During the first decade of the 21st century, the New York-based string quartet Ethel moved into a position analogous to that held by the Kronos Quartet during the 1980s and 1990s: stretching the boundaries of the conventions of string quartet literature by incorporating new technologies as well as the aesthetics of progressive popular music. While the Kronos has focused more and more on the realm of non-Western musics in the new century, Ethel has made technology an integrated element of its style and has developed the depth and breadth of its engagement with Western vernacular music. It draws it repertoire from pieces written as early as the last third of the 20th century, but it concentrates most strongly on music written since the mid-1990s.
The quartet regularly performs with amplification and is dedicated to exploring the use of emerging technologies. It has been involved at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center in Urbana, IL, and the Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) Conference, where it was the house band in 2010.