Melbourne Festival: The Kronos Quartet – Sun Rings


Written for the 2011 Melbourne Festival program. This year the Melbourne Festival was trying to cultivate an atmosphere of popular accessibility, so copy-wise the focus tended toward the experiential nature of the show rather than its intellectual groundings.

A transcendent, visually spectacular odyssey into the farthest reaches of the Solar System.

The Kronos Quartet, surely the most esteemed string quartet in the world, returns to the Melbourne Festival with the Australian debut of their much heralded  Sun Rings cycle. A collaboration between NASA, Kronos, the composer Terry Riley and new media artist Willie Williams, Sun Rings is a majestic amalgam of chamber music, hypnotic visuals and the ethereal “whistles” of deep space, as recorded and transmitted by the Voyager spacecraft.

Across ten movements – or “spaceships” – Sun Rings soars through the outermost limits of our understanding of the universe: the whirrs and clicks of electrons flaring against the atmosphere of Jupiter being woven together with a soundtrack of creeping strings and undulating chorus while flickering images of the astral landscape tremble across the screen. Ghostly and beautiful, this is music as scientific exploration, a stately, captivating waltz into the boundaries of known space.

Having been performed around the world since 2002, Sun Rings is one of the Kronos Quartet’s most acclaimed and enduring endeavours. Vast in scope and precise in execution, it promises to be one of the most remarkable events at this year’s Festival.