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Release: Oct. 8, 2002

(Photo: The Kronos Quartet; Photo credit: Jay Blakesberg)

(NOTE TO PRINT AND WEB EDITORS: Hancher Auditorium has now established a media page on their website that provides photographs for downloading, so we will no longer be e-mailing Hancher photos. Several Kronos Quartet photos are available for downloading at Please bookmark this page, which will be regularly updated with images for upcoming events.)

Kronos Launches Into Unexplored Territory In 'Sun Rings' Premiere

The Kronos Quartet will present the world premiere of "Sun Rings," the concert-length multimedia production featuring the music of Terry Riley and the space sounds collected by UI astrophysicist Donald Gurnett, at 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26, in Hancher Auditorium on the University of Iowa campus.

The production -- the most ambitious and technically demanding show in the history of Kronos -- features visual design and projections by Willie Williams, who is the video director of the current Rolling Stones "Licks" tour, and has designed stadium and arena tours for U2, REM, David Bowie, Bryan Adams and other rock and pop stars. His designs can also be seen at the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame, and a television audience of multi-millions saw his designs for the 2002 Super Bowl halftime show.

Riley, who is one of America's most versatile and prolific composers, scored two of the work's movements -- "islands," he calls them -- to include a chorus. The premiere will feature an ensemble of UI students, directed by the School of Music's director of choral activities, Timothy Stalter.

Riley, Gurnett and sound engineer David Dvorin will be the guests in a pre-performance discussion at 7 p.m. in the Hancher Greenroom. The discussion is free to concert ticketholders, but seating is limited.

Riley, Williams and Gurnett will be joined by Kronos first violinist David Harrington in a free discussion at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24, in Lecture Room I of the UI Van Allen Hall, the home of the UI Department of Physics and Astronomy.

"Sun Rings" was co-commissioned by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and Hancher Auditorium, and the work will be toured internationally following the UI premiere. It is the most adventurous project yet in a long-term relationship between Kronos and Hancher that has included numerous commissions, American premieres and world premieres. Hancher-commissioned works have appeared on several of Kronos' best-selling recordings.

Gurnett, a native Iowan and a UI alumnus, has conducted plasma physics experiments on more than two dozen spacecraft, including the Voyager missions to the outer planets, the Galileo mission to Jupiter and the Cassini mission to Mars. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1998.

Gurnett began collecting the "sounds" of space in the early 1960s, and the NASA Arts Program determined that a musical work incorporating the whistles, hisses, chirps and grunts of space would be a worthwhile investment. The sounds are caused by everything from solar radiation to lightning bolts on Jupiter.

NASA approached the Kronos Quartet because of its renown as the ensemble that revolutionized and redefined chamber music, unaware of the serendipitous relationship of the quartet with Gurnett's home institution. The relationship made Hancher a natural partner for the commission and the obvious location for the world premiere.

Kronos' David Harrington approached Terry Riley, the godfather of minimalism, with whom they had collaborated many times in the past, and his excitement generated a vision of a concert-length, multi-media production beyond what anyone had anticipated.

Williams, too, was excited and intrigued to work on the project involving a completely different scale and style of music from his arena and stadium spectacles. He was simultaneously designing for the Rolling Stones' $7 million "Licks" stadium video screen, and the proscenium-theater scale of "Sun Rings."

"It's about a journey really," Williams told the Associated Press after a summer rehearsal in Hancher "Musically, it feels quite introspective. And using the images from the Voyager archive gives one a sense of the vastness of space."

Tickets for the "Sun Rings" world premiere are $35, $32 and $30 ($28 and $10 for UI students; $28, $26.40 and $24 for senior citizens; and half price for audience members 17 and younger.

Hancher Auditorium box office business hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays. From the local calling area, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284. People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial (319) 335-1158, which is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

Tickets may be ordered on-line 24 hours a day, seven days a week through Hancher's website:

Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction. Information and brochures may be requested by e-mail: <>.

The premiere is supported by William Rubright in memory of Emilie Rubright, through the University of Iowa Foundation.

"Sun Rings"-related websites include:

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