So Percussion Summer Institute (SoSI)

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July 10 - 24, 2016

Princeton University

"15 Years of Commissions"


In 2001, Sō premiered the first movement of David Lang's "the so-called laws of nature" in New York. In the almost 15 years since then, we've worked with many other composers to establish the percussion quartet as a vital genre. Although Sō's mission has sprawled out to include creative collaborations with other artists, promoting our own compositions, and tackling social issues, we've never stopped pursuing this core purpose. 

There is something most percussion groups have in common, which is that we are almost guaranteed to never be playing exactly the same sounds on every piece. In fact, we often tell composers that a percussion quartet is really nothing more than four people who are up for anything! For this reason, it has never made sense for us to commission as many pieces as possible. We've tried to curate each project in a way that shows how a composer's  unique imagination can flourish when when we all get together and say "why not?" 

We believe that some extraordinary pieces have grown out of this process, including Lang's gigantic statement.  For our eighth annual SōSI in 2016, we look back at some of them, as we take students inside a process for which the word "commissioning" hardly suffices. We'll examine, discuss, and prod at works such as Steve Mackey's "It Is Time," Paul Lansky's "Threads," and Bryce Dessner's "Music for Wood and Strings." We'll talk about what it's like to dive headlong into projects that truly embody the concept of experimentation, such as in Dan Trueman's "neither Anvil nor Pulley," where even the instruments themselves do not yet exist. 
Of course, many annual SōSI traditions will remain, such as a blistering schedule of new premieres, close interaction between performance and composition participants, fun concerts out in the Princeton community, and outrageously delicious ice cream. Join us for SōSI 2016!  

Highlights of SoSI 2016

  • This year's focus is on our biggest commissions from the last 15 years - David Lang: the so-called laws of nature, Paul Lansky: Threads, Steve Mackey: It Is Time, Dan Trueman: neither Anvil nor Pulley, Bryce Dessner: Music for Wood and Strings, etc
  • Premieres of new pieces from Princeton composers.
  • Masterclasses, lessons, and coachings with renowned composers and performers.
  • Performances around Princeton.
  • Readings by So Percussion of student composers’ pieces.
  • More exciting details to be confirmed soon! 

Composition at SoSI:

We will continue the student composer program for a third year, joined once again by faculty member Andrea Mazzariello.  The composition program will include a curriculum of writing for percussion, readings of composers' pieces, and interactions with the faculty and graduate students of the Princeton Department of Music as well as the many guests who join us at SoSI.  Check back for more information about the program.

Guests from Past Years

The past years of the Summer Institute have included masterclasses, talks, and performances with a great number of amazing artsists including Paul Lansky, Steve Mackey, Dan Trueman, Steve Reich, Steve Schick, Dan Deacon, Martin Schmidt (of Matmos), Joe Gramley, Barbara White, Lukas Ligeti, Grey McMurray, Cenk Ergun, NEXUS, Tristan Perich, Suzi Farrin, Mark Dancigers, Dennis Desantis, Doug Perkins and Stuart Saunders Smith.

The Institute's Mission

The emergence of the percussion group as a standard ensemble has been one of the most exciting developments in contemporary western music. So Percussion was formed to expand this important voice in the 21st century, taking a cue from groups in North America and Europe, as well as the pioneering composers who inspired them.

Since its inception in 1999, education has become an increasingly important part of So’s mission. Its members share a firm belief that inherent in an artist's career is a responsibility to pass on practical advice and mentorship to young artists. The So Percussion Summer Institute seeks to fulfill this promise by providing a unique educational opportunity to percussionists at one of the most critical stages of their development. The program offers a hands-on experience that brings the practical and theoretical together:

  • Commissioning/Creating new music
  • Fruitful collaboration with and among artists
  • The rehearsal and development process
  • Performance