Magazine article Strings

Hank Dutt: Violist with the Kronos Quartet

Magazine article Strings

Hank Dutt: Violist with the Kronos Quartet

Article excerpt

Hank Dutt is the violist and a founding member of the Grammy-winning Kronos Quartet, a San Francisco-based chamber group that specializes in new music. Their latest CD is Kronos Quartet plays Sigur Rós on the Nonesuch label.

1 How old were you when you first started playing and what were the circumstances?

My school was very important! When I was in the fourth grade-age ten-we were tested for our musical aptitude. I guess I "passed," since I was asked to choose an instrument to study.

My grandfather had played the violin, so I decided to follow in his footsteps. Later, my parents bought a piano and I started lessons on that as well.

2 Why were you drawn to music?

I grew up in a house filled with music.

My parents were artists, not musicians, but they loved listening to music: popular music, Broadway shows, gospel, even a bit of classical music.

I started forming my own taste when I was 11 or 12.1 found a recording of Beethoven's Leonore Overture No. 3 and listened to it over and over.

Beethoven's drama and passion propelled me into my teenage years. I really enjoy creating music-that is, rehearsing a work and then performing it. Rehearsing a new piece is always an adventure: exploring the geography of a piece, discovering its many characters, searching for the right fingerings and bowings that will bring each phrase to life. When it comes together in performance, hopefully, I'll find that I've made the right choices.

Being able to share the music with an audience is the final reward.

3 Why did you choose viola?

I was bribed! When I was in high school, I was a regular at Illinois' summer music camps. Sometimes I went to as many as three camps over the course of a single summer. One year, one of my favorite camps ended up with too many violinists. If I agreed to take up the viola, they'd give me a scholarship. I borrowed an instrument from my high school.

Luckily, the viola and I hit it off; I fell in love with its rich sound. So I dumped the violin. The viola and I have been together ever since.

No regrets!

The viola is a very demanding instrument to play-it's just a big, heavy, awkward thing to keep perched under your chin for hours on end. It's good exerciseyou don't see many out-of-shape violists! But even more In than physical |t. stamina, you need It mental toughness to play the viola. Otherwise, you'll never survive all the viola jokes.

4 How has string music empowered you?

Music is woven into our lives. There's music in your car, on your TV programs and ' I commercials, in the movies, in the store, in the restaurant. If music weren't important, if it didn't affect people, if it didn't engage them to do different things, it wouldn't be in all those places.

Music is a tremendous bridge between cultures. In Kronos, we've played music by composers from many walks of life, from many different traditions, from Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Australia, North and South America.

When you hear music that comes from Iraq, or the lnuit of Canada, or from Argentina, you get a precious window into a people's culture and experiences.

I'd like to think we're helping to create greater sympathy, greater understanding among the people of the world.

Kronos decided only to play contemporary music. We find that with new works, we can challenge ourselves and challenge our audiences to explore new ways of thinking about sound, about how music relates to the world. …

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