Kronos Quartet to perform new Abels/Finney collaborative work tracing 400 years of Black American history

Posted on: November 19, 2021

“Nikky Finney, a poet and professor from South Carolina, won the National Book Award in 2011 for her poetry collection Head Off & Split,” reports Tim Grieving on Wednesday’s (11/17) National Public Radio. “In her [acceptance] speech, Finney traced a line from an 18th-century proclamation, which decreed that slaves were forbidden from learning to read or write, to the proud, Black literary giants in the room. [One] person who saw that speech … was violinist David Harrington, the founder of Kronos Quartet…. Harrington contacted Finney about a collaboration…. The project finally resulted in a commission from a coalition … in 2019—400 years after Africans first arrived in America. At War With Ourselves—400 Years of You has its premiere in Austin this weekend, performed by Kronos and Finney with the local vocal group Inversion Ensemble. The creators hope to take the piece all over the country.… Finney and Kronos found a simpatico composer in Michael Abels…. Inspired by the old tradition of creating an entire oratorio from a single Bible verse, he retyped Finney’s rich, visual, meaning-packed words—and added a lot of extra spaces…. ‘American novelist A.J. Verdelle said once that repetition is holy, and that’s what Michael did,’ Finney says.”