Throughout its 40-year history, Kronos Quartet has experimented, tested, explored and discovered.

Two things before we start (well, three if you count making sure you've read our print piece on Kronos Quartet):

First, click here and check out this photo from the ensemble's web site.

Second, as is occassionally our want at The Beat, we're going to try and say some heady stuff.

You want to call Kronos experimental, avant-garde, unorthodox... it's good by us. The Beat admits we've always believed there is a fine line between art and purposeful nuttiness. (One of our favorite rock n' roll quotes is from Chris Robinson of The Black Crows, who said something to the effect of "I'm not going to bang two bandgers together just to call it the next big thing.") We'll also admit that that "line" between the avant-garde and the gaudy or dishonest or just plain weird is often not a line at all, certainly not a straight line, that is freely ignored and crossed at will.

What the heck are we talking about?

Imagine what Kronos is doing in the photo we linked above. Then do just a rudimentary search on YouTube, where you'll discover things like Terry Riley's Sun Rings accompanied by NASA video and images, this collaboration with Azerbajani musicians, this arrangment of Jimi Hendrix's Purple Haze.

Kronos founder David Harrington said there have been about 800 pieces written for Kronos Quartet. No doubt some of them are weird. But (and here's the heady statement), the world is a better place for having Kronos, and for how they go about doing what they do.

That is to say, while we might tend to live in the comfortable, there are certainly envelopes worth pushing.

We asked Harrington if being the kind of string quartet the Kronos is is easier or more difficult than a more traditional string quartet. His answer can pretty much be summed up as either "yes" or "no."