The Kronos Quartet performed the world premiere of 4 Cast: Unpredictable at the Alexander Kasser Theatre at Montclair State University in Montclair, NJ, on May 5, featuring video sequences and direction by Willie Williams, lighting design by Larry Neff, sound design by Brian Mohr, animation by dandelion & burdock's Nils Pormann and James Medcraft, and video production by Sam Pattinson for onedotzero industries, London.

Conceived, composed, and performed by Seattle-based sound-sculptor Trimpin and the Kronos Quartet — violinists David Harrington and John Sherba, violist Hank Dutt, and cellist Jeffrey Zeigler — the performance includes four parts: Toys, Numbers, Bodies, and Machines. Williams describes the production as a “performed sound installation.” Composer Trimpin is known for his sound-making mechanical constructions, which resemble organically mutated musical instruments from Mars, the designer says. “His composition comprises four movements, both in the auditorium itself and on a stage cluttered with a range of fabricated instruments, machines, and even children's electronic toys. This living sound laboratory sits within a video environment of live cameras, Web cams, house surveillance cameras, and video sequences.”

A ham radio operator — Nathaniel Frissell — joins the quartet for one movement, “picking up short-wave radio transmissions of mysterious numbers, known as CONET numbers, which have been broadcast by government agencies since the 1940s,” says Williams. “In another movement, Zeigler wears a specially designed ‘life shirt,’ which conveys digitized information about his physical being, such as pulse and body temperature, to the screens behind him. In another, Kronos uses Trimpin's triggering devices to play and manipulate random samples from their own extensive back catalog.”

“From a young age, I developed a fascination for tinkering with toys, found objects, and for listening to the mesmerizing sounds of Morse code broadcast on short-wave radio,” says Trimpin on the group's blog (blog.myspace.com/kronosquartet). “The challenge of experimenting with the limitations of what the human body can accomplish is reflected in tonight's performance. Technology is used as a tool by interacting with these musical machines.”

Produced by Janet Cowperthwaite, 4 Cast: Unpredictable was commissioned by Peak Performances at Montclair/Montclair State University. Additional project support was provided by the National Endowment for the Arts.