Sō Percussion

Chamber Ensemble

"Through a mix of consummate skill and quirky charm, this mercurial quartet has helped to ignite an explosive new enthusiasm for percussion music old and new."

The New York Times

"The evening was an exhilarating blend of precision and anarchy, rigor and bedlam…"

The New Yorker

"If percussionists are, as proclaimed elsewhere, the new princes of the realm of virtuosity, then these four young, steel-wristed, Brooklyn-based Yale graduates wear the crown with panache."

The Financial Times

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Through its sensational interpretations of modern classics, innovative multi-genre original productions, and “exhilarating blend of precision and anarchy, rigor and bedlam,” (The New Yorker), Sō Percussion has redefined the scope and role of the modern percussion ensemble, placing it at the leading edge of 21st-century music.

Sō’s repertoire ranges from 20th century works by John Cage, Steve Reich, and Iannis Xenakis, et al, to commissioning and advocating works by contemporary composers such as David Lang, Julia Wolfe, Steven Mackey, and Caroline Shaw, to distinctively modern collaborations with artists who work outside the classical concert hall, including Shara Nova, choreographer Susan Marshall, The National, Bryce Dessner, and many others.

Sō Percussion’s original productions – including From Out A Darker Sea, Where (we) Live, and Jason Treuting’s Amid the Noise – employ a distinctively 21st century palette of original music, artistic collaboration, theatrical production values and visual art, yielding powerful explorations of the human experience.

In December 2019, Sō Percussion made a triumphant return to Carnegie Hall for a sold-out performance of “A Percussion Century,” a sprawling exploration of the modern percussion repertoire including works by composers Cage, Lang, Reich, and Xenakis, as well as works by Carlos Chávez, Johanna Beyer, and the New York premiere of Sō’s newest commission, Forbidden Love, a string quartet by Julia Wolfe. Other 19/20 highlights include a Miller Theatre Composer Portrait of frequent Sō collaborator, Caroline Shaw (with whom Sō has a new album due this season); David Lang’s man made and Lully’s Le Bourgeois gentilhomme with Louis Langrée and the Cincinnati Symphony; dates in Paris, Lithuania, and throughout the US. Sō also collaborated with choreographer John Heginbotham on a new ballet, RACECAR, premiered as part of The Washington Ballet’s season-opening production, NEXTsteps.

This season Sō celebrates its sixth year as the Edward T. Cone Performers-in-Residence at Princeton University and welcomes the appointment of flutist, composer, and vocalist Nathalie Joachim as the ensemble’s inaugural Andrew W. Siegel Composition Fellow. 19/20 also marks the release of album collaborations with Dan Trueman and the JACK Quartet (Songs that are Hard to Sing, from New Amsterdam), and with indie duo Buke and Gase.

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'A Record Of...' collaboration with Buke & Gase

With Buke & Gase / Brassland Records (Feb 2021)

On this new collaborative set with So Percussion, Buke and Gase’s rhythmically surprising, grungy work occasionally takes on a newly warm tinge…. Dreamy vibraphone, mellow kalimba and pinging glockenspiel offer enchanting support for Dyer’s siren-song refrains on the first track, Diazepam… The result is a fusion that’s fluid instead of forced.

New York Times - ‘5 Classical Albums To Hear Right Now’

A most magical pairing… A Record Of… is a superb collaboration, reconciling jarring contrasts without compromising either party’s own character. It is the dynamic meeting point of pop and experimental, punk and classical minimalism, noisy and hushed, abrasive and smooth, delivered with stark clarity and precision.

The Quietus

Bristling with crazy-paving rhythms and wild melodic tangents, A Record Of… is the duo’s most sonically and stylistically rich work to date

Uncut Magazine

A stroke of genius… For Arone Dyer and Aron Sanchez, the two names behind Buke and Gase which are also well known for their prolific instrument crafting, joining forces with the percussive quartet has translated into an album that will surely remain as one of the most interesting proposals gracing 2021.

Sputnik Music

Caroline Shaw: Narrow Sea; Taxidermy

Nonesuch Records (Jan 2021)

A distinctly American variation of retro-minimalism is Narrow Sea...which takes folksy, 19th-century Sacred Harp hymns and places them in a disorientating environment.

John Lewis, The Guardian

imaginative and expressive works that glide effortlessly between genres... [the] exquisite disc showcases Shaw’s 2017 Narrow Sea, recorded by its outstanding original performers: Sō Percussion, soprano Dawn Upshaw and pianist Gilbert Kalish.

BBC Music Magazine - 'The best classical albums released in 2021 so far'

a glorious combination of faith-filled vocal recordings, traditional modal harmonies and strange percussive and electronic textures

Elizabeth Alker, BBC Radio 3 - Unclassified

An enchanting recording

Alex Burghoorn, De Volkskrant

Shaw composed the five-part Narrow Sea in 2017 for Sō Percussion, a New York-based quartet that deploys a deep kit of rhythmic tools. With an array of drums, blocks, marimbas, vibraphones, and shakers alongside repurposed cans and ceramic bowls, they approximate the sounds of maritime bells, prayer chimes, busy machinery, heartbeats, and distant drones. Even flowerpots are fair game, bringing a pleasant, plunking timbre to the project. The music feels fascinated with approximating the shape-shifting capabilities of water—notes ebb and flow, coursing forward or gently trickling over one another...Even when Sō and Kalish slide into a near-mechanical whir in Narrow Sea’s second part, humanity prevails when the percussionists start to sing, too. Their voices swell upward as sanguine layers of hums, sounds that can only be made by bodies pumping with blood and oxygen.

Pitchfork

A superlative collaboration. A sonic and emotional journey that is fully immersive in its approach.

BBC Radio Scotland - Classics Unwrapped 'Album of the Week'

Stylistic boundaries are twisted out of shape...A melodic setting of 19th century text The Sacred Harp, the five-suite title track embraces wayfaring folk, Dawn Upshaw's powerful voice surfing So Percussion's textures

Mojo, ****

Simply breathtaking [and] works on every conceivable level…So Percussion has an immense arsenal at its disposal…combining this deep reservoir of sonic possibilities with Upshaw’s stunning voice and Kalish’s versatile piano, Narrow Sea packs endlessly creative and deeply textured moments into the song cycle… The combination of sounds that initially seem very much out of place creates a unique patchwork that is almost like the invention of a brand-new style…Disarming and intoxicating. So Percussion, Upshaw and Kalish [are] at the absolute height of their powers.”

PopMatters

Sō Percussion

This group plays with an irresistible vitality

The Washington Post

If percussionists are, as proclaimed elsewhere, the new princes of the realm of virtuosity, then these four young, steel-wristed, Brooklyn-based Yale graduates wear the crown with panache.

The Financial Times

The range of colors and voices that So Percussion coaxes from its menagerie is astonishing and entrancing

Billboard Magazine

This ensemble has set the New York standard for percussion innovation

The New Yorker

The weekend’s electrifying percussion pieces deserve a cheer too. The So Percussion group were a knockout in Steve Reich’s Mallet Quartet…

The Guardian

Sō Percussion have [Steve Reich’s Mallet Quartet] nailed, finding both the inner glow and the outer edge, and never letting the tapestry lapse into the flat or routine

BBC Music Magazine

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