On May 3 in Zankel Hall, Serbian composer Aleksandra Vrebalov's Babylon, Our Own receives its New York premiere by the Kronos Quartet and virtuoso clarinetist David Krakauer.
Here, the composer introduces the piece, followed by Krakauer's point of view in a two-part video.
Babylon, Our Own was written for the Kronos Quartet and David Krakauer, inspired by their passionate and masterful playing of diverse styles of music. I wrote the piece having in mind their individual characteristics as performers: Krakauer's ecstatic high register, David Harrington's uncanny responsiveness in dialogue-like sections, John Sherba's rare ability to carve the shortest phrase into a precise musical statement, Hank Dutt's most soulful solos, and Jeffrey Zeigler's powerful triple-stops and superhuman rhythmic precision. The result is a piece in which times, places, and cultures intersect to celebrate music as the language with which I feel most comfortable—a language that has brought all of us together.
I imagine the single-movement form of Babylon, Our Own unfolding like a ritual, carrying one through a vast range of memories and visions triggered by pre-recorded documentary audio materials. Filtered and manipulated to different levels of abstraction, pre-recorded sounds include snippets of friends' voices speaking their names; New York City street noise; the Kronos Quartet and David Krakauer rehearsing the piece; gatherings of groups in religious fervor; the prayers of the Pope, the Dalai Lama, and the Orthodox Patriarch; Morse code; as well as my grandmother reciting the poetry she had learned as a child in the 1930s.
The acoustic material—the interplay between clarinet and the individual instruments of the quartet—is a celebration of human relationships
and interconnectedness of us all. Each individual part is like a thread in an intricate web, responding to or triggering immediate and distant events throughout the piece.
In non-musical terms and very much inspired by my long relationship with Kronos, I wanted to create something I've always hoped to experience in reality: a moment of high sonic complexity in which all of us—from "everyman" to powerful spiritual leaders—simultaneously join voices in declaring that we all are equal, that to each other we are holy. Invoking names at the end of the piece is a way to acknowledge the presence of each of us in this moment, so that Thy Name becomes a name of a friend, a sibling, a parent, a child—in its simple beauty, it becomes your name.
David Krakauer on Aleksandra Vrebalov's Babylon, Our Own: Part I
David Krakauer on Aleksandra Vrebalov's Babylon, Our Own: Part II
Related: May 3, Kronos Quartet