"Música inspirada pela ideia de que as áreas propensas a inundações devastadoras conhecem um renascimento criativo após uma catástrofe."
FLOODPLAINS are low-lying places bordering rivers, and the places where human civilization was born and first flourished. The topographic reality of the floodplain also means that there is always the lurking danger of the river waters rushing up, and letting loose a torrent of destruction on what has been so carefully constructed. We can understand those waters not just as literal rivers, but also as the products of civilization built along the river’s banks: our cultural achievements, rituals, myths, and most deeply cherished beliefs about ourselves and our collective identity. Those waters nourish, sustain, and bind us, but when they flood our vision to the point of blindness, they also threaten to unmoor us. We can lose our sense of common humanity with those beyond the banks.
Floodplain opens in the Egyptian watershed of the Nile, and much of the music on the album similarly emerged from cultures based in areas surrounded by water and prone to catastrophic flooding. These include the Fertile Crescent, of course; but also parts of Kazakhstan, although we more closely associate Central Asia with mountainous steppes; Belgrade, Serbia, which is divided by the Danube; and even Udaipur, India, also known as “the city of lakes,” and the home city of sarangi master Ram Narayan, whose performance of Raga Mishra Bhairavi served as the inspiration for one of Kronos’ selections.
The modern descendents of these still-vibrant cultures are frequently portrayed in the West as being of a single mind and belonging to homogeneous countries, though in truth these nations are melting-pots—regardless of whether their leaders acknowledge the “foreign” influences in which their countries are steeped. We find these unexpected mixes in the cultures of the black Iranians whose Lullaby is here, or the many religious traditions of Lebanon (from where Wa Habibi comes), or the extraordinarily complex and rich history of Ethiopia (Tèw semagn hagèré), with its ancient culture that is being nurtured back to health today.
Of her piece …hold me, neighbor, in this storm…, Serbian composer Aleksandra Vrebalov writes: “Strangely, the cultural and religious differences that led to enmity in everyday life produced—after centuries of turbulently living together—the most incredible fusions in music. It is almost as if what we weren’t able to achieve through words and deeds—to fuse, and mix, and become something better and richer together—our music [has] accomplished instead.”
The Kronos Quartet has always been interested in exploring music of our time— not just work that is aesthetically current, or even necessarily contemporaneous with our era, but music that creates a dialogue with our collective concerns and issues. Examining culture through the voices of artists and musicians is the central, essential concern for Kronos today. As David Harrington points out, “Floodplain was imagined and recorded during one era in American politics, and then released during a very different one. Our work is a continuously evolving interaction with the world we are a part of, and we are always trying to find ways to reflect what it means to be musicians today.”
The selections on Floodplain reveal Kronos’ belief that artists have a responsibility to create links between cultures, to fashion the new out of the old, and to revive the old as part of the new. These are works that both bear witness to dissolution and destruction, but also our collective imperative to begin to build anew—a freshly fertile place where margins advance and centers retreat.