Kronos Quartet
Kronos Quartet at the Musical Instrument Museum, 2020
Kronos Quartet at the Musical Instrument Museum, 2020
Background information
OriginSeattle, Washington, U.S.
GenresContemporary classical, minimalism
Occupation(s)Chamber ensemble
Years active1973–present
Past members
  • Sunny Yang
  • Jim Shallenberger
  • Tim Killian
  • Walter Gray
  • Ella Gray
  • Roy Lewis
  • Joan Jeanrenaud
  • Jennifer Culp
  • Jeffrey Zeigler

The Kronos Quartet is an American string quartet based in San Francisco. It has been in existence with a rotating membership of musicians for almost 50 years. The quartet covers a very broad range of musical genres, including contemporary classical music. More than 1,000 works have been written for it.


The quartet was founded by violinist David Harrington in Seattle, Washington. Its first performance was in November 1973.[1] Since 1978, the quartet has been based in San Francisco, California. The longest-running combination of performers (from 1978 to 1999) had Harrington and John Sherba on violin, Hank Dutt on viola, and Joan Jeanrenaud on cello. In 1999, Jeanrenaud left Kronos because she was "eager for something new";[2] she was replaced by Jennifer Culp,[3] who, in turn, left in 2005 and was replaced by Jeffrey Zeigler. In June 2013, Zeigler was replaced by Sunny Yang.[4] In February 2023, cellist and composer Paul Wiancko became the quartet's newest cellist.[5]

With over 40 studio albums to its credit and having performed worldwide, the Kronos Quartet has been called "probably the most famous 'new music' group in the world"[6] and been praised in philosophical studies of music for the inclusiveness of its repertoire.[7]

By the time the quartet celebrated its 25th anniversary in 1999, it had a repertoire of over 600 works, including 400 quartets written for it, more than 3,000 performances, seven first-prize ASCAP awards, Edison Awards in classical and popular music, and had more than 1.5 million record sales.[8]

30th anniversary

When Kronos turned 30, in 2003, it decided on a commissioning process for composers under age 30, in hopes of bringing some talented young composers to light. The program, called the Under 30 Project, is now run in cooperation with Carnegie Hall, Cal Performances at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Montalvo Arts Center. The first recipient was Alexandra du Bois (at the time a student at Indiana University, later a Juilliard School graduate),[9] followed by Felipe Perez Santiago (born in Mexico in 1973),[10] and Dan Visconti (born in Illinois in 1982);[11] in 2007, Israeli composer Aviya Kopelman became the fourth.[12]

40th anniversary

To celebrate its 40th year, the Kronos Quartet returned to Seattle, the city in which it first played, and worked in collaboration with Seattle's Degenerate Art Ensemble to create a piece incorporating music, dance and video.[1] It celebrated its 40th anniversary with a sold-out performance at Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley, in December 2013. The same year, Michael Giacchino, a soundtrack composer who often names his pieces with puns, published a piece named after Kronos, "The Kronos Wartet", as a part of the soundtrack to Star Trek Into Darkness for a scene that takes place on the fictional planet "Kronos".[13] (also spelled "Qo'noS").

New music, contemporary classical

On stage with Laurie Anderson, after performing LANDFALL at the Harris Theater on March 17, 2015
On stage with Laurie Anderson, after performing LANDFALL at the Harris Theater on March 17, 2015

Over 1,000 pieces have been created for the Kronos Quartet[14], which has a long history of commissioning new works.[15] It has worked with many minimalist composers, including John Adams, Arvo Pärt, George Crumb, Henryk Górecki, Steve Reich, Roberto Paci Dalò, Philip Glass, Terry Riley, and Kevin Volans; collaborators hail from a diversity of countries—Kaija Saariaho from Finland, Pēteris Vasks from Latvia, Franghiz Ali-Zadeh from Azerbaijan, Homayun Sakhi from Afghanistan, Hamza El Din from Egypt, Victoria Vita Polevá from Ukraine and Fernando Otero,[16] Astor Piazzolla,[17] and Osvaldo Golijov from Argentina. Some of Kronos's string-quartet arrangements were published in 2007.[18]

Diverse genres

I've always wanted the string quartet to be vital, and energetic, and alive, and cool, and not afraid to kick ass and be absolutely beautiful and ugly if it has to be. But it has to be expressive of life. To tell the story with grace and humor and depth. And to tell the whole story, if possible.

—David Harrington[19]

Kronos covers a very broad range of musical genres: Mexican folk, experimental, pre-classical early music, movie soundtracks (Requiem for a Dream, Heat, The Fountain), jazz and tango. Kronos has also recorded adaptations of Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze", Sigur Rós's "Flugufrelsarinn", Television's "Marquee Moon", Raymond Scott's "Dinner Music for a Pack of Hungry Cannibals", and Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right".

Kronos has also worked with a variety of global musicians, including Bollywood playback singer Asha Bhosle;[20] Mexican-American painter Gronk; American soprano Dawn Upshaw; jazz composer/performer Pat Metheny; Mexican rockers Café Tacuba; Azerbaijani mugam singer Alim Qasimov; and the Romanian gypsy band Taraf de Haïdouks among others.

Kronos has performed live with the poet Allen Ginsberg, Astor Piazzolla, The National, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Tom Waits, David Bowie, Paul McCartney and Björk, and has recorded with Nelly Furtado, Rokia Traoré, Joan Armatrading, Brazilian electronica artist Amon Tobin, Texas yodeler Don Walser, Faith No More, Tiger Lillies and David Grisman.

In 1984, Frank Zappa wrote "None of the Above" for Kronos, of which it performs the first movement in the 2020 documentary Zappa, directed by Alex Winter. Kronos's artistic director, founder, and violinist David Harrington is also interviewed in the film.[21]

On the 1998 Dave Matthews Band album Before These Crowded Streets, Kronos Quartet performed on the tracks "Halloween" and "The Stone". It also recorded for the 2007 Nine Inch Nails remix album, Year Zero Remixed doing a rendition of the track "Another Version of the Truth"". The group performed Lee Brooks's score for the short film 2081, based on the Kurt Vonnegut short story "Harrison Bergeron".

In 2009, Kronos contributed an acoustic version of Blind Willie Johnson's "Dark Was the Night" for the AIDS benefit album Dark Was the Night produced by the Red Hot Organization.

In 2017, the quartet performed as featured artists on the songs "Lost Light" and "Journey" on the soundtrack to the videogame Destiny 2.

Awards and recognition

Greeting the audience after a 2005 performance
Greeting the audience after a 2005 performance

Le Diapason d'Or de Mai

Rolf Schock Prize

Musical America

Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music Performance

Grammy Award for Best Small Ensemble Performance

National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences

Polar Music Prize

WOMEX Awards

Kronos Quartet recording at BBC Radio, 2012
Kronos Quartet recording at BBC Radio, 2012


Main article: Kronos Quartet discography

Published music



  1. ^ a b Graves, Jen (November 13, 2013). "The Ultimate Collaboration". The Stranger. Seattle, United States. Retrieved November 14, 2013.
  2. ^ Templeton, David (March 2004). "Flight of Fancy: The sky is the limit for ex-Kronos cellist Joan Jeanrenaud". Strings. String Letter Publishing. 18 (7): 122.
  3. ^ "News and Notes: People". Strings. String Letter Publishing. 14 (4): 18. November–December 1999.
  4. ^ "Kronos Quartet Welcomes New Cellist, Sunny Jungin Yang" (Press release). February 28, 2013. Retrieved June 30, 2013.
  5. ^ ""Kronos Quartet names Paul Wiancko as new cellist"". The Strad. September 29, 2022.
  6. ^ McCalla, James (2003). Twentieth-century Chamber Music: Routledge Studies in Musical Genres. Routledge. p. 259. ISBN 978-0-415-96695-5.
  7. ^ Bruce Ellis, Benson (2003). The improvisation of musical dialogue: a phenomenology of music. Cambridge University Press. p. 189. ISBN 978-0-521-00932-4.
  8. ^ Richardson, Derk (January 1999). "Portrait of a Quartet: The Kronos reaps the rewards of 25 years of not fitting the mold". Strings. String Letter Publishing. 13 (5): 49–57.
  9. ^ Cahill, Greg (January 2003). "Kronos@30". Strings. String Letter Publishing. 17 (5): 14.
  10. ^ Sisario, Ben (August 19, 2003). "Arts Briefing". The New York Times. Retrieved January 13, 2009.
  11. ^ Martini, Tiffany (June–July 2006). "Sonic Youth: Kronos Quartet gears up for new round of composition contest". Strings. String Letter Publishing. 21 (1): 18.
  12. ^ "Aviya Kopelman Commissioned Through Kronos: Under 30 Project". MusicalAmerica. March 15, 2007.
  13. ^ "Film Music Friday: Michael Giacchino on Star Trek: Into Darkness". Retrieved October 1, 2017.
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Kronos' David Harrington: 'There Is No Such Thing As Easy Music'". Thought Catalog. April 5, 2016. Retrieved August 7, 2017.
  16. ^ Vivian Schweitzer (February 25, 2008). "Music Review: Kronos Quartet – Premieres Range in Palette From Balkans to Argentina". The New York Times.
  17. ^ Adam Greenberg (February 2001). "Five Tango Sensations-Kronos Quartet Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards All Music". All Music Guide.
  18. ^ Silberman, Daryl (October 2007). "First Edition: Kronos finally publishes its highly coveted string-quartet arrangements". Strings. String Letter Publishing. 22 (3): 90.
  19. ^ Yaple, Carol. "Four Hundred Candles: The Creation of a Repertoire". Kronos Quartet. Retrieved March 30, 2010.
  20. ^ Kettle, David (December 2005). "Kronos Quartet/Asha Boshle (singer)". The Strad. 116 (1388): 86.
  21. ^ "Contact Kronos and Frequently Asked Questions". Kronos Quartet. Retrieved January 27, 2022.
  22. ^ Mattison, Ben (December 13, 2002). "Kronos Quartet Named Musical America's Musicians of the Year for 2003". Andante. Retrieved January 12, 2009.
  23. ^ "Kronos Quartet / Polar Music Prize". May 3, 2011. Retrieved February 10, 2019.