Now in its seventh year, Golden Hornet’s String Quartet Smackdown is a bracketed, NCAA basketball style tournament competition that brings original four-minute string quartet compositions head-to-head in front of a live, participatory audience. It’s like NCAA March Madness for the ears!
Every Fall, composers from around the globe are invited to submit through an open, no-cost entry process. Following submission, a diverse panel of judges selects sixteen compositions to be performed live at the String Quartet Smackdown, which takes place in February at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, TX. This year, due to pandemic restrictions, the production will be livestreamed via Alamo On Demand in March.
Composers of any age, experience level, and background are welcome to submit. There are no style constraints apart from length and instrumentation – compositions must be four minutes long and written for a traditional string quartet. In particular, we encourage submissions from individuals who identify with historically marginalized and/or underrepresented demographics within the field of classical music. All sixteen finalists receive a professional studio recording of their work. The voting audience determines which finalist will be named the Champion of Smackdown VII; the champion wins a cash prize.
A professional string quartet performs the pieces LIVE* for the in-person and/or virtual audience. This performance is broken into four rounds:
Round 1 (Round of 16): One minute of all sixteen pieces Round 2 (Quarterfinals): Two minutes of eight pieces Round 3 (Semi-finals): Three minutes of four pieces Round 4 (Finals) : Full four minutes of two pieces
The audience uses their cell phones or a mobile app to vote, and their responses appear live on screen. The winner of each bracket moves on in the tournament! (*In 2021, the pieces will be pre-recorded prior to the livestream to minimize technical disaster but the show and voting will be live.)
In a riotous - and usually very close - finish, the audience determines the String Quartet Smackdown champion!
ALL sixteen finalists receive a professional studio recording of their piece, and the winner takes home a cash prize!
This project is supported in part by the Cultural Arts Division of the City of Austin Economic Development Department.