Sō Percussion, formed in 1999, has a long association with Steve Reich and his music. In 2005, Sō released a recording of Drumming in a version played by the four members of the group at that time, Jason Treuting, Adam Sliwinski, Doug Perkins, and Lawson White, by overdubbing parts in the recording studio.
Sō and Nexus have collaborated on Drumming and other music of Steve Reich on several occasions, beginning in 2008 at the Ojai Music Festival in Ojai, California for a performance of Drumming and Tehillim.
Since 1991, Garry Kvistad has organized Woodstock Beat percussion concerts at the historic Maverick Concert Hall in Hurley, New York on the outskirts of Woodstock. Built in 1916, Maverick Concerts is the oldest, continuous summer chamber music festival in the United States. Perhaps its most notable concert, and certainly its most infamous, was the premiere of John Cage’s 4’33” performed by David Tudor on August 29, 1952. Maverick Concert Hall is a barn-like rectangular building with a gambrel roof and that was built by hand. It has a roof of wood shingles and a frame of heavy timber to which the walls – sheaths of wood planks – are nailed directly. Its wooden construction, and the fact that the rear of the concert hall opens to the surrounding wooded area gives it luminous acoustics that create an environment perfectly suited to the intimacy of live chamber music.
In 2010, Sō Percussion, Nexus, and Steve Reich presented a concert of Reich’s music with Clapping Music, Nagoya Marimbas, Music for Pieces of Wood, Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices, and Organ, and Drumming. In addition to being a concert in the Woodstock Beat series, it was an event in the Sō Percussion Summer Institute program, and all the students from SoSI were in attendance.
In a review of the concert in The Boston Musical Intelligencer, Leslie Gerber wrote:
“Saturday night, July 31, the Maverick Concert Hall was the site of one of my personal favorite concerts ever. It was an all-Reich concert, performed by the ensembles NEXUS and So Percussion, with various guests and Reich participating. When I spoke to Reich for an interview a week ago, I asked him why he was playing, since he had previously told me he now prefers composing to performing. ‘I’m not a band leader anymore,’ he told me. ‘But Garry Kvistad is running this reunion. I love to play Drumming and I love to see these people. All I have to do is show up and rehearse and play once and see people I like and go home.’”
At one end of the Maverick Hall stage is a wooden horse that was carved by sculptor, John Flannagan in 1924. The sculpture was commissioned by Hervey White, a founder of the Byrdcliffe Colony in the area. The 16-foot sculpture was originally located at the entrance of the road to the concert hall, but since 2006 has been peering over the chamber music stage.
In several of his conversations on the DRUMMINGat50 website, Josh Quillen talks about his experience during the transition from the glockenspiel section of Drumming to the build-up for Part IV. Josh talks about his surprise that Garry Kvistad and Steve Reich took time to re-tune the bongos so they would be at the right pitches for the final section. This photo shows Garry tuning the drums at the dress rehearsal at Maverick.
Nexus and Jason Treuting performed Music for Pieces of Wood in the concert. This is probably the only time Jason, who normally plays the first build-up part, has ever played the pulse clave part in Music for Pieces of Wood.
Also on the program was Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices, and Organ. Vocalists were Jay Clayton and Rebecca Armstrong from Steve Reich and Musicians and Beth Meyers. The marimba parts were played in the original two-marimba format that was used by the Reich ensemble. Jason Treuting and Josh Quillen played the steady marimba parts on one marimba and Bob Becker and I played the build-up marimba parts on one marimba. Here is the very end of our Maverick performance.
The week before Nexus and Sō Percussion recorded the video of Drumming that is on the DRUMMINGat50 website, we all traveled to Garry Kvistad’s studio at Woodstock Chimes near Woodstock, New York for rehearsals. Garry has a wonderful space in his wind chime facility that houses his huge collection of instruments and also is an excellent recording venue. We used this opportunity not only to rehearse Drumming, but to record Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices, and Organ and two versions of Clapping Music. An album of these pieces, along with a recording of Reich’s Quartet, are planned for release later this year. Dave Cook, the well-known recording engineer who runs Area 52 Studios in nearby Saugerties, NY, along with Ray Dillard of Nexus Records, recorded the sessions.
Josh Quillen was unable to be there for the sessions, so Yumi Tamashiro, who is a former member of Mobius Percussion, and at the time was manager of Sō Percussion, filled in for Josh on the recordings. The singers on Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices, and Organ were Daisy Press, Beth Meyers, and Martha Cluver, and Adam Sliwinski played the electric organ part. In addition to MMIVO, we recorded two versions of Clapping Music. One version was with two people on each part. Bob Becker and Eric Cha-Beach played the steady part and Jason Treuting and I played the moving part. The second version was a 14-person arrangement I made that develops in a Reich-like arch form. Players are added in each measure up to measure seven, then are subtracted until two players remain for the final measure. The Clapping Music recording involved percussionists with associations to several percussion groups: Nexus; Sō Percussion; Blackearth Percussion Group; and Mobius Percussion.
A few years ago, I met with Jason Treuting of Sō Percussion to discuss the possibility of collaborating on a project with Nexus and Sō to produce a video of Drumming that represents the way the piece was originally performed by Steve Reich and Musicians. My idea was to combine the generation of Nexus percussionists who learned Drumming from Steve Reich with the percussionists in Sō who represent the next generation, and who have established their own approach to performing Drumming. Jason immediately agreed to this project and arranged for the recording to take place at Richardson Auditorium on the campus of Princeton University where Sō Percussion was the ensemble-in-residence. Jason suggested we bring in videographers Evan Chapman and Kevin Eikenberg from Four/Ten Media. Their percussion background made them perfect collaborators in the project. Ray Dillard, the producer for Nexus records, was in charge of the audio, and Aiyun Huang agreed to be producer of the project. In preparation for the video recording, Jason scheduled a live performance of Drumming and other Reich pieces the night before with Steve Reich in attendance.
Jason and I decided that the format of the video performance would be slightly different from the choreography and style of the SR&M and Nexus approach. It would combine the authenticity of the original group with the new ideas of the next generation. We decided that Nexus should play the bongo section to demonstrate the original way this part was played. The marimba section would combine the groups. Josh Quillen was assigned the foundation marimba part that Jim Preiss played in the Reich ensemble. Jason and Adam Sliwinski played the two phasing marimba parts to give a sense of the different approach to phasing that Sō has developed in their interpretation. Nexus members and Yumi Tamashiro filled out the rest of the marimba parts.
Vocalists for the marimba section were Daisy Press and Beth Meyers who have performed Drumming many times with Sō Percussion and other groups. They are loyal to the original resultant patterns that were established by Reich along with Jay Clayton, Joan La Barbara, and Judy Sherman, but they also were comfortable enough to create some of their own patterns.
The glockenspiel section is played by Sō Percussion. This gave them an opportunity to have a section completely to themselves to demonstrate their conception of the piece. Beth Meyers was the whistler for the first set of resultant patterns and Alex Sopp, the wonderful flute player from yMusic and other chamber groups, played the piccolo patterns.
The final section was a mix of approaches. Jason played the phasing marimba part that I normally play, and I played the phasing bongo part that Steve Reich used to play. Eric Cha-Beach played the phasing glockenspiel part that Jim Preiss played in the Reich ensemble.
The end result demonstrates that Drumming lends itself to different approaches to performance that are equally valid and equally musical. Phasing styles differ, stroke heights vary, conceptual differences occur, but it all blends into a smooth and authentic representation of the piece.
In 2009, Garry Kvistad had the idea to create a festival in the Hudson Valley that would be a free, biennial, one-day, family-oriented, multi-cultural arts and educational event, celebrating and promoting the many styles of high-quality percussion music found throughout the world. Garry called the festival Drum Boogie after the famous Gene Krupa composition. One of the regular participants in Drum Boogie is the legendary jazz drummer, Jack DeJohnette, who lives in the area and is a good friend of Garry’s. Other performers who have participated in every Drum Boogie are Nexus and Josh Quillen’s NYU Steel. The rest of each year’s lineup features a variety of musicians from many different cultures and genres. Here is the schedule for Drum Boogie 2019.
In 2019, Nexus and Sō Percussion, joined by percussionist Yumi Tamashiro, gave the first performance of Drumming at Drum Boogie. As it turned out, the performance was the first given by only eleven performers. Beth Meyers sang in Part II and Part IV and whistled in Part III. Alex Sopp who is a flutist and a vocalist, sang in Part II, played piccolo in Part III, and doubled as a singer and piccolo player in Part IV, alternating between the parts. Here is a highlight video from the 2019 Drum Boogie.