Stay On It
In 2020, the need for flexibility was paramount once we all retreated to our home studios during the COVID-19 quarantine. After conducting our Sō Percussion Summer Institute as a virtual seminar in July 2020, we decided to initiate a new commissioning program of new works for flexible forces. These works could be realized in remote collaboration and in real life; they could involve the members of Sō Percussion but could perhaps open us up to broader collaborations. The flexibility allows each participant to bring their own unique voice to the table. We also wanted to delve into other preexisting pieces which would allow us to collaborate with a range of other musicals remotely.
With the growth of interest and scholarship around Julius Eastman’s music in recent years, we wanted to develop our own take on a repertoire which matches our aesthetic tastes and musical inclinations so perfectly. We started with one of his most well-known compositions, Stay On It. Rather than huddle together among the four of us to figure out our version, we reached out to other artists who already knew his music, and who in some cases also knew Eastman.
Our percussion colleague Jan Williams was Professor of Percussion at SUNY Buffalo for many years, where Eastman was part of the Creative Associates program. Williams offered us his first hand account of performing Stay On It with Eastman, including one performance which was filmed and preserved.
Andrew Stein-Zeller at G. Schirmer helped to connect us with Eastman’s published works. Artists such as Shelley Washington and Adam Tendler provided invaluable insight from their own experiences of arranging and performing his music.
This performance of Stay On It was one of our first “hybrid remote” projects. Once it was safe for the four of us to gather in a studio together, we did a full live take of the piece as a quartet to establish the form (Stay On It is enormously flexible with regard to duration, repetitions, etc). Then we invited our other collaborators to begin supplying layers remotely. This combination allowed to invite a broad spectrum of other artists into the project, while also capturing some of the raw immediacy of live performance which was so striking in Eastman’s archival performance.
Eastman’s mixture of Pop aesthetics into contemporary music also fits well with some of our recent interest in making songs, especially our upcoming album Let the Soil Play its Simple Part on Nonesuch Records with Caroline Shaw.
Releasing our recording of Stay On It provides the perfect opportunity to inaugurate “So Percussion Editions,” a new imprint for releasing our own recordings. In the future, So Percussion Editions will release other flexible music from our New Work Development program, including a portrait of music by Darian Donovan Thomas.
This performance was initially organized by Sō Percussion as a combined live and remote recording for the Brooklyn Bound concert series:
Sō Percussion (Eric Cha-Beach, Josh Quillen, Adam Sliwinski, Jason Treuting) – Percussion
Adam Tendler – Piano
MEDIAQUEER (Darian Thomas and Phong Tran) – Electronics, Keyboards, Violin and Vocals
Grey Mcmurray – Guitar and Vocals
Beth Meyers – Viola and Vocals
Alex Sopp – Flute, Piccolo and Vocals
Shelley Washington – Saxophone and Vocals
Producer: Eric Cha-Beach
Mixing Engineer: Matt Poirier
Album Art: MEDIAQUEER (Darian Thomas and Phong Tran)