“Exhilarating blend of precision and anarchy, rigor and bedlam”- The New Yorker.
Amplified cactus? Bowed marimba? Aluminum pipes, and the German glockenspiel? You guessed it! Although the names of their instruments sound like a bunch of boring household knick-knacks, these 20th century luminaries and their exhilarating blend of precision and anarchy are quite the opposite!
So Percussion’s adventurous spirit has redefined the modern percussion ensemble, pushing its voice to the forefront of American musical culture. Since coming together as graduate students at the Yale School of Music, they’ve graced the stages of major venues including Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, and have toured Western Europe, South America, Russia and Australia. Don’t miss this truly unique experience!
After hearing the names of the unusual instruments this band plays, I’m sure you’re dying to hear more about their less-than-ordinary artistry! In order to incorporate the focus of our 10x10 Arts Series, creating a space for audience/artist interaction, and answer all of the questions that I’m sure are running through your head, we asked So Percussion a few questions!
1. What's the story behind the name of your band?
One of the first things any group needs is a name. When our group was founded in 1999, we cast far and wide among our friends and family for suggestions. The winner was this simple, short word offered by Jenise Treuting, Jason's sister. Jenise has been living and working in Japan as an English-Japanese translator for 20 years. The word "Sō" was punchy, enigmatic, and memorable. Jenise explains: "The Sō in Sō Percussion comes from 奏, the second character in the compound Japanese word 演奏 (ensou), to perform music. By itself, so mean “to play an instrument.” But it can also mean “to be successful… to determine a direction and move forward,” and “to present to the gods or ruler.”
2. What are your favorite artists and/or soundtracks to jam to?
We have so many! Early on, we were very inspired by groups like the Kronos Quartet and Nexus Percussion. Artists like Radiohead and Bjork were also very influential in our generation. There is a solid influence of jazz artists like Miles Davis. We're really into bands that some of our friends play in, such as Wilco and The National.
3. What/who has been your biggest influence as musicians and composers?
In addition to the above, our teachers made us who we are. Robert van Sice at the Yale School of Music really brought us together. Otherwise, our most important mentor was the composer David Lang, who wrote the first big piece for us, and whose optimistic approach to the music business helped us form our style of engagement with the world.
4. Pick 5 words—that start with the letter ‘p’—to describe your music?
percussive , passionate, playful, pensive , pulsating
5. Does So Percussion embody more of a “band persona” or that of an avant-garde ensemble, or both?
Both. The identity of our group is very much wrapped up in the four of us as people and musicians, which makes it more like a band than a classical ensemble. But we regularly play other people's music, so it sort of fluctuates.
6. What has been your most exciting performance to date?
Nothing ever beats your first Carnegie Hall show, if you're fortunate enough to have one. In 2010, our debut as an ensemble with our own program involved two big new commissioned pieces; it was curated top to bottom by us. Having your own artistic cultivation represented at a place like Carnegie is a huge thrill. We got one of our best New York Times reviews out of that show.
7. Do you have a preference for writing your own tunes, or reworking classic standards?
It's a mixture of both, and I would add that we get other composers to write new pieces that we hope will become classics!
8. What is the craziest instrument you have ever played?
A carrot slide trombone.
9. Is there any advice you’d offer composers writing for percussion instruments?
Be open and communicative! We aren't looking for experts so much as collaborators.
10. Whom do you define as visionary?
I like the word "vision." I think it simply means the ability to see something. A visionary sees something out there, maybe in a way that others don't yet, and has the courage and passion to follow through on it. To have vision is to see clearly, which is not a terribly easy thing to do all the time.
Want to find out more about So Percussion?
Visit http://www.waltonartscenter.org/tickets-events/10x10-arts-series/ to learn more about this exhilarating band before the show.
*And, don't miss the Creative Conversation with the band at 6:30pm!!!