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Acclaimed quartet, filmmaker to share Wexner Center stage for ‘live documentary’

The documentary, produced by Academy Award-nominee Sam Green, will show archival footage and photographs of the string quartet’s 45-year career. Credit: Courtesy of William Wegman

Going against the trend of handheld entertainment, a new film-meets-concert event aims to remind audiences of the power of immersive art.

The Wexner Center for the Arts on Thursday will present the world premiere of “A Thousand Thoughts,” a staged production and documentary about the Grammy Award-winning Kronos Quartet.  

The Kronos Quartet –– composed of two violins, a viola and a cello –– has covered a vast array of music, from Stravinsky to adaptations of Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan songs. Nearly a thousand contemporary classical pieces have been composed for them. The group also will perform live throughout the screening.

Since its debut in 1973, the San Francisco group has released more than 60 recordings and has commissioned and arranged more than 900 works for string quartets around the world. In its more than four decades of existence, the group has rotated members, with the longest-running combination together from 1978 to 1999.

Produced by Academy Award-nominee Sam Green, the documentary will show archival footage and photographs of the string quartet’s 45-year career. As the audience views the film, Green will narrate live on stage, and the quartet will perform selections from its extensive repertoire.

Green said he dubbed the event a “live documentary” because of the all-in-one screening.

“I thought [the live documentary would] be a way to learn a lot about [the quartet] and appreciate who they are,” he said. “But more than that, it seemed like a fantastic opportunity to have such great musicians performing in front of an audience.”

“A Thousand Thoughts” is a staged production presented by the Wexner Center in which the Grammy Award-winning Kronos Quartet provides live soundtrack including renditions of popular songs by bands such as Duran Duran. Credit: Courtesy of Kronos Performing Arts Association

David Filipi, director of film and video for the Wexner Center, said the live documentary format gives viewers something they can only experience in person, rather than at home, on a tablet or on a phone.  

“It makes the film seem that much more vital and more immediate to be in the room as the soundtrack and narration are added to the film in real time,” Filipi said.

For Green, pairing the documentary with a live component enhances the cinematic experience.

“To me, live music, really big music and huge images that wash over you, those are the most powerful tools that cinema has,” Green said. “I’m just trying to use those to their fullest power.”

In recent years, Green began adding live music to screenings of some of his other documentaries. He said the idea for a live documentary on the Kronos Quartet formed after he was asked to create an introduction video for the group’s 40th-anniversary concert at Carnegie Hall.

While researching that project, Green said he was very taken with the quartet’s music. He said he was also impressed with the fact that its members had spent a long time polishing their sound, building what he calls an “organic collaborative being between themselves that’s more than the sum of its parts.”

Green said after watching the group’s rehearsals and performances, he was blown away by the experience of seeing the action up close.

Next week’s event comes almost 30 years after the quartet performed at the Wexner Center’s dedication ceremony in 1989.

“A Thousand Thoughts: A Live Documentary by Sam Green and Kronos Quartet” will be staged at 8 p.m. Thursday at Mershon Auditorium. Tickets are $15 for students, $29 for Wexner Center members and $34 for the general public. Tickets can be purchased at wexarts.org/tickets.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story stated that the event will take place on Friday at 8 p.m. In fact, the event will be held Thursday at 8 p.m. 

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