Film drawn from archival footage shot during World War I will be set to a score performed live by Grammy award-winning contemporary string ensemble Kronos Quartet in “Beyond Zero: 1914-1918,” at 7:30 p.m. on March 5.

Presented by the Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech, the performance will be held in the Anne and Ellen Fife Theatre, located within the Moss Arts Center’s Street and Davis Performance Hall at 190 Alumni Mall. 

Kronos Quartet worked with filmmaker Bill Morrison and composer Aleksandra Vrebalov to create “Beyond Zero: 1914-1918.” Sourcing original footage shot during World War I, which has never been viewed by modern audiences, Morrison pieces together a unique visual exploration of a war fought in fields, trenches, and the air.

Vrebalov created the score, commissioned and performed by the Kronos Quartet. Vrebalov’s work is inspired by anti-war writings, music, and art created during and immediately after World War I.

For the film portion of “Beyond Zero: 1914–1918,” Morrison searched archives for rare 35mm nitrate films shot during the war and made high-definition scans from the originals. In many cases this is the last expression of these films, with some original copies not being preserved beyond this transfer to digital media. The footage shows training exercises, parades, and troop movement.

Accompanying the footage is Vrebalov’s music, which is inspired by the work of writers and musicians during the time period. The piece draws from artists’ disillusionment about heroism and patriotism and includes several documentary recordings from different wars. The composer juxtaposes these historical accounts of war with the expressions of spirit and creativity occurring at the same time.

The Kronos Quartet brings Vrebalov’s music to life. Featuring violinists David Harrington and John Sherba, violist Hank Dutt, and cellist Sunny Yang, the ensemble has worked to continually re-imagine the string quartet experience for more than 40 years. Kronos has performed thousands of concerts worldwide, releasing more than 50 recordings, collaborating with many of the world’s most accomplished composers and performers, and commissioning more than 800 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 received a Grammy for Best Chamber Music Performance in 2004 and was named Musicians of the Year from Musical America in 2003.

Complementing the performance are two engagement events. Prior to the performance, Matthew Oyos, a history professor at Radford University, will present “In the Crucible: The Great War.” This pre-performance talk will explore the lived reality of World War I and its historical context.

Immediately following the performance, Alan Weinstein, associate professor in Virginia Tech’s School of Performing Arts, will moderate a question-and-answer session with the Kronos Quartet musicians.

Both engagement events, which are free and open to the public, will be held in the Moss Arts Center Cube. Registration is required for “In the Crucible: The Great War.” Call the Moss Arts Center’s box office at 540-231-5300 or register online.


Tickets are $25-$75 for general public and $10 for students and youth 18 years old and under. Tickets can be purchased online; at the Moss Arts Center's box office, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday; or by calling 540-231-5300.

Parking is available in the North End Parking Garage on Turner Street. Virginia Tech faculty and staff possessing a valid Virginia Tech parking permit can enter and exit the garage free of charge. Limited street parking is also available. Parking on Alumni Mall is free on weekdays after 5 p.m. and on weekends.

“Beyond Zero: 1914–1918” is supported in part by an award to the Kronos Performing Arts Association from the National Endowment for the Arts, Art Works. Additional funding for the project is provided by The MAP Fund, supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

It was commissioned for the Kronos Quartet by Cal Performances; National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial and Harriman-Jewell Series, Kansas City, Missouri; and Hopkins Center, Dartmouth College.



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