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Archive for the ‘So Percussion’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: ELI KESZLER & SO PERCUSSION-“Archway” (Field Recordings, July 12, 2013).

This Field Recording [Eli Keszler & So Percussion: Making The Manhattan Bridge Roar And Sing] takes place under the Manhattan Bridge. Installation artist and drummer Eli Keszler wonders, When does an instrument become a sculpture?  Or can it become something architectural?

I didn’t know Eli, but I know his partners Percussion [Eric Beach, Josh Quillen, Adam Sliwinski and Jason Treuting] from a fantastic Tiny Desk Concert.  But this was my first exposure to them in the real world.  Their combination of crotales and big strings is at once bizarre, otherworldly, interminable and very cool.

There is magic in pure sound. And few know that truth as well as the quartet called So Percussion and the installation artist and drummer Eli Keszler — artists who, before this spring, had never met. We thought that they might find kindred spirits in each other.  So as a matter of artistic matchmaking, we at NPR Music decided to invite them to meet and collaborate on a new work that would have its world premiere at Make Music New York, the annual summer-greeting festival of free outdoor concerts across the city. And along the way to creating a world premiere, they brought a New York landmark in as a sixth instrumental partner: the Manhattan Bridge. They named their piece Archway.

So Percussion says that they wrote this piece just for the installation.  The drummers are present at their drums, but what about the rest?

Using a scissor lift, Keszler and an assistant began the long process of fastening piano wires attached to two large weighted boxes to the tops of lampposts near the DUMBO Archway beneath the bridge. More wires stretched from one of the lampposts up to the Manhattan Bridge itself.

The piece juxtaposes light otherworldly rings and deep resonating, almost mechanical lows.   Complete with occasional drum smacks.

By the time that their performance rolled around at 6:30 PM, Keszler and So Percussion created fascinating layers of sound. The shimmering, nearly melodic lines produced by bowing small cymbals called crotales offset sharply articulated snare drums and the grunting roars, squonks and groans of the piano wire installation. It was urbane and thoroughly urban music for a signature city setting.

And so for about 11 minutes you get a combination of low grunting sounds–the engines or the wires?–and chiming crotales.  Occasional snare hits punctuate the sound.

It starts with the mechanical sounds and the sounds of the crotales reverberating.  About 3 minutes into the piece a snare drum and rhythm is added, but very minimally and only for a instant.   Around 4 minutes the drummers start adding more percussive and less tonal sounds, but that is brief and soon enough everyone is doing his own thing, while Keszler plays a very jazzy style of drum on the drum and crotales.  Others are hitting snares and sides of drums.

But by the 10 minute mark it is a full-on drum solo with the gentlest/flimsiest drum sticks around–making little taping sounds (but a lot of them).

I feel like not enough is made of the piano wires –I would love to hear more from them.  I assume that in a live setting all of the cool sounds (ones that become more audible around the 10 minute mark are just reverberating around and around the arch–something that even the best mic’s can;t pick up adequately.

It’s still neat to watch, though.

[READ: January 28, 2008] “The Only Sane Man in a Nuthouse”

This is an excerpt from And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks, a novel he wrote with Jack Kerouac.  They alternated chapters.  It was written in 1945 but unpublished until 2008.

On a Wednesday night, he went out with Al, Ryko and Phillips.  Agnes didn’t want to join them–she was broke–some people have some pride.  He joked at Philip that he was an artist so he didn’t believe in decency, honesty or gratitude.

They went to diner and a movie and then went to MacDonald’s Tavern, which is a queer place and it was packed with fags all screaming and swishing around.

The rest of the story is a tale of an older gay men checking out the younger men, straight men howling for women, and men hitting on anyone that moves. (more…)

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applesSOUNDTRACK: SO PERCUSSION-Tiny Desk Concert #205 (April 2, 2012).

So Percussion is a quartet who plays nothing but percussion.  When we think percussion we often think rhythm, but these guys (Eric Beach, Josh Quillen, Adam Sliwinski and Jason Treuting) also provide great melody.

The band is inspired by John Cage.  He’s “their guy.”  They have written songs inspired by him and also perform his pieces.

Though audiences are still often puzzled or even infuriated by Cage, the composer brought essential joy and optimism to his work. Music is everywhere, Cage taught; frame sound, even the sounds of everyday life, and hear what is there. In the signature mix of serious play (or is that playful seriousness?) that So Percussion brought to this unusual Tiny Desk Concert, the group mixed a work by Cage (the first movement of his Living Room Music) with two pieces by Treuting: Life Is [ ] and 24 X 24, in which the text Quillen reads aloud comes from Cage’s own writings. Inasmuch as many of their instruments are quotidian tools, the sounds they create can be magical.

The first piece was written by the band’s Jason Treuting, called “Life Is [ ].”  It’s just under three minutes and is primarily wood blocks.  But there are also xylophones and bells (and many other things).

All four have mallets and are clacking on the wood blacks.  But each player has something else that makes a melody–tiny cymbals, the xylophone, bells that you tap with your hand–and they create a pretty melody (and the wood blocks provide interesting counterpoint rhythm).

Since John Cage is their guy they made a piece that celebrates the way he made music: “24 X 24.” Cage celebrated “time-based structures and task-based sound things.”  So this piece is flexible and malleable.  They are going to play an 8 minute version of the song which includes a spoken word of a Cage lecture [the entire lecture is reprinted at the bottom of the post].

The narrator counts down from 8, which is interesting.  Then he recites (including coughs and other noises) a piece by Cage about music and art.  While he is reciting, instruments include the melodica and harmonium, a musical saw, a coffee cup full of change (at one point instead of tapping the cup, he takes the change out and state each denomination out loud).  They also play the side of the desk, a cactus plant (that is pretty cool to see), even plucking the Emmy on the desk.

The final piece is a John Cage composition.  It is the first part of a longer piece called “Living Room Music.”  Back in the early 40s Cage wrote a piece called “Living Room Music” which was supposed to take place in a living room.  And this is our living room.  They play the first part   called “To Begin.” It’s just under a minute, but the sounds they get from a waste basket (like a bass drum), a package of paper towels, a stapler, the desk and the coffee mug is really cool.

Even people who don’t like John Cage have to appreciate what he was going for with this kind of music.

[READ: March 3, 2016] Johnny Boo & The Happy Apples

In this third book of the series, Johnny Boo, Squiggle and the Ice Cream Monster are back.

Johnny eats some ice cream and then shows off how strong it has made him. But when Squiggle accidentally “pops” Johnny’s muscle and it gets all floppy, there is much concern.  Things are even worse for Johnny when the ice cream monster (from the first book) comes and shows off his huge muscles that he got from eating apples.  If Squiggle laughs at Johnny’s floppy muscle you know there will be hurt feelings.  And there are.

Johnny runs off to find some happy apples to make his muscles strong, but he winds up eating apples from the ground, which makes his muscles super floppy (pretty hilarious looking). (more…)

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