Spektral Quartet releases Interactive Card Deck with New Double Album - "Experiments in Living"


Experiments in Living endorses a topsy-turvy view of time that casts the familiar in a new light and presents wet-ink works like they’ve been around since the 19th century” – Chicago Reader


“Superb new double-album” Best of Bandcamp


On August 28, 2020, the Chicago-based Spektral Quartet, praised by Gramophone as “geeky, highly-interactive, creative and collaborative,” released its inventive, digital-only double album Experiments in Living (New Focus Recordings) to celebrate the quartet’s 10th anniversary season in 2020-2021.

The concept of the programming represents a core tenet of the quartet’s philosophy as an ensemble – that divergent styles of music spanning centuries speak to one another in unexpected and captivating ways, and that the unfamiliar can rapidly become familiar in the right context. Part One pursues three historic innovators and singular voices circumventing the entrenched rules of their time – Johannes Brahms, Arnold Schoenberg, and Ruth Crawford (Seeger) – while Part Two pitches through passageways of music motivated by improvisation, experimentation, and jazz by way of composers Anthony Cheung, Sam Pluta, Charmaine Lee, and George Lewis.

Having developed Tarot-style cards designed by Copenhagen-based collage artist and musician øjeRum, the quartet has created an innovative, self-guided, “choose your own adventure” approach to experiencing the album. For each of the 20 tracks there is a corresponding card. The cards can be shuffled and turned over in a random order to reveal a unique playlist, inviting the listener to listen deeply, reflect on connections, and then choose descriptive, text-based “bridge” cards to link the tracks in their playlist.

The physical card deck, which includes an audiophile-quality download of the album, is available for purchase here. Spektral has also launched an elegantly designed online version, free to all users at https://eil.spektralquartet.com.

While this Tarot-like experience encourages the listener to encounter individual tracks out of order, the real ambition of the cards lies with the mini, descriptive “bridge” cards that users lay between tracks. With 64 words to choose from, including skittering, ecstatic, prismatic, and sillypants, listeners become curators of their own shuffled playlists – selecting the word that for them best links individual movements separated by era, geography, or style. Rather than being told why these divergent pieces belong on an album together by the quartet, the player enjoys the freedom to decide for themselves, promoting a deep listening approach.

The quartet collectively states, “Like the concept proffered by John Stuart Mill from which the album takes its title, the ‘freedom’ found within these ‘experiments in living’ is a result of making choices without blind acceptance for the way things are or have been.” More information about the album is available at www.spektralquartet.com/experiments-in-living.

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