February 6, 2018
by Jarrett Hoffman
Ensemble member Rob Dillon was recently interviewed by Cleveland Classical leading up to Third Coast’s performance on February 11 at the Cleveland Museum of Art, one of the co-commissioners of our latest collaborative work, Paddle to the Sea. Read the interview below to learn more about TCP’s collaborative composition process, how that manifested in Paddle to the Sea, and the personal and artistic significance this project holds for TCP.
A Native Canadian boy in the Nipigon country of Ontario dreams of a journey he knows he can’t make. But a figure carved out of cedar, with a strip of lead to keep it upright in the water, and a message inscribed on the bottom to please return it to the water? That might just make it all the way through the Great Lakes, down Niagara Falls, past Quebec City, to the Gulf of St. Lawrence and beyond — despite encounters with a snake, a forest fire, passing ships, pollution, and people along the way.
That’s the tale of Bill Mason’s beautiful film Paddle to the Sea (1966), based on an award-winning children’s book and nominated for an Oscar. You can watch the 28-minute movie here, via the National Film Board of Canada. But you’ll want to take it in again this weekend, when a Chicago-based, Grammy-winning percussion quartet visits the Cleveland Museum of Art.
On Sunday, February 11 at 2:00 pm at Gartner Auditorium, Third Coast Percussion (David Skidmore, Robert Dillon, Peter Martin, and Sean Connors) will give a live performance of their new, original score alongside a screening of Paddle to the Sea. The work is a co-commission of CMA. Part of the Museum’s Performing Arts Series, the concert will also include water-related works that influenced the score: pieces by Philip Glass and Jacob Druckman, as well as traditional music of the Shona people of Zimbabwe. You can reserve tickets here.
In a recent conversation, Robert Dillon said the group’s collaborative approach to composing the score was inspired in part by synthetic chemists, who experiment with combinations of materials to invent new ones. “We each came up with different snippets and ideas, sometimes just abstract concepts of sound,” Dillon said. “That became a sort of musical catalog that all four of us referred to for ideas when we were composing different sections of the piece.”
From there, a draft of a section would be passed on whenever someone felt stuck, or when somebody had an idea. “Then they would work on it for a while and come back with a different version of it.”
This was Third Coast’s second collaborative composition, following up on their 2016 piece Reaction Yield. Dillon noted that the process had evolved from that project to this one. “For Paddle to the Sea, there was more revising of sections that other people had worked on. Each of us had responsibility for certain segments of the film, but at the end of the day it’s hard to say, ‘This section was Rob’s,’ or ‘This was Peter’s.’ Things got marbled through more and more.”
Busy with their self-run ensemble, Third Coast’s members don’t often have time to write music, which is one reason they enjoyed this project. “It was guaranteed there would be time for composing, because we had to.” Dillon added that the joint process also made composing feel less daunting. “You knew you weren’t trying to figure it all out yourself. If you had a good idea you could bring it to the table, and even if you didn’t know where to go with it next, maybe it would inspire someone else to take it and run with it.”
Has the collaborative approach impacted the group in any way? “This was one more thing that’s gotten us excited about the work we do together as an ensemble. It’s made us feel, even more than before, that we’re all creative stewards of this organization.”
Read the rest of the article here.