Author Archives: Ellen McSweeney

About Ellen McSweeney

Ellen McSweeney is a Chicago-based musician and writer. She is the founding violinist of Chicago Q Ensemble, a string quartet dedicated to new music, interdisciplinary collaboration, and innovative programming. As a chamber musician, Ellen has also been heard with ensemble dal niente, Access Contemporary Music, Singers on New Ground, New Millennium Orchestra, and New Music DePaul, among others. Ellen holds a B.M. from the Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University and an M.M. from DePaul University. She is a winner of Vanderbilt's Merrill Moore Award for Poetry Writing and the Vanderbilt Review prize for Best Fiction. Her indie folk duo, Elk, will release their debut EP this winter.

Wit and Wisdom: Musicians On Being

Fairouz on being

When a journalist like Tippett can interview anyone in the world, which musicians does she choose? And what does this tell us about musicians’ perceived impact in the wider world?

Chicago: The Spektral Quartet goes to pieces (and rots)

Spektral Quartet

I can’t tell if the Spektral Quartet is getting bigger or smaller. At the quartet’s Saturday night concert, “Snowpocalypse Antidote,” I had the opportunity to reflect on “miniaturization” and the pleasure of small forms. They’re “doing small” in a very big way.

Poultry Jam: A Chicago Thanksgiving Playlist

Thanksgiving Turkey

Ah, Thanksgiving: a holiday as rich in calories as it is in cultural significance. What’s the proper soundtrack for a day that means so many different things? Why not canvas the work of Chicago composers for music that’s as complex as Turkey Day?

Chicago: A scavenger hunt of world premieres


It was Open House Chicago this weekend. Open House is, apparently, a worldwide celebratory architectural free-for-all phenomenon that started in London. But I’ve only ever experienced it in Chicago. Here, it usually falls in late October, when each rainstorm is a tender rite of passage that strips the city of a bit more color.

Chicago: The Unbearable Intimacy of Wandelweiser


I asked my friend and colleague Andrew Tham to join me in attempting to create a new kind of concert review: one that embraced, rather than attempted to deny, our subjectivity; one that could be a bit rough around the edges.  What follows is the story of our experience of the Chicago Wandelweiser Festival.