The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College presents Sō Percussion and Grey McMurray in Where (we) Live. The performance takes place in the LUMA Theater on Saturday, February 14 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, February 15 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $25, $10 for students. For additional information or to order tickets visit fishercenter.bard.edu or call the box office at 845 – 758-7900.
In the second performance of Branches — a multiyear partnership between the Fisher Center, The Bard College Conservatory of Music, and the John Cage Trust to highlight Sō Percussion’s integration into the artistic and academic community of Bard College — this “ambitious, beguiling show” (New York Times) blends music, video, and storytelling in a theatrical creation that reflects on notions of community and home. The performances, directed by Ain Gordon, feature guitarist Grey McMurray, choreographer Emily Johnson, and guest artists Aron Sanchez and Caroline Wallner.
About Sō Percussion
Sō is: Eric Cha-Beach, Josh Quillen, Adam Sliwinski, and Jason Treuting. For over a decade they have redefined the modern percussion ensemble as a flexible, omnivorous entity, pushing its voice to the forefront of American musical culture. Praised by the New Yorker for their “exhilarating blend of precision and anarchy, rigor and bedlam,” Sō’s adventurous spirit is written into the DNA passed down from composers like John Cage and Steve Reich, as well as from pioneering ensembles like the Kronos Quartet and Nexus Percussion. Sō Percussion’s career now encompasses 16 albums, touring throughout the USA and around the world, a dizzying array of collaborative projects, several ambitious educational programs, and a steady output of their own music.
When the founding members of Sō Percussion convened as graduate students at the Yale School of Music, their initial goal was to present an exciting repertoire of pieces by 20th century luminaries such as Cage, Reich, and Iannis Xenakis. An encounter with David Lang, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and co-founder of New York’s Bang on a Can organization, yielded their first commissioned piece: the 36 minute, three movement the so-called laws of nature. Since that first major new work, Sō has commissioned some of the greatest American composers of our time to build a new repertoire, including Steve Reich, Steve Mackey, Paul Lansky, Martin Bresnick, and many others.
Over time, an appetite for boundless creativity led the group to branch out beyond the composer/interpreter paradigm. Since 2006 with group member Jason Treuting’s amid the noise, the members of Sō Percussion have been composing in their own right within the group and for others. In 2012 their third evening-length work Where (we) Live premiered at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Where (we) Live followed on the heels of 2009’s Imaginary City, a fully staged sonic meditation on urban soundscapes. In 2011, Sō was commissioned by Shen Wei Dance Arts to compose Undivided Divided, a 30-minute work conceived for Manhattan’s massive Park Avenue Armory.
Sō’s recording of the so-called laws of nature became the cornerstone of their self-titled debut album on Cantaloupe Music (the record label from the founders of Bang on a Can) in 2004. In subsequent years, this relationship blossomed into a growing catalogue of exciting records. In 2011, Sō released six new albums, ranging from their definitive recording of Steve Reich’s Mallet Quartet— composed for them in 2009— on Nonesuch Records, to Steve Mackey’s epic quartet It Is Time on Cantaloupe, to their collaborative album Bad Mango with jazz trumpeter Dave Douglas on Greenleaf Music.
Sō Percussion is heavily involved in mentoring young musicians. They are the newly appointed Edward T. Cone Ensemble-in-Residence at Princeton University, working with both Princeton-affiliated composers and the broader university community. In 2009, they created the annual Sō Percussion Summer Institute on the campus of Princeton University. The Institute is an intensive two-week chamber music seminar for college-age percussionists featuring the four members of So as faculty in rehearsal, performance, and discussion of contemporary music for students from around the world. Its members are also Co-Directors of a new percussion department at the Bard College-Conservatory of Music, which enrolls each student in a double-degree (Bachelor of Music and Bachelor of Arts) course in the Conservatory and Bard College, equipping them with élite conservatory training and a broad liberal arts education.
Sō has been featured at many of the major venues in the United States, including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Stanford Lively Arts, Texas Performing Arts, and many others. In addition, a recent residency at London’s Barbican Centre, as well as tours to Western Europe, South America, Russia, and Australia have brought them international acclaim.
Featured image of Grey McMurray by Nathan West