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Thursday June 24, 2021 @ 7:00pm

Venetian Theater / $30, $49, $58, $69
Garden Listening / $20

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Thursday June 24, 2021 @ 7:00pm

“What is American?” PUBLIQuartet ponders this question through a musical kaleidoscope of composers and diverse genres that make up America’s rich musical history. Featuring a reimagination of Dvořák’s “American” Quartet, in which the composer’s original melodies meet PUBLIQuartet’s blues, jazz, and rock-inflected improvisations, the works on this program connect the dots to honor the past, present, and future of American music.


Curtis Stewart, violin
Jannina Norpoth, violin
Nick Revel, viola
Hamilton Berry, cello


Jessie Montgomery:
 Voodoo Dolls  
PUBLIQuartet: Mind | The | Gap ProjectFree Radicals  
Improvisations on “Law Years” and “Street Woman” by Ornette Coleman
Vijay Iyer: Dig The Say – for James Brown
PUBLIQuartet: Mind | The | Gap Project: What is American? Improvisations on Antonin Dvorak’s “American” Quartet 

$20 Garden Listening tickets are available to those who would like to listen to the concert from the grounds. The best place to listen is from Friends Field! (As a reminder, guests will not be able to view the concert; this ticket is just for listening). This ticket is completely FREE for Caramoor Members. View the Caramoor Map.

Read about what to expect upon arrival at Caramoor, in regards to our COVID-19 Policies.

About the Artists



Applauded by The Washington Post as “a perfect encapsulation of today’s trends in chamber music,” and by The New Yorker as “independent-minded,” PUBLIQuartet’s modern interpretation of chamber music makes them one of the most dynamic artists of their generation.

Dedicated to presenting new works for string quartet, PUBLIQuartet rose on the music scene as winner of the 2013 Concert Artists Guild’s New Music/New Places award, and in 2019 garnered Chamber Music America’s prestigious Visionary Award for outstanding and innovative approaches to contemporary classical, jazz, and world chamber music.

PUBLIQuartet’s genre-bending programs range from 20th century masterworks to newly commissioned pieces, alongside re-imaginations of classical works featuring open-form improvisations that expand the techniques and aesthetic of the traditional string quartet.

PUBLIQuartet has served as artist-in-residence at top institutions including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and National Sawdust and has appeared at a wide variety of venues and festivals, from Carnegie Hall and the Newport Jazz Festival to The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Their latest album, Freedom and Faith, debuted atop the Billboard Classical Charts in May 2019. The 2019-2020 season brought a diverse array of programs to venues across the United States, including a special collaborative project with jazz violinist Diane Monroe.

PUBLIQuartet’s commitment to supporting emerging composers inspired their innovative program, PUBLIQ Access, which promotes emerging composers and presents a wide variety of under-represented music for string quartet-, from classical, jazz, and electronic, to non-notated, world, and improvised music. Other unique projects include MIND|THE|GAP, a series of group-composed works developed by PQ to generate interest in new music while also engaging traditional classical music audiences.  These unique creations range from Bird in Paris (Claude Debussy meets Charlie Parker) to more recent extended works including What Is American? (an exploration of Dvorak’s beloved “American” String Quartet) and Sancta Femina (based on themes by three medieval and baroque female composers). 

Founded in 2010, PUBLIQuartet is currently based in New York City.

About the Music



Voodoo Dolls (2008)

Written by PUBLIQuartet’s founding violinist Jessie Montgomery for Rhode Island’s JUMP! Dance Company, Voodoo Dolls presents an ever-shifting texture of propulsive rhythms and percussive sounds, which serves as a backdrop for improvised solos by each violinist. 

Montgomery says of the piece, “The choreography was a suite of dances, each one representing a different traditional children’s doll: Russian dolls, marionettes, rag dolls, Barbie, voodoo dolls… The piece is influenced by West African drumming patterns and lyrical chant motives, all of which feature highlights of improvisation within the ensemble.” 

The frenetic opening and closing sections bookend a somewhat calmer middle, in which the players pass around a melody that evokes the blues tradition.

MIND | THE | GAP: Free Radicals (2021)

Improvisations on “Law Years” and  “Street Woman” by Ornette Coleman 

This work marks the latest iteration of PUBLIQuartet’s MIND | THE | GAP project, in which they use improvisation and group composition to make connections across genres and among musical voices. Here, they drew inspiration from two tracks from Ornette Coleman’s 1971 album Science Fiction: “Law Years” and “Street Woman.” In the process of putting together these improvisations, they sought to collage Coleman’s motives in a way that balances structure and freedom, and which recalls the joyfully chaotic energy of the original recordings. 

This reflection on Coleman’s music also finds resonance between his philosophy of Harmolodics – in which “harmony, melody, speed, rhythm, time, and phrases all have equal position in the results that come from the placing and spacing of ideas” – and the contrapuntal style of J.S. Bach.

(b. 1971) 

Dig The Say (2012)

Commissioned by Brooklyn Rider in 2012, Vijay Iyer’s Dig The Say is an homage to the “Godfather of Soul,” James Brown. 

Describing his inspiration by Brown’s music, Iyer says: “[…] of course it’s best to enjoy it with your body and soul, but there is also much to learn from analyzing his music’s interlocking bass, drums, guitar, horn, and vocal parts. As a composer and bandleader I have strived for years to put some of his tactics into practice. He brought a lot of ideas to the table about groove, communication, form, and space.    Each song has its own vivid and distinct identity, beginning with the intricacies in the rhythm section.”

Much of the excitement, and challenge, of Iyer’s quartet lies in his distribution of such intricate, driving rhythmic textures among multiple players; there are even moments where the score asks a single player stomp or tap one rhythm while playing another. The titles of the work’s four continuous movements refer to lyrics delivered emphatically by Brown in his 1969 song, “I Don’t Want Nobody to Give Me Nothing (Open Up the Door I’ll Get It Myself).” 

MIND | THE | GAP: What is American? (2016)

Improvisations on Antonin Dvorak’s “American” Quartet (Op. 96) 

Allegro ma non troppo
Molto Vivace
Finale. Vivace ma non troppo

Antonin Dvorak wrote his “American” Quartet during the summer of 1893 in the Czech enclave of Spillville, Iowa, following his first year directing the National Conservatory of Music of America in New York City. 

One of Dvorak’s students at the Conservatory was the baritone and composer Harry T. Burleigh, who introduced him to Black spirituals, leading Dvorak to conclude: “The future of this country must be founded upon what are called the Negro melodies. This must be the real foundation of any serious and original school of composition to be developed in the United States.”

This MIND | THE | GAP project weaves together excerpts of Dvorak’s original score with improvisation in various styles, with the aim of connecting the Black and Indigenous musics that inspired Dvorak to the blues, jazz, rock, and hip hop styles that these traditions would ultimately inform. Incorporating various extended techniques, the work’s opening also evokes the prairie soundscape that might have surrounded Dvorak as he composed.

– PUBLIQuartet

All artists and dates are subject to change and cancellation without notice as we work closely with local health experts and officials. Please note that all performances at Caramoor are in compliance with current New York State Regulations. Read our latest Health & Safety updates.