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Lyrical Geometry

Last month, Third Coast Percussion hosted an event unlike any other in our ensemble’s history. “Lyrical Geometry” was a collaboration between TCP, the extraordinary artists at Luftwerk, architectural historian and scholar Sidney K. Robinson, and (posthumously) architect and composer Bruce Goff.


(All of the beautiful photos in this post were taken by Peter Tsai).

The event took place at Sid’s home, the “Ford House” in Aurora, IL, designed by Bruce Goff in 1949.

Besides being a brilliant architect of boundless creativity, Goff also composed a series of pieces for player piano in the early 1930s (nearly two decades before Conlon Nancarrow began composing for the instrument).

TCP transcribed and arranged a series of these player piano pieces for our ensemble. We performed these arrangements in sync with projections of the scrolling piano rolls (provided by Luftwerk) on the ceiling of the Ford House.

Luftwerk also created some other stunning images which were projected during the performance and throughout the evening.

We also set up an “instrument petting zoo,” which included bells from Resounding Earth by Augusta Read Thomas (commissioned for TCP)…

…as well as the “Brockmanophone,” an instrument created in collaboration with the College of Engineering at the University of Notre Dame for Glenn Kotche’s new work, Wild Sound (commissioned for TCP).

It was an incredible evening of music, architecture, and stunning visual art. Enjoy the photos, and check out dev.thirdcoastpercussion.com.10.1.10.19.xip.io:8888/ to keep up to date on our touring schedule and other crazy projects.

 

 

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Wild Sound Recipes

*The Following are excerpts from our new cookbook  “But Cooler….. Quick Instruments for the Active Eater”, compiled and edited by Third Coast Percussion and Glenn Kotche

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Bird Caller
Prep Time: 40 seconds
Cook Time: 1 minute

Ingredients:
– 1 plastic bottle
–  5ft. length of twine

Directions:
– Convince the Executive Director of a major Performing Arts Center that SOBE beverages are good.   Use enthusiastic consumption as a means to stockpile empty plastic bottles, prized for their extraordinarily thick plastic exterior that seems to produce a better sound.
– Convince presenters and stage director that using a box cutter in a performance is, in fact, a really good idea.
– Cut a long, rectangular piece out of the bottle, vertically from the top to base, ca. 3 inches long and 1/2 inches wide.
– fasten one end of the twine to the neck of the bottle
– swing the bottle from the other end of the twine in a circular motion until a) the desired sound is achieved or b) the bottle flies off and strikes an audience member

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Super Ball Mallet
Prep Time: 30 seconds
Cook Time: as long as it takes Rob to build his sistrum

Ingredients:
–  1 wire coat hanger
– 1 super ball

Directions:
– Cut a single, straight piece off of the base of the coat hanger, roughly 5 inches in length
– Cut super ball in half, in the direction of the seam.
– thread one end of the coat hanger length through the center of the halved super ball, the rounded side facing outwards
– holding the wire shaft, drag the super ball across a piece of plywood, preferably one with an array of 6 contact microphones on the other side.

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Photo credit: Kirk Richard Smith

 

 

Low Carb Violin
Prep Time: 1 min. 30 seconds
Cook Time: 4 min.

Ingredients:
– 1 piece of 1″x4″ poplar wood, 2 ft. in length
– 3 ft. length of stainless steel beading wire, .024″ in diameter
– 2 C Clamps
– 1 package of wooden tongue depressors
– paper pieces to taste

Directions
– lay length of beading wire on top of of wood, lengthwise
– using C clamps, secure the wire to opposite ends of the wood, making sure the wire is taught
– slip 1 tongue depressor between the wood and the wire, approximately 3 1/2 inches from one edge of the wooden length
– gradually stack more tongue depressors on top of each other between the wire and the wood, building a bridge for the violin, until the fundamental notes of the plucked string reaches a concert B-flat.  Fine tune with thinner pieces of paper as necessary.
– Explain to highly qualified audio engineer that his really expensive microphones are “so 2013” and that, instead, he should build you a spring clamp with a contact microphone on it.
– secure hand clamp microphone to bridge
– grab bow, assume violin diva position and play

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Photo credit: Kirk Richard Smith

 

Brockmanophone (Arduino Keyboard)
Prep Time: 3 Months, 12 Days, 8 hours, without pause.
Cook Time: 7 min.

Ingredients
– 1 piece of plexiglass, 2 ft. x 3 ft.
– 1 pair of gloves
– A bunch of technology stuff
– 1 Electrical Engineer
– 1 Wife and Son of Electrical Engineer
– 6 Summer Interns

Directions
– Enlist professors and students from elite university
– Convince Associate Dean in College of Engineering that “the future is in contemporary art-music for percussion ensemble, that’s where the real money is”
– Ask them to build something cool
– Plug in, play, and enjoy.   Shower everyone with praise for their tireless efforts in making you sound good.

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A summer of Wild Sound- South Bend 2014

As part of our Ensemble-in-Residence position at the University’s DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, we spend about a month each summer living in South Bend, developing the projects that we’ll be bringing to the DeBartolo stage during the come year, meeting with faculty and students, and generally getting our act together.

This year we decided to bring in some guest artists to help further our continued growth as musicians. During our first week at Notre Dame, we had the privilege of working with Musekiwa Chingodza, a world-renowned Mbira player from Zimbabwe.  Musekiwa was in the states for about 6 months, busily traveling around the country performing and teaching, and we managed to get him to South Bend for a few days to work with us on Shona music.

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Here’s Musekiwa teaching us “Chamutengure,” one of his signature songs.

 

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And doesn’t that T-shirt look great on him?

 

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It was a really memorable and educational experience for all 4 of us. Thanks to the Kutsinhira Cultural Arts Center for coordinating Musekiwa’s visit. We hope to work with him again soon!

The following week we had percussion guru Russell Hartenberger out to South Bend to listen to us play, give us feedback, and generally share his experiences from 40+ years playing in Steve Reich & Musicians and the percussion ensemble Nexus, trailblazers in our field. Russ was deeply insightful and great to work with.

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Here he is helping us get the perfect bass drum sound for Reich’s Sextet:

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It was excellent to take the time for professional and artistic development with these two great guys. It’s something we all agreed we need to make sure we do more often.

The biggest project of our Notre Dame time was working on our new project with Glenn Kotche, Wild Sound.  This project has been years in the making, and has grown into the most elaborate production we’ve ever been a part of. This piece involves pre-made video and audio tracks that accompany the live performance, live video, amplification through a variety of means, and zero ordinary instruments. Every sound comes from a found object, or an instrument we create on stage during the piece, or the sounds of creating those instruments.

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We’re incredibly fortunate to have a team of interns at Notre Dame, students with both engineering and music backgrounds, who helped develop some of the more advanced technology that will be used in this piece. Here’s Glenn checking out some of what they’ve been working on with Arduino technology:

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And here Glenn’s working with Peter on his “fishing-line violin” part:

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And one of the interns, Jonathan, showing us what he can do with an X-Box Kinect:

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This piece is going to be really amazing! You can see the premiere October 3 at the University of Notre Dame’s DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, with subsequent performances in St Paul (MN), New York and Chicago. You can also get a sneak peak at a little bit of the piece, and the process behind it, at our “Inside the Composer’s Studio” event with Glenn!

Our gracious host for our 4 weeks in South Bend was a young man named David Matthews. I’ve never met someone who was so passionate about the ongoing revitalization of downtown South Bend. He showed us a whole new side of the city, and we’ve got a few new places on our list to visit during our future time at Notre Dame.

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Finally, our summer time in South Bend is our time to cook giant meals for the ensemble.  Here are a couple of highlights:

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Migas a la Skidmore

 

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Kung Pao Chicken a la Dillon

 

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Chicken and Dumplin’s a la Skidmore

 

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Cumin Lamb a la Dillon

 

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…and the final feast!  Featuring lemon baked chicken and potatoes from our new South Bend buddy Velvet, Chinese Broccoli a la Dillon, and Gyoza a la Min Park.

 

 

 

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Bravo! Vail Residency

What better way to start our 2014-2015 season than a residency at the Bravo! Vail music festival in Vail, CO!?!  Over the course of 11 jam-packed days we played 9 concerts, including: chamber recitals at several chapels throughout the Vail Valley, a presentation on “The Science Behind Sound” at the Walking Mountains Science Center, numerous interactive “Little Listener” concerts at local libraries, an appearance on Good Morning Vail, a late night concert at the Vail Ale House and a thrilling collaborative finale with pianists Gilles Vonsattel and Bravo! Vail Artistic Director Anne-Marie McDermott that was broadcast live over Colorado Public Radio.  Phew!

When we could remember, we snapped a few photos along the way of performances, rehearsals, schlepping, hiking, eating…

Enjoy!

– David, Peter, Rob, Sean

 

We loaded up the ole box truck to the brim and headed out across the plains to the Rockies.  Nebraska seemed to last forever…

 

We hit the ground running and played 3 unique recital programs over the course of 4 days with music by some of our favorite composers, including: Timo Andres, Tobias Broström, John Cage, Clay Condon, Thierry De Mey, Alexandre Lunsqui,  Marc Mellits, Minoru Miki, Arvo Pärt, Steve Reich, Augusta Read Thomas, and our very own David Skidmore.

 

 

 

 

 

Edwards Interfaith Chapel was our first concert stop…

 

 

 

 

 

…and then it was on to Vail Chapel where we played two more concerts.  The view out the window of the chapel was of  a babbling mountain creek and hummingbirds darting to and fro.  Too bad Colorado isn’t pretty.

 

 

 

 

 

One of the most exciting collaborations we had during our time in Vail was with the Walking Mountains Science Center as part of  their “Science Behind…” series.   We presented a project developed in conjunction with the College of Engineering at the University of  Notre Dame entitled ND Waves which focuses on the intersection between science and the arts.

 

As part of the NDWaves project, Professor Jay Brockman and a team of Notre Dame students helped Third Coast design and develop instruments that illustrate basic characteristics and qualities of sound waves.  Peter Martin of TCP then composed a piece for Third Coast and an audience of any size to perform together.

 

 

 

 

 

Using technology such as oscilloscopes and spectrum analyzers, we illustrated what technically happens to sound waves when percussionists make changes in pitch, dynamics, timbre, and purity of tone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s the gang assembling all of the instruments before the show…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and the crowd of all ages at Walking Mountains being instructing how to play the instruments during the concert.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everybody loves those pipes and log drums!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next up: late night concert at the Vail Ale House as part of “Vail After Dark”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This concert was just plain FUN.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interspersed between all of these amazing concerts, we shot out to several local libraries and made music with some very hip, very eager 3 – 7 year olds as part of Bravo! Vail’s Little Listeners series.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again: just. plain. FUN!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our final concert featured landmark collaborative works for two pianos and percussion by Béla Bártok and Steve Reich.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unfortunately, Bártok didn’t compose parts for four percussionists.  So while Dave and Rob were rehearsing with Annie Marie and Gilles…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…Pete and Sean got to go for a hike into the Whitewater National Forest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yup.

 

 

 

 

 

A big THANK YOU to all of our new friends at Bravo! Vail and the audiences in Colorado for an incredible experience and amazing start to our season!

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Fun Facts for the 2013-14 Season

Here are some nerdy fun facts about Third Coast Percussion’s 2013-14 season!  Between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2014, Third Coast Percussion will have:

–  given 82 performances
– performed in 10 states (including DC) and 3 countries
– performed on the campus of 18 different colleges/universities.
– performed in 11 different K-12 schools.
– performed 61 different pieces of music, a combined 16 hours of repertoire
– met with the Holy Cross/Immaculate Heart of Mary Marimba Ensemble 15 times as part of the new educational initiative spearheaded by Rush Hour Concerts
–  driven 13,652 miles for concerts
–  spent more than 228 hours in a van/truck driving to concerts (equivalent to 9.5 straight days)
– driven through 17 different states
– endured 1 blown tire, 1 crushed truck roof, 1 ripped-off car bumper, 1 dead truck battery, 1 parking ticket, 1 torched and wrecked SUV
– performed during 2 tornado watches and drove through snow storms in 7 different months

This was also our first year working full-time for Third Coast Percussion, and the first year of our 5-year Ensemble-in-Residence position at the University of Notre Dame.

Thanks for supporting us in all of our endeavors!  Click below to help us meet our fiscal year-end fundraising goal and fully fund all of these projects.

 

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