The department of music at Princeton University has chosen So Percussion to be the new Edward T. Cone Performers-in-Residence at the school. The group replaces the Brentano String Quartet, the performers-in-residence since 1999.
So Percussion will teach graduate and undergraduate students, lead workshops, rehearse and perform new works by student and faculty composers, coach chamber music, give master classes and present two concerts from the group’s touring repertoire each academic year.
In addition to So Percussion, the Edward T. Cone Performers-in-Residence program will also support an expanded educational component for the Richardson Chamber Players through an increased commitment to early music and support for term residencies for visiting solo artists.
“Our relationship with So Percussion has been growing over the past eight years,” said Steven Mackey, chair of the Princeton University Department of Music. “We are home to their annual percussion and composition institute, they have performed many works by our student and faculty composers, and they have co-taught classes with the regular faculty. We have been so impressed with the myriad ways they can contribute to music making and thought at Princeton that this was an easy choice to make. So Percussion (members) are scintillating performers and we look forward to sharing the excitement of their performances with the wider community.”
For more than a decade, So Percussion has redefined the modern percussion ensemble, pushing its voice to the forefront of American musical culture. Praised by the New Yorker for an “exhilarating blend of precision and anarchy, rigor and bedlam,” So Percussion has recorded 13 albums, touring throughout the United States and around the world. The group has been featured at many of the major venues in the United States, including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Stanford Lively Arts, Texas Performing Arts, and many others. A recent residency at London’s Barbican Centre, as well as tours to Western Europe, South America, Russia, and Australia have brought the group international acclaim.
The founding members of So Percussion formed the group as graduate students at the Yale School of Music with the goal of performing an exciting repertoire of pieces by 20th century luminaries such as John Cage, Steve Reich, and Iannis Xenakis. An encounter with David Lang, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and co-founder of New York’s Bang on a Can organization, yielded their first commissioned piece: the 36 minute, three movement, “The So-Called Laws of Nature.” Since that first major new work, So Percussion has commissioned some of the greatest American composers of our time to build a new repertoire, including Steve Reich, Steve Mackey, Paul Lansky, Martin Bresnick, and many others.
Since 2006, the members of So Percussion have been composing in their own right for the group, and for others. So Percussion’s artistic circle also extends beyond their contemporary classical roots. They first expanded this boundary with the duo Matmos, whom The New York Times called “ideal collaborators” on their 2010 combined album “Treasure State.” Further projects and appearances with Wham City’s Dan Deacon, drummer Bobby Previte, and Wilco’s Glenn Kotche drew the circle even wider. In 2011, the rock band The National invited So to open one of their sold-out shows at New York’s Beacon Theater.
So Percussion also mentors young musicians. Its members are co-directors of a new percussion department at the Bard College Conservatory of Music. In 2009, the group created the annual So 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 So as faculty teaching students from around the world. During the 2011-2012 academic year, So was an ensemble-in-residence at Princeton University, teaching seminars and collaborating with student composers.