The Taos School of Music celebrates its 48th season as one of the premier summer chamber music training programs in the country for young professional musicians. Music aficionados who come to the school's opening concert at the Taos Community Auditorium, Sunday (June 20) can expect a rich serving of old favorites, with a contemporary twist. The program, performed by pianist Robert MacDonald and the Borromeo String Quartet, includes works by Beethoven and Brahms as well as living composer, Mark Kilstofte. It also includes laptop computers.
The Borromeo is internationally acclaimed for both technical skill and emotional delivery, and has been hailed by the Boston Globe as "simply the best there is on this planet." This will be their sixth season as one of the resident quartets for the Taos School of Music.
Based in Boston, they are the official Quartet-in-Residence at Boston's New England Conservatory of Music, and also at Boston's the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and the former Ensemble-in-Residence for National Public Radio's "Performance Today."
The Borromeo includes violinists Nicholas Kitchen and Kristopher Tong, violist Mai Motobuchi, and cellist Yeesun Kim. They are one of the most sought after chamber music groups in the world and perform more than 100 international concerts each year.
One of the Borromeo's trademarks is their unusual use of contemporary technology to enhance the musical experience. In 2003, the group founded "The Living Archive," a record label that produces on-demand DVDs and CDs of their live performances. They also use internet technology for distance learning, to expand the base of students they are able to reach. Instead of traditional sheet music, each quartet member also reads the full score of music they play from a Macintosh MacBook Pro during live performances.
"Our quartet does something so far as I know no one does," Kitchen said. "All four of us play music off of a laptop and turn our pages with a foot pedal." This eliminates the need for page turning, which is difficult especially with string instruments. It also allows each musician to see the entire score of music.
"The laptops cause a stir wherever they appear," said the quartet's publicist Joseph Correia.
"The whole reason for doing it is your usually reading only your part," Kitchen said. "By using this method, all of us are reading all four parts. With the intricate nature of chamber music this is very exciting."
He went on to explain that usually playing music and studying the score are two separate exercises for musicians. This approach rolls them into one. By using laptops to store their music, the musicians are also able to carry hundreds of scores with them when they travel the world.