Kronos has become one of the most celebrated and influential groups of our time, performing thousands of concerts worldwide, releasing more than 45 recordings of extraordinary breadth and creativity, collaborating with many of the world's most eclectic composers and performers, and commissioning more than 750 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.
Kronos' adventurous approach dates back to the ensemble's origins. In 1973, David Harrington was inspired to form Kronos after hearing George Crumb's Black Angels, a highly unorthodox, Vietnam War-inspired work featuring bowed water glasses, spoken word passages, and electronic effects. Kronos then began building a compellingly diverse repertoire for string quartet, performing and recording works by 20th-century masters (Bartók, Shostakovich, Webern), contemporary composers (Aleksandra Vrebalov, John Adams, Alfred Schnittke), jazz legends (Ornette Coleman, Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk), and artists from even farther afield (rock guitar legend Jimi Hendrix, Azeri vocalist Alim Qasimov, multimedia performer Meredith Monk).
Integral to Kronos' work is a series of long-running, in-depth collaborations with many of the world's foremost composers. One of the quartet's most frequent composer-collaborators is "Father of Minimalism" Terry Riley, whose work with Kronos includes the early Sunrise of the Planetary Dream Collector; Cadenza on the Night Plain and Salome Dances for Peace; 2002's Sun Rings, a multimedia, NASA-commissioned ode to the earth and its people, featuring celestial sounds and images from space; and Another Secret eQuation for youth chorus and string quartet, premiered at a concert celebrating Riley's 75th birthday. Kronos commissioned and recorded the three string quartets of Polish composer Henryk Mikolaj Górecki, with whom the group worked for more than 25 years. The quartet has also collaborated extensively with composers such as Philip Glass, recording his string quartets and scores to films like Mishima and Dracula (a restored edition of the Bela Lugosi classic); Azerbaijan's Franghiz Ali-Zadeh, whose works are featured on the full-length 2005 release Mugam Sayagi: Music of Franghiz Ali-Zadeh; Steve Reich, whose Kronos-recorded Different Trains earned a Grammy for the composer; Argentina's Osvaldo Golijov, whose work with Kronos includes both compositions and extensive arrangements for albums like Kronos Caravan and Nuevo; and many more.
In addition to composers, Kronos counts numerous artists from around the world among its collaborators, including the Chinese pipa virtuoso Wu Man; legendary Bollywood "playback singer" Asha Bhosle, featured on Kronos' Grammy-nominated CD, You've Stolen My Heart: Songs from R.D. Burman's Bollywood; Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq; Mexican rockers Café Tacuba; genre defying sound artist and instrument builder Walter Kitundu; the Romanian gypsy band Taraf de Haïdouks; renowned American soprano Dawn Upshaw; and the unbridled British cabaret trio, the Tiger Lillies. Kronos has performed live with the likes of icons Allen Ginsberg, Zakir Hussain, Modern Jazz Quartet, Noam Chomsky, Rokia Traoré, Tom Waits, David Barsamian, Howard Zinn, Betty Carter, and David Bowie, and has appeared on recordings by such diverse talents as Nine Inch Nails, Amon Tobin, Dan Zanes, DJ Spooky, Dave Matthews, Nelly Furtado, Joan Armatrading and Don Walser.
Kronos' music has also featured prominently in other media, including film (Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain, 21 Grams, Heat, True Stories) and dance, with noted choreographers such as Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor, Twyla Tharp, and Eiko & Koma setting pieces to Kronos' music.