Participants from the Sō Percussion Summer Institute 2017
Sō Percussion is a percussion-based music organization that creates and presents new collaborative works to adventurous and curious audiences and educational initiatives to engaged students, while providing meaningful service to its communities, in order to exemplify the power of music to unite people and forge deep social bonds.
To create a new model of egalitarian artistic collaboration that respects history, champions innovation and curiosity, and creates an essential social bond through service to our audiences and our communities.
With innovative multi-genre original productions, sensational interpretations of modern classics, and an “exhilarating blend of precision and anarchy, rigor and bedlam,” (The New Yorker), Sō Percussion has redefined the scope and role of the modern percussion ensemble, placing it at the leading edge of 21st-century music.
Sō’s repertoire ranges from “classics” of the 20th century, by John Cage, Steve Reich, and Iannis Xenakis, et al, to commissioning and advocating works by contemporary composers such as David Lang, Julia Wolfe, Steven Mackey, and Caroline Shaw, to distinctively modern collaborations with artists who work outside the classical concert hall, including Shara Nova, the choreographer Susan Marshall, Wilco’s Glenn Kotche, The National, Bryce Dessner, and many others.
Sō Percussion also composes and performs their own works – including From Out A Darker Sea and Amid the Noise – employing a distinctively 21st century synthesis of original music, artistic collaboration, theatrical production values and visual art, into a powerful exploration of their own unique and personal creative experiences.
In 19/20 Sō Percussion returns to Carnegie Hall for “A Percussion Century,” a sprawling exploration of works by John Cage, David Lang, Johanna Beyer, and others, and featuring the New York premiere of Sō’s newest commission, Forbidden Love, a string quartet by Julia Wolfe. Other season highlights a Miller Theatre Composer Portrait of frequent Sō collaborator, Caroline Shaw (with whom Sō has a new album due this season); David Lang’s man made and Lully’s Le Bourgeois gentilhomme with Louis Langrée and the Cincinnati Symphony; dates in Paris, Glasgow, Lithuania, and throughout the US. Sō also celebrates its sixth year as the Edward T. Cone Ensemble-in-Residence at Princeton University.
Sō has recorded more than 20 albums; appeared at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Walt Disney Hall, the Barbican, the Eaux Claires Festival, MassMoCA, and TED 2016; and performed with Shara Nova, Bryce Dessner, Jad Abumrad, JACK Quartet, Buke and Gase, the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, and the LA Phil and Gustavo Dudamel, among others.
Rooted in the belief that music is an essential facet of human life, a social bond, and an effective tool in creating agency and citizenship, Sō Percussion enthusiastically pursues a growing range of social and community outreach. Examples include their Brooklyn Bound presentations of younger composers; commitments to purchasing offsets to compensate for carbon-heavy activities such as touring travel; and leading their SōSI students in an annual food-packing drive, yielding up to 35,000 meals, for the Crisis Center of Mercer County through the organization EndHungerNE.
One of the first things any group needs is a name. When our group was founded in 1999, we cast far and wide among our friends and family for suggestions. The winner was this simple, short word offered by Jenise Treuting, Jason’s sister. Jenise has been living and working in Japan as an English-Japanese translator for 20 years. The word “Sō” was punchy, enigmatic, and memorable.
“The Sō in Sō Percussion comes from 奏, the second character in the compound Japanese word 演奏 (ensou), to perform music. By itself, so means “to play an instrument.” But it can also mean “to be successful,” “to determine a direction and move forward,” and “to present to the gods or ruler.” Scholars have suggested that the latter comes from the character’s etymology, which included the element “to offer with both hands.” 奏 is a bold, straightforward character, but lends itself to calligraphy with a certain energy that gives so a springy, delicate look.”
– Jenise Treuting