So Percussion Group
So Percussion - United States
Eric Beach - Josh Quillen – Adam Sliwinski – Jason Treuting
What kind of music is this? For So Percussion, the question has never been an easy one. They’d never been just another modern performance ensemble anyway. Following two acclaimed albums of rigorous music by modern master Steve Reich and even-more-modern masters David Lang and Evan Ziporyn, as well as ongoing collaborations with electronic gurus Matmos, the 20-something quartet has discovered a bold new voice: their own.
Called "astonishing and entrancing" by Billboard, "brilliant" by the New York Times, the discovery is perfectly appropriate. Coming together in the green pastures of New Haven at Yale's graduate program, So Percussion was created to give fresh voice to what co-founder Jason Treuting calls "funky contemporary music." Devoted to the conceptual dreamscapes of Reich, Iannis Xenakis, John Cage, and others, So established a disciplined work ethic, absorbing pieces over months in the Yale studio. A call to Bang on a Can founder David Lang yielded a commission. Called "a must-hear" by Billboard, their self-titled debut featured Lang's "the so-called laws of nature."
In 2004, realizing Steve Reich's nine-part "Drumming" as a quartet, they made one small step for music, one radical step for a percussion group: they overdubbed -- and to great success. Having explored the past, in the form of Reich's classics, and the present, in the form of Lang and Ziporyn's freshest, it was time for So to start exploring the future.
In that vein, their newest CD/DVD Amid the Noise began as an after-hours project. Eager to expand their palette, the members of So experimented with glockenspiel, toy piano, vibraphones, bowed marimba, melodica, tuned and prepared pipes, metals, a wayward ethernet port, and all kinds of sound programming. The resulting idiosyncratic tone explorations were synchronized to Jenise Treuting’s haunting films of street scenes in Brooklyn and Kyoto.
"If you're sick of the sounds you've got, you go and find more," declares Sliwinski of the group's sonic philosophy. "There's always something to hit or rub or whatever." It is an approach they have taken with them to countless educational programs, ranging from community talks to masterclasses with student percussionists and composers at Juilliard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, the University of Texas, the University of Toronto, The Moscow Conservatory, and many other schools. It also has inspired them to commission dozens of composers to write for this most eclectic of instrumental groups. With the list spanning from such notables as David Lang and Paul Lansky to emerging talents Cenk Ergun, Dennis DeSantis and Suzanne Farrin, this unique repertoire has been heard at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, and The Knitting Factory in New York, the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco, and Montreal’s Le National, to name a few. In fact, So is one of the only outfits that can play at a major concert hall and with indie's hippest artists within 24 hours.
With an audience comprised of "both kinds of blue hair... elderly matron here, arty punk there" (as the Boston Globe described it), So Percussion makes a rare and wonderful breed of music that both compels instantly and offers vast rewards for engaged listening. Edgy (at least in the sense that little other music sounds like this) and ancient (in that people have been hitting objects for eons), perhaps it doesn’t need to be called anything at all.