Sono Luminus Releases Serious Business Spektral Quartet; Worldwide Release Date: January 29, 2016

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Sono Luminus Releases

Serious Business
Spektral Quartet

Worldwide Release Date: January 29, 2016

Pre-order on Amazon: |

“[Spektral Quartet is] leading the charge toward progressive, high-caliber contemporary classical, re­inventing the concept of chamber music” —Chicago Reader

“a spine-tingling interpretation … hands down one of the most impressive performances of the year.” —Time Out Chicago

“the city’s hottest string quartet,” “vitalizing the scene in a big way” —Chicago Tribune

Review CDs available upon request. Press-only download, not for publication: (Password: Serious2016)

Sono Luminus announces the January 29, 2016 worldwide release of Serious Business featuring the virtuosic Chicago-based Spektral Quartet (Austin Wulliman, violin; Clara Lyon, violin; Doyle Armbrust, viola; and Russell Rolen, cello). The album includes the world premiere recordings of three string quartets written for the Spektral Quartet – Sky Macklay’s Many Many Cadences, David Reminick’s The Ancestral Mousetrap, and Chris Fisher-Lochhead’s Hack, plus Josef Haydn’s String Quartet Opus 33, No 2 in E-flat major, “The Joke.” The Quartet will perform music from Serious Business at SubCulture in New York, NY on January 9, as well as at a series of three concerts in the Chicago area at Fermilab (January 24), Mayne Stage (January 29), and the Logan Center for the Arts (January 31). For performance details, visit

Each piece on Serious Business looks at humor in music from a different angle – not necessarily with the goal of making the listener laugh, but as a sophisticated subject to be explored (without taking that subject too seriously, of course). Humor has been a central part of the Spektral Quartet’s approach to performance from the beginning. As cellist Russell Rolen told Chicago Magazine in 2014, “If we can bring some levity, connect with you, show you that we’re human and that we’re fallible, all of that really can make people open up and be receptive.”

“We are comedy nerds – podcasts, movies, stand-up – the whole gamut, and humor is crucial for us in connecting with our audiences, not to mention weathering the rigors of the rehearsal room,” explains violist Doyle Armbrust. “Our new album fuses two elements that light us up: imaginative, virtuosic writing and that fantastically disarming ingredient, laughter.”

Comprised almost exclusively of tonal cadences, Sky Macklay’s Many Many Cadences from 2014 sends the quartet plummeting from the upper reaches of their instruments, cycling at cutthroat speeds, before warping into a fevered variant of itself.

Equal parts punk rock and classical virtuosity, David Reminick’s 2014 The Ancestral Mousetrap requires the quartet to sing while traversing taut, complex counterpoint. The macabre, absurdist, and often profound poetry of Russell Edson provides the libretto for this one-of-a-kind work.

Chris Fisher-Lochhead’s Hack, written in 2015, takes painstaking transcriptions of bits from famous stand-up comedians (including Sarah Silverman, Dave Chappelle, George Carlin, Robin Williams, Rodney Dangerfield, Kumail Nanjiani, Richard Pryor, and many more) as the piece’s launch point, and mines the nonverbal elements of humor: cadence, pitch, and timing. The staggering score is by turns rapturous, heady, and hyperkinetic.

The Spektral Quartet has yet to experience a performance of Haydn’s “The Joke” in which the audience doesn’t laugh at the piece’s fake-out conclusion. Brimming with whimsy, radiant string writing, and memorable melodies, “The Joke”, from 1781, stands as the historic counterbalance to the abundance of new commissions on Serious Business.

Since its inception, the Spektral Quartet has sought out the discourse between the great works of the traditional canon and those written this decade, this year, or this week. Creating connections across centuries, the group further invites its listeners in with charismatic deliveries, interactive concert formats, an up-close atmosphere, and bold, inquisitive programming.

The ensemble is regarded for its forward-thinking endeavors including the Mobile Miniatures project, which rallied more than forty composers from across the US including David Lang, Augusta Read Thomas, Nico Muhly and Shulamit Ran to write ringtone-length pieces for download to mobile devices. In addition to finding vehicles for bringing classical music into everyday life, the Spektral Quartet prioritizes immersion and inclusivity through close-proximity seating and delivers the majority of its Chicago concerts in vibrant, unconventional venues.

As ardent advocates for composers within its home city, the group recorded its debut album, Chambers (Parlour Tapes+), in 2013 featuring works by Hans Thomalla, Marcos Balter, LJ White, Chris Fisher-Lochhead, and Ben Hjertmann. That same season saw the release of the South American jazz and tango-themed From This Point Forward (Azica Records), with bandoneon/accordion virtuoso Julien Labro and saxophone luminary Miguel Zenón. Spektral Quartet appears on Swiss violin soloist Rachel Kolly d’Alba’s 2015 record, Fin de siècle (Aparté), performing Ernest Chausson’s Concerto for Violin, Piano, and String Quartet and will be featured on upcoming albums from composers Augusta Read Thomas and Ryan Ingebritsen.

Keen on frequently treading outside the lines of classical music, Spektral Quartet partnered with avant-pop artist Julia Holter in the 2014/15 season for composer Alex Temple’s Behind the Wallpaper at the Ecstatic Music Festival in NYC and the Liquid Music series in St. Paul, MN. In 2015/16, the ensemble invigorates its ongoing collaboration with Julien Labro, and will team up with GRAMMY-winning jazz artist Billy Childs for the esteemed Jazz at the Logan series at the University of Chicago.

Titled UP CLOSE, the Spektral Quartet’s 2015/16 season is studded with new works from composers like Hans Thomalla, Mikel Kuehn, Ryan Ingebritsen, Tomas Gueglio Saccone, and Anthony Cheung as well as cornerstones of the string quartet repertoire by Beethoven, Schubert, Prokofiev, Mendelssohn, and Bartók.

Season highlights on the road include a residency with the JACK Quartet at Stanford University, a teaching residency at the New World Symphony, and an appearance with flutist Claire Chase on the University of Maryland’s Common Tone series.

The Spektral Quartet proudly serves as ensemble-in-residence at the University of Chicago’s Department of Music.

Spektral Quartet: Serious Business | Sono Luminus | Release Date: January 29, 2016
Austin Wulliman, violin; Clara Lyon, violin; Doyle Armbrust, viola; and Russell Rolen, cello

[1] Sky Macklay: Many Many Cadences (2014)
[2-6] David Reminick: The Ancestral Mousetrap (2014) with text by Russell Edson
[7-10] Josef Haydn: String Quartet Op. 33 No. 2 in E-flat “The Joke” (1781)
[11-32] Chris Fisher-Lochhead: Hack (2015)

Total time: 65:26

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