US string quartet to play in blackout

US string quartet to play in blackout


norman lebrecht

January 02, 2020

The JACK quartet have let it be known that, next month in Chicago, they will perform Georg Friedrich Haas’s Ninth String Quartet in total darkness, according to the composer’s instructions.

Haas, an Austrian oddball, writes: ‘It seemed to be a risky, dangerous experiment to write a piece with a 45-minute minimum duration, which has to be memorized and performed without any visual cues or communication… Composing for darkness is fundamentally different from traditional composing: one does not directly score the piece – one composes a process for individuals, forced to perform in isolation, having only aural contact with their partners.’

Mr Haas at play.

London’s Wigmore Hall will also stage a dark string quartet in February. It’s the in thing.


  • Eric says:

    You’ve unfortunately missed the point that Haas has written several works in darkness, and some for JACK. JACK has championed his String Quartet No. 3, performed in complete darkness, and have performed it around the world, over the course of several years.

  • Dennis says:

    Well, at least they don’t have to worry about being criticized for “sheet-music following”!

  • Brettermeier says:

    I wish you all a Happy New Year!

    @NL: Erm, there’s an ad here on this site from the “Kopp Verlag”, which is where nazis publish and buy their books. I don’t think you want them to advertise here:

    • Prof says:

      The problem, unfortunately, is that a website has little to no control over what ads are shown because of the prevalence of widgets that populate with ads specifically designed for the end-user. On the NY Times recently I saw a pop-up ad for Glock handguns. I’m sure the NYTImes didn’t choose to run that ad, they just outsourced the ad choices to someone who is doing direct-marketing voodoo by targeting certain demographics using IP addresses.

      Nevertheless you are right that complaining about unseemly ads such as Kopp Verlag are the RIGHT thing to do, since only way to end this nonsense is to embarrass the websites they end up on, and get them to put pressure on the ad magicians.

  • Steve says:

    Rather a blackout than anything visual

  • AndyHat says:

    I heard the JACK Quartet perform Haas’s 3rd String Quartet at Duke University a few years back, also performed in complete darkness (they even got special permission from the fire marshal to cover the lights on the “EXIT” signs). It’s definitely an interesting experience, and it’s neat that Haas is reprising the concept.

    Apparently they already played the 9th Quartet at Duke in 2018 (also in complete darkness), but I missed that one.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Here it is:

      I listened to it with open eyes, and after that, again but with closed eyes. It did not make any difference.

      • John Borstlap says:


        Later-on, I tried-out different listening sessions with the light out (at night) and on, with windows open and closed, with the sound button turned on and off, and by way of conclusion one session while I was out of the house. But I could not possible detect any difference in the listening experience, it was always the same.

  • V.Lind says:

    Well, I hope it is wonderful and all that, but, God, I am so sick of nutters.

  • John Borstlap says:

    It is a very appropriate way of performing, since ALL of H’s works represent darkness in all its shades.

    (Picture: Haas checking his latest sonic work.)

  • Gustavo says:

    Georg Friedrich handles Elphi.

    Luckily no oral contact.

  • Joel A Stein says:

    I heard “In Vain”in darkness and also the Third Quartet.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    Oddball? That word describes most composers from Gesualdo to the present day.
    And I say that with respect and affection….

  • Sir David Geffen-Hall says:

    Saves on electricity. Perhaps orchestras should try this when looking for ways to save money.

  • duane says:

    I attended a concert by JACK in Seattle, probably 2012 or so. It was in the penthouse suite of a swanky hotel downtown. You had to sign a waiver before entering. The guests were in the center of the room, facing in a square, with a microphone in the center. The players were behind us at the 4 walls of the room. Josh Roman was there as a sponsor and guide for us. Before the concert, they explained what was going to happen and did a 60 second “test” with the lights out. If you have never sat still in a room that is completely darkened for 1 minute you might try it. A minute in the dark is longer than you think!
    The only visible light was the red light of the smoke alarm on the ceiling.

    It was fun, but my date was a bit frightened by the waiver that we had to sign. I knew what was happening, but we were encouraged to not spoil anything by sharing, if we knew, what was going to be experienced.

    It was fun. Just pee first.

    • John Borstlap says:

      I heard about one such performance where two ladies tried to find the exit of the auditorium, presumably for personal hygienic reasons, and got into serious physical entanglements on their way, adding unforseen sounds to the textures but not entirely unrelated to them.

  • Anon says:

    Slow news day, huh?

  • Anon says:

    I’d rather stay home and watch the bowling championships on Espn6.

  • Robert Holmén says:

    Imagine the embarrassment if, when the lights came on at the end, the audience had already left.

    • John Borstlap says:

      The next thing is to play Klangkunst for a deaf audience, or for listeners with sound stopping head phones. Most appropriate piece: Cage’s 4’33”.

  • Calvin says:

    Ingmar Berman would approve.

  • Plush says:

    With the lights out, all the easier to cornhole a violist.