Are We There Yet?


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 (____)”


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

“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.

Jason Treuting”

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).

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.

Paul Lansky’s Threads – Mvt. 3

Today’s video features movement 3 of Paul Lansky’s Threads. Threads (2005), for percussion quartet, was written for So Percussion and was premiered at Princeton University on 4/8/06. This video is a live performance from the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.

Has anyone performed Threads or see a live performance of the piece? What other pieces by Paul Lansky should we check out?

Steven Schick Named Artistic Director of the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players

February 8, 2011, San Francisco, CA

The San Francisco Contemporary Music Players are pleased to announce the appointment of internationally renowned conductor and percussionist Steven Schick as Artistic Director. For the past thirty years Schick has championed contemporary percussion music as a conductor, performer, and teacher, by commissioning and premiering more than one hundred new works by composers as varied as Brian Ferneyhough, David Lang, and Iannis Xenakis. Schick joins the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players as the acclaimed ensemble enters its 41st Season. Since its first concert in 1971,the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players have released twenty recordings, performed more than 1,000 contemporary works (including 74 U.S. premieres and 145 world premieres), and commissioned 74 new pieces from such composers as John Adams, Mario Davidovsky, Philippe Leroux, Liza Lim, and Julia Wolfe.

“The forty-year tradition of the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players establishes it as one of this country’s most venerable and important ensembles for contemporary music; and the terrific musicians of the group and their commitment to cutting-edge musical ideas means that it is also an ensemble of the future,” said Steven Schick. “What a thrill it is for me to now be part of an organization that is both roots and rhizomes. We know where we’re from; where and how we’ll grow next is the exciting part!”

As Artistic Director, Schick will serve as both conductor and chief artistic administrator, providing artistic vision and leadership for the ensemble. The 2011-12 season will feature Schick’s programming for a subscription series at Herbst Theater beginning in October 2011.

In great demand as a performer, Steven Schick will make a number of appearances in New York in February. He is to perform John Luther Adams’ Inuksuit and Louis Andriessen’s Worker’s Union as part of the eighth blackbird curated Tune-In Festival at the Armory and as conductor and percussionist in The International Contemporary Ensemble’s Alice Tully Hall performances. In March, he appears in Schick Machine, an evening length solo musical theater work created especially for him by the Paul Dresher Ensemble at San Francisco’s Theater Artaud. Schick’s percussion ensemble, red fish blue fish, will be featured in the new Peter Sellars production of George Crumb’s Winds of Destiny in June at the Ojai Festival in Ojai, California and at Ojai North! presented by Cal Performances in Berkeley.

“Steven Schick is an exciting, brilliant, and extraordinary contemporary musician,” says Richard Lee, President of the Board of the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players. “The unanimous choice among a field of 90 candidates, Steven brings an international reputation and a lifetime of engagement with contemporary music. We look forward to his inspiring leadership of our gifted ensemble.”

Percussion has often played a central role in contemporary music and there is no doubt that percussionists are more and more moving from within the ensemble to the podium. In a recent article about this trend, New York Times critic Allan Kozinn even proclaimed that “drums are the new violins,” going on to make a point that the percussion discipline is excellent training for understanding the dense polyphonic textures of today’s contemporary music. Steven Schick is just such a case, a musician who artfully combines conducting and percussion performance to weave a unique international career. Founder and Artistic Director of the percussion group red fish blue fish, Schick is also Music Director and conductor of the La Jolla Symphony and Chorus, a post he has held since 2007. He makes space in his artistic life to conduct the International Contemporary Ensemble as well as to perform George Crumb in a new Peter Sellars production. Mark Swed from the Los Angeles Times described a recent performance of Xenakis’s Rebonds as featuring “the intelligence of a computer, the body of an athlete, and the pose of a dancer” and his performances of Stockhausen’s Zyklus “were enthralling” according to The Times in London. Also highly regarded for his teaching, Schick serves as Distinguished Professor of Music at the University of California, San Diego and as Consulting Artist in Percussion at the Manhattan School of Music. He was the percussionist of the Bang on a Can All-Stars of New York City from 1992-2002, and from 2000 to 2004 served as Artistic Director of the Centre International de Percussion de Genève in Geneva, Switzerland. Steven Schick’s book on solo percussion music, The Percussionist’s Art: Same Bed, Different Dreams, was published by the University of Rochester Press; his recording of The Mathematics of Resonant Bodies by John Luther Adams was released by Cantaloupe Music; and a 3 CD set of the complete percussion music of Iannis Xenakis, made in collaboration with red fish blue fish, was issued by Mode Records. From his roots on a family farm in Iowa, Schick’s first experience with music began as a drummer in a rock band. When he entered the University of Iowa, he realized, in his words, “Contemporary percussion music was rewriting all the rules. It was the newest, most exciting, and most provocative music around. I said good-bye to the rock band (and to my parents’ aspirations to have a doctor in the family) and embraced the raw, vital sounds of percussion music.”

Described by San Francisco Chronicle music critic Joshua Kosman as “the area’s premier new music ensemble,” The San Francisco Contemporary Music Players are a group of highly skilled musicians with an international reputation in contemporary music performance. On April 4, the ensemble celebrates 40 years with a special Gala concert featuring a guest appearance by Terry Riley and a performance of the legendary In C. A ten-time winner of the national ASCAP/Chamber Music America Award for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music, the ensemble has toured widely throughout California with performances on such prestigious concert series as the Ojai Festival, Los Angeles’ Monday Evening Concerts, San Francisco Performances, Cal Performances, the Stern Grove Festival, and the Festival of New American Music in Sacramento. The ensemble made its European debut at the Cheltenham Festival in 1986, and in 2009 performed in Nice, France for the 30thanniversary season of the prestigious MANCA new music festival. This year, the ensemble has been invited to perform on the distinguished Morrison Artists Series at San Francisco State University.

Percussionists as of late are really having an impact on the contemporary music scenes in this country. The New York Times Article article Percussionist Go From Background to Podium seems to almost predict this trend to a tee. Why do you think contemporary percussionists seem to see conducting as a desirable development in their careers? Give us your thoughts in the comments.

Steve Schick Performs “XY”

One of the posts in the Chattr Section asks what people are playing on their recitals. One of my go to books for multi-percussion is Steve Schick’s “The Percussionist’s Art.” It presents a fantastic amount of analysis of several works and on the art of playing in general. One of the pieces in our repertoire, that I think is often forgotten in “XY”, by Michael Gordon, so for today’s post, here is Steve Schick performing XY.

Have you ever played “XY,” or seen it played live? What is your favorite Multi-Percussion Piece?

Originally posted on on February 2, 2011.

Steve Reich: Mallet Quartet, performed by Amadinda Percussion Group

Mallet Quartet by Steve Reich, was co-commissioned by the Amadinda Quartet in Budapest, on the occasion of its 25th Anniversary. Also involved in the commission were Nexus in Toronto, So Percussion in New York, Synergy Percussion in Australia, and Soundstreams in Canada. The world Premiere was given by the Amadinda Quartet in Bela Bartók National Concert Hall on December 6, 2009. The American Premiere was given by So Percussion at Stanford University Lively Arts in California on January 9, 2010.

This work probably represents the most significant percussion work written in the past two years. Of the many works he has written for percussion, what do you think is Reich’s greatest? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

For more information about this work click here.

Originally posted on DrumChattr on January 6, 2011.

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