Kronos Performing Arts Association and SFJAZZ present AT WAR WITH OURSELVES


The San Francisco-based Kronos Quartet/Kronos Performing Arts Association (KPAA) and SFJAZZ are pleased to present the Bay Area premiere of At War With Ourselves – 400 Years of You, an evening song cycle exploring the race relations and movements for social justice, civil rights and resistance. At War With Ourselves will have two performances in San Francisco at the SFJAZZ Center, May 7 and 8, 2022.

Created by composer Michael Abels and poet Nikky Finney, and hosted by the Kronos Quartet and a choir conducted by Valérie Sainte-Agathe, At War With Ourselves is described as a cycle of rhapsodic modern songs born from the skin of history.

The work was commissioned by the Kronos Quartet, after founder and artistic director David Harrington saw poet Nikky Finney receive the 2011 National Book Award. Harrington says: “They were paying tribute to poetry prize winner Nikky Finney I was all alone watching his acceptance speech, just in tears…[She paid homage to] ‘Those who aspired to read and write, but were forbidden, who lost their hands and feet, were killed, by laws written by men who believed they possessed other men.’ When the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland invited Kronos to create a piece commemorating the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, Finney immediately came to Harrington’s mind.

The evocative poetry Finney penned for this project directly inspired Abels, best known for his award-winning scores for writer/director Jordan Peele’s 2017 Oscar-winning horror film Get Out and its sequel, Us. Finney’s intimate and emotionally charged text – by turns bold and seductive, and always deeply personal – cuts through history with allusions to slave ships, Harriet Tubman, black astronomer Benjamin Banneker and Olympians Tommie Smith. and John Carlos. In Finney’s words, the work is “both black and white, both slave and free, spectator and non-spectator. We were then and now, at war with ourselves. All of us, a human battlefield.” The choir, conducted by Valérie Sainte-Agathe, includes a cast of singers from the Bay Area, the San Francisco Girls Chorus Premier Ensemble and the University of South Carolina.

At War with Ourselves – 400 Years of You was commissioned by the Kronos Performing Arts Association, funded in part by a Hewlett Foundation 50 Arts Commission and the MAP Fund, in partnership with ASU Gammage at Arizona State University, Hancher Auditorium-The University of Iowa, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts/University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, SFJAZZ, Texas Performing Arts at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of South Carolina.


For 48 years, the San Francisco Kronos Quartet – David Harrington (violin), John Sherba (violin), Hank Dutt (viola) and Sunny Yang (cello) – has combined a fearless spirit of exploration with a commitment to continually reinventing the string quartet live. In the process, Kronos has become one of the most famous and influential ensembles in the world, performing thousands of concerts, releasing over 60 recordings, collaborating with many of the world’s most accomplished composers and performers, and commissioning over 1,000 works and arrangements for string quartet. . Kronos has received more than 40 awards, including the prestigious Polar Music, Avery Fisher and Edison Klassiek Oeuvre awards.

An integral part of the work is a series of longstanding associations with many of the world’s most eminent composers and musicians, including Franghiz Ali-Zadeh, Philip Glass, Nicole Lizée, Vladimir Martynov, Steve Reich, Aleksandra Vrebalov and Wu Man. from Chronos. Kronos has shared the stage with many artists including David Bowie, Asha Bhosle, Rhiannon Giddens, Sam Green, Zakir Hussain, Trevor Paglen, Van Dyke Parks, Alim Qasimov, San Francisco Girls Chorus, Tanya Tagaq, Mahsa Vahdat, Tom Waits and Howard Zinn.

Touring for five months every year, Kronos performs in the most prestigious concert halls, clubs and festivals around the world. Kronos has a prolific and varied discography on Nonesuch Records, including three Grammy-winning albums – Sun Rings by Terry Riley (2019), Landfall with Laurie Anderson (2018) and Alban Berg’s Lyric Suite with Dawn Upshaw (2003). Recent Kronos releases include Ladilikan (World Circuit Records) with Malian musicians Trio Da Kali; Michael Gordon: Clouded Yellow (Cantaloupe), Placeless (Kirkelig Kulturverksted) with Iranian singers Mahsa and Marjan Vahdat, and Long Time Passing: Kronos & Friends Celebrate Pete Seeger (Smithsonian Folkways).

The nonprofit Kronos Performing Arts manages all aspects of Kronos’ work, including commissioning new works, concert tours and home season performances, educational programs, and the annual Kronos Festival. In 2015, Kronos launched Fifty for the Future: The Kronos Learning Repertoire, an education and legacy project that commissions and distributes 50 new works for string quartet by composers around the world for free online.


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