Exploration of the unusual is the calling card of the Brooklyn-based quartet Sō Percussion, which has built a reputation for playful engagement with all kinds of unconventional sounds, from playing beer cans, wine bottles and flower pots to amplifying a cactus. Established twenty years ago to perform contemporary classical works, it has subsequently collaborated with a wide range of composers, musicians and recording artists in a variety of collaborative projects and innovative multi-genre interdisciplinary productions. But its claim to fame firmly rests on sensational interpretations of modern classics, which characteristically demonstrate an “exhilarating blend of precision and anarchy, rigor and bedlam,” (The New Yorker).
Celebrating its sixth year as the Edward T. Cone Ensemble-in-Residence at Princeton University, Sō Percussion also enthusiastically pursues a growing range of social and community outreach projects by leading workshops for composers and giving master classes for performers, organizing a series of concerts “Brooklyn Bound” for emerging local ensembles and composers and the Sō Percussion Summer Institute at Princeton. Sō’s repertoire ranges from “classics” of the 20th century to works by contemporary composers, which they commission and advocate both locally and globally.
The quartet’s appearance at the “Music of Changes” Festival will feature two well-known pieces by the living legend of American modern music, Steve Reich, and Music for Wood and Strings by Bryce Dessner (b. 1976), a post-minimalist composition centered around the Chordstick, his co-designed dulcimer-guitar hybrid. We will also have a chance to experience The So-called Laws of Nature, a piece for percussion quartet written especially for the Sō Percussion by David Lang who happened to be the featured composer at the festival a couple of years ago. The work was inspired by the composer’s study of science in his college years and the perplexing idea that “science can’t explain the universe but can only offer mere descriptions of things observed.” Rephrasing that as a musical problem, the work reveals an immense variety of percussive sounds and the ensemble’s boundless creativity in producing music on ordinary objects and custom built instruments.
This concert will convince you that contemporary music may not only sound interesting, but also engaging and beautiful. It will set the scene for alternating episodes of immersive meditation, from which you can draw active sonic energy, and outbursts of raucous music, which is likely to bring you the delight of listening verging on euphoria!