There’s a healthy tradition of screening movies with musicians performing the score live. After all, for decades, this was how films had any sound at all. Today this generally takes the form of revival screenings of old silents, or special events that showcase a film with a grand musical score — think of the many iterations of 2001 with a live orchestra. But with A Thousand Thoughts, directors Sam Green and Joe Bini have put together an entirely different experience. It’s a biographical documentary about the venerable string group Kronos Quartet, designed to be played with musical accompaniment by … Kronos Quartet. The result is being referred to as a “live documentary,” though even that seemingly paradoxical categorization can’t fully capture how unique this performance is.
Kronos Quartet is well regarded for its willingness to explore beyond the traditional boundaries of classical music, playing a broad range of sounds and genres over more than four decades. The various members of the group have collaborated with the likes of Thelonious Monk, Phillip Glass, Central Asian throat singers, and many more. They’ve performed the scores for films by directors like Michael Mann and Darren Aronofsky. (You might best recognize them from their work on “Lux Aeterna,” composed by Clint Mansell for Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream.) An unconventional subject deserves an unconventional biography, and A Thousand Thoughts disregards convention in pursuit of an immediate, intimate experience with its subject.
At each performance of A Thousand Thoughts, the current members of Kronos Quartet — David Harrington, John Sherba, Hank Dutt, and Sunny Yang — take their place on stage with their instruments in front of a screen. Joining them is Green, standing at a console from which he controls a series of video clips, made by himself and Bini, which are projected onto the screen. The video segments vary from biographical snippets about the group’s history to interviews with former and present collaborators to archival clips of their concerts. Green and Bini have worked out an overarching structure for the show, but there’s also room for Green to improvise which clips he throws up at points. The quartet adjusts their music as needed.
The result is that audiences get the rare treat of simultaneously seeing artists perform and learning their stories. And because of its format, no two instances of the show are the same. This is a live collaboration between film and music, where both elements actively inform one another, rather than the usual paradigm whereby one supports the other (music supporting film in a movie theater, sometimes film supporting music at concerts or other performing arts events).
Cinema is an art form that’s experienced with a lot of immediacy. Everything is happening right in front of you, in real time (with many interruptions ranging from montage to the most simple cut). But this is an illusion. Unlike with a play performed before you or what you see in your head as you read a novel, everything in a film is in fact set in stone (or light, rather). It’s been meticulously shot and edited, all past-tense. But the nature of A Thousand Thoughts defies this, incorporating what you could call “active editing” to introduce a dynamic element to the preordained nature of cinema. This hopefully marks only the first of many similar experiments; it would be interesting to see such a format applied to other artists across a variety of fields. For now, don’t miss a show if one plays near you. It’s a fascinating, entertaining work even if you don’t count yourself a fan of Kronos Quartet.
Your list of must-see, fun, insightful, and very New York art events this month, including Lee Lozano, Cindy Sherman, Tokuko Ushioda, Anas Albraehe, and more.
The art establishment was never quite sure what to do with a self-taught artist like Basquiat, who owed as much to bebop and William S. Burroughs’s cut-up technique as he did to African influences.
International audiences have free access to the media collections of MMCA Korea, Sharjah Art Foundation, and ArkDes through this subscription-based art streaming platform.
Kadish’s fossil-like heads, forms, and figures remind us that every civilization, including our own, eventually collapses.
In every role she held, Vendryes advocated for marginalized people and celebrated the cultural contributions of the Black and queer communities.
Convened by Erika Sprey, Lamin Fofana, Sky Hopinka, Emmy Catedral, and Manuela Moscoso, the public program unfolds this summer at CARA in New York City.
Stanton, who died of AIDS complications in 1984, left behind an engaging body of work, a moving tribute to a bygone generation of creative minds.
Baz Luhrmann’s film Elvis and Danny Boyle’s miniseries Pistol are both overly fixated on the influence their respective musicians’ managers had on them.
The Bay Area art book fair is back this July with free programming at three different on-site venues, new exhibitors, and fundraising editions from renowned artists.
In the wake of the Roe v. Wade decision, arts workers and reproductive rights organizations are collaborating on educational resources for accessing safe procedures.
The couple launched the Futureverse Foundation, a grantmaking organization that aims to “help keep the metaverse widely accessible.”
The museum’s “pay-what-you-wish” policy will remain in place for New York State residents and tri-state students, but out-of-state adults will pay $5 extra.