Box Office: Koger Center for The Arts
Created by two of the country’s most esteemed artists, composer Michael Abels and poet Nikky Finney, and brought to life by the most legendary ensemble in contemporary classical music, the Kronos Quartet, At War With Ourselves - 400 Years of You is a major, evening-length work about the African American experience in the New World. The dramatic piece directly engages with history and explores themes including race relations, social justice and civil rights.
Written for string quartet, narrator, and adult choir, At War With Ourselves has been in development since 2013. It will be workshopped over the course of three days and given its first preview performance at the University of South Carolina on November 7, 2021. Related events in Kronos’s and Abels’ residency (see below) at UofSC, all open to the public, include presentations, discussions and Q&A sessions with the work’s creators and artists, master classes, poetry readings, and a film screening at the Nickelodeon Theatre.
Finney’s evocative poetry, which directly inspired Abels’ music, was written in 2019, the 400th anniversary of the African presence in America. The intimate, emotionally-charged text — in turns both bold and seductive, and always deeply personal — flits throughout history with allusions to slave ships, Harriet Tubman, black astronomer Benjamin Banneker, and Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos. In Finney’s words, the work is addressed to “both black and white, both enslaved and free, bystander and non-bystander. We were then and now, At War With Ourselves. All of us, one human battlefield.”
Related Residency Events
All events are free and open to the public, unless otherwise noted.*
"A Kronos Quartet Primer: 49 Years of BIG Listening”
1:10 - 2 p.m., School of Music (Room 006)
Opening presentation by David K. Garner, UofSC professor of composition
A Night to Celebrate and Thank Poetry
7:30 – 9 p.m., The Big Apple, 1000 Hampton St.
Led by Nikky Finney
A celebration of poetry by those who write it and read it! Atendees are invited to share a poem.
Kronos Quartet Master Class
5:00 – 7 p.m., School of Music (Room 016)
UofSC student string quartets performing repertoire from Kronos’s “Fifty for the Future” commissioning project.
*Screening of the film Us
7 – 9 p.m. Film Screening, Nickelodeon Theatre, 1607 Main St. (seating at 6:30 p.m.)
Directed by Jordan Peele, music by Michael Abels. Starring Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph and Elisabeth Moss.
Post-Screening Discussion with Composer Michael Abels
9:05-9:45 p.m., Nickelodeon Theatre
Talk and Q&A about Abels' music for the films Get Out and Us, hosted by Dr. Birgitta Johnson, UofSC professor of ethnomusicology / African American studies
*Purchase tickets at the Nickelodeon. You must see the film in order to attend the post-screening discussion.
"50 for the Future: The Kronos Learning Repertoire”
1:10 – 2 p.m., School of Music Recital Hall, Room 206
Luise E. Peake Music & Culture Colloquium Presentation - Kronos Quartet and Janet Cowperthwaite, Executive Director, Kronos Performing Arts Association
Pre-Concert Conversation with Nikky Finney and Michael Abels
2 – 2:30 p.m., Koger Center for the Arts
Led by Michael Harley, artistic director, Southern Exposure New Music Series
Preview Performance - At War With Ourselves - 400 Years of You
3 p.m., Koger Center for the Arts
About the Performers
The adventurous, inimitable Kronos Quartet, based in San Francisco, was founded by violinist David Harrington in 1973. With
thousands of performances, numerous worldwide tours, pathbreaking projects and commissions,
and over sixty recordings to their credit, Kronos may be the best-known and most influential
contemporary chamber ensemble in the world. Kronos has commissioned more than 1,000
works and arrangements for string quartet in a broad variety of musical genres, and
collaborated with many of the world’s most accomplished composers and performers.
They have performed with artists including Allen Ginsberg, Astor Piazzolla, The National,
Wu Man, Zakir Hussain, Amanda Palmer, k.d. lang, Tom Waits, David Bowie, Paul McCartney
and Björk, and recorded with musicians such as Nelly Furtado, Faith No More, Joan
Armatrading, Nine Inch Nails and the Dave Mathews Band.
Conductor Valerie Sainte-Agathe, artistic director of the San Francisco Girls Chorus since 2013, has collaborated with artists such as Deborah Voigt, Philip Glass, Aaron Jay Kernis, Gustavo Dudamel and Michael Tilson Thomas. She has performed with the New Century Chamber Orchestra, The Knights Orchestra, Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Kronos Quartet and Tenet Ensemble. In 2018 she made her Carnegie Hall debut, conducting the Philip Glass Ensemble. During the 2018-19 season she served as artist in residence for Kronos Festival 2019. Ms. Sainte-Agathe served as music director for the Young Singers program of the Montpellier National Symphony and Opera in France from 1998-2011.
The chorus for At War With Ourselves: 400 Years of You is comprised of professional singers from throughout the Columbia region — some coming from as far away as Greenville, SC — many of them also teachers. Included are students and professors from University of South Carolina, Columbia College, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, and Dreher High School. The choir is prepared by Jared Johnson, Canon Organist and Choirmaster, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral.
Featured Visual Artist
Each Southern Exposure concert is paired with a local visual artist whose works relate thematically and visually to the evening’s musical program. This concert’s featured artist is Tyrone Geter, a Columbia-based artist who formerly taught at Benedict College. Selected paintings and drawings will be on display in the Koger Center on April 3, and in the School of Music Library the weeks preceding and following the concert. Mr. Geter’s art can be seen here.
At War with Ourselves - 400 Years of You was commissioned by the Kronos Performing Arts Association, funded in part by a Hewlett
Foundation 50 Arts Commission and the MAP Fund, in partnership with ASU Gammage at
Arizona State University, Hancher Auditorium–The University of Iowa, Krannert Center
for the Performing Arts/University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, SFJAZZ, Texas
Performing Arts at UT Austin, and the University of South Carolina. The Kronos Quartet
residency is sponsored in part by a Visiting Scholars Grant from the UofSC Office
of the Provost. The At War With Ourselves choir is made possible thanks to a generous
donation from UofSC’s African American Studies Program and the College of Arts and
Questions about the At War With Ourselves - 400 Years of You workshop and performance may be directed to Michael Harley.
More information about the University of South Carolina's Southern Exposure New Music Series is here.