Percussion Quartets

Sō Percussion was founded in 1999 on a handful of existing pieces, believing that the greatest works in our field had not yet been written. Since then, we have been dedicated to commissioning new works from the most exciting composers of our time, many of them American.

In addition, a lot of new work by our own members has made its way onto our recital programs.

New Quartets

The next generation of new repertoire for Sō Percussion is taking shape! Julia Wolfe’s new quartet for Sō will premiere at Carnegie Hall in 2019. The sub-genre of music for “mallet quartet” (two vibraphones, two marimbas) which kicked off with Steve Reich’s Sō Percussion commission Mallet Quartet in 2009, takes flight with astonishing new pieces by Vijay Iyer, Donnacha Dennehy, and our own Jason Treuting. We deepen our collaboration with Caroline Shaw in Narrow Sea, a work for soprano, piano, and percussion that we premiered with Dawn Upshaw and Gil Kalish. Angélica Negrón draws us into her world of percussion robots and vegetable triggers, while our longtime collaborator Suzanne Farrin dives in on a new quartet.

Vijay Iyer: Torque

A “torque” is a twisting force, and Vijay Iyer’s new mallet quartet for Sō Percussion is a dizzying display of virtuosity and inventiveness. In this four-movement work the renowned pianist and composer adapts his unique concepts of rhythm to percussion keyboards (two marimbas and two vibraphones). Breathtaking accelerations, ambiguous and wonky odd-number grooves, a lyrical marimba chorale, and straight-ahead 4/4 reminiscent of Prince mark a journey that only this combination of artists could imagine.

Past Commissions

Paul Lansky: Springs

World Premiere – September 16th, 2016: Princeton University

‘Springs, for percussion quartet exercises the ability of percussion to work up kinetic energy through pattern repetition and to ‘spring’ into action.’ – Paul Lansky

This commission has been made possible by the Chamber Music America Classical Commissioning Program, with generous funding provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Chamber Music America Endowment Fund.

David Lang: man made

For Sō Percussion and orchestra.

World Premiere May 10, 2013: The Barbican Centre, London, UK; the BBC Symphony
U.S. Premiere 2014: The Los Angeles Philharmonic

man made was commissioned by the Barbican Centre and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.  It is a 4 movement concerto for solo percussion quartet.  In the first three parts, the percussionists play homemade or found sounds against the forceful backdrop of the orchestra:  twigs, tuned wine bottles, metal pipes, trash bins.  In the final section, repeating harmonic cycles bring the entire group together.

Bryce Dessner: Music for Wood and Strings

World Premiere November 23, 2013: Carnegie Hall


Dessner’s fascinating and exhilarating piece for the newly invented “Chordstick” instrument has become a staple of Sō’s touring repertoire.

Steve Reich: Mallet Quartet

U.S. Premiere January 9, 2010: Stanford Lively Arts
Boosey and Hawkes, 15′

Mallet Quartet was written for Sō Percussion and three other groups in 2009. We have championed Reich’s music for years, and are honored to have worked with him on a new piece.

David Lang: the so-called laws of nature

Premiered October, 2002: Miller Theatre, NYC
Schirmer, 35′

Sō Percussion’s first big commission has proven to be one of our most durable. The so-called laws is a huge statement:  woodlbocks, metal pipes, drums, and tuned flower pots.

Steven Mackey: It Is Time

Commissioned by Carnegie Hall and Chamber Music America
Premiered March 25, 2010: Zankel Hall, Carnegie Hall
Boosey and Hawkes, 36′

Mackey’s stated purpose in writing It Is Time was to give the four members of Sō as strong an individual voice within a chamber work as possible.  He asked us each to describe what instrument(s) we love playing the most.  The four movement magnum opus moves from Eric’s miscellaneous sound menagerie, to Josh Quillen’s microtonal steel drums, to Adam’s 5-Octave marimba, to Jason’s Drumset.

Dan Trueman: neither Anvil nor Pulley

Premiered March 10, 2010: University of Texas at Austin

Trueman’s neither Anvil nor Pulley breathlessly combines his diverse interests as the idiosyncratic rhythms of Norweigan folk music strain against the relentless perfection of the computer.  The members of Sō integrate Dan’s custom-programmed laptop programs into our percussion setups, and a concert bass drum amplifies speaker feedback to create Hendrix-like saturation.

Paul Lansky: Threads

Premiered 2006: Princeton University
Schirmer, 30′

“the confident and poised work of a composer who’s a master of his craft.” – All Music

Threads is a percussion cantata.  Written for Sō in 2005, it has become one of our most popular commissions, played by many other groups around the world.  In January 2011 we released our recording on Cantaloupe Music.


John Cage:

Third Construction, Credo in US, Child of Tree, Branches, Inlets, what about the sound of crumpling paper

Steve Reich:

Drumming, Music for Pieces of Wood, Clapping Music, Four Organs, Nagoya Marimbas, Marimba Phase

Iannis Xenakis: