Participants from the So 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 works, more than 20 albums, 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.
Their 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, Steve Mackey, and Caroline Shaw, to distinctively modern collaborations with artists who work outside the classical concert hall, including Shara Nova, the electronic duo Matmos, the choreographer Susan Marshall, Wilco’s Glenn Kotche, Bryce Dessner, and many others.
Sō Percussion also composes and performs their own works, ranging from standard concert pieces to immersive multi-genre programs – including From Out A Darker Sea, 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 18/19, Sō Percussion collaborates with a range of incredible artists, working to bring original work to audiences around the world. Sō tours a brand-new percussion quartet by the phenomenally talented composer/pianist Vijay Iyer; performs Caroline Shaw’s Narrow Sea with Dawn Upshaw and Gil Kalish at Ravinia; and returns to David Lang’s man made at the Chautauqua Festival. Looking forward, Sō premieres new percussion quartets by Angélica Negrón, Suzanne Farrin, and by Julia Wolfe (co-commissioned by Carnegie Hall and the LA Phil), performs at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC; at UC-Berkeley, Stanford Live, plays Steve Reich’s complete Drumming for the Celebrity Series of Boston – and much more.
Recent highlights include the New York premiere of David Lang’s man made with Louis Langrée and the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra; performances of an acclaimed Trilogy portrait at the Lincoln Center Festival; Narrow Sea, a new work by Caroline Shaw with Dawn Upshaw and Gil Kalish, at the Kennedy Center, San Francisco Performances, UCLA, Penn State, Ravinia, and elsewhere; returns to Carnegie Hall with the JACK Quartet in a program of new works by Donnacha Dennehy and Dan Trueman; appearances at Bonnaroo, the Eaux Claires Festival, MassMoCA, and TED 2016; international tours to Poland and Ireland; 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 35,000 meals, for the Crisis Center of Mercer County through the organization EndHungerNE.
This season, Sō Percussion celebrates its fifth year as the Edward T. Cone Ensemble-in-Residence at Princeton University. Through this residency, Sō presents an annual series of concerts, collaborates closely with University faculty and students, and offer performances throughout the community. They also run the annual Sō Percussion Summer Institute (SōSI, which marked its tenth anniversary in 2018), 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