Performance Saturday, November 23, 2013 | 9 PM

So Percussion

American Patterns

Zankel Hall
Of their last appearance at Carnegie Hall, The New Yorker music critic Alex Ross proclaimed that it was "one of the more entertaining and fulfilling evenings I've had in recent years ... I would have happily seen it five more times." For more than a decade, So Percussion has redefined the modern percussion ensemble as a flexible, omnivorous entity, pushing its voice to the forefront of American musical culture. The group brings its adventurous spirit and “exhilarating blend of precision and anarchy, rigor, and bedlam” (The New Yorker) to a program that includes a major work they commissioned from David Lang, as well as the world premiere of a new work by composer-guitarist Bryce Dessner.

This concert is part of Late Nights at Zankel Hall and My Time, My Music.


  • So Percussion
    ·· Eric Beach
    ·· Josh Quillen
    ·· Adam Sliwinski
    ·· Jason Treuting
  • Bryce Dessner, Guitar
  • Matmos
    ·· Drew Daniel, Electronics
    ·· M.C. Schmidt, Electronics


  • BRYCE DESSNER Music for Wood and Strings (World Premiere, commissioned by Carnegie Hall)
  • MATMOS so-called remix (World Premiere)
  • SO PERCUSSION/MATMOS Carnegie Double Music (World Premiere)
  • DAVID LANG the so-called laws of nature

Event Duration

The printed program will last approximately 90 minutes with no intermission.


  • So Percussion

    For more than a decade, Sō Percussion has redefined the modern percussion ensemble as a flexible, omnivorous entity, pushing its voice to the forefront of American musical culture. Sō's career now encompasses 13 albums, tours throughout the US and around the world, a dizzying array of collaborative projects, several ambitious educational programs, and a steady output of its 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 John Cage, Steve Reich, and Iannis Xenakis. An encounter with composer David Lang yielded their first commissioned piece, the so-called laws of nature. Sō has since commissioned some of the greatest American composers of our time to build a new repertoire, including Steve Reich, Steven Mackey, Paul Lansky, and Martin Bresnick.

    Since 2006, the members of Sō Percussion have been composing in their own right for the group and for others. In 2012, their third evening-length work Where (we) Live premiered at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, traveling to the Brooklyn Academy of Music's 30th Next Wave Festival and the Myrna Loy Center in Helena, Montana. 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 Percussion's artistic circle extends beyond its contemporary classical roots. The group first expanded this boundary with the prolific duo Matmos on their 2010 combined album Treasure State. Further projects and appearances with Wham City shaman Dan Deacon; legendary drummer Bobby Previte; jam band kings Medeski, Martin, and Wood; and Wilco's Glenn Kotche drew the circle even wider. In 2011, the rock band The National invited Sō to open one of its sold-out shows at New York's Beacon Theatre.

    Sō's recording of the so-called laws of nature became the cornerstone of its self-titled debut album on the Cantaloupe Music label in 2004. In subsequent years, this relationship blossomed into a growing catalogue of exciting albums. In 2011, Sō released six new albums, ranging from its definitive recording of Steve Reich's Mallet Quartet-composed for the group in 2009-on Nonesuch Records to its collaborative album Bad Mango with jazz trumpeter Dave Douglas on Greenleaf Music.  

    Sō Percussion is heavily involved in mentoring young musicians. Its members are co-directors of a new percussion department at the Bard College Conservatory of Music. This top-flight undergraduate program enrolls each student in a double-degree (bachelor of music and bachelor of arts) course in the conservatory and Bard College, equipping them with elite conservatory training and a broad liberal arts education. In 2009, the members 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 Sō as faculty in rehearsal, performance, and discussion of contemporary music for students from around the world. During the 2011-2012 academic year, Sō was an ensemble-in-residence at Princeton University, teaching seminars and collaborating extensively with talented student composers.

    Sō has been presented at many of the major venues in the US, including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Stanford Lively Arts, and Texas Performing Arts. In addition, a recent residency at the Barbican in London, as well as tours to Western Europe, South America, Russia, and Australia have brought Sō Percussion international acclaim.

    Sound Design: Lawson White
    Lighting Design: Aaron Copp
    Managing Director: Emily Krell
    Operations Manager: Yumi Tamashiro

    More Info

  • Bryce Dessner

    Bryce Dessner is a composer, guitarist, and curator based in New York City, best known as guitarist for the acclaimed rock band The National. Dessner has also received widespread acclaim as a composer and guitarist for the improvising new music quartet Clogs. He has performed and recorded with some of the world's most creative musicians, including songwriters Sufjan Stevens, Bon Iver, Antony Hegarty, and Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo; composers Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Nico Muhly, and Michael Gordon; contemporary ensembles Kronos Quartet and eighth blackbird; and visual artist Matthew Ritchie.

    As a composer, his recent commissions include Murder Ballads for eighth blackbird and an evening-length collaboration with the Brooklyn Youth Chorus that celebrates the artistic endeavors of the Black Mountain College. In November 2013, ANTI- records releases the album Aheym that features the first recordings of Dessner's compositions, performed by the Kronos Quartet.

    In 2012, Dessner composed a collaborative song cycle with Sufjan Stevens and Nico Muhly called Planetarium. Recent commissions include a Jerome Foundation grant from the American Composers Forum and The Kitchen (New York City) for a concert of his music, a commission from Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (Vienna) to create a 40-minute spatial sound work for The Morning Line, and a string orchestra composition for the Amsterdam Sinfonietta entitled St. Carolyn by the Sea. Dessner also recently composed two string quartets-Aheym and Tenebre-for the Kronos Quartet.

    Dessner is the founder and artistic director of the acclaimed MusicNOW Festival in Cincinnati, Ohio, which presents its ninth season in 2014. He is also a co-founder and owner of the Brassland record label, home to a diverse group of artists who include the experimental rock duo Buke and Gase, composer Nico Muhly, and cellist Erik Friedlander. In addition, he and his brother Aaron produced an extensive AIDS charity compilation, Dark Was the Night, for the Red Hot Organization, which featured David Byrne, Arcade Fire, Sufjan Stevens, Sharon Jones, Cat Power, Grizzly Bear, My Morning Jacket, and Spoon. Dessner is a graduate of Yale College and the Yale School of Music. He currently serves on the board of The Kitchen in New York City and is composer-in-residence at Muziekgebouw Frits Philips Eindhoven.

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  • Matmos

    Currently based in Baltimore, the Matmos duo formed in San Francisco during the mid-1990s and self-released its debut album in 1997. Marrying the conceptual tactics and noisy textures of object-based musique concrète to a rhythmic matrix rooted in electronic pop music, Matmos quickly became known for its highly unusual sound sources: amplified crayfish nerve tissue, chin implant surgery, contact microphones on human hair, rat cages, tanks of helium, a cow uterus, human skulls, snails, whoopee cushions, balloons, latex fetish clothing, rhinestones, Polish trains, insects, life-support systems, the sound of a frozen stream thawing in the sun, and a five-gallon bucket of oatmeal. These raw materials are manipulated into surprisingly accessible forms, and often supplemented by traditional musical instruments played by the duo's large circle of friends and collaborators.

    Since its debut, Matmos have released more than eight albums, including Quasi-Objects (1998), The West (1998), A Chance to Cut Is A Chance to Cure (2001), The Civil War (2003), The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of A Beast (2006), and Supreme Balloon (2008). In 2001, Matmos was asked to collaborate with the Icelandic singer Björk on her Vespertine album, and subsequently embarked on two world tours as part of her band. In addition to musical collaborations with artists and ensembles such as Antony, Sō Percussion, David Tibet, Rachel's, Zeena Parkins, and the Princeton Laptop Orchestra, Matmos has also collaborated with a wide range of artists across disciplines, from visual artist Daria Martin (on the soundtrack to her film Minotaur) to playwright Young Jean Lee (for her play The Appeal) to Berlin-based choreographer Ayman Harper. Most recently, Matmos has been part of the ensemble for the Robert Wilson production The Life and Death of Marina Abramović, featuring Marina Abramović, Antony, and Willem Dafoe. Its album, The Marriage of True Minds, released this year on Thrill Jockey Records.

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Pre-concert talk starts at 8:00 PM in Zankel Hall with featured composers David Lang and Bryce Dessner and members of So Percussion in conversation with Jeremy Geffen, Director of Artistic Planning, Carnegie Hall.

At a Glance

Tonight's concert features a distinctive strain of American experimentalism as it manifests in Sō Percussion's current work. To this day, the best description we have is the composer Steve Mackey's phrase "American crackpot tradition."

This approach places less emphasis on the perpetually shifting dynamics of musical style and politics—although it certainly demonstrates awareness of those trends.

The more meaningful emphasis is upon the joy and exhilaration of trying new ideas. Over the last 100 years, percussion music has provided an exciting outlet for composers who see themselves as inventors, tinkerers, even musical frontiers(wo)men.

They may be mavericks and misfits, or they might be famous rock musicians and heads of prestigious music departments. What matters is this common spirit.

The vast majority of the sounds you hear tonight will be on instruments that were created, built, and/or foraged specifically for each new piece. Bryce Dessner's "chordsticks" in Music for Wood and Strings reimagines the electric guitar as a hammered dulcimer, David Lang's tuned flowerpots and teacups reframe ordinary objects as musical instruments, and M.C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel of Matmos help us transmute the natural into the digital.

—Adam Sliwinski

The Fast Forward series of concerts is sponsored by Ernst & Young LLP.
Lead support for Carnegie Hall commissions is provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
David Lang is the holder of the 2013–2014 Richard and Barbara Debs Composer's Chair at Carnegie Hall.
This performance is part of Fast Forward.

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