Primary Instrument: Band/ensemble/orchestra
Its name derived from creation mythology found in Native American Folklore, the Turtle Island Quartet, since its inception in 1985, has been a singular force in the creation of bold, new trends in chamber music for strings. Cellist nonpareil Yo-Yo Ma has proclaimed Turtle Island to be “a unified voice that truly breaks new ground � authentic and passionate � a reflection of some of the most creative music-making today.” Turtle Island fuses the classical quartet esthetic with contemporary American musical styles, and by devising a performance practice that honors both, the state of the art has inevitably been redefined.
Turtle Island Quartet
David Balakrishnan, violin
Evan Price, violin
Mads Tolling, viola
Mark Summer, cello
The Quartet’s birth was the result of violinist David Balakrishnan’s brainstorming explorations and compositional vision while writing his master’s thesis at Antioch University West. The journey has taken Turtle Island through forays into folk, bluegrass, swing, be-bop, funk, R&B, rock, hip-hop, as well as music of Latin America and India... a repertoire consisting of hundreds of ingenious arrangements and originals. It has included over a dozen recordings on labels such as Windham Hill, Chandos, Koch and Telarc, soundtracks for major motion pictures,TV and radio credits such as the Today Show, All Things Considered, and Prairie Home Companion, feature articles in People and Newsweek magazines, and collaborations with famed artists such as clarinetist Paquito D’Rivera, The Manhattan Transfer, pianists Billy Taylor and Kenny Barron, the Ying Quartet and the Parsons Dance Company.
Another unique element of Turtle Island is their revival of venerable improvisational and compositional chamber traditions that have not been explored by string players for nearly 200 years. At the time of Haydn’s apocryphal creation of the string quartet form, musicians were more akin to today’s saxophonists and keyboard masters of the jazz and pop world, i.e., improvisers, composers, and arrangers. Each Turtle Island member is accomplished in these areas of expertise as well as having extensive conservatory training as instrumentalists.
One result of this dedication can be seen in Turtle Island’s phenomenal international appeal, particularly in Europe where chamber music remains a vital facet of life. What was once termed ‘alternative’ chamber music now firmly inhabits the mainstream. Turtle Island members refine their skills through unusual and endemic ‘re-compositions’ of works by the old masters, through the development of repertory by some of today’s cutting edge composers, through performances and recordings with major symphonic ensembles, and through a determined educational commitment. Turtle Island Quartet is the string quartet for the 21st century.
“....zest, imagination and brilliant technique...” --San Francisco Examiner
“It must have been like this when Beethoven was taking Vienna by storm � the exhilaration of see the future of classical music unfold before your eyes and ears.” --St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“The strings sing, not like angels, but like they’ve been around. The improvisations...hang tough, solidly built, and take no back talk from anybody.” --The Seattle Post-Intelligence
“...intellectually engaging, technically dazzling and emotionally rich...” --The Birmingham News
Impeccable precision in its pitch and coordination...ebullient! -New York Times
“It’s group string jazz at its finest, not only brilliantly conceived but brilliantly played as well, by master-musicians having a wonderful time with their own wit and humor and imagination. --Sacramento Bee
“At some other time, in some other venue, I may have heard a better live performance. But I doubt it... astonishing virtuosos... the quartet’s performance was breathtaking...” --Nashville Scene
“Innovators to the core, the group was founded on an exploration of forms that had never been attempted in a traditional string quartet format. And they did it with amazing power and finesse. Their brilliant leads rise and subside seamlessly into the ensemble sound, keeping the focus on story line and rhythmic pulse and leading their listeners deeper into a comforting musical spell...” --The Oregonian
“This unique, jazzy four piece continues to entertain with its distinctive brand of tight, impressive bow-ery in motions.” --Billboard Magazine
“While the respected Kronos Quartet visits...the frontiers of jazz, bluegrass, world music and even Jimi Hendrix; Turtle Island dwells in them, and stands tradition on its civilized ear.” --People Magazine