From Sō Percussion: “W H E R E W E A R E G O I N G”

So Percussion in performance byVartoogian-FrontRowPhotos

From Sō Percussion




Moving from one concert season to the next can offer a good opportunity to assess and review the recent past, and to consider how it may indicate where we are heading now.

Sō’s Adam Sliwinski has explored the elements and themes of the last year in a beautifully comprehensive essay; we’ve shared selections below, and encourage you to explore the entire piece when you have a chance.


“Close your eyes and imagine a percussion quartet — what do you see?”

Jason often asks audiences to do this at Sō Percussion’s concerts. In some ways it seems absurd, because we (a percussion quartet) are standing right in front of them. In other ways it is not. The broad and heterogeneous nature of percussion suggests many possible images. Do they see drums? Mallet instruments? Found sounds? The percussion ensemble has expanded so much that we cannot contain it within a single picture. It is whatever we need it to be.

This situation is unique to percussion. Ask the same audience to picture a string quartet, brass quintet, or solo pianist — the image would be clearer. But our art form extends beyond choosing sounds. Percussion music is no longer only about noises and rhythms. It is not even about percussion.

Because we’re constantly working on truly new music, the direction it takes depends largely on the collaborators we seek. Sometimes a composer is already familiar with percussion and builds upon previous ideas. Other times, they write for percussion for the first time because their voice suits the medium. In other cases, the energy of the collaboration molds the instruments to serve new ideas.

Our recent and coming work extends and searches beyond the realm of percussion chamber music. It now represents a mature art form which enables a subtle and rich realization of human musical experience. We are finding stories to tell and songs to sing, and along the way the word “percussion” in our name stands for an ideal of the widest universe of possibilities.

That ideal also includes a larger universe of human perspectives. We are taking a particularly close look at how we can help serve and create more equitable communities, where gender balance, acknowledgement of Indigenous communities, ethnic diversity, and economic equality matter.

Songs, stories, and structures animate the music of Sō Percussion’s present and future. We no longer need or want to locate ourselves as part of a tiny niche of classical music. Nearly twenty years after our first rehearsal, we are limited only by our imaginations – and by gear.

There is still a lot of gear.


August 27, 2018 Ravinia Festival with Dawn Upshaw and Gilbert Kalish

September 16, 2018 Bard Celebrates Joan Tower

September 14, 2018 Princeton University Season Opener

Click here to see more of our concert season.

See the full article here .


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The “artist”

Adam Sliwinski has been a member of Sō Percussion since 2002. Adam is particularly interested in keyboard instruments, especially marimba and piano.

Eric Cha-Beach has been a member of Sō Percussion since 2007-A consummate percussionist he loves to learn new instruments like the musical saw integrating them into diverse setups

Jason Treuting is a founding member of Sō Percussion- Jason has pioneered an innovative drum set practice within the new music sphere. He is also a composer.

Josh Quillen has been a member of Sō Percussion since 2006- Josh is an expert Steel Drum artist having studied in Trinidad and immersed himself in Steel Band culture.

Our Mission:

Sō Percussion is a percussion-based music organization that creates and presents new collaborative works to adventurous and curious audiences and educational initiatives to engaged students, while providing meaningful service to its communities, in order to exemplify the power of music to unite people and forge deep social bonds.
Our Vision:

To create a new model of egalitarian artistic collaboration that respects history, champions innovation and curiosity, and creates an essential social bond through service to our audiences and our communities.
Ensemble Bio:

Sō is: Eric Cha-Beach, Josh Quillen, Adam Sliwinski, and Jason Treuting

With innovative multi-genre original productions, sensational interpretations of modern classics, and an “exhilarating blend of precision and anarchy, rigor and bedlam,” (The New Yorker), Sō Percussion has redefined the scope and vital role of the modern percussion ensemble.

Sō’s repertoire ranges from “classics” of the 20th century, by John Cage, Steve Reich, and Iannis Xenakis, et al, to commissioning and advocating works by contemporary composers such as Caroline Shaw, David Lang, Steve Mackey, and Paul Lansky, to distinctively modern collaborations with artists who work outside the classical concert hall, including vocalist Shara Nova, electronic duo Matmos, the groundbreaking Dan Deacon, legendary drummer Bobby Previte, jam band kings Medeski, Martin, and Wood, Wilco’s Glenn Kotche, choreographer Shen Wei, and composer and leader of The National, Bryce Dessner, among many others.

Sō Percussion also composes and performs their own works, ranging from standard concert pieces to immersive multi-genre programs – including Imaginary City, Where (we) Live, and A Gun Show, which was presented in a multi-performance presentation as part of BAM’s 2016 Next Wave Festival. In these concert-length programs, Sō Percussion employs a distinctively 21st century synthesis of original music, artistic collaboration, theatrical production values and visual art, into a powerful exploration of their own unique and personal creative experiences.

Rooted in the belief that music is an essential facet of human life, a social bond, and an effective tool in creating agency and citizenship, Sō Percussion enthusiastically pursues a growing range of social and community outreach. Examples include their Brooklyn Bound presentations of younger composers; commitments to purchasing offsets to compensate for carbon-heavy activities such as touring travel; and leading their SōSI students in an annual food-packing drive, yielding up to 25,000 meals, for the Crisis Center of Mercer County through the organization EndHungerNE.

Sō Percussion is the Edward T. Cone Ensemble-in-Residence at Princeton University, where they offer educational work and present an annual series of concerts. They are also Co-Directors of the percussion department at the Bard College-Conservatory of Music, and run the annual Sō Percussion Summer Institute (SōSI, now in its ninth year), providing college-age composers and percussionists an immersive exposure to collaboration and project development.

One of the first things any group needs is a name. When our group was founded in 1999, we cast far and wide among our friends and family for suggestions. The winner was this simple, short word offered by Jenise Treuting, Jason’s sister.

Jenise has been living and working in Japan as an English-Japanese translator for 20 years. The word “Sō” was punchy, enigmatic, and memorable.

“The Sō in Sō Percussion comes from 奏, the second character in the compound Japanese word 演奏 (ensou), to perform music. By itself, so means “to play an instrument.” But it can also mean “to be successful,” “to determine a direction and move forward,” and “to present to the gods or ruler.” Scholars have suggested that the latter comes from the character’s etymology, which included the element “to offer with both hands.” 奏 is a bold, straightforward character, but lends itself to calligraphy with a certain energy that gives so a springy, delicate look.”

– Jenise Treuting

John Schaefer

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