"Tundra Songs is about the Canadian Arctic, singularly and resolutely. This music is the inviting warmth and the invigorating cold. It is notes, and it is stories, and it is life. And it is wonderful."
- Matthew Parsons, CBC Music Staff Pick of the Week
“It’s really one of the major, spectacular pieces that has ever been written for Kronos, I would say—and I think it’s a breakthrough piece for Derek Charke, too.” – David Harrington, Kronos Quartet.
Always at the forefront, seeking the new and pushing the boundaries of the traditional string quartet to its limits, it is no surprise the Kronos Quartet sought out Inuit throat singer Tanya
Tagaq for another extraordinary collaboration with JUNO Award-winning composer Derek Charke. Harrington describes throat singers as sounding as though they have a “string in their body.” Tagaq’s guttural, highly intimate, primal sounds date back to her ancestors. She has turned these sounds into an art form that has kept audiences all over the world enthralled.
For more than 40 years, the Kronos Quartet has pursued a singular artistic vision, combining a spirit of fearless exploration with a commitment to continually re-imagining the string quartet experience. In the process, Kronos has become one of the most celebrated and influential groups of our time, performing thousands of concerts worldwide, releasing more than 50 recordings of extraordinary breadth and creativity, collaborating with many of the world’s most intriguing and accomplished composers and performers, and commissioning more than 850 works and arrangements for string quartet. In 2011, Kronos became the only recipients of both the Polar Music Prize and the Avery Fisher Prize, two of the most prestigious awards given to musicians. The group’s numerous awards also include a Grammy for Best Chamber Music Performance (2004) and “Musicians of the Year” (2003) from Musical America.
JUNO & ECMA Award-winning composer and flutist Derek Charke has been commissioned by world-renowned artists including the Kronos Quartet, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Symphony Nova Scotia, the St. Lawrence String Quartet and Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq. His music has been heard in prestigious venues like Carnegie Hall, the Guggenheim Museum, Roy Thomson Hall and the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Derek is a professor at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia where he teaches composition and theory. He is the president of the Acadia New Music Society which runs the annual Shattering the Silence New Music Festival, and he continues to perform regularly as a new music performer and improvisor on the flute.
Tanya Tagaq’s music isn’t like anything you’ve heard before. Unnerving and exquisite, Tagaq’s unique vocal expression may be rooted in Inuit throat singing but her music has as much to do with electronica, industrial and metal influences as it does with traditional culture. This Inuk punk is known for delivering fearsome, elemental performances that are visceral and physical, heaving and breathing and alive. Her shows draw incredulous response from worldwide audiences, and Tagaq’s tours tend to jump back and forth over the map of the world. From a Mexican EDM festival to Carnegie Hall, her music and performances transcend language. Tagaq makes musical friends and collaborators with an array of like-minded talents: opera singers, avant-garde violin composers, experimental DJs, all cutting edge and challenging. Tanya’s albums make for complex listening, but her string of Juno nominations attests to her ability to make difficult music speak a universal tongue.
Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory | I am an advocate for the deep human need for all people, but especially post-colonial indigenous people to express themselves at a level of creative excellence. I am a mother, wife, writer and performer based in Iqaluit, Nunavut. My three children speak Greenlandic, Inuktitut and English – all languages part of their heritages. I am a performer of uaajeerneq – Greenlandic mask dancing, music, drum-dancing, a storyteller and actor. My career has allowed me to travel all across Canada and to many wondrous parts of the world. I am passionate about spending time on the land – hiking, snowmobiling, boating, hunting, camping, eating wild foods, building cabins and cultivating raccoon tans are all activities that figure largely in my family.
1. 22 Inuit Throat Song Games: Lullaby1:15
2. 22 Inuit Throat Song Games: Throat Song 0:47
3. Cercle du Nord III 13:24
4. 22 Inuit Throat Song Games: Song of a Name (for a Boy) 1:16
5. 22 Inuit Throat Song Games: Dogs 1:46
6. Tundra Songs 29:38
Lyrics by Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory (based on the Greenlandic creation story of Sassuma Arnaa)
Tanya Tagaq, voice
III. Sedna's Song
IV. Lament of the Dogs
V. The Trickster Tulugaq
7. Sassuma Arnaa: The Woman Down There 6:59
Laakkuluk WIlliamson Bathory
For the Kronos Performing Arts Association:
Janet Cowperthwaite, Managing Director
Laird Rodet, Associate Director
Sidney Chen, Artistic Administrator
with Mason Dille, Scott Fraser, Christina Johnson, Nikolás McConnie-Saad, Kären Nagy, Hannah Neff, and Lucinda Toy
Project Supervisor for Kronos: Sidney Chen
Special thanks to Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory of Iqaluit, Nunavut, for her story of Sedna (based on the Greenlandic creation story of Sassuma Arnaa); Henry Kolenko; the Acadia University Research Fund; and Microforum Services Group.
"There is no ensemble in the world of classical music that is anything like the Kronos Quartet. No award in the musical world, for instance, could possibly be commensurate with their achievement in melding a universe of traditions in the world’s music with a classical string quartet. (Only a Nobel Prize in Music would come close.)" - Jeff Simon, The Buffalo News
"Much of the time, the sounds made by Tagaq are not particularly pleasant ones, and they are sounds rather than what would usually be called music – but in blurring the distinction between music and noise, they open listeners’ ears in a way analogous to (although quite different from) the way John Cage opened them by similarly exploring the bounds of what is usually deemed musical and not musical." - InfoDad.com
"On one hand all the music is composed by the JUNO Award-winning Canadian composer Derek Charke (b. 1974). He is also a flutist and a composition and theory professor at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. On the other hand the gifted young storyteller Laakkuluk Willamson Bathory is the only presence on track 7, reciting a gripping Green-landic version of the creation story that exists all across Inuit lands, the Sassuma Arnaa. She remarks that “we don’t so much own this story as we belong to it,” keeping it alive through retelling it today, “despite intensive colonization and religious conversion…” - Andrew Timar, the WholeNote
"Tundra Songs itself, taking up more than half of the album, is an especially gripping piece. It follows the annual cycle of seasons, revolving around a gruesome summer tale about the creation of animals out of the fingers a man hacks from the hands of his daughter. Vocalist Tanya Tagaq improvises with the quartet, providing a raw, breathless edge to their virtuosic melodies. Most of this music is rivetting, as if evoking the rush of a sleigh run over ice fields." - René van Peer, Musicworks