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 vital role of the modern percussion ensemble.
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 Caroline Shaw, David Lang, Steve Mackey, and Paul Lansky, to distinctively modern collaborations with artists who work outside the classical concert hall, including vocalist Shara Nova, electronic duo Matmos, the groundbreaking Dan Deacon, legendary drummer Bobby Previte, jam band kings Medeski, Martin, and Wood, Wilco’s Glenn Kotche, choreographer Shen Wei, and composer and leader of The National, Bryce Dessner, among many others.
Sō Percussion also composes and performs their own works, ranging from standard concert pieces to immersive multi-genre programs – including Imaginary City, Where (we) Live, and A Gun Show, which was presented in a multi-performance presentation as part of BAM’s 2016 Next Wave Festival. In these concert-length programs, Sō Percussion employs 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 the current season, Sō performs the New York premiere of David Lang’s man made with Louis Langrée and the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra; tours a new work by Caroline Shaw with Dawn Upshaw and Gil Kalish to the Kennedy Center, San Francisco Performances, UCLA, Penn State, and elsewhere; returns to Carnegie Hall with the JACK Quartet in a program of new works by Donnacha Dennehy and Dan Trueman; tours the United Kingdon with its original production exploring the community and culture of English coal mining country, From Out a Darker Sea; and more.
Recent highlights include an acclaimed Trilogy portrait at the Lincoln Center Festival; appearances at Bonnaroo, the Eaux Claires Festival, MassMoCA, and TED 2016; international tours to Poland and Ireland; performances of man made with Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Phil; Bryce Dessner’s Music for Wood and Strings at the Barbican in London; and an original score for a live performance and broadcast of WNYC’s Radiolab with Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich at BAM.
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 25,000 meals, for the Crisis Center of Mercer County through the organization EndHungerNE.
Sō Percussion is the Edward T. Cone Ensemble-in-Residence at Princeton University, where they offer educational work and present an annual series of concerts. They are also Co-Directors of the percussion department at the Bard College-Conservatory of Music, and run the annual Sō Percussion Summer Institute (SōSI, now in its ninth year), providing college-age composers and percussionists an immersive exposure to collaboration and project development.
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