Program Notes: Third Coast Percussion

By DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, December 8, 2017 Perspectives, Presenting Series, Program Notes

[About an 8 MIN read]

Chicago-based percussionist and composer Glenn Kotche has written pieces for world-renowned ensembles including Kronos Quartet and Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble and has released six albums of his own compositions. Since 2001, Kotche has also been the drummer and percussionist of the groundbreaking rock band Wilco.

Wild Sound is a massive multi-media project developed by Glenn Kotche and Third Coast Percussion in collaboration with stage director Leslie Danzig, video artist Xuan, audio engineer Dan Nichols, lighting designer Sarah Prince, and a team from the University of Notre Dame’s College of Engineering’s NDWaves internship, led by Jay Brockman. The full work utilizes custom instruments, many of which are created on stage during the performance, as well as video art, live video, custom microphones, and a pre-constructed electronic playback track. Tonight’s concert features the final section of the piece, arranged for more standard pitched percussion instruments.

Wild Sound was commissioned by the University of Notre Dame’s DeBartolo Performing Arts Center and the Chamber Music America Classical Commissioning Program, with generous funding provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Chamber Music America Endowment Fund. Additional support provided by The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra’s Liquid Music Series and the National Forum of Music Wrocław.

Duration: 7 minutes

 

Grammy-award winner Augusta Read Thomas was Mead Composer-in-Residence with the Chicago Symphony from 1997-2006. She is the 16th ever University Professor (of five current University Professors) at The University of Chicago, and she was named one of the Chicago Tribune’s “Chicagoans of the Year” in 2016.

Resounding Earth is scored for four percussionists playing bells (and bell-like instruments) from a wide variety of cultures and historical periods. The piece was conceived as a cultural statement celebrating interdependence and commonality across all cultures; and as a musical statement celebrating the extraordinary beauty and diversity of expression inherent in bell sounds.

Bells can be used to celebrate grand occasions, hold sacrificial rites, keep a record of events, give the correct time, celebrate births and weddings, mark funerals, caution a community, enhance any number of religious ceremonies, and are even hung around the necks of animals.

Resounding Earth was commissioned by The University of Notre Dame’s DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, with additional funding from The Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts, Department of Music, and the Chamber Music America Classical Commissioning Program, with generous funding provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Chamber Music America Endowment Fund.

Duration: 9 minutes

 

British composer and jazz bassist Gavin Bryars has worked across a staggering variety of musical aesthetics. Some of his landmark works include the minimalist Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet, built on a looped recording of a singing vagrant (a later recording of the work included Tom Waits layered on top of the original singer and instrumental forces); the conceptual art piece The Sinking of the Titanic, operas about Marilyn Monroe and Johannes Gutenberg, and collaborations with producer Brian Eno, Spanish artist Juan Muñoz, and choreographers Merce Cunningham and William Forsythe.

The Other Side of the River is a reflective work that supplements two marimbas with woodblocks, bell plates and almglocken (tuned Swiss cowbells). Bryars’ lush harmonies are a common thread across the work’s evocative journey through scenes of nostalgia, turbulence, and arrival. The work was written for a multi-media project entitled “See You Later,” produced by the Glasgow art house Cryptic for Peak Performances, featuring Third Coast Percussion.

The Other Side of the River was commissioned by Peak Performances at Montclair State University and The University of Notre Dame’s DeBartolo Performing Arts Center for Third Coast Percussion.

Duration: 18 minutes

 

Ryan Lott is a composer, producer, and founder of the innovative genre-defying trio Son Lux, whose fifth studio album “Brighter Wounds” is due out in early 2018. Outside of Son Lux, Lott composes music for film, theater, dance, and the concert hall. He has worked with choreographers Travis Wall, Stephen Petronio and Gina Gibney, and created music for five major feature films, most notably The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby (2014), Paper Towns (2015), and Mean Dreams (2017), which premiered at Cannes and the Toronto Film Festival 2016.

About his multi-movement surround sound percussion quartet, Lott says:

“The performers of Quartered are separated by space and time. Each finds his own corner in the room, and obeys his own clock while maintaining an ear for the rest of the ensemble. The clocks rarely keep the same time, but they’re always related to one another, creating moments of sudden synchronicity, gradual separation, and periodic alignment. Distinct clocks also allow for composite rhythms that are otherwise unachievable, and a periodicity that defies the sometimes irrational relationship between them.

Quartered can be performed in a traditional configuration from stage, but is ideally presented quadraphonically, with the performers surrounding the audience. The listener’s position in space is intended to inform her perception of the piece. For example, in the same moment, one may perceive a pulse that is dictated by the performer nearest to them. The ears of their fellow listeners in other places in the room may perceive the pulse in a different way, or even perceive no definite pulse at all.

“The spatial separation of performers also allows for a musical phrase to appear as if it’s in motion in space, sometimes darting back and forth, or spinning around the listener’s head.”

Quartered was commissioned by The University of Notre Dame’s DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, with additional support from Third Coast Percussion’s New Works Fund.

Duration: 20 minutes

 

Third Coast Percussion member Robert Dillon has enjoyed a career as an orchestral, solo and chamber musician, as well as an educator for all ages, and since college has pursued music composition as an additional expressive avenue. Ordering-instincts draws a big sound from a very compact setup of instruments. The four percussionists share eight wooden planks, an octave of loose crotales and two tom-toms, from which they create a variety of different sonic colors in tightly interwoven rhythms. All musical content arises from the composite of all the players together; no one player’s part forms a complete voice by itself.

Ordering-instincts is dedicated to the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center at the University of Notre Dame, on the occasion of its 10th anniversary.

Duration: 8 minutes


About Third Coast Percussion

Third Coast Percussion is a Grammy Award-winning, artist-run quartet of classically-trained percussionists hailing from the great city of Chicago. For over ten years, the ensemble has forged a unique path in the musical landscape with virtuosic, energetic performances that celebrate the extraordinary depth and breadth of musical possibilities in the world of percussion. The ensemble has been praised for “commandingly elegant” (New York Times) performances, the “rare power” (Washington Post) of their recordings, and “an inspirational sense of fun and curiosity” (Minnesota Star-Tribune). The four members of Third Coast are also accomplished teachers, and since 2013, have served as ensemble-in-residence at the University of Notre Dame’s DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.

A direct connection with the audience is at the core of all of Third Coast Percussion’s work, whether the musicians are speaking from the stage about a new piece of music, inviting the audience to play along in a concert or educational performance, or inviting their fans around the world to create new music using one of their free mobile apps.

Third Coast Percussion maintains a busy touring schedule, with past performances in 32 of the 50 states plus Canada, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Poland, and venues ranging from concert halls at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and De Doelen to clubs and alternative performance spaces such as New York’s Le Poisson Rouge and the National Gallery’s West Garden Court.

The quartet’s curiosity and eclectic taste have led to a series of unlikely collaborations that have produced exciting new art. The ensemble has worked with engineers at the University of Notre Dame, architects at the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, dancers at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and musicians from traditions ranging from the mbira music of Zimbabwe’s Shona people, to indie rockers, to some of the world’s leading concert musicians.

A commission for a new work from composer Augusta Read Thomas in 2012 led to the realization that commissioning new musical works can be – and should be – as collaborative as any other artistic partnership. Through extensive workshopping and close contact with composers, Third Coast Percussion has commissioned and premiered new works from Donnacha Dennehy, Glenn Kotche, Lei Liang, Gavin Bryars, Christopher Cerrone, Timo Andres, Marcos Balter, Ted Hearne, and today’s leading up-and-coming composers through their Emerging Composers Partnership Program. These works have become part of the ensemble’s core repertoire and seen hundreds of performances across North America and throughout Europe.

Third Coast Percussion’s recordings include three full-length albums, three EPs, and a number of appearances on other releases. The quartet has put its stamp on iconic percussion works by John Cage and Steve Reich, and Third Coast has also created first recordings of commissioned works by Augusta Read Thomas, David T. Little, and Ted Hearne, in addition to recordings of the ensemble’s own compositions. In 2017 the ensemble won the Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble performance for their recording of Steve Reich’s works for percussion.

Third Coast Percussion has always maintained strong ties to the vibrant artistic community in their hometown of Chicago. They have collaborated with Chicago institutions such as Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and the Adler Planetarium, performed at the grand opening of Maggie Daley Children’s Park, conducted residencies at the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, created multi-year collaborative projects with Chicago-based composers Augusta Read Thomas, Glenn Kotche, and chamber ensemble Eighth Blackbird, and taught tens of thousands of students through partnerships with Urban Gateways, the People’s Music School, the Chicago Park District, Rush Hour Concerts, and others.

The four members of Third Coast Percussion met while studying percussion music at Northwestern University. Members of Third Coast also hold degrees from the Eastman School of Music, Rutgers University, the New England Conservatory, and the Yale School of Music.