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Third Coast Percussion does a Tiny Desk Concert!

Back in April, we were invited to perform the true pinnacle of music awesomeness: an NPR Music “Tiny Desk Concert.” So many amazing musicians have performed from this real live working desk (yes, someone actually works at it every day, and moves to another table when it’s concert time), and we were thrilled to join the ranks. The whole TCP team worked tirelessly to choose music that would fit in the tiny space, taping off a scale model of the desk in our studio and doing impromptu runs of the show while on tour. We even arranged some of our newest pieces for far more space-efficient instruments. We were all so stoked for this amazing experience, and we want to share more of it with you! Here are some memories and reflections from Sean, Peter, David, Rob, and Colin.

And check out the concert here!

 

      


What were the desk, office, and building like?

Rob: I felt like I was at nerd Mecca! I mean, I don’t put a lot of people or institutions on a pedestal, but I have a ton of respect for NPR. Knowing the level of discourse at which so much of our media engages, I cringe to think about what the American cultural landscape would look like without NPR. I was pretty giddy to be there.

Colin: The building is a really modern, clean design. Many of the desks in the massively open four-story newsroom were empty during our brief time inside, but the whole place still ran with a constant quiet hum of activity, seemingly poised to snap into frenzied action at the drop of a Tweet. It seems like a great place to work. I say that because everyone I encountered was in a good mood, and they have an incredible cafeteria with really healthy food.

The curb/ ramp going up to the loading dock stinks. I had to back our large box truck in at a ridiculous angle across the neighboring driveway to avoid bottoming out. I honestly don’t know how they deal with it on a daily basis.

Peter: Desk area was about as small as we were thinking it would be, but the surrounding area was much more open than I was anticipating.  Basically the entire floor of NPR was an open floor plan, which meant that everyone could see and hear what you were up to. We definitely felt like we were playing to all of NPR, not just a few people in an office.

What were your favorite objects in the office?

Rob: The tiny desk gong. Also the pillow of Carl Kasell’s head watching over us (RIP, Carl).

Colin: The music library (every box set of everything ever made). Discarded celebrity water bottles (Adele, ?uestlove, et al…).

Peter:  Chris Thile’s Birthday Cake, Natalie Merchant’s water bottle. 

   

Sean: DJ Otter Portrait (see photo), Superorganism blow-up sea creature, some bottle of water that I accidentally drank that somebody left there…yeesh.

David: The guest book was pretty sick. We only saw one “volume” of it, but our volume also had Dee Dee Bridgewater, Thundercat, and a bunch of other heavies.

 .   

What was your favorite part of the process?

David: Being surrounded by a bunch of interesting smart people who LOVE music.

Sean: Seeing Josh Rogosin who is the sound engineer for NPR in action was very very cool.  He worked super efficiently and made some things that we never thought were going to be heard sound amazing in the video with a very limited number of microphones. Bookcases and carpeted office floors aren’t known for helping the resonances of the low end of a marimba, but Josh worked his magic!

Colin: 1. Witnessing an historic/ amazing TCP performance from 4 feet away
2. Successfully backing in the truck without damaging the truck or the building.

Rob: Shortly before the performance when all of the NPR folks came in to watch the show on their lunch breaks. There’s a fun excitement in the air, and it was simultaneously a very casual environment and also pretty nerve-wracking, because these people make some of my favorite stuff!

Peter: Performing. There was a really fantastic energy from the NPR staff audience that made it a really exciting 15min. of music making.  

 

Did you learn any cool facts about the series?

Sean: That is is ACTUALLY Bob Boilen’s working desk.  He gets kicked out of there on a weekly basis!

Colin: They do 3-5 Tiny Desk Concerts a WEEK!!! During lunch break!!

David: They’ve done over 700 of these things!

 

Any cool insights that you can share?

David: The series started because Bob Boilen and a colleague were watching an artist at SXSW and they thought the sound wasn’t good and both said they’d rather just hear that artist live unamplified behind Bob’s desk. So they invited the artist and filmed it and that was the beginning.

Colin: The “Tiny Desk” is an actual workspace! People were working there when we arrived, and we had to move their paperwork and laptops off of their tiny desks to make room for our pipes and almglocken!

Sean: All the people there are sooooo cool, pleasant, and supportive. Josh and Bob came to our concert the next day at the Smithsonian, for example. Colin made the point that it felt like everyone there was at the absolute top of their field, but also happy to be there and working really hard.

What are some of your favorite other Tiny Desk concerts?

David: Noname, Anderson .Paak, St. Vincent, Jamila Woods, Superorganism, Common at the White House

Sean: TOOOO MANY TO NAME!!!! How can you not love Chance reading poetry and covering Stevie? or The Roots just doing anything?

I think I have 3 categories of favorite Tiny Desk concerts…

  1. Amazing concerts by friends and collaborators: Son Lux, Eighth Blackbird, Mucca Pazza
  2. Artists that I heard for the first time through Tiny Desk: Superorganism, Noname, T-Pain (embarrassed that I hadn’t before…)
  3. Groups that I already really liked but that I had never SEEN perform before watching them on Tiny Desk: Sylvan Esso, Rubblebucket, Chvrches….this is an especially cool aspect of the Tiny Desk series because it puts faces on a lot of the artists that I only really thought of as a theoretical entity   

Colin: The Roots, Chance The Rapper, Mucca Pazza

Peter:

Large bands: Sun Ra ArkestraNo BS Brass BandMucca Pazza

Chicago: Chance the RapperNonameGallant (w/ Saba)

Rob: 

Perfume Genius – it feels like what Tiny Desk should be, pared down and personal. There’s an almost-uncomfortable fragility and delicacy to this one, and it’s really powerful. Their usual recorded sound is much bigger/electronic/produced but I think they found a good sound on the other end of the spectrum too.

Roomful of Teeth – they just sound so awesome, and it’s amazing to hear all these sounds come from their faces in this sort of environment.

tUnE-yArDs – they’re one of absolute favorites. This is a much older tiny desk show from 2011, and it’s a little raw. Super fun. It’s great watching Merrill Garbus build up a whole bunch of layers with a loop pedal, and there are some nice surprises in here too.

Son Lux – I’m maybe a little partial, since we’ve done project with Ryan and know the other guys in the band a little bit from a festival we both played on a couple years ago, but I love the addition of the horn, and they still have such a vivid sound from the whole band in the office.

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Many thanks to NPR Music for having us at the Tiny Desk!

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Colin’s Corner: Third Coasters

Welcome back to Colin’s Corner, where our resident superhero and studio manager Colin Campbell takes you into his world of incredible craftsmanship to show off some of the instruments and works of art he creates for Third Coast. Colin has recently created some beautiful one-of-a-kind pieces for Third Coast, and they aren’t just gorgeous and functional: they are also punny.

The “third coasters” were actually reverse-engineered from an atrocious pun. Well, a double pun really. Third Coast Percussion needed some special gifts to thank some of our generous donors for their continued support. And then, inspiration struck. Why not make some “third coasters” for Third Coast to say, “Thanks for being a Third-Coaster?” A double pun! The total eclipse of puns! Now that we had the wordplay, the rest was easy…

Like what you hear, too? Check out our newest album Paddle to the Seaavailable on Cedille Records.

Check back soon for another visit to Colin’s Corner! Word on the street is he’s restoring some wicked cool metal anklung right now…but not for us. Alas.

See you soon!

 

 

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Announcing our 2018/19 Emerging Composers Partnership Collaborators

Please join us in congratulating Amanda Feery and Hunter Ewen, the composers selected for our 2018/19 Emerging Composers Partnership! We look forward to collaborating with both Amanda and Hunter to create new works by each, which will be premiered next season. Read more about these outstanding music-makers below and click their names above to hear some of their music.

We received 135 applications this year, representing a dozen countries across five continents, and over half were from first time applicants!  The remarkable variety and depth of creativity displayed by all of the proposals was truly inspiring, and we have no doubt that adventurous music in our field is alive and well! Thank you to everyone who submitted music and ideas this year.

The deadline for the next round of submissions to the Emerging Composers Partnership (projects to be completed in the 2019/20 season) will be October 31, 2018. 

Amanda Feery is a composer writing for acoustic, electronic and improvisatory forces. Much of her inspiration comes from literature, visual art, and folklore. She has written for orchestral, chamber and vocal ensembles, theatre, kinetic sculpture, and multimedia.
She currently divides her time between Ireland and Princeton, where she is completing a Phd in Composition, with a dissertation focussing on Kate Bush’s song cycle, The Ninth Wave.
Collaborators include RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, Crash Ensemble, Chamber Choir Ireland, RTÉ ConTempo Quartet, Ensemble Mise-en, Dither, Bearthoven, Mivos Quartet, Quince Contemporary Vocal Ensemble, This is How we Fly, Orkest de Ereprijs, Lisa Moore, Amanda Gookin, Michelle O’Rourke, and Paul Roe.
She has participated as a composer fellow at The Performance Corporation’s Space Program, Ostrava Days Festival, SOUNDscape Festival, Bang on a Can Summer Festival, and the International Young Composers Meeting.
Future projects include works for Alarm Will Sound, Chatham Saxophone Quartet, and Robinson Panoramic Quartet.

Hunter Ewen (b. 1984) is a dramatic composer, educator, and multimedia designer. During the day, Dr. Ewen teaches strategies for digital creativity and programs AI composition software for Amper Music. At night, he composes, solders, choreographs, and writes solo and collaborative projects around the world. His works rail against the faded borders that separate art from science, music from sound, and meaning from meaninglessness. Ewen values frenzy. He buzzes and sneaks and desperately loves. His work is soothing, startling, virtuosic, and absurd. It grooves with dense, layered textures. It lusts for yowls and yips and wails and squeals. For screams that masquerade as art. For clamor and deviance. His compositions swing from chandeliers.

Ewen’s work has garnered awards and performances from SEAMUS, Punto y Raya, Ouroboros Review, The Playground Ensemble, Manchester New Music, CSU Fullerton, New Horizons Festival, MOXsonic, New Music Gathering, EMM, MTNA, Electroacoustic Barn Dance, Gamma UT, Studio 300, and his graphic scores were featured prominently in the Pulitzer Prize nominated book Armor, Amour by Amy Pence. Ewen’s work has been performed across North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia by groups like the Beethoven Academy Orchestra, Cairo Symphony, Silesian Philharmonic, Greater Cleveland Flute Society, Science on a Sphere, Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance, Alarm Will Sound, and by distinguished performers like Greg Banaszak, Lina Bahn, and Bill Mooney. Ewen is published by Ken Dorn, Alphonse LeDuc, Music Minus One, and Theodore Presser.

Third Coast Percussion’s Emerging Composers Partnership is made possible by Louise K. Smith and the Sargent Family Foundation.

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Intern Spotlight: Casey Collins

Happy new year, everyone! We start the year with a third Intern Spotlight, this time featuring the amazing Casey Collins!

Where are you from?

Minneapolis, MN

What is one thing about yourself that you’d want everyone to know?

I love the triangle.

Give us a link to something about you.

Here is a video of a piece written by my good friend Zack Baltich. I had the pleasure of playing the killer vibes part.

What are you up to these days?

I work in the artistic department of the Minnesota Orchestra. I am also pursuing a Master in Arts Administration from the University of Kentucky.

When did you intern with TCP?

May – August 2013

How did you connect with TCP?

I actually had reached out to Fifth House Ensemble about an internship, and knowing I was a percussionist they suggested that I connect with TCP, so I did!

Did you gain anything from the internship that you’d like to share?

This was probably the most valuable experience I had during my undergrad. I learned a lot about what it takes to run a successful arts organization, especially the logistics planning.

What else did you do while interning with TCP?

My first day I was tasked with digitizing the music library, you don’t want to know how many hours that took over the summer…

Did you leave a legacy or mark on the organization that you’re particularly proud of?

Other than purchasing and helping install the biggest window A/C unit I’ve ever seen, I’m really proud of my work on the Emerging Composers Partnership. Sean and I worked the whole summer planning and drafting proposals for this fantastic project.

Favorite memory from the internship?

There are many, but probably my favorite was assisting in the recording of “Haunt of Last Nightfall” by David T. Little. Watching the recording process for this large piece was awesome, and the guys killed it!

A GIF or YouTube link that sums up your experience with TCP?

Balance!

If you were a cartoon character, who would you be?

I think being the cartoon version of David S. Pumpkins would be fun.

Can you share a funny or embarrassing story?

When assembling a marimba I put the accidental bars on the natural rails and started to put the naturals on when Rob said “I think we should switch those around”…must have been a long day!

 

As you can see, an internship with Third Coast Percussion is a great learning opportunity and a fun adventure. If you’re interesting in learning more about an internship with Third Coast, please contact Sean Connors at [email protected].

For now, we will take a little hiatus from Intern Spotlights. Thanks SO much to Bri, Casey, Cameron, and all the other incredible interns we have had over the past couple of years. Your work is so valuable, and our organization couldn’t function without your contributions. Stay tuned for another treasure from Colin’s Corner and more!

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Colin’s Corner: The Pak

Welcome to Colin’s Corner! In this series of blog posts, our resident superhero and studio manager Colin Campbell will take you into his world of incredible craftsmanship to show off some of the instruments and works of art he creates for Third Coast.


This summer, I was tasked with building/acquiring the special instruments required for Lou Harrison’s Concerto for Organ and Percussion Orchestra and Concerto for Violin and Percussion Orchestra.

The first instrument that I made for the Harrison concerti was the “Pak.”

20171113_124458

Harrison gives the following notes in the score:

Entity: Korean clacker
Material: Solid hardwood, about 3/8” thick. 6 slats, tapered.
Spacing: about 3/16”. 3 standard 3/8” cut washers will do.
Construction and operation: Tie the slats and spacer washers firmly together with rawhide or nylon cord. Grasp the end slats and pull the lower ends wide apart, so that all 6 slats should fan out evenly. Swing it together briskly.

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I chose to tackle the pak first because it seemed the simplest to construct. A Google image search turned up some useful pictures of traditional Korean examples. The only materials required were wood, cord, and washers. I made the pak from a single board of African mahogany. Mahogany is a prized hardwood for furniture, and has been used to make drum shells as well.

Making six identical pieces is easier said than done. The curved profile of all six slats needed to match exactly, and the holes for tying them together needed to be lined up. In traditional woodworking, I would have used a pattern flush-trim bit on a router, and trimmed the wood around the perimeter of a master template made from acrylic or MDF (medium-density fiberboard). But since I had recently acquired a CNC carving machine (Inventables X-Carve), I decided to create a digital template instead.

Luckily, Harrison gives dimensions for the slats in his sketch. Using a vector drawing program (Adobe Illustrator), I made a 2D drawing of the slat’s outline and two holes.

After a couple of test cuts, the CNC “computer numerical control” cutting went surprisingly smoothly. I crosscut each segment of the mahogany board to length, clamped it down to the machining bed, and the machine did the rest. I was able to produce six identical slats with relative speed and ease.

For most of my wood projects, especially pieces that are handled often, I prefer to sand down to 400-grit. It is only slightly more time-consuming, and I feel that the result is well worth it. Usually I don’t use stain, but in this case I wanted a rich, lustrous dark finish similar to the traditional Korean examples I had seen. I went with my favorite Java gel stain from General Finishes. Applied properly, it beautifully expresses the woodgrain, and adds a rich transparent color. Finally, I finished the slats with clear satin lacquer. This is the origin of the now world-famous phrase “put some lacquer on your clacker.”

I love learning to tie a new knot. There’s a unique satisfaction that comes from the first time you get it right. Come to think of it, the feeling is very similar to the first time one successfully pulls off a new sleight-of-hand move or drum rudiment. Luckily for me, there is a veritable army of 11-year-olds on YouTube who have mastered the art of paracord tying. I cannot stress what a valuable resource YouTube is for makers of any stripe. It is a wondrous and powerful tool for self-teaching. Although the decorative knots I used to make my pak are non-traditional, I think they still look attractive and appropriate for the application. Of course, I chose a “TCP Green” paracord. The two main knots used are the lanyard knot and cobra weave. Felt washers were used in between each slat as spacers.

That was about it for this one. I was, and still am, pretty happy with the end product. It sounds great– a loud, clear “C-C-C-C-CLACK!” If you don’t have access to mahogany, maple or ash would be a good substitute.

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