So is: Eric Beach, Josh Quillen, Adam Sliwinski, and Jason Treuting
For over a decade, So Percussion has redefined the modern percussion ensemble as a flexible, omnivorous entity, pushing its voice to the forefront of American musical culture. Praised by the New Yorker for their “exhilarating blend of precision and anarchy, rigor and bedlam,” So’s adventurous spirit is written into the DNA passed down from composers like John Cage and Steve Reich, as well as from pioneering ensembles like the Kronos Quartet and Nexus Percussion. So Percussion’s career now encompasses 13 albums, touring throughout the USA and around the world, a dizzying array of collaborative projects, several ambitious educational programs, and a steady output of their own music.
When the founding members of So Percussion convened as graduate students at the Yale School of Music, their initial goal was to present an exciting repertoire of pieces by 20th century luminaries such as Cage, Reich, and Iannis Xenakis. An encounter with David Lang, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and co-founder of New York’s Bang on a Can organization, yielded their first commissioned piece: the 36 minute, three movement the so-called laws of nature. Since that first major new work, So has commissioned some of the greatest American composers of our time to build a new repertoire, including Steve Reich, Steve Mackey, Paul Lansky, Martin Bresnick, and many others.
Over time, an appetite for boundless creativity lead the group to branch out beyond the composer/interpreter paradigm. Since 2006 with group member Jason Treuting’s amid the noise, the members of So Percussion have been composing in their own right within the group and for others. In 2012 their third evening-length work Where (we) Live premieres at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, travelling to the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s 30th Next Wave Festival and the Myrna Loy Center in Helena, MT. Where (we) Live follows on the heels of 2009’s Imaginary City, a fully staged sonic meditation on urban soundscapes. In 2011, So was commissioned by Shen Wei Dance Arts to compose Undivided Divided, a 30-minute work conceived for Manhattan’s massive Park Avenue Armory.
So Percussion’s artistic circle extends beyond their contemporary classical roots. They first expanded this boundary with the prolific duo Matmos, whom The New York Times called “ideal collaborators” on their 2010 combined album Treasure State. Further projects and appearances with Wham City shaman Dan Deacon, legendary drummer Bobby Previte, jam band kings Medeski, Martin, and Wood, and Wilco’s Glenn Kotche drew the circle even wider. In 2011, the rock band The National invited So to open one of their sold-out shows at New York’s Beacon Theater.
So’s recording of the so-called laws of nature became the cornerstone of their self-titled debut album on Cantaloupe Music (the record label from the founders of Bang on a Can) in 2004. In subsequent years, this relationship blossomed into a growing catalogue of exciting records. In 2011, So released six new albums, ranging from their definitive recording of Steve Reich’s Mallet Quartet – composed for them in 2009 - on Nonesuch Records, to Steve Mackey’s epic quartet It Is Time on Cantaloupe, to their collaborative album Bad Mango with jazz trumpeter Dave Douglas on Greenleaf Music. The BBC raved of So’s performance of Mallet Quartet that they “have it nailed, finding both the inner glow and the outer edge, and never letting the tapestry lapse into the flat or routine.”
So Percussion is heavily involved in mentoring young musicians. Its members are Co-Directors of a new percussion department at the Bard College-Conservatory of Music. This top-flight undergraduate program enrolls each student in a double-degree (Bachelor of Music and Bachelor of Arts) course in the Conservatory and Bard College, equipping them with elite conservatory training and a broad liberal arts education. In 2009, they created the annual So Percussion Summer Institute on the campus of Princeton University. The Institute is an intensive two-week chamber music seminar for college-age percussionists featuring the four members of So as faculty in rehearsal, performance, and discussion of contemporary music for students from around the world. During the 2011-2012 academic year, So was an ensemble-in-residence at Princeton University, teaching seminars and collaborating extensively with talented student composers.
So has been featured at many of the major venues in the United States, including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Stanford Lively Arts, Texas Performing Arts, and many others. In addition, a recent residency at London’s Barbican Centre, as well as tours to Western Europe, South America, Russia, and Australia have brought them international acclaim.
So would like to thank Pearl/Adams Instruments, Zildjian cymbals, Vic Firth drumsticks, Remo drumheads, Black Swamp Accessories, and Estey organs for their sponsorship.
Since its founding in 2006, the Meehan/ Perkins Duo (Todd Meehan and Doug Perkins) has redefined the American percussion duo through its diverse commissions and engaging performances. The Duo has been called “superb young players” by the New Yorker and “gifted percussionists” by the Wall Street Journal. Dedicated to creating a new body of work for the percussion duo genre, to date the Duo has collaborated with composers David Lang, Paul Lansky, Nathan Davis, John Supko, and Matt McBane to expand the repertoire and produce eclectic new acoustic and electro-acoustic works for percussion. The Duo has shared this music with audiences throughout the country, including performances at Weill Recital Hall, the Ojai Music Festival, Monadnock Music, the Yellow Barn Festival, the International Festival-Institute at Round Top, the Stone, the Percussive Arts Society International Convention, and abroad in St. Petersburg and Petrozavodsk, Russia.
February 2011 marked the release of the Duo’s first recording on New World Records entitled “Restless, Endless, Tactless – Johanna Beyer and the Birth of American Percussion Music”. The recording, a joint project with the Baylor Percussion Group, chronicles a largely unknown body of early percussion works from the 1930′s written by Johanna Beyer, Henry Cowell, Harold Davidson, Ray Green, John J. Becker, and Doris Humphrey. The release was praised as “immaculately played by the duo” by the BBC Music Magazine and “an engaging experience” by Gramophone. Fanfare Magazine perhaps best sums up the recording by stating “This is a must-hear for anyone remotely interested in the development of music in the past century and is strongly recommended.”
The Duo is currently undertaking its largest commissioning project to date, engaging composer Jonathan Leshnoff for a Concerto for Two Percussionists and Orchestra. The work will be premiered June 2012 with the Texas Festival Orchestra at the Round Top International Festival under the baton of Michael Stern. Subsequent performances will take place during the 2012-2013 season with the Duluth-Superior Symphony Orchestra, the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra, and the Baylor Symphony Orchestra.
The Meehan/ Perkins Duo uses Vic Firth sticks and mallets, Pearl/Adams drums and keyboards, Black Swamp Percussion accessories, Remo drumheads, and Zildjian cymbals.
The Baylor Percussion Group is the primary performing ensemble of the percussion department at Baylor University and is devoted to the artistic presentation of the most significant percussion works of the 20th and 21st centuries. A central focus of the ensemble is to foster relationships between composers and performers through musical collaborations and commissions. The group presents regional and world premieres of works by both emerging and established composers on each of its concerts. The BPG has performed at the Make Music New York Festival, Fast Forward Austin, the Round Top International Festival-Institute, Baylor University’s Distinguished Artist Series, and the Texas Music Educators Association Convention.
In February 2011, the BPG released its first commercial recording on New World Records entitled Restless, Endless, Tactless – Johanna Beyer and the Birth of American Percussion Music. Jointly recorded with the Meehan/ Perkins Duo, the disc highlights some of the earliest percussion ensemble works ever written, including the entire percussion output of German-American composer Johanna Beyer. The BBC Music Magazine described the recording as “immaculately played”, doling out five out of five stars for the performance. Gramophone writes “The sound throughout is brilliant as only percussion sound can be when each of the players is also, by necessity, an expert in the use of cutting-edge technology. An engaging experience.” And Jeremy Marchant of Fanfare Magazine perhaps best sums up the experience by saying “This is a must-hear for anyone remotely interested in the development of music in the past century and is strongly recommended.”
The BPG’s 2012-2013 concert season will feature performances with So Percussion and the Meehan/ Perkins Duo at the 2013 Baylor Percussion Symposium, as well as appearances at Da Camera of Houston’s John Cage MUSICIRCUS at the Menil Collection, the Waco Cultural Arts Festival, and Livestrong’s 15th Anniversary Gala in Austin.