Zephyr never fails to bring Spokane audiences a healthy portion of the unpredictable, and the April 21 concert, featuring the string quartet FLUX, is no exception. Flux's four members, all under the age of 30, have been playing to rave reviews worldwide, due in large part to some musical philosophy and risk-taking that is no doubt causing many in the classical music world to twitch ever-so slightly.
Original members Tom Chiu and Cornelius Dufallo (violins), and Kenji Bunch (viola) were joined two-and-a-half years ago by cellist Darret Adkins. Adkins is no stranger to Spokane. He grew up in Tacoma, his mom lives in Spokane, and he has already performed several times with Zephyr. The quartet's name is both a tribute to the 1960s neo-dada Fluxist movement and a description of what they do. "It implies that music itself is in flux, we're all in flux," says Adkins. "This constant and unpredictable change is something to be embraced, not feared."
With Julliard on their resumes, and doctorates in the works, these musicians are well trained, but the experience of playing with the group for Adkins is more rock band than classical quartet. "In a lot of ways, we operate as more of a band than a lot of quartets," Adkins says.
This includes a lot of improvisation, collaboration and invention. "Out of improvisation," Adkins explains, "comes a lot of ideas."
Each member of the group contributes not only as a performer, but also as a composer. "We're all, in one degree or another, composers," Adkins says. "There's an artificial division these days between performers and composers. It's one of the things we find unnatural in the classical world." Adkins goes on to say that Flux is constantly working to break down that divide. "One of my real pleasures of working with these guys is that they look at music from the perspective of people who create music," Adkins says. "It invites a greater degree of clarity into the substance of the text of the music."
Along with somewhat radical ideas about the role of the performer in classical music, Flux admits to similarly radical influences in the musical world. The group is inspired by everything from hard rock to jazz to world music to techno. "All of us listened to the radio to some degree," admits Adkins. "It's hard to be an American kid and not listen to the radio."
Flux's concerts usually provide audiences with diverse musical experiences. At the Zephyr performance, they'll be opening with a quartet by Renauld Gagneaux that was one of the first pieces Flux performed. "It's really stuck as one of our favorites," Adkins says. They'll follow with a short piece by Morton Feldman, which they performed earlier in a tribute to Feldman at Carnegie Hall. "Cat-o-nine Tails," a piece by John Zorn will follow the Feldman piece. In addition to being a composer, Zorn is a saxaphonist who performs in a sort of punk band.
"Zorn's a very creative character, who, suffice it to say, watches a lot of cartoons," Adkins laughs.
The final piece is called "The Hidden Treasure," written by Sir John Tavener. "He's a very serious Eastern Orthodox Christian," Adkins explains. "It's a lot about paradise lost and paradise regained. It's almost a liturgical work of extreme beauty."
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