Caroline Shaw and Sō Percussion’s ‘Let the Soil Play Its Simple Part,’ Out Now on Nonesuch

 

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 and Friends at Carnegie Hall – December 11th

Saturday, December 11, 2021 — 9 PM — Zankel Hall

Learn more and get tickets HERE

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.

Part of:Fast Forward

Program

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

Performers

Sō Percussion
·· 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

So Percussion releases Julius Eastman’s “Stay On It” with friends

We are delighted to announce the release of our new recording of Julius Eastman’s Stay On It, available TODAY on Bandcamp, Spotify, and YouTube.

 

Video by: MEDIAQUEER (Darian Thomas and Phong Tran)
 

This recording is a collaboration with MEDIAQUEER (who also designed the album cover and music video), Adam Tendler, Shelley Washington, Alex Sopp, Beth Meyers, and Grey Mcmurray.

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!

SōSI 2021 goes REMOTE – and we are re-opening applications!

Dear Friends,

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).
  • Guest artists and faculty include:
Composer in Residence – Nathalie Joachim
 

Apply to SōSI 2021

 

YES, tuition is adjusted to reflect the fact that SōSI is remote
YES, there are scholarships available, learn more here
YES, there will be options to audit portions of SōSI (beginning May 1)
Scholarships for SōSI are available through application via the application portal, ranging from $250 – $1,000.
We are thrilled to provide multiple scholarship opportunities including:
  • Students who identify as Black, Indigenous, and People Of Color (BIPOC)
  • A composition assistant scholarship
  • General support

The Quietus reviews “A Record Of…” with Buke and Gase: “a superb collaboration”

Online magazine The Quietus has words of high praise for Buke and Gase and So Percussion’s new collaborative album A Record of:

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.

Check out the whole review, and our album is available now!

 

 

NEXUS and So Percussion announce Drumming at 50

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.

 

Sō Percussion signs the New Music Equity Action pledge

Sō Percussion is proud to be a founding signatory to the New Music Equity Action Pledge. This commitment arises out of the work of a number of peer organizations who want to work actively against inequity, racism, and anti-Blackness in our field.

New Music Equity Action (NMEA) is a flexible assembly of composers, performers, and administrators in the US whose work creates new music. There is no fixed membership and participation in all group meetings and activities is open to anyone in the field. The group began meeting in June 2020 in order to prioritize in our work the values of anti-oppression, anti-racism, equity, and inclusion. We focus on dismantling the systemic oppression and marginalization of Black artists in our field within the larger goal of making classical music more responsive to and reflective of our contemporary world.

Nonesuch Records announces “Narrow Sea,” our new album of Caroline Shaw’s music out January 22nd

Caroline Shaw’s ‘Narrow Sea,’ Written for and Performed by Sō Percussion, Dawn Upshaw, and Gilbert Kalish, Due January 22 on Nonesuch Records

Nonesuch Records releases its second album from Pulitzer Prize–winning composer Caroline Shaw, Narrow Sea, on January 22, 2021. The title piece was written for Sō Percussion, Dawn Upshaw, and Gilbert Kalish in 2017; they perform it on this recording as well. Narrow Sea comprises five parts, each a new setting of a text from The Sacred Harp nineteenth century collection of shape-note hymns. A composition Shaw wrote for Sō Percussion in 2012, Taxidermy, also is on the album. A video for Part 2 of Narrow Sea can be seen below, and the album may be preordered from here.

Announcing the So Percussion Collaborative Workshop! January 2021

The So Percussion Collaborative Workshop 

  • January 8-16, 2021
  • Takes place online
  • Applications open October 15th
  • Free application, “pay what you can” tuition with suggested fee
  • Check out answers to FAQ’s hereLEARN MORE ON OUR PAGE HERE

The So Percussion Collaborative Workshop is a nine-day online festival for musicians from a wide range of musical practices. Based on our successful So Percussion Summer Institute (SoSI) which was held online in July of 2020, the Collaborative Workshop will feature music curated by So Percussion based on the practices of the admitted participants.

The Collaborative Workshop is for musicians at a student or professional level who want to work across disciplines and explore the creative side of music production. Where our summer institute emphasizes the tools and techniques of live performance, the Collaborative Workshop focuses on using technology to produce recordings and videos. Unlike our past festivals, the Collaborative Workshop is open to musicians beyond the realms of percussion and composition. We do not have a separate composition track. The So Percussion online course, originally built for SoSI 2020, will be updated, expanded, and included as part of participation in the workshop.

Thursday, September 17th – our second Brooklyn Bound!

Thursday, September 17, 2020
All performances will be live streamed on the Sō Percussion Facebook page, and on the Sō YouTube channel at 7:00pm (ET).

HPRIZM aka HIGH PRIEST
Beth Meyers
Iarla Ó Lionáird
Sō Percussion

HPRIZM aka HIGH PRIEST

HPRIZM aka HIGH PRIEST (Music Producer) Professionally known as -Hprizm is an American Avant-Garde Artist, Composer, New Media artist and Performer whose work spans performance art, pop music and multimedia projects. Formally trained as a visual artist, Prizm, later developed from the axis of poetry, hip hop and the experimental arts community of the Lower East Side in the Early Nineties. Noted for evoking images of “Sun Ra and Africa Bambatta at once…” (Jesse Sewer XL8R Magazine) Austin is the founding member of the critically acclaimed Hip Hop collective, the Antipop Consortium and cited figure in the Afrofuturist canon. With a career that spans the last 20 years, Prizm has shared the stages with a wide array of artists ranging from The Roots, Radiohead and, MFDoom to Matthew Shipp, Vijay Iyer and Steve Lehman. As a composer his pieces have been presented in The Whitney (NYC) The Guggenheim, PS1/Moma The Walker Museum, The New Museum, Cal Arts as well as the Mazzoli Gallery (ITALY) As the Creative Director of PRIZMLABS his recent client base includes
Kehinde Wiley, Simone Leigh, Moor Mother, Ursula Rucker, The Barnes Center (Philadelphia) Bahamadia, & The Banff Center, Meredith Monk, The Sō Percussion Ensemble, Loris Greaud, Snorks (feat. David Lynch and Charlotte Rampling) amongst others.

Read more about HPRIZM!

Beth Meyers

Beth is a true performer of the 21st century. A day’s work might find her writing original music for her indie-neo-folk band Damsel with bandmate Monica Mugan; playing viola in the Princeton Symphony Orchestra; writing string arrangements for a Regina Spektor appearance on late night TV; performing and writing with her partner, Jason Treuting; singing the music of Steve Reich with So Percussion; recording strings alongside such artists as Björk, The National, and Sufjan Stevens; performing contemporary avant-garde chamber music with ensembles like Alarm Will Sound; or playing in the pit of the Broadway musical, Wicked.

Her passion for singing has also led her to specialize in straight-tone, rhythmic singing, and the music of Steve Reich. Beth’s vocals can be heard on “The Desert Music” with Alarm Will Sound (Cantaloupe Records 2002) as well as a more recent live album of “Drumming” with So Percussion at Le Poisson Rouge (Dog W/A Bone 2016).

Read more about Beth!

Iarla Ó Lionáird

Iarla Ó Lionáird has carved a long and unique career in music both internationally and in Ireland. From his iconic early recording of the vision song “Aisling Gheal” as a young boy to his ground breaking recordings with Dublin’s Crash Ensemble and New York’s Alarm will Sound, he has shown a breadth of artistic ambition that sets him apart in the Irish Music fraternity. Preferring not be categorized, his performances and recorded output follows an ambitious arc that challenges musical identity. But there’s no doubt he is one of our most distinctive voices. Distinctive voices are always a welcome arrival, regardless of the orbits they choose, and Iarla Ó Lionáird’s is one that ventures far beyond the boundaries of any one genre: a defiantly unclassifiable sound.

A twice Grammy nominated artist, Ó Lionáird has worked with a stellar cast of composers internationally including Donnacha Dennehy, Dan Trueman, Nico Muhly, Gavin Bryars and David Lang and he has performed and recorded with such luminaries as Peter Gabriel, Nick Cave, Robert Plant and Sinead O’Connor. His unique singing style has carried him to stages and concert halls all over the world, from New York’s Carnegie Hall to the Sydney Opera House and beyond. His voice has graced the silver screen also, with film credits extending from “The Gangs of New York” to “Hotel Rwanda” and most recently as featured vocalist in the film “Calvary” starring Brendan Gleeson and featured singer in the film “Brooklyn” starring Saoirse Ronan. He is the vocalist with the critically acclaimed Irish /American band “The Gloaming.”

Read more about Iarla!

Sō Percussion

Sō Percussion’s performance will include select movements from Jason Treuting’s Go Placidly with Haste.

Read more about Sō Percussion!
$10 suggested donation.