Since 2006, the members of Sō Percussion have been writing music for the ensemble. Using our studio in Brooklyn as a laboratory, we often create music that is about “place:” a city, our immediate sonic environment, even how the past resonates where we are today.
In our multi-genre programs, including Imaginary City, Where (we) Live and in 2016 at BAM, A Gun Show, Sō Percussion explores fundamental aspects of contemporary life with a characteristically deft touch. These programs incorporate original music, artistic collaborations, theatrical production values, and visual art into an immersive journey through the 21st century creative experience.
A Gun Show
The ways in which Americans perceive these small machines seems to intersect with numerous serious issues that confront our society – race, economic inequality, public safety, constitutional rights, etc. They represent an everyday tool to some, but a health menace to others. What is it about our collective psyche that fastens so tightly to guns?
A Gun Show is an exploration of these issues through music, text, and movement. We originally set to work on it as a way to process our emotions after the unfathomable school shootings in Newtown, CT.
We are joined for the second time by collaborators Ain Gordon (director), and performer/choreographer Emily Johnson, who helped us find beauty amid the chaos of everyday life in Where (we) Live. Our collective and myriad artistic influences splash across the canvas of A Gun Show as we search for ways to respond: childhood memories in the woods; a sing-song text duet that masks darker memories; the organized violence that many percussion instruments were designed for; the patient and hopeful mourning of the blues; the harmless tinkling resonance of a disassembled sniper rife – all play a part in our dreamscape.
We are angry, but we are also engulfed by a paralysis of melancholy. Political action is on our minds, yet the complexities of human nature lurk menacingly in the background. In the face of such weighty issues, sometimes we take a step forward to sing, play, tell a story. We respond to the urge to move, we gather and occupy space together peacefully.
No word exactly sums up what this performance is – opera may come the closest. The audience is invited to reflect and commune, as we have already found that guns embody a peculiarly American experience. It is strange that we should all be so deeply affected by their presence.
Below are highlights from a recent work-in-progress showing at SōSI:
Where (we) Live
For eight years, Sō Percussion has made our home in Brooklyn amid two million five hundred thousand others. In our city, each of the group’s four members has constructed a personal ecosystem we call home. These homes are bound by space, time, sound and image. Equally, these spaces house rewarding, frustrating, supporting, damaging, tangible and never understood relationships.
When we leave those homes, our four members unite to create another artistic home, with its own unspoken rules and expectations; its own rhythm of interaction, its own banalities and mystery.
Where (we) Live questions all these homes by purposefully inviting the unknown to “come on over.” We’ve asked video artists, songwriters, painters, choreographers, directors and others to substantively alter our process. The resulting performance contains a society of possibilities: composed pieces, chance elements, visual associations, and theatrical interactions.
* where (we) live is a National Performance Network (NPN) Creation Fund Project co-commissioned by Myrna Loy/Helena Presents, in partnership with Vermont Performance Lab and the Walker Art Center. The Creation Fund is supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Ford Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts (a federal agency). For more information: www.npnweb.org
Sō member Adam Sliwinski wrote several blog articles about the development process of Where (we) Live:
- The beginning
- A bit later on
- Some reflections after the premiere
- Explaining Emily Johnson, the enigmatic “note taker”
- The use of guest artists and crafts(wo)men in WwL
Imaginary City is a meditation on urban life and its sounds, architecture, light and color. It is a dialogue between Sō Percussion and video artist Jenise Treuting, a poetic exchange. Musical, visual, and theatrical elements combine into impressions of city life. Featuring original music by the members of Sō, with Pulitzer-nominated Director and Playwright Rinde Eckert.
In 2009, Imaginary City ran for 4 nights at the BAM Next Wave Festival, and has toured across the country.
Imaginary City is a National Performance Network (NPN) Creation Fund Project co-commissioned by BAM for the 2009 Next Wave Festival in consortium with The Myrna Loy Center/Helena Presents in partnership with Diverseworks Art Space, The Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, The Cleveland Museum of Art, The Newman Center for the Performing Arts and NPN.