So Percussion with the Colorado Symphony: Drums, marimbas … and twigs?

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14min 41sec
Photo: So Percussion plays Reich in CPR Performance Studio
So Percussion plays "Music for Pieces of Wood" by Steve Reich in the CPR Performance Studio.

So Percussion, a quartet that champions music by John Cage and Steve Reich as well as new pieces by Steve Mackey and Paul Lansky, performs concerts Friday and Saturday with the Colorado Symphony.

The concerts feature “man made,” a concerto for So Percussion and orchestra written by Lang. The Pulitzer Prize-winning composer has been a close collaborator with the group since he wrote a piece for the quartet’s first album in 2004.

“man made” highlights the group’s knack for making music from found instruments. Early on, So Percussion snaps twigs and plays wine bottles.

Later, the concerto shows off the quartet’s prowess at traditional instruments like marimbas and drums.

Two So Percussion members, Adam Sliwinski and Jason Treuting, talked with CPR Classical about “man made,” their favorite found instruments and why they think carefully about their visual presentation in concert. Click the audio link above to listen.

The group’s four members (Treuting, Sliwinski, Josh Quillen and Eric Cha-Beach) also recorded music in the CPR Performance Studio during their visit on Thursday. Check out audio of the quartet performing Treuting's piece "September" using pieces of metal fencing and an open grand piano:


Interview highlights:

On whether they have a favorite instrument they’ve created:

Sliwinski: “Our favorite things tend to be sounds that we found rather than instruments we built. To be honest we’re not really sophisticated instrument builders. We’re pretty good instrument players but most of the instruments we build are actually pretty crude. But the pieces that are written for us end up using them in a way where that’s the aesthetic, where it kind of fits.”

Treuting: “So much of what we do is look at what’s in front of us. And whether it’s a drum set or a tin can, it’s about really learning to approach it as something new.”

On being thoughtful about how an audience at a So Percussion concert experiences the group visually:

Treuting: “We want the audience to have an experience, and we want that to be a sonic experience and a visceral experience. We want that impact to happen. But we want it to be a visual experience, too. I think it’s a show. … Whenever we put something on stage, you can be sure we’ve thought about what that looks like visually. Even if it looks like a mess, we’ve thought about what that mess means.”

Watch the group performing Steve Reich's "Mallet Quartet:"