Established in New York City in 1998, ETHEL quickly earned a reputation as one of America’s most adventurous string quartets. More than 20 years later, the band continues to set the standard for contemporary concert music. Known for its enlivened playing, blending uptown, conservatory musicianship with downtown genre-crossing, ETHEL has been described as “indefatigable and eclectic” (The New York Times), “vital and brilliant” (The New Yorker), and “infectiously visceral” (Pitchfork). Since its inception, ETHEL has released nine feature recordings (one of them nominated for a Native American Music Award), performed as guests on 40+ albums, premiered 225 new works, won a GRAMMY® with jazz legend Kurt Elling, and performed in 14 countries, 45 states, and 250 cities.
At the heart of ETHEL is a collaborative ethos – a quest for a common creative expression that is forged in the celebration of community. In addition to premiering 21st century works by a broad range of groundbreaking composers, the quartet creates and tours rich, often multimedia, productions in which community engagement is a key element. ETHEL is currently touring the evening-length ETHEL’s Documerica, inspired by the tens of thousands of images shot in the 1970’s as part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s decade-long Project Documerica; The River, a collaboration with Taos Pueblo flutist Robert Mirabal (The River [Innova Recordings] was released in 2016); Grace, a journey highlighting musical iterations of redemption and featuring ETHEL’s own adaptation of Ennio Morricone’s moving score to the 1986 film, The Mission; and Ancient Airs and Dances, a tribute to the music of the European Middle Ages, Renaissance and Baroque Eras comprised of ETHEL members’ self-composed material and arrangements of seminal music.
Recently, ETHEL premiered Circus – Wandering City at The Ringling in Sarasota, Florida, and performed its New York premiere at the BAM Next Wave Festival in 2018. Co-commissioned by The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art (The Ringling), and Brooklyn Academy of Music, the immersive work combines projections of stunning images, films and interviews from the Museum’s archives, the words of circus performers past and present, and original music composed and performed live by ETHEL.
Currently in development is ART Intel, a new, multi-media project exploring the topic of artificial intelligence and its meaning for human creativity. The quartet is collaborating with filmmaker and producer Molly McBride to explore the possibilities within this challenging subject. The group is also currently developing its newest collaboration, Vigil, with Lebanese violinist and composer, Layale Chaker.
The quartet regularly performs works by all of the members of the ensemble, alongside music by Philip Glass, Julia Wolfe, Phil Kline, Svjetlana Bukvich, David Lang, Dan Friel, Mary Ellen Childs, John King, Jessie Montgomery, Raz Mesinai, John Zorn, Missy Mazzoli, Anna Clyne, Steve Reich, Kenji Bunch, Don Byron, Aleksandra Vrebalov, Marcelo Zarvos, Pamela Z, Evan Ziporyn and Terry Riley. Since 2005, ETHEL has premiered 225 new works, many of them commissioned by the quartet. This season marks the fourth chapter of ETHEL’s HomeBaked Project, an initiative designed to showcase emerging composers. The most recent Round IV commissions premiered at National Sawdust in 2019 and will be featured in an emerging composers’ festival at Brooklyn Public Library in May 2020.
ETHEL has collaborated with such luminaries as David Byrne, Kurt Elling, Bang on a Can All Stars, Thomas Dolby, Sō Percussion, John King, Ursula Oppens, Laurence Hobgood, Jake Shimabukuro, STEW, Phil Kline, Vijay Iyer, and Lionhheart. ETHEL recently collaborated on national touring programs with Taos Pueblo flutist Robert Mirabal, guitarist Kaki King and rock legend Todd Rundgren. In creating its multimedia and stage productions, ETHEL has worked with theater directors Annie Dorsen, Steve Cosson, Daniel Flannery, and Grant McDonald; projection designers Deborah Johnson and John Narun; and choreographers Wally Cardona, Gina Gibney, Annie-B Parson, Dusan Tynek, and Mathew Janczewski.
ETHEL is the Resident Ensemble at The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Balcony Bar, Ensemble-in-Residence at Denison University, 2019-20 Creatives-in-Residence at the Brooklyn Public Library, and most recently the 2018-19 Quartet-in-Residence at Kaufman Music Center’s Face the Music, and 2019 Levi Family Distinguished Visiting Artist at The Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University.
ETHEL is Ralph Farris (viola), Kip Jones (violin), Dorothy Lawson (cello), and Corin Lee (violin).