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Program Notes: Sō Percussion


4+9 (Four and Nine) (2017)


Four and Nine was written for the Sō Percussion Summer Institute 2017. The piece explores all of the ways that a bar of 9/4 can be subdivided: There are 36 sixteenth notes in the bar (9 beats x 4 sixteenth-notes per beat)-and 36 can be divided evenly by 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, 12, and 18. The various combinations of different overlapping divisions in the bar make the underlying groupings of 16th notes constantly sound different. I used this basic idea in a piece for So Percussion’s project ‘A Gun Show’ in 2016, but Four and Nine explores simply the pure process of hearing each possible combination in turn.

– Eric Cha-Beach



Walk. March. Run. (2021)

Walk. March. Run.
is a story or a journey of each individual person and their life as a musician. It plays on the ideas of emotion, weakness, strength, agility, and stability. It targets the idea that we all believe in something even if it is not the same as the person next to us. We believe in us and that is why we do what we do.

 — Kendall K. Williams



Collective Ungraspable (2022)


Collective Ungraspable explores subtle and slow textural shifts, inspired by the diverse movement that exists in what might seem a serene and stationary landscape of stillness. Inspired by the drift of spores, the collective movement of schools of fish, the growth of mycelium and the murmuration of birds, the piece meditates on the seemingly mysterious and unpredictable yet coherent systems of movement of masses of beings. One must react to their surroundings, and act accordingly, but still from a place of improvisation based on one’s own experiences, knowledge, and particular styles. The piece attempts to explore these patterns of movement from the macro to the micro.

— Robyn Cee Kay Jacob



Amid the Noise (2006)

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence –
Max Ehrmann’s “Desiderata”

Jason Treuting’s Amid the Noise began as a soundtrack, which morphed into our third album and then into a flexible set of live music. Now it is a communal music-making project that can occur with a flexible number of musicians in almost any combination.

The musical ideas in Amid the Noise are abstract: drones, melodies, rhythms, textures, patterns. Originally, Sō Percussion orchestrated them on the instruments we had in our studio, but we’ve since discovered that accordion, organ, or tuba might play a satisfying drone as well as bowed vibraphone! Like Terry Riley’s In C, this work maintains its identity and integrity even through wildly different realizations.

This modular concept allows us to conduct residencies that reach beyond percussion departments. Many kinds of students at a music school or conservatory can participate in Amid the Noise: vocalists, string quartets, wind and brass players, guitarists, and of course percussionists.



For twenty years and counting, Sō Percussion has redefined chamber music for the 21st century through an “exhilarating blend of precision and anarchy, rigor and bedlam” (The New Yorker). They are celebrated by audiences and presenters for a dazzling range of work: for live performances in which “telepathic powers of communication” (The New York Times) bring to life the vibrant percussion repertoire; for an extravagant array of collaborations in classical music, pop, indie rock, contemporary dance, and theater; and for their work in education and community, creating opportunities and platforms for music and artists that explore the immense possibility of art in our time.

In the 2021-22 season, Sō Percussion returns to live concerts and continues to develop a range of online programs. In December 2021, they return for their seventh featured concert at Carnegie Hall with an all-star cast of collaborators, including Grammy-winning soprano Dawn Upshaw, pianist Gil Kalish, Nathalie Joachim (recipient of their inaugural Andrew W. Siegel Fellowship), Shodekeh Talifero, Caroline Shaw, and more. This fall, they will be performing David Lang’s man made with the Cincinnati Symphony and touring their new Nonesuch Records album Let the Soil Play Its Simple Part with Shaw around the United States. 

In addition to Let the Soil Play Its Simple Part, Sō welcomed a number of critically acclaimed albums in 2021: Caroline Shaw’s Narrow Sea on Nonesuch Records, A Record Of.. on Brassland Music with indie duo Buke and Gase, and a “moving version” (The New York Times) of Julius Eastman’s Stay On It on new imprint Sō Percussion Editions. This adds to a catalogue of more than twenty-five albums featuring landmark recordings of works by David Lang, Steve Reich, Steve Mackey, and many other composers.

During the 2020-21 season of remote collaboration, Sō Percussion developed their innovative Flexible Commissions initiative through its New Works Development program, which asks composers to write pieces with multiple possible realizations, unlimited by specific instrumentation and able to be presented live or in online performance. Recent and upcoming Flexible Commissions include works by Bora Yoon, Darian Donovan Thomas, Claire Rousay, Kendall K. Williams, Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti, and Shodekeh Talifero.

Sō Percussion is in its eighth year as Edward T. Cone performers-in-residence at Princeton University. In addition to teaching chamber music, presenting concerts for the Princeton community, and collaborating with composers on new works, this year the members of Sō are working with Director of African Music Ensemble Olivier Tarpaga to design and teach a new course on rhythm. This course is offered as part of the undergraduate curriculum, exposing students to rhythmic practices from West African, Caribbean, European, South American, and North American traditions.

Since its first performance as a student ensemble in 1999, Sō Percussion has appeared at many of the most prestigious concert halls and festivals around the world, including Carnegie Hall, the Paris Philharmonie, the Barbican Centre, BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music), Walt Disney Hall with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel, the Lincoln Center Festival, and at the international TED conference in 2016. In 2020, Sō conducted an Amid the Noise residency at the University of Trinidad and Tobago, and performed in the finals of Panorama with the Caribbean Airlines Skiffle Steel Orchestra.  Sō has been featured on WNYC’s Radiolab with Jad Abumrad, NPR’s Weekend Edition, NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Concerts, New Sounds with John Schaefer, and elsewhere.

Rooted in the belief that music is an elemental form of human communication, and galvanized by forces for social change in recent years, Sō Percussion enthusiastically pursues a growing range of social and community outreach through their nonprofit organization. Their Brooklyn Bound concert series, now in its seventh year, provides a platform for artists from our growing community. The Sō Percussion Summer Institute, which just completed its thirteenth year, is an intensive two-week chamber music seminar for percussionists and composers. SōSI features community performances, new work development, guest artist workshops, and an annual food-packing drive, yielding 25,000 meals per year for the Crisis Center of Mercer County through the organization End Hunger NE. Sō Percussion has also devoted itself to a range of programs that advance goals and projects in Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility. These efforts include a studio residency program in Brooklyn; partnerships with other local music organizations, such as Pan in Motion; the donation of proceeds from album sales to Black-led organizations, including Castle of our Skins; fiscal sponsorship; and inclusive programming.

Sō Percussion – is Eric Cha-Beach, Josh Quillen, Adam Sliwinski, and Jason Treuting.