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Chicago Classical Review: Lee Hyla receives a zealous musical tribute at Northwestern

Chicago Classical Review: Lee Hyla receives a zealous musical tribute at Northwestern

“Hyla seems to relish the fashioning of pithy titles, but the final work presented is more traditionally labeled, his String Quartet No. 4. A model for the piece seemed to be Elliott Carter’s String Quartet No. 2, with each instrument adopting distinct personalities, and alliances shifting with assent or anger. He also fleetingly conjured Bartok with a nod to a famous theme from his Concerto for Orchestra in the viola line. The Spektral Quartet gave a vivid and idiomatic reading of an engaging work that amply rewarded their considerable preparation.”

To read the whole article, click here

Seen and Heard International: Pushing the South American Envelope

Seen and Heard International: Pushing the South American Envelope

Seen & Heard Logo“What distinguished this effort from others in the “classical-plus-whatever” genre is the Spektral musicians’ technical expertise. Trained at institutions as diverse as the Paris Conservatoire, University of Southern California and Northwestern University, they have tackled everything from Haydn to Brian Ferneyhough to Lee Hyla, as well as some of today’s most interesting younger composers like Hans Thomalla and Marcos Balter.”

 

To read the whole article, click here

 

Chicago Magazine: Chicago’s New Music Scene Cuts Loose

Chicago Magazine: Chicago’s New Music Scene Cuts Loose

“One of the most popular series is run by the virtuosic string ensemble Spektral Quartet. These concerts, called Sampler Packs, intersperse single movements or short works with stage chatter over the course of an evening. In June, Spektral set up its Sampler Pack at the Hideout as a choose-your-own-adventure for the audience, with the program printed in installments on balloons. As the audience chose a piece, the musicians popped the balloon with the corresponding work written on it.”

To read the whole article, click here

We get all Barbara Walters with our new violinist, Clara Lyon

We get all Barbara Walters with our new violinist, Clara Lyon

Press releases and headshots are all part of the equation when a quartet brings on a new member, but they tend to feel a bit matter-of-fact, don’t they? We know you’re going to love our new violinist’s playing, but we’d like to give you a peek into Clara’s personality and backstory before you see her on stage. With Dan Rather, Barbara Walters and Chris Farley as my unwitting mentors, I set out to ask the incisive, hard-hitting questions:

Clara Dancing

Doyle: Hi Clara, and welcome to the wonderful family of misfits that is Spektral Quartet! Let’s dive right in. New Kids on the Block, or Backstreet Boys?

Clara: Wow, starting off with a bang I see! I am delighted to say that members of both bands are coming out with a collaborative album soon, so this terrible choice is one I don’t have to make!

DA: When did you start playing the violin?

CL: Around my 3rd birthday.

DA: You come from a musical family, right?

CL: Yup – many of my family members are professional musicians, and almost all of them play something! I grew up jamming with them and having sing-alongs. Apparently, music dates back a while in our family – the earliest that I know of was my great-great grandfather’s family. He was a bass player with 13 kids, and they made up a vaudeville-style orchestra to play for movies (which were all silent at that time, of course).

DA: Do you remember when you first knew you wanted to chase this crazy career path? Keep Reading →

Announcing Our New Violinist

Announcing Our New Violinist

The Spektral Quartet is pleased to announce our newest member, violinist Clara Lyon. A musician of exceptional ability, Ms. Lyon arrives in Chicago for the start of our 2014/15 season having just completed a fellowship with Ensemble ACJW, a competitive two-year program in joint partnership between Carnegie Hall, the Juilliard School, the Weill Music Institute, and the New York Department of Education.

Clara headshot

Ms. Lyon received her Bachelor’s degree in violin performance at the Juilliard School as the student of New York Philharmonic concertmaster, Glenn Dicterow, and went on to complete both masters and doctorate degrees at SUNY Stony Brook University with teachers Soovin Kim, Philip Setzer, Pamela Frank, and Philippe Graffin. Chamber music has always been central to Clara’s artistic life, and she has worked closely with members of the Emerson, Guarneri, and Juilliard quartets. She is currently co-director of the Kneisel Hall Chamber Music Festival’s “Together in Music” program, a new community-rooted initiative that will foster musical conversation and dialogue in the town of Blue Hill, Maine.

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Announcing Our 2014/15 Season: AMPLIFY

Announcing Our 2014/15 Season: AMPLIFY

2014-15 Spektral brochure cover(photo credit: Elliot Mandel)      

The Spektral Quartet leaps into the 2014/15 season ready to amplify the audience experience, its list of exceptional collaborators, and the creation of ambitious new works for string quartet. Four large-scale, bold new pieces by some of the most imaginative composers writing today are revealed throughout the year in the interactive, inviting, and inclusive way Spektral audiences have come to expect. Balancing the traditional (Beethoven, Dvořák, Webern, Haydn, Stravinsky…) with the new (Reich, Ligeti, Crumb, Rands, Cheung…), the quartet’s fifth season, AMPLIFY, promises cherished favorites and brand-new sounds aimed at the ears of the expert and the newcomer alike.

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Sampler Pack at The Hideout: Photo Blog

Sampler Pack at The Hideout: Photo Blog

We were talking before the Hideout show on Saturday and agreeing that the Fall seems like ages ago. It’s been a massive season for us, recording four albums and landing our first European concerts. Ultimately, though, it’s about our home crowd in Chicago, and our final concert of the season felt like a big hang in a living room…one that contains a stage and serves beer, anyway.

We are grateful to our friend, photographer Elliot Mandel, for covering the evening and giving us permission to share his excellent shots. Be sure to check him out on his website! Keep Reading →

Chicago Sun-Times: Classical Highlights for June

Chicago Sun-Times: Classical Highlights for June

Sun-Times logo“The daring quartet ventures to a well-known rock venue for one of its Sampler Pack concerts in which it juxtaposes radically different kinds of music, such as Georg Friedrich Haas’ “Dido” with singer-songwriter Townes Van Zandt’s “Pancho & Lefty.””

 

 

 

 

 

To read the whole article, click here

Pitchfork: Mobile Miniatures

Pitchfork: Mobile Miniatures

Pitchfork“Normally my iPhone ringer is set firmly to “off,” but I recently changed it to a new piece by the esteemed composer and one-time Pulitzer finalist Augusta Read Thomas. It’s a 35-second, anxious tangle of pizzicato and odd-angled violin and cello lines called “You’re Just About to Miss Your Call!” It really captures the existential panic that its title describes.

 

Thomas’s piece was commissioned by the Spektral Quartet, an enterprising Chicago-based string ensemble that recently decided it wanted to populate the world’s iPhones with contemporary classical music. For what they’re calling the Mobile Miniatures project (“Your mobile phone is our newest concert venue”), they contacted 46 composers. For anyone who follows the world of contemporary classical, it’s an embarrassment of riches: everyone from Bang On A Can co-founder David Lang to Nico Muhly to indie figures like Deerhoof’s Greg Saunier and Julia Holter.”

To read the whole article, click here

 

Chicago Tribune: The next accordion star

Chicago Tribune: The next accordion star

chicago-tribune-logo-black“Their mission,” says Labro, referring to the Spektrals, “is to make sure to play new music and traditional repertoire from all genres. And I always wanted to show people that there is music beyond Piazzollla. … That there is life after Piazzolla.”

 

Certainly there is in “From This Point Forward,” which marks the beginning of Labro’s partnership with the Spektral Quartet, not the end. For their next recording, they plan to venture into contemporary classical music.

To read the whole article, click here

 

The Telegraph: The new ring-tone composers

The Telegraph: The new ring-tone composers

telegraph_logo“There’s nothing so irritating as someone else’s ring-tone. First comes the jolt to one’s nerves. Then comes the thought, “You really think THAT’s amusing/good to hear?”, as a burst of One Direction or a mooing cow scrapes tinnily at one’s ears. Of course our own ring-tone is always a model of discreet wit and taste. And yet when it rings we’re always desperate to turn it off, which shows wit and taste aren’t really the issue. The ring-tone is simply beyond redemption. It’s irritation in its purest form, like cold calls or being put on hold.

 

The Spektral Quartet, a Chicago-based string quartet, begs to disagree. They think a ring-tone can be a moment of aural delight, and have commissioned 65 brand-new ring-tone-sized pieces to prove it, all available to download from the quartet’s website. They range from one second in duration to 40, and have been written by 47 American composers of all ages, races and styles.”

To read the whole article, click here

 

Chicago Classical Review: Haydn’s “Seven Last Words” finds luminous expression with Seraphic Fire and Spektral Quartet

Chicago Classical Review: Haydn’s “Seven Last Words” finds luminous expression with Seraphic Fire and Spektral Quartet

Chicago-Classical-Review logo“The Spektral Quartet performed The Seven Last Words alone in Rockefeller Chapel in March 2013, and as a resident ensemble at the University of Chicago, they know how to adjust their performance for the chapel’s acoustics. Each instrumental line, especially the sweet but steely sound of Aurelien Fort Pederzoli’s solo violin, was clear, but the overall texture had a velvet edge. In the sixth movement (“Jesus cried out: I thirst”) of the nine-movement piece, the plucked violins and violas sounded like guitars gliding through a hushed lullaby. This was religious meditation with a gentle edge rather than the sharp angles and angry undercurrent of heaven-storming fire and brimstone.”

To read the whole article, click here

Huffington Post: These Game-Changing Ringtones Bring The Symphony To The Streets

Huffington Post: These Game-Changing Ringtones Bring The Symphony To The Streets

HuffPo“Think of it as public art — except that it’s on your phone.

 

Thanks to an innovative new initiative from the Chicago-based contemporary classical ensemble Spektral Quartet, cell phone users will no longer be limited to a selection of dreary, muzak-esque sound bites or blaring, regrettable Top 40 clips when it comes to choosing their ringtones.

 

Late last month, the quartet launched Mobile Miniatures, a new Kickstarter-backedproject where they commissioned over 45 different composers — including familiar names like Nico Muhly, Julia Holter, the Dirty Projectors’ Olga Bell and Pulitzer Prize winners Shulamit Ran and David Lang — to create original pieces specifically intended to serve as ringtones. The ensemble then performed and recorded the compositions, putting them up for sale on their website.”

To read the whole article, click here

 

Miami Herald: Seraphic Fire takes on ‘The Seven Last Words of Christ’

Miami Herald: Seraphic Fire takes on ‘The Seven Last Words of Christ’

 

The-Miami-Herald-Logo“With perfectly coordinated entrances and silences, Spektral’s mature, passionate rendition had the purity and precision of a Mozart overture. This sober, forceful tone prevailed in the chorus for the remaining seven Sonatas.”

To read the whole article, click here
Chicago Tribune: Can the arts get smart about the smartphone?

Chicago Tribune: Can the arts get smart about the smartphone?

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 Ran’s new ring tones, for a project led by the city’s Spektral Quartet that was to debut at a performance Saturday night, are a perfect example of how the rise of smartphones — so ubiquitous that they are carried by 64-year-old classical composers and rap-loving grade schoolers alike — is making people approach their art form from new angles. 

To read the whole article, click here

Chicago Magazine: The Spektral Quartet Has Released the Most Beautiful Ringtones

Chicago Magazine: The Spektral Quartet Has Released the Most Beautiful Ringtones

Chicago Magazine logo

 To new-music lovers around Chicago, the four string players of Spektral Quartet seem like they’re everywhere—not just in the concert hall. They’re also in your local bar, playing their Sampler Pack series. And they’re in your living room, with their first album, Chambers, released this past fall. Now they’re trying to get into your pocket.

 

The quartet commissioned more than 40 composers to write ringtones, alarms, and alerts for cellphones. This Saturday, the miniatures drop—not a word you usually like associated with your cellphone—at a party at Constellation. The Spektralists will play short sets of some of the pieces that can be played live, and listening stations will allow attendees to hear all of them. The $15 ticket price includes five free downloads. Also, the local composers Marcos Balter and Chris Fisher-Lochhead will add to the project by writing ringtones live at the party. 

To read the whole article, click here

Classical Voice North America: Forget Wagner, Quartet Dials Up New Ring Cycles

Classical Voice North America: Forget Wagner, Quartet Dials Up New Ring Cycles

CVNA Logo

 CHICAGO – Among life’s minor annoyances are all too many ringtones — cheesy, over-played 1980s pop songs or the boring electronic combinations pre-programmed by the phone companies.

 

The Spektral Quartet believes it has just the antidote: Mobile Miniatures. It has recorded more than 60 jazzy, gentle and edgy ringtones, alerts and wake-up alarms for mobile phones, all freshly created by 46 composers across the U.S. Beginning March 29, they will be available for 50 cents apiece or $20 for the set at spektralquartet.com.

 

For the Chicago-based string ensemble, the project is not only a way to provide a practical product to phone users, but it is also an opportunity to take contemporary classical music into a new realm, work with a broad swath of composers, and build the quartet’s profile along the way. 

To read the whole article, click here

Chicago Sun-Times: ‘Mobile Miniatures’ project delivers wee symphonies to your cell phone

Chicago Sun-Times: ‘Mobile Miniatures’ project delivers wee symphonies to your cell phone

Sun-Times logo

Thus, this new idea was born a year ago, as a way to champion the work of peers and feeding a desire to engage with a new medium. “We have done collaborations with other types of artists in multimedia, and Mobile Miniatures was an extension of that,” says Rolen. “It bridges this old genre we work in with modern-day life in a way that people can relate to and understand, and hopefully gets string music out in the world in a larger way to entice people to become more interested in hearing it.” 

To read the whole article, click here

 

 

Sniff My Pits!

Sniff My Pits!

We’ve all been there…

joshua-bell-cmyk2

Two hours in a suit or gown, the stage lights radiating down with the heat of a thousand suns as you tear through a Presto movement. The lateral blast of the air conditioning creates a frigid ring at your collar, the wet blooming outward with every passing measure. Ticklish beads of sweat scurry down from the under-arm toward the culvert at the belt line.

As you stand for the final bow, you consider the options for greeting friends and fans in the lobby. The old elbows-planted-at-the-waist hug? A quick change of shirt? Did you bring an extra shirt? 

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Old Man and the C cheats on his Dr. Beat

Old Man and the C cheats on his Dr. Beat

It’s been a little while since I dropped some music gear recommendations on you, but trust me on this…this one is well worth the wait!

I remember being ecstatic when metronome apps first started surfacing on iOS, and then quickly realizing that I needed to play everything ppppp with it if I stood any chance of actually hearing the click. Even some of the more robust metronomes (in terms of custom subdivisions) like Metronomics are essentially useless in an ensemble setting because they are about as audible as:

Marcel

So the options are, 1) cart around a Dr. Beat DB-90 and its requisite power adapter or 2) plug the iPhone into an existing stereo system or speaker and be constantly bending over or running across the room to adjust settings and turn it on/off. Both options are lousy.

Then it hit me: Bluetooth speaker, son!

I had ignored these when they were first introduced because of their dubious audio quality, but for a metronome, this strident mono sound would be perfect. After much deliberation, I decided on the TekNmotion Air Capsule because it pumps out good volume and (full aesthetic disclosure), it is housed in sexy brushed aluminum. It’s small enough to fit in my messenger bag, isn’t tethered by any cabling (BT connection to my iPhone) and runs for days on an internal rechargeable battery. This thing is changing my musical life, for real, and it doubles as a hands-free device in the car. While it isn’t loud enough for a string quartet going full-tilt fffff, it is more than enough for most sonic scenarios. If you want even more decibels, some of these speakers can be daisy-chained (TekNmotion cannot).

Now, your metronome app of choice is ready for business and your phone can remain on the stand with you. Time to go get groovy…

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