary Iannis Xenakis.
But the JACK Quartet is not your traditional string quartet. This evening, they’re performing works by both Feldman and Xenakis—plus a couple pieces by Ruth Crawford Seeger, Derek Bermel, and Julia Wolfe, just for good measure.
Comprised of violinists Christopher Otto and Austin Wulliman, violist John Pickford Richards, and cellist Jay Campbell, JACK is dedicated to the performance, commissioning, and spreading of new and experimental string quartet music. And tonight, they’re bringing a little bit of that new music to Seattle for a performance at Meany Hall.
Presented as part of the Meany Center for the Performing Arts’ 2016-2017 season, the concert program features Feldman’s pointillist string Structures, Seeger’s densely dramatic String Quartet, Bermel’s blues-bending Intonations, Julia Wolfe’s fiery, fervent Early That Summer, and Xenakis’s modal, mathematical Tetora.
It’s a program of 20th and 21st century works by primarily American, New York-based composers—a musical account of the way experimental art has grown, stretched, and changed over the last 100 years.
We sat down with violist John Pickford Richards of the JACK Quartet to find out a little bit more about what audience members can expect at tonight’s performance:
Second Inversion: What does “new music” mean to you?
John Pickford Richards: To me, new music is anything written by a living composer. I like to equate new classical music to the kind of art you might see in an art show or a chic gallery, while the classics are safe and sound in museums.
SI: What are some of the unique challenges and rewards of performing contemporary works?
JR: Knowing the composers personally is invaluable. It provides extraordinary insight. Also, composers are constantly pushing performers to reimagine our instruments, which keeps us on our toes.
SI: The contemporary classical “genre” is massive and extraordinarily diverse—how do you go about selecting which pieces to put on your concert programs?
JR: Our programming is a combination of following our raw interests as well as exploring new composers we aren’t familiar with, many of whom are introduced to us through our community. And we aim to seek emerging artists outside our network, which is a fun challenge.
SI: What are some of the things audience members can expect to hear in your Meany Hall concert program?
JR: Our program at Meany focuses on music from NYC written in the past 100 years, highlighting a theme of experimentalism that defines the American vangard. We’re pairing this with a work by Iannis Xenakis, who was one of the most unique and inventive artists in Paris following the Second World War.
SI: What are you most looking forward to with your Meany Hall performance, and what do you hope audience members will gain from it?
JR: We aim to give a high-energy account of the music we think is it today.
The JACK Quartet performs tonight, Jan. 10 at 7:30 p.m. at Meany Hall in the University District. For tickets and information, please click here.
To listen to the live audio broadcast beginning at 7:30 p.m. PST, please click here.