|Turtle Island Quartet
Hometown: Berkeley, CA
Web site: http://www.turtleislandquartet.com
View World Music Days Events for this Artist
David Balakrishnan — Violin and Baritone Violin
Mads Tolling — Violin
Jeremy Kittel — Viola
Mark Summer — Cello
Its name derived from creation mythology found in Native American Folklore, the Turtle Island Quartet, since its inception in 1985, has been a singular force in the creation of bold, new trends in chamber music for strings. Cellist nonpareil Yo-Yo Ma has proclaimed Turtle Island to be “a unified voice that truly breaks new ground — authentic and passionate — a reflection of some of the most creative music-making today.” Turtle Island fuses the classical quartet esthetic with contemporary American musical styles, and by devising a performance practice that honors both, the state of the art has inevitably been redefined.
The Quartet’s birth was the result of violinist David Balakrishnan’s brainstorming explorations and compositional vision while writing his master’s thesis at Antioch University West. The journey has taken Turtle Island through forays into folk, bluegrass, swing, be-bop, funk, R&B, rock, hip-hop, as well as music of Latin America and India . . . a repertoire consisting of hundreds of ingenious arrangements and originals. It has included over a dozen recordings on labels such as Windham Hill, Chandos, Koch and Telarc, soundtracks for major motion pictures, TV and radio credits such as the Today Show, All Things Considered, and Prairie Home Companion, feature articles in People and Newsweek magazines, and collaborations with famed artists such as clarinetist Paquito D’Rivera, The Manhattan Transfer, pianists Billy Taylor and Kenny Barron, the Ying Quartet and the Parsons Dance Company.
Another unique element of Turtle Island is their revival of venerable improvisational and compositional chamber traditions that have not been explored by string players for nearly 200 years. At the time of Haydn’s apocryphal creation of the string quartet form, musicians were more akin to today’s saxophonists and keyboard masters of the jazz and pop world, i.e., improvisers, composers, and arrangers. Each Turtle Island member is accomplished in these areas of expertise as well as having extensive conservatory training as instrumentalists.
One result of this dedication can be seen in Turtle Island’s phenomenal international appeal, particularly in Europe where chamber music remains a vital facet of life. What was once termed ‘alternative’ chamber music now firmly inhabits the mainstream. Turtle Island members refine their skills through unusual and endemic ‘re-compositions’ of works by the old masters, through the development of repertory by some of today’s cutting edge composers, through performances and recordings with major symphonic ensembles, and through a determined educational commitment. Turtle Island Quartet is the string quartet for the 21st century.