The Fall concert season is officially off and running, and we are thrilled to welcome a new album from Darian Donovan Thomas this Friday on Sō Percussion Editions: Individuate.
Individuate features a new, flexible-instrumentation piece from the brilliant and fabulously talented Darian — with multiple performances, by Sō, and by fellow-commissioners and spectacular artists, Bergamot Quartet.
Also featured on the album are Darian’s works, Kid Gunner Brother, and Stephon Clark.
Celebrate the release this Sat, Oct 22 at 8pm.. in a Brooklyn Bound concert at our studio! Darian and Bergamot will be there.
“As we individuate, we connect and identify with the entire human family.”
– Carl Jung
Individuate was commissioned through the Sō Percussion New Work Development Program by Sō Percussion and Bergamot Quartet. It is composed in a way that allows any instrumentalist to perform the piece, and the piece can also be performed by groups of multiples of four players. On this album, there are three versions – by Sō Percussion, by Bergamot Quartet, and by Sō Percussion and Bergamot together.
Kid Gunner Brother and Stephon Clark were both written for the Sō Percussion Summer Institute.
Sō Percussion (Eric Cha-Beach, Josh Quillen, Adam Sliwinski, Jason Treuting)
Bergamot Quartet (Ledah Finck and Sarah Thomas, violins; Amy Tan, viola; and Irène Han, cello)
All works composed by Darian Donovan Thomas
Producers: Darian Donovan Thomas and Eric Cha-Beach
Mixing Engineer: Matt Poirier
Album Art: MEDIAQUEER (Darian Donovan Thomas and Phong Tran)
B I G E A R S with K R O N O S Q U A R T E T
and A N G É L I C A N E G R Ó N M A R C H 2 4 – 2 6
We are SO excited to be performing throughout the weekend at BigEars 2022!
We help open this incredible festival on March 24, with an epic version of Jason Treuting’s Amid the Noise with Kronos Quartet, Angélica Negrón, and Shodekeh.
Then we perform Let the Soil Play Its Simple Part with Caroline Shaw on March 25, and on the closing night, Sō and Kronos Quartet perform the world premiere of a new octet by Angélica Negrón, alongside percussion quartets by Nathalie Joachim (Note to Self) and Julia Wolfe (Forbidden Love).
Whether you live in Tennessee or travel there for the festival, this is going to be so, so special. We hope you can join us!
September is here, can you believe it? We are thrilled to share news of upcoming concerts – with the Cincinnati Symphony and Bryce Dessner, with Caroline Shaw, at Carnegie Hall, later this month at Princeton, and elsewhere – new recordings, new commissions from Nathalie Joachim, Shodekeh Talifero, and others.
Read on, and join us!
P R I N C E T O N
C I N C I N N A T I S Y M P H O N Y
Then on Sept 25 we join the CSO and Louis Langrée for David Lang’s man made (the performance will be recorded for commercial release — stay tuned for more info!) and Lully’s Suite from Le Bourgeois gentilhomme.
Learn more (including info about the Cincinnati Symphony’s fantastic safety regulations) and buy tickets here.
The music on this program encompasses a range of recent collaborations; we offer the world premiere of Nathalie Joachim‘s Note to Self, a co-commission from Carnegie Hall and Sō through the Andrew W. Siegel Fellowship; it’s the first work Nathalie has written for percussion, and it is AWESOME.
We also offer the latest installation of Shodekeh Talifero‘s Vodalities: Paradigms of Consciousnness for the Human Voice. This piece, which Shodekeh will perform with us, is supported by our Flexible Commissions initiative (read more about this project below).
We also revisit Caroline Shaw‘s gorgeous Narrow Sea, with the inimitable Dawn Upshaw and Gilbert Kalish, and wind up with a joyous ensemble version of Jason Treuting‘s Amid the Noise, a work which is a kind of seed crystal of artistic development for Sō throughout the years.
To be onstage at Carnegie Hall is always a dazzling honor, and to share this music with a live audience in 2021 is a privilege that nearly overwhelms us.
We cannot wait to share this music with you, and we are happy to say that single tickets are now on sale. Get them here.
A L B U M S
This Fall, we release our second Sō Percussion Editions album, featuring new and recent works by Darian Donovan Thomas. The album includes two performances (by the Bergamot Quartet, and by Sō) of Individuate, a work commissioned through the Sō Flexible Commissions initiative. Also on the album is Stephon Clark, and Kid Gunner Brother, performed by Troika Percussion.
This release follows a year of major new Sō recordings; we began 2021 with Caroline Shaw’s Narrow Seafrom Nonesuch Records, and our joint project with Buke and Gase, A Record Of… Then in May we released our first album from Sō Percussion Editions: a performance of Julius Eastman’s epic Stay On It.
This summer, we welcomed Let the Soil Play Its Simple Part, created and performed by our “band” with Caroline Shaw. We are so deeply proud of this project, and are delighted to say that in November we’ll be touring the songs with Caroline – stay tuned for cities and dates!
“[Let the Soil Play its Simple Part] with Sō Percussion is every bit as vivid and colourful as the acclaimed Narrow Sea released earlier this year… it is also an experiment in deep collaboration…The result is a glorious, genre-defying disc by turns poignant, celebratory, complex and direct…Beautifully performed and expertly produced, this is music-making at its most vital, expressive and imaginative.”
– BBC Music Magazine
Does a piece of music consist of the abstract ideas which animate it? Is it about the exact sounds a composer hears in their mind’s ear? Can it just be notes and rhythms, or even a blueprint for construction?
Although we’ve performed with flexible instrumentation works for years – Terry Riley’s In C, Jason Treuting’s Amid the Noise, etc – the concept gained urgency in 2020, when quarantine and social issues made us question and consider every element of music-making and collaboration. Flexibility was the only way forward.
Let the Soil Play Its Simple Part, an album of songs written and performed by Caroline Shaw and Sō Percussion, is out now on Nonesuch Records, available everywhere here, including on clear vinyl. The musicians, who have known each other since their student days, were presented with three days of gratis studio time and decided to experiment with ideas they had begun putting to tape during the sessions for their January 2021 Nonesuch release Narrow Sea. With Shaw on vocals and Sō—Eric Cha-Beach, Josh Quillen, Adam Sliwinski, and Jason Treuting—filling out this new band, they developed songs in the studio, with lyrics inspired by their own wide-ranging interests: James Joyce, the Sacred Harp hymn book, a poem by Anne Carson, the Bible’s Book of Ruth, the American roots tune “I’ll Fly Away,” and the pop perfection of ABBA, among others. The album is co-produced by Shaw, Sō Percussion, and the Grammy Award–winning engineer Jonathan Low (The National, Taylor Swift).
To coincide with the album’s release, the artists have released a video of them performing their take on ABBA’s “Lay All Your Love on Me,” a track on the new album. The video, directed by Maureen Towey and filmed at Bok in Philadelphia, includes additional vocals from Beth Meyers and Yeji Cha-Beach; you can watch it here:
Shaw, who won a Pulitzer Prize for her vocal composition Partita for 8 Voices, written for and performed with Roomful of Teeth, makes her solo vocal debut with Let the Soil Play Its Simple Part.
The album’s first track, “To the Sky,” is from the Sacred Harp and takes its lyrics from Anne Steele. “I love the songs about death, and going home, and looking toward a time that is better or brighter, which, if there’s one thing to think about in the world, maybe that’s the thing,” Shaw says. “This one I love in particular. There’s a line, ‘Frail solace of an hour/ So soon our transient comforts fly / And pleasure blooms to die.’ It’s meditation on the ephemeral, and I love it.”
“I hadn’t written very many songs, but I have certainly loved many in my life. I’ve been thinking of making a solo album for seven or eight years, but it takes having the right friends and community in the room,” Shaw says. “The prompt for all of us was: What would we make in the room together with no one person in charge, like a band writes in the studio?”
Cha-Beach recalls of the early test run during the Narrow Sea session: “It had that capturing-lightning-in-a bottle feeling.” When the opportunity to have three days in their friends’ studio, Guilford Sound, came up, the five musicians decamped for Vermont with engineer/co-producer Jonathan Low. “Jon is an amazing editor,” Cha-Beach says, “He is so helpful in thinking about: ‘We have these ideas: how do we shrink those and make them come across on an album?’”
One such idea was for Shaw to do a duet with each member of Sō. She sings with Josh Quillen on steel drums on the title track, which she wrote in under an hour in a “free-writing zone, very inspired by James Joyce, taking on that brain space,” she says. Lyrically, the song is “related to some math bits that I love, but also memory, and love songs of somebody who’s gone or passed away, or that you’re no longer with: what is the sound of that kind of devastation or confusion or love?” They recorded the song only twice, and the first take is on the album. “It’s very spare. The playing is very Josh; it’s so sensitive,” Shaw says.
Adam Sliwinski’s marimba duet with Shaw is an interpretation of the ABBA song “Lay All Your Love on Me.” She explains, “It’s really a Bach chorale. Also, the idea of someone singing ‘Don’t go wasting your emotion / Lay all your love on me / Don’t go sharing your devotion / Lay all your love on me,’ over and over again very slowly, there’s a certain tragedy in it. And then Adam did some absolutely exquisite layering that built this stunning world from the marimba.”
Jason Treuting on the drum kit joined Shaw for “Long Ago We Counted.” She suggested, “Why don’t we start with the voice and the kit having a weird conversation, sort of like two babies talking to each other? And then we built this loop, and we go from this place that’s totally uncomfortable and nonsensical to something that’s rich and rolling and satisfying.” For “Some Bright Morning,” the duet with Cha-Beach—who here plays electronics, piano, and Hammond organ—Shaw drew upon a twelfth century liturgical hymn she had sung regularly in church during her college years: “Salve Regina.”
“Some songs on Let the Soil… were very specifically composed by Caroline,” Cha-Beach says. “But others were this assemblage of ideas: finding words, an idea for how a melody could work, a harmony, and then tossing it in a blender and trusting each other.” Shaw adds, “What I love about Sō is the curiosity about how objects make sounds and how they speak to each other. [There was an] underlying thread of thinking about what goes into soil, how we take care of it, how we allow it to be itself, how we contain it, and what can come out of it if you cultivate the right environment, which for me is always this wonderful metaphor for creativity and collaboration: let people be themselves and see what happens,” she concludes.
Sō Percussion is your guide for intriguing journeys to new worlds of sound. “Through a mix of consummate skill and quirky charm, this mercurial quartet has helped ignite an explosive new enthusiasm for percussion music old and new” (The New York Times). For this fascinating concert, their trademark sound is enhanced by exciting guest artists, including vocalists, an innovative beatboxer, and steel drummers in music by leading composers of our day, including Haitian American composer Nathalie Joachim’s new work co-commissioned by Carnegie Hall.
DOMINIC “SHODEKEH” TALIFERO Vodalities: Paradigms of Consciousness for the Human Voice
NATHALIE JOACHIM Note to Self (NY Premiere, co-commissioned by Carnegie Hall)
CAROLINE SHAW Narrow Sea
JASON TREUTING Amid the Noise
·· Eric Cha-Beach
·· Josh Quillen
·· Adam Sliwinski
·· Jason Treuting
Nathalie Joachim, Vocalist
Dawn Upshaw, Soprano
Gilbert Kalish, Piano
Dominic “Shodekeh” Talifero, Beatboxer, Vocal Percussionist, and Breath Artist
Pan in Motion
Stay On It is released through Sō Percussion Editions, a new in-house imprint that will feature recordings of new and recent works written for Sō and friends, including commissions through our New Work Development Fund, and especially the Flexible Commissions program started in 2020.
All profits and proceeds from the sale of Stay On It will be donated to Castle of our Skins, a concert and educational series dedicated to celebrating Black artistry through music.
As a bonus to the recording, Alex Sopp has re-released her wonderful t-shirt featuring Julius Eastman; check it out!
Since we officially “closed” the application period for the 2021 Sō Percussion Summer Institute last month, a LOT has happened, including new information from our partners at Princeton, and new confirmations from guest artists.So here are the updates:
This year’s SōSI is going to be remote – it is NOT an in-person festival. It still runs July 11-25, 2021, and will involve a range of synchronous and asynchronous work. (This means you can join from ANYWHERE!)
With this new information in mind, we are re-opening applications and accepting musicians of ALL practices (not just percussionists and composers).
A Record Of… is a superb collaboration, reconciling jarring contrasts without compromising either party’s own character. It is the dynamic meeting point of pop and experimental, punk and classical minimalism, noisy and hushed, abrasive and smooth, delivered with stark clarity and precision.
NEXUS and Sō Percussion are pleased to announce the public launch of DRUMMINGat50.com, a website examining the immense influence, innovative compositional and performing techniques, and history of Steve Reich’s seminal work for percussion, Drumming.
DRUMMINGat50.com contains a deep library of multimedia resources, including:
a new performance of the piece by NEXUS sand Sō Percussion, Beth Meyers, Yumi Tamashiro, Daisy Press, and Alex Sopp, filmed and produced by Four/Ten Media,
a new program note from Steve Reich, offering deeper insight into the influence of Ghanaian drumming traditions on his compositional development in that era,
conversations with musicians and musicologists who discuss the social and musical impacts of the piece,
a broad range of academic papers about the piece, including contributions by Dr. Louise Devenish, Adam Sliwinski, and Oliver Xu,
a brilliant examination of the performance practice and training required for the piece by Russell Hartenberger,
and much more!
DRUMMINGat50.com’s launch is timed to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Drumming, and to echo the year of preparation that preceded the world premiere of the piece at the Museum of Modern Art in New York by Steve Reich and Musicians on December 3, 1971.
DRUMMINGat50.com is fully available to the public, and was designed and curated by Russell Hartenberger (of NEXUS, and an original performer in the world premiere of Drumming) and Ray Dillard, and built by Agile web designer Alex Kessaris.