Far beyond Route 66
Dorothy Lawson
Ulysses Owens Jr
Kip Jones
James Kimo Williams
Tema Watstein
Ralph Farris
Jerod Impichchaachaaha Tate
Mary Ellen Childs
Catalog Number: 
new classical
new music
string quartet
music for dance

New York, NY

Release Date: 
Nov 13, 2015
Liner Notes: 
1 CD
One Sheet: 

In 1971, the newly established Environmental Protection Agency launched Project Documerica, commissioning photographers across America to document the state of the environment and its impact on society. The result was an astonishing archive of tens of thousands of photographs amassed over nearly a decade—stirring, poignant images of fragile beaches, junkyards, mining, logging and traffic jams, and of Americans playing ball, gathering for worship, fishing, dancing and just living life. 

In spite of its historic and cultural significance, this massive artistic project had been largely forgotten until recent digitalization made it more accessible. Forty years after its advent, the imagery of Project Documerica inspired the pioneering string quartet ETHEL to create ETHEL’s Documerica, which taps the archive’s evocative potential and brings its visual and emotional impact into dialogue with the 21st century. 

The album features new work by ETHEL members and music the quartet commissioned from four other uniquely American artists—the acclaimed composer Mary Ellen Childs, Grammy Award-winning jazz drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr., Chickasaw Nation’s Jerod Impichchaachaaha' Tate, and West Point commissionee James “Kimo” Williams. Hailing from different regions, backgrounds and generations, each composer contributes his or her distinctive voice to a score that represents the diversity of America. The music explores a range of American genres—blues, jazz, Native American traditional, bluegrass, and old-time string band—filtered through a distinctly 21st-century lens. 

ETHEL’s Documerica made its world premiere in BAM’s 2013 Next Wave Festival. The live production is a multimedia concert, directed by OBIE Award-winner Steve Cosson, with thousands of Project Documerica images incorporated into a projection design by renowned artist Deborah Johnson. The New York Times characterized the evening-length work as “new music bonding with old images in rich, provocative and moving ways.” 

Described as “indefatigable and eclectic” (The New York Times) and “vital and brilliant” (The New Yorker), string quartet ETHEL is “one of the most exciting quartets around” (Strad Magazine). At the heart of ETHEL is a collaborative ethos—a quest for a common creative expression that is forged in the celebration of community. ETHEL performs adventurous music by Philip Glass, Julia Wolfe, Phil Kline, David Lang, Mary Ellen Childs, John King, Raz Mesinai, John Zorn, Missy Mazzoli, Anna Clyne, Steve Reich, Kenji Bunch, Don Byron, Aleksandra Vrebalov, Marcelo Zarvos, Pamela Z, Evan Ziporyn and Terry Riley among others, much of it composed for ETHEL. ETHEL has premiered more than 50 21st-century works by groundbreaking composers, and has collaborated with an extraordinary international community of artists including David Byrne, Bang on a Can, Kaki King, Todd Rundgren, Carlo Mombelli, Ursula Oppens, Juana Molina, Tom Verlaine, STEW, Ensemble Modern, Jill Sobule, Dean Osborne, Robert Mirabal, Howard Levy, Simone Sou, Andrew Bird, Iva Bittová, Colin Currie, Thomas Dolby, Jeff Peterson, Oleg Fateev, Stephen Gosling, Jake Shimabukuro, Polygraph Lounge and Vijay Iyer.

ETHEL is: Ralph Farris (viola), Dorothy Lawson (cello), Kip Jones (violin) and Corin Lee (violin).