Kickstarter launch

Our Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign has launched:

Kepler Quartet’s CD3 | securing the Ben Johnston legacy

We are also featured at New Music USA’s curated Kickstarter page.

Two local Milwaukee donors have graciously stepped forward with a $15,000, dollar-for-dollar matching grant to help Kepler Quartet complete the ten-quartet recording series. These funds will cover a little less than half of remaining CD3 costs—String Quartets Nos. 6, 7, 8, currently in production. We must match the pledge with funds raised elsewhere, and our newly launched Kickstarter campaign will make the final push possible.

Ben’s health is failing, and time is running out. The composer’s collaboration is crucial as we rush to complete this project. For a planned April 2016 CD3 release, we must meet the February 15, 2016 deadline for submitting our master to the record label.

Interest in Ben’s music has blossomed following the release of Kepler Quartet’s first two CDs. But at nearly 90 years of age, Ben has yet to see his quartets gain the true level of currency they deserve within the performance repertoire. Kepler Quartet would like to see this change.

Nothing would give the ensemble or the record label more satisfaction than seeing this 14-year-long project through to completion while the composer is able to enjoy the results. Now is the time to secure the legacy of this great American composer!

calm before the storm

May 28, 2015 recording at WLC

On May 28, we recorded the final segment of #6, the retrograde first violin solo, having already finished at our March 16 session, the “backwards” cello.

Above is a screen grab from our recording engineer’s Facebook post on May 28, commemorating the occasion. (We hadn’t arrived yet when the photo of mike setup was taken, but believe us…we were there, that day!)

Next up was rehearsing and recording the first movement of String Quartet No. 7, which throws every pitch known to humankind (and then some) into the mix.

We recorded #7 mvt I on August 29 and 30 at a different venue, a recording studio instead of a hall, because ambient noise is more controllable.

We will start rehearsing #7 mvt III on November 18. The surge of microtonal activity begins!


progress with SQ#6

Ben and quartet at church for coachings in summer
Ben and Kepler Quartet at church for coachings in summer

Over the past 6 months we have continued rehearsing and recording SQ#6. On Dec. 19, we recorded the “backwards” versions of the violin II and viola solo sections. In January, we rehearsed the cello solo section intensively, but a family emergency forced us to move the recording date to March. After that, all that will remain of #6 is the retrograde first violin solo.

The “forward” and “backwards” violin II solos were virtually identical in character—both rather placid and serene, which seems appropriate as these solos bookend the raucous middle chordal section. Providing more of a front-to-back contrast, the “forward” viola solo had been bizarrely athletic and dance-y, while “backwards” was like rhythmic accented speech. Whereas cello “forward” had given the impression of a fairly conventional Romantic lyricism, “backwards” cello has a harder edge to its delivery. The tempos marked in the score are increasing with each of these solo sections, from the midpoint of the piece onward. Retrograde first violin promises to be a more caffeinated version.

During the summer months, we also spent a significant amount of time delving into quartet #7 with Ben. This is the veritable ‘Mount Everest’ in his cycle when it comes to the pitch set. There are over 1,200 discrete pitches in this monumental work (Sharan is calling the last movement ‘Syntonic Verses…’).

Tim Johnson, our audio programmer, joined us for a few of these #7 sessions. As with #6, we are finding many copyist’s errors. Fully corrected #6 and #7 scores that we could eventually furnish through the publisher’s catalog may be another welcome byproduct of this project. We would like to do the same for Ben’s other quartets.

New Music USA grant

We applied for the New Music USA grant, April 1, 2014, while continuing to work steadfastly on String Quartet No. 6. We learned of New Music USA’s awards announcement, July 2nd, and the good news that we had been awarded helped buoy our spirits through a grueling but productive six-hour recording session of the viola and violin II ‘forward’ solo sections of SQ#6 on July 3rd.