Are We There Yet?

pulitzer_logo

Recently, as I was putting the finishing touches on the University of Texas Percussion Group Fall 2014 Concert I discovered a connection between the composers; all had recently won Pulitzers.

2014 – John Luther Adams
2013 – Caroline Shaw
2012 – Kevin Puts
2011 – Zhou Long
2010 – Jennifer Higdon
2009 – Steve Reich
2008 – David Lang

With the exception of Puts, I had works by JLA, Shaw, Long and Higdon all on the docket. That represents 4 out of 5 of the last Pulitzer Prize Winners in the music category. Most of us are more familiar with the works of Reich and Lang than the previous 5 names on the list, but it was, in the end ridiculously easy to make an entire program of works who’s genesis began with a prize winner. And, Puts for what it’s worth, has several very nice offerings for percussion as well. So, what does this mean?

I believe we are living in an important time for percussionists, especially for those who play chamber music. Is there anything to this observation that suggests percussion instruments have taken a huge stride forward (in the last 7 years) in relevance to contemporary music? While I obviously feel strongly that there is a pattern here perhaps we won’t really get there until a work written entirely for percussion wins the big one.

Are we there yet? Leave your thoughts below the post.

Mobius performs “Thank You (____)”

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_VZAttFiKRs

The Mobius Percussion Quartet is an up and coming group based out of Brooklyn/NYC. They have played multiple concerts and been guests with So Percussion. This piece is a new snare drum quartet by Jason Treuting. For more information about the piece, the composer and the group, read the text from the YouTube post below.

As I was deciding what I was going to post today, I came across this video in the suggested videos on YouTube. Being that I know one of the members of Mobius (Yumi Tamashiro is a former student of mine), I wanted check out the new piece and performance. The piece is a combination of performance art and music. In the piece, Jason explore textures, combinations of visuals and extended techniques for the snare drum. It was posted on July 16, 2014 and as of this post, it has been views 5,229 times and there are 84 Thumbs Up and 27 Thumbs Down. What I find interesting about this piece is all of the controversy from the comments on the video. There is something to be said about the high number of views in the short amount of time and it seems obvious that a lot of people have viewed this piece/performance possibly because of the negative reaction it has received. (I am doubtful many people have watched the entire video). Instead of viewing this video as a performance, most people have chosen to let something they don’t like, understand or appreciate become a negative. In this case, controversy has driven traffic. Art is art and everyone has their opinion. Vic Firth has responded to some of the comments on the video. I also hope Mobius takes this opportunity and responds to the comments. They can turn these negative comments into a positive by letting people know about their performances and other videos. That is what social media is all about. If they get someone to purchase a CD or attend a concert, then their efforts paid off. Regardless, please watch the entire video.

Performed by Mobius Percussion
Mika Godbole – Jeremy Smith – Frank Tyl – Yumi Tamashiro

Video by Evan Monroe Chapman

ABOUT THE PIECE:
“Thank you ( )” was written for Tom Sherwood and his 2012 Modern Snare Drum Competition. No drumsticks are used to play the piece. Instead, mallets, rattan shafts, brushes, fingers and coins are used along with the performers voice. The piece was written as a thank you letter of sorts to my favorite snare drummer and each performance is a thank you letter of sorts to the performers favorite snare drummer. It is written in 5 pages that are distinct yet connected.

“Thank you Tom Sherwood for asking me to be a part of this project and for supporting the direction I went with the piece.

Sincerely,
Jason Treuting”

ABOUT THE COMPOSER:
Jason Treuting has performed and recorded in venues as diverse as the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Walker Art Center, the Knitting Factory, the Andy Warhol Museum, Zankel Hall, Lincoln Center, DOM (Moscow) and Le National (Montreal). As a member of So Percussion, he has collaborated with artists and composers including Steve Reich, David Lang, John Zorn, Dan Trueman, tabla master Zakir Hussain, the electronic music duo Matmos and choreographer Eliot Feld. In addition to his work with So, Jason performs improvised music with Simpl, a group with laptop artist/composer Cenk Ergun; Alligator Eats Fish with guitarist Grey McMurray; Little Farm, with guitarist/composer Steve Mackey; QQQ (a quartet consisting of hardinger fiddle, viola, guitar and drums); and Big Farm (a foursome led by Rinde Eckert and Steve Mackey).

ABOUT THE PERFORMERS:
The Mobius Percussion Quartet seeks to fuse their interest in fresh sounds with their commitment to high-quality performance and the promotion of new works by emerging composers. The group is composed of David Degge, Mika Godbole, Yumi Tamashiro and Frank Tyl, who formed the ensemble after working together at the first annual Sō Percussion Summer Institute in Princeton, NJ. Based in New York City, the ensemble made their debut at downtown multimedia art cabaret, (Le) Poisson Rouge, performing alongside other notable artists including Sō Percussion, Nexus, Meehan/Perkins Duo and Mantra Percussion. Recent projects include commissioning a multi-movement work from So Percussion’s Jason Treuting that is currently being developed in a workshop setting for release in fall 2014. This past summer, Mobius recorded Australian composer Kate Neal’s dramatic quartet What Hath II with noted videographer Troy Herion. Based on the text transmissions of Morse code, the work integrates visual and corporeal elements that enhance the underlying rhythmic drive. In addition to their regular performance schedule, Mobius has given concerts and masterclasses at numerous universities including the Curtis Institute of Music, York College of Pennsylvania, Rutgers University, and Rowan University as well as participating in educational outreach programs including the MAP program at Juilliard and others. With several unannounced, versatile projects already in the works, Mobius seeks to springboard evocative ideas with a theatrical inclination to the forefront of their music making.

Thom Hasenpflug’s “Smoke and Mirrors”

I still remember the first time I performed Bicksa during my undergrad. At that point in my career, it was largest piece I had ever set up and at first, I hated it. But, after many rehearsals and late nights, I realized what a great piece it was! Bicksa was written by Thom Hasenpflug. I have been fortunate to get to know Thom and his music over the years and I happy to finally spread the news about his new piece, Smoke and Mirrors. The piece was premiered on last week by the Ensemble Schlagwerk Wien, directed by Nebojsa J Zivkovic. Below is the video of the dress rehearsal. If you don’t know Thom’s music, please go to his website (yes, it is a little outdated) and check out his pieces.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Prov_Ye3pk

Archway: Eli Keszler & So Percussion

As part of the free summer concert series Make Music New York, NPR Music commissioned installation artist Eli Keszler and So Percussion for a collaboration called “Archway” which was premiered on June 21, 2013. As an instrumental partner, they brought a New York landmark: the Manhattan Bridge.

Keszler’s installation featured piano wires, motors and processors, fastened to lampposts and the bridge itself. For the evening performance, once the installation was completed, Keszler joined So Percussion to complete the work. Be sure to listen with some good cans or speakers. The video does a really nice job of trying to capture the aura and mood of the performance. What are your reactions to this kind of collaboration? Leave those, or any other thoughts below the post.

NPR is making some interesting, high quality content on their NPR Music channel on YouTube. Follow the link above to subscribe.

httpvh://youtu.be/T8wzRK1Jf3A

Coming Home

Photo_61This weekend, the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music @ CSULB hosted a conference called the Left Coast Minimalism: Fourth International Conference on Minimalist Music. One of the composers that was featured was Steve Gisby. He wrote a piece called “coming home” (2010) that is scored for two or more percussionists, using any unpitched instruments. The piece was performed at Andy Bliss’ nief-norf Summer Festival at Furman University, South Carolina on June 5th, 2012.

For a recording of that performance, click here. There is also a studio recording available here.

At first glance, this piece looks easy, but after working on this piece for the conference, it is deceptively difficult. The piece challenges the rhythmic pulse and stability of any ensemble. The most challenging part of the piece is the beginning, but once the ensemble can lock in and play the first 6 measures, the rest of the piece is not that difficult. I am looking forward to programming this piece in the future and I know this would be a welcome addition to any percussion concert.

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