Kronos Quartet and Michael Abels

Michael Abels Eric Schwabel

“At War With Ourselves,” an evening-length work exploring race relations in America

Kronos Performing Arts Association is commissioning Michael Abels, a composer best known for his orchestral works and film scores, to write an evening-length work for string quartet, chorus and spoken word. Poet Nikky Finney will create the libretto. Abels, whose work often combines classical music with African American jazz, blues and bluegrass and who recently scored the Jordan Peele films Get Out and Us, will collaborate with Kronos, Finney, and chorus director Valérie Sainte-Agathe on a work that explores race relations, social justice, civil rights and resistance movements. When this grant was initially awarded in 2017, Kronos intended to commission jazz composer Terence Blanchard, but schedule complications led to Blanchard leaving the project in 2019.

Kronos Performing Arts Association will also partner with Youth Speaks, 826 Valencia, and Sunset Youth Services for a series of workshops and community outreach activities including artist residencies by Kronos, Abels and Finney. This ensures original works created by young people are part of the overall project and youth perspectives influence At War With Ourselves.

The premiere performances will occur May 9 and 10, 2020 at SFJAZZ Center, following a week-long workshop and preview (March 30-April 3, 2020) at the University of South Carolina, where Finney teaches. Kronos hopes to tour the work to targeted cities including Los Angeles and New York, among others.

Collaborators in this project include poet Nikky Finney, left, and chorus director Valérie Sainte-Agathe. (Photo credit: Joe Fanvu)
Kronos Quartet. (Photo credit: Wojciech Wandzel)

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