Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Drawing music :: Look & Listen Festival with So Percussion

I had the pleasure of meeting my favorite quartet So Percussion in person this past Saturday, during the "Look & Listen" Festival!

This annual event is themed "New Music in Art Galleries".
On the night my friends and I went, the intimate Chelsea gallery showcased paintings by Beatrice Mandelman (1912-1998) and an array of stunning ambient music.  

So Percussion opened the night with the piece by John Cage (1912-1992) "But what about the sound of crumpling paper". Cage, a pioneer of chance-controlled music, was influenced by Indian philosophy, Zen Buddhism and the I-Ching. Instruments in this particular piece included pencil on paper, masking tape, a bottle, crumpling paper and keys, among others.
Above is Jason Treuting of So Percussion, working his magic.

Mandelman's paintings on the walls seemed much louder than Cage's ambient sounds. My friends and I (there were a few of us drawing in first two rows) were so conscious of the sound of our own pens and pencils on paper during this performance-we'd occasionally freeze and wait for the fragile quietness to pass.

A premiere of "Whatever Shall Be" (2010), written by a Viennese composer Karlheinz Essl for toy piano, gadgets, live-electronics and surround sound, followed. Here he is, recording the performance of the beautiful pianist Phyllis Chen:

And here's Phyllis Chen, with her legs in lotus position, sitting on a silk pillow, playing a serious, complex piece on a...toy piano. She banged the keys so hard, it made me wonder how many of these toy pianos she goes through in one year. "14", she said in an interview that followed. I loved "Whatever shall be" and want hear it again.

Next came an inaugural performance for the a capella ensemble "Meridionalis". They are dedicated to bringing back to life centuries-old cathedral music of the New World. Their sonorous voices produced hypnotizing polyphony and gave me chills over and over again.

So Percussion returned after the intermission with the quietest ambient music I have ever heard live. It was practically a whisper. Here's Jason Treuting, "whispering" with hands and fingers a composition by Morton Feldman (1926-87) "King of Denmark".

And here's So Percussion playing pure beauty,  "An Imaginary City" by Jason Treuting.  It was written as part of their site specific work for the train stations in VT. The piece uses a child's pedal organ from 1900's, keys, bubble-wrap, and other alchemical ingredients. What they produce is precious. 
I didn't want this night to end...


Make sure to check out  my friend Audrey Hawking's review and gorgeous drawings from the same event!


  1. I love them! And I'm so impressed you could get all that during the last piece! I wish I could have finished mine. Gorgeous, Julia!

  2. thanks Audrey! You finished my favorite portrait of the singer with all the hands-i love that drawing...

  3. These are wonderful, juls! and i have to say... your writing is equally amazing! you're becoming a one-woman show :)

    Keep 'em coming, please!!

  4. Great work! I put both of you on my blog:



  5. Hello Bruce! thanks for spreading the word about what Audrey and I do! And thank you for such appreciation. Regards, Julia