Daedalus Quartet brings special performance to Penn Museum

The internationally renowned Daedalus Quartet has made Penn its home base since 2006. Dubbed the University’s string-quartet-in-residence, the talented musicians that make up Daedalus—violinists Min-Young Kim and Matilda Kaul, Jessica Thompson on the viola, and Thomas Kraines on the cello—often co-teach music courses, visit a variety of classes, work with professors, guide undergraduate and graduate student composers, and, of course, offer performances to the Penn community. 

This Friday, Jan. 13, the Daedalus Quartet will perform a full concert at the Penn Museum, 3260 South St. The show will take place in the towering Chinese Rotunda, creating an echoing atmosphere for a unique musical experience.

“We’ve chosen this location very carefully in order to highlight the acoustics,” says Kim, a founding member of Daedalus.

The main focus of the performance will be a new interpretation of George Crumb’s “Black Angels: Thirteen Images of the Dark Land.” Crumb, a Penn professor emeritus, wrote the piece on Friday, March 13, 1970, as a reaction to the Vietnam War. Keeping the classic work’s spirit in mind, the Daedalus musicians—playing strategically on Friday the 13th—will amplify their instruments and add percussion into the mix, as well as glass harmonicas, whispering, and chanting of the number 13.

“George is really brilliant in so many ways,” says Kim. “Having gone through exploring all the sounds he wants you to create and trying to evoke certain characters and emotions and images through your playing, you go through a journey yourself. In preparation, you are embarking on a musical exploration and then you take the audience through that as well.”

Daedalus will open the evening with work written by Penn Ph.D. candidate Joshua Hey called “lens flare from Alpha Centauri.” The show will conclude with Penn alumnus Scott Ordway’s whisper play “Tonight We Tell the Secrets of the World,” where guests will join Daedalus to create a large-scale choir of whispered voices.

“This piece by Scott was written specifically for the Chinese Rotunda,” Kim says. “The audience is a crucial part of the performance. The audience is divided into three sections, reading text from ancient writing. They will speak and whisper, which will echo in the Rotunda.”

With these three musical pieces, Kim says, she hopes Daedalus can “create a theatrical and engaging and moving experience for the evening. There’s really a spiritual dimension to all the pieces and there’s a lot of beauty in the music as well.”

Pam Kosty, the Museum’s public relations director, says the performance is meant for audience members who love the Museum as well as those who may have never visited before. No matter what, they are “in for a special experience Friday night.”

“When extraordinary artists like the Daedalus Quartet and their partners connect with the Penn Museum’s international collections and the building’s magnificent architecture, something rich, new, and magical can emerge,” she says.

The program, which is co-presented by Penn’s Department of Music and Bowerbird, begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 for general admission and $5 for students. Tickets are available for advance purchase online.

Daedalus rose to fame in 2001 after winning the top prize in the Banff International String Quartet Competition. Now, touring frequently, it has performed at many of the world’s leading musical venues. Can’t make it to the Museum Friday? The quartet’s next performance at Penn is slated for Monday, March 13, at 6:30 p.m. at the Arthur Ross Gallery, 220 S. 34th St.