Kronos Quartet brings its touring program Music for Change: The Banned Countries to New York, presented by Carnegie Hall at Zankel Hall on Friday, February 8 (9 pm), and Washington, DC, presented by Washington Performing Arts at Sixth & I on Saturday, March 2 (8 pm).

Music for Change: The Banned Countries explores musical traditions and soundscapes from several predominantly Muslim nations, including Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. It is a continuous, immersive experience in which musical selections are interspersed with recorded sounds from the region street noise, radio excerpts, and so on. For these performances, Kronos is joined by Iranian singer and activist Mahsa Vahdat.

The program features Ya Mun Dakhal Bahr Al-Hawa (Hey, Who Enters the Sea of Passion?) by Fatimah Al-Zaelaeyah (arr. Jacob Garchik), which was commissioned by Carnegie Hall as part of its 125 Commissions Project. It will be heard in its world premiere at Zankel Hall, along with works by Franghiz Ali-Zadeh, Islam Chipsy, Ramallah Underground, Omar Souleyman, the Dur-Dur Band, Hamza El Din, and Mahsa Vahdat. Tickets for Music for Change: The Banned Countries are available through and

My goal for Kronos has always been to be a revolutionary force, says Kronos Quartet Artistic Director David Harrington, not just in making music, but in exploring the ways that music can increase our understanding of our times and our connection to people around the world.

In his program note for Music for Change, Andrew Gilbert writes, Music for Change: The Banned Countries came about in direct response to the 2017 Executive Orders severely restricting access to the United States, a policy that targeted citizens from seven Muslim-majority nations, many of which are represented in this program. From its inception some 45 years ago as a vehicle for George Crumb's epochal anti-war cri-de-coeur Black Angels, through extraordinary works like Steve Reich's haunted Different Trains and the excavation of Cold War anxiety on the album Howl, USA, Kronos has embraced the imperative that music must illuminate the present moment.

Guest artist Mahsa Vahdat and her sister Marjan Vahdat appear with Kronos on a forthcoming recording titled Placeless, to be released March 1, 2019 on the Oslo-based Kirkelig Kulturverksted label. Recorded at the Jakob Church of Culture in Oslo, the full-length recording includes songs composed by Mahsa Vahdat to contemporary and classical Persian texts, with string arrangements by Sahba Aminikia, Aftab Darvishi, Atabak Elyasi and Jacob Garchik. Watch this space for further details.

Further in view is the New York premiere of A Thousand Thoughts: A live documentary with the Kronos Quartet, written and directed by Sam Green and Joe Bini, on Thursday, April 25 (8 pm) at The Town Hall. This acclaimed multimedia performance piece explores the power of music through the lens of Kronos Quartet's past, present, and future.

Oscar-nominated filmmakers Sam Green and Joe Bini have joined forces with Kronos to create a unique blend of live music, narration, projected archival footage, and filmed interviews with Philip Glass, Tanya Tagaq, Steve Reich, Wu Man, Terry Riley, and others. As Green narrates the group's multi-decade history, Kronos revisits its extensive body of work, performing music by George Crumb, Aleksandra Vrebalov and many others. Together on stage, Green and Kronos interact with the stirring imagery on screen to craft an important record and exploration of late 20th and early 21st century music. Transcending the typical live music and film event, this collaboration quickly becomes a meditation on music itself the experience of listening to it closely, its power to change the world.

A Thousand Thoughts has already earned lavish praise in performances at the Sundance Film Festival, where it premiered, and at seven other venues around the world. Wrote the LA Times, [Sundance] hit the jackpot this year with a film/performance combination called A Thousand Thoughts... It's as magical an amalgamation as anything you can imagine. Newsweek called it easily the festival's most mind-blowing experience, while Forbes wrote, It's a pensive, rewarding, and touching experience. The San Francisco Chronicle stated, That sought-for concert high, the blissful moment when everyone in the hall is rapt and breathing seemingly in sync, seemed to last through the work's entirety, as the edges between the various media components melted to reveal its whole. There was huge applause at the end, a standing ovation that began before the credits were done.

Tickets for A Thousand Thoughts are available at

For 45 years, San Francisco's Kronos Quartet David Harrington (violin), John Sherba (violin), Hank Dutt (viola), and Sunny Yang (cello) has combined a spirit of fearless exploration with a commitment to continually reimagine the string quartet experience. In the process, Kronos has become one of the world's most celebrated and influential ensembles, performing thousands of concerts, releasing more than 60 recordings, collaborating with an eclectic mix of composers and performers, and commissioning over 1000 works and arrangements for string quartet. They have won over 40 awards, including the prestigious Polar Music and Avery Fisher Prizes and, most recently, the WOMEX Artist Award (the first US-based musicians to ever do so). The nonprofit Kronos Performing Arts Association manages all aspects of Kronos' work, including the commissioning of new works, concert tours and home season performances, education programs, and a self-produced Kronos Festival. In 2015, Kronos launched Fifty for the Future: The Kronos Learning Repertoire, an education and legacy project that is commissioning and distributing for free the first learning library of contemporary repertoire for string quartet.

Mahsa Vahdat is an Iranian artist and singer and advocate of freedom of expression. Featuring mostly original songs, her music style is a contemporary expression rooted in old traditional and folk and regional music of Iran. Vahdat took piano and Setar lessons, and received Persian singing instructions from various musicians in Iran from early ages. She has a B.A. in Music from Tehran Arts University. Since 1995, Vahdat has performed as an independent singer and musician in many concerts and festivals around the world with musicians from Iran, Europe, and America. She also appears frequently with her sister Marjan Vahdat. Since 2007, Vahdat has been one of the ambassadors of Freemuse Organization, an independent international organization that advocates for freedom of expression for musicians and composers worldwide. She received their Freemuse Award in 2010. Following her participation in Lullabies from the Axis of Evil (2004), Vahdat started a long-lasting collaboration with the Norwegian record label Kirkelig Kulturverksted (KKV).

Sam Green is a New York-based documentary filmmaker. He received his Master's Degree in Journalism from University of California, Berkeley, where he studied documentary filmmaking with the acclaimed filmmaker Marlon Riggs. Green's most recent projects are the live documentaries The Measure of All Things (2014), The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller with Yo La Tengo (2012), and Utopia in Four Movements (2010). His performance work has screened at venues such as the Barbican, The Kitchen, TBA Festival, Fusebox Festival, Brighton Festival, and many others. Green's 2004 feature-length film, the Academy Award nominated documentary The Weather Underground, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, was broadcast on PBS, was included in the 2004 Whitney Biennial, and has screened widely around the world.

Related Articles View More Classical Music Stories

More Hot Stories For You

Before you go...

Never Miss a Story
Like Us On Facebook
Follow Us On Twitter
Follow Us On Instagram instagram