Aug. 28: Spektral Quartet presents the Album Release (Zoom) Party for Experiments in Living (New Focus Recordings)

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Spektral Quartet Presents Experiments in Living Album Release (Zoom) Party

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Featuring the reveal of the Tarot-style cards and guided, deep-listening experience
with original artwork by øjeRum

Friday, August 28, 2020 at 7:30pm CT

Free admission with donations accepted. RSVP is required at

Chicago, IL – Spektral Quartet, praised by The Strad for its “ear-tickling precision,” presents an Album Release (Zoom) Party on Friday, August 28, 2020 at 7:30pm CT to celebrate Experiments in Living,released that day on New Focus Recordings.This double album, featuring two hours of music, celebrates the quartet’s 10th anniversary season in 2020-2021 and is the first all-Spektral album since their GRAMMY-nominated Serious Business (Sono Luminus, 2016). The concept of the programming represents a core tenet of the quartet’s philosophy as an ensemble – that divergent styles of music spanning centuries speak to one another in unexpected and captivating ways, and that the unfamiliar can rapidly become familiar in the right context.

Of the event, the quartet states, “We’ll be celebrating our phenomenal roster of collaborators – George Lewis, Charmaine Lee, Sam Pluta, and Anthony Cheung as well as engineer Dan Nichols and album art designer Natalie Bontumasi – some of whom will join us live. Listening to their tracks together, as well as those of Brahms, Schoenberg, and Crawford (Seeger), we’ll dig in with you on the unexpected, triumphal, and occasionally hair-pulling-ly excruciating moments that fused in the making of this large-scale album.

Together, we’ll unbox the mysterious deck of cards that will deepen your listening experience of Experiments in Living. You’ll be among the very first to see just how this unique, entertaining device – featuring gorgeous original artwork – works in real life as we build a playlist together. It’s a Spektral release show, so of course hijinks will ensue: raffles, white elephant prizes, and your chance to win your very own, gorgeous deck of cards! Experiments in Living is an album unlike anything we’ve ever seen ourselves, and we can’t wait to share it with you!”

The Tarot-style cards were designed by Copenhagen-based collage artist and musician øjeRum ( specifically for the innovative, self-guided, “choose your own adventure” approach to experiencing the album that Spektral Quartet has created. While the album can certainly be enjoyed in order from start to finish, the quartet believes that listeners, regardless of experience or expertise, are best suited to discover their own links between these tracks, and that this is most stimulating in user-generated “shuffle” mode of sorts.

Digital and physical copies of the album will be available for purchase at the event. Registration is free, with donations accepted and RSVP required, at Registrants will receive a link and instructions to view the event.

Experiments in Living program notes by Spektral Quartet violist Doyle Armbrust:

What awaits you is the first quartet of Johannes Brahms, a composer that Schoenberg considered as harmonically adventurous as Wagner, and one whose voice held out against a hurricane of criticism. Then there’s Schoenberg’s own third quartet, a piece inseparable from Schubert (and Mozart and Beethoven), but that also jail-breaks the entirety of classical music composition.

And what about Ruth Crawford (Seeger)’s String Quartet (1931)? Here we have a composer cutting through the patriarchy to write one of the only quartets of its kind till, maybe, Elliott Carter 20 years later.

Or maybe you’ve leapt right to George Lewis’s ecstatic String Quartet No. 1.5, “Experiments in Living.” There is an extemporaneous flare and even a seeming chaos at times within this music, but on further reflection, an architecture emerges from the mist – not unlike the sometimes bewildering experience of hearing Arnold Schoenberg’s String Quartet No. 3 for the first time. Amidst all its energizing spontaneity, clear and bracing alliances are formed in twos, threes, and fours.

The exuberance popping off within the Lewis finds a parallel in Sam Pluta’s binary/momentary logics: flow state/joy state, which whips the players through breakneck character changes with titles as sober as “Professor Dr. Squiggly, DMA.” As both composers prove, the most challenging music on the page can also be absurd, and hilarious, and fun.

Composer Anthony Cheung provides a genre bridge with his cheekily-titled Real Book of Fake Tunes, in which whiffs of jazz harmonies infuse spontaneous-sounding licks from flutist Claire Chase and our foursome. And finally, Spinals, our fully improvised collaboration with vocalist Charmaine Lee, offers the most interstellar departure from traditional classical music, fusing other-worldly reverberations of the human voice with the kaleidoscopic palette of the string quartet.

Spektral Quartet: Experiments in Living
New Focus Recordings | Released August 28, 2020

[1-4] Johannes Brahms (1833–1897): String Quartet in C minor, Op. 51 No. 1 (1873)

[5-8] Arnold Schoenberg (1874–1951): String Quartet No. 3, Op. 30 (1927)

[9-12] Ruth Crawford (Seeger) (1901–1953): String Quartet (1931)

[13] Sam Pluta (b.1979): binary/momentary logics: flow state/joy state (2016)

[14–18] Anthony Cheung (b.1982): The Real Book of Fake Tunes for flute and string quartet (2015)
Featuring Claire Chase, flutes

[19] Charmaine Lee (b.1991): Spinals (2018)
Featuring Charmaine Lee, voice and electronics
Devised in collaboration with Spektral Quartet

[20] George Lewis (b.1952): String Quartet 1.5: Experiments in Living (2016)

About the Spektral Quartet: Multi-Grammy nominees, the Spektral Quartet actively pursues a vivid conversation between exhilarating works of the traditional repertoire and those written this decade, this year, or this week. Since its inception in 2010, Spektral is known for creating seamless connections across centuries, drawing in the listener with charismatic deliveries, interactive concert formats, an up-close atmosphere, and bold, inquisitive programming.With a tour schedule including some of the country’s most notable concert venues such as the Kennedy Center, Miller Theater, Library of Congress, and NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts, the quartet also takes great pride in its home city of Chicago: championing the work of local composers, bridging social and aesthetic partitions, and cultivating its ongoing residency at the University of Chicago. Named “Chicagoans of the Year” by the Chicago Tribune in 2017, Spektral Quartet is most highly regarded for its creative and stylistic versatility: presenting seasons in which, for instance, a thematic program circling Beethoven seamlessly coexists with an improvised sonic meditation at sunrise, a talent show featuring Spektral fans, and the co-release of a jazz album traversing the folk traditions of Puerto Rico.

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