Established in New York City in 1998, Ethel is considered to be one of America’s most adventurous string quartets.
Known for blending uptown, conservatory musicianship with downtown genre-crossing, Ethel has collaborated with an extraordinary variety of international artists. Their repertoire includes 20th – 21st century works by a broad range of groundbreaking artists, including new music luminaries, innovative emerging composers, and works by members of the ensemble.
Each project took the approach that Ethel was more a “band” than a “string quartet.” More modern than classical. More approachable than formal. And willing to cross borders without hesitation. This began with their debut: featuring a muscled right arm — the bowing arm of most string players — and a collection of inside jokes. For example, in industry parlance, an overall base of white ink on a CD label is known as a “doughnut.” Thus, the glazed specimen featured on the disc.
Light used a similar approach with low-fi source material, including candy boxes from the local drugstore and lights from the box of holiday decorations in the back of the closet.
Heavy was released a few years after the financial crisis of 2008. The world was different, as was the repertoire. So we produced a black-on-black package, à la Spinal Tap. Even the UPC code was black-on-black, which made it ultimately useless. And in order to get the most luscious look and feel possible, everything was printed letterpress.
The visual language of The River, a collaboration with renowned Native American flute player/maker Robert Mirabal, drew from things common to all people: the four directions, the earth, the sky, and the energy which flows through all of it. These basics were heightened with saturated colors, repeating patterns and a variety of analogue ink effects.
Ethel still continues to create and tour rich, often multimedia, productions in which community engagement is a key element. As The Washington Post wrote, “In the hands of Ethel, American Music is alive and well.”