Press Materials

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“They play as if they’re a single, eight-armed organism”
-NPR Music

“Virtuosity and deft, precisely timed wit”
-Washington Post

“Commandingly elegant”
-New York Times

-Alex Ross, The New Yorker

“An inspirational sense of fun and curiosity”
-Minnesota Star-Tribune

“The group performed with absolute aplomb”
-Boston Globe

-Chicago Tribune

“Mysterious, funny, endlessly inventive”
-Boston Classical Review

-Independent (UK)

“Technical precision, palpable groove and outstanding sound”
-Time Out New York 

-New York Times

“Savvy and hyper-talented young percussionists”
-Musical Toronto

“Fluency and zest”
-Andrew Clements, the Guardian (UK)

“Undeniably groovy…masterfully performed”
-Time Out Chicago

“One of the country’s finest new music ensembles”
-Chicago Reader

“The musicality and fierce focus of Third Coast Percussion electrified the room.”
-Sarasota Herald-Tribune 

Reviews and Features

NIU School of Music faculty, staff, alumni and students nominated for Grammy Awards

We are so thrilled to be nominated for our second GRAMMY® Award, in the Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance category. We couldn’t have done any of it without our dear friend and colleague, recording engineer Dan Nichols. Dan is the head of Recording Studies at Northern Illinois University, and he is nominated for THREE GRAMMY® Awards this year! Read on to learn more about his nominations, and others from the NIU Recording program.

December 9, 2019
by Andrew Carrigan

The nomination list for the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards are out and the list includes representation from Northern Illinois University.

Dan Nichols, Head of Recording Services in the School of Music at NIU, is nominated in three categories, where he is joined by a current student, an alumna and faculty.

Nichols was the recording engineer on “Fanm D’ayiti” by Nathalie Joachim and Spektral Quartet. The assistant engineers were Qi Yu, a Master of Music Recording Arts student and Rachel Frazier, a 2019 graduate of the Bachelor of Arts program in Recording Arts. “Fanm D’ayiti” is nominated for Best World Music Album.

Nichols was the recording engineer on “Perpetulum” by Third Coast Percussion, which is nominated for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance.

Nichols and School of Music adjunct faculty member Mark Alletag served as assistant engineers on “American Originals 1918” by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, which is nominated for Best Classical Compendium.

Nichols won a Grammy in 2016 for his work as an engineer in the Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance category on “Third Coast Percussion | Steve Reich.”

The Grammy’s ceremony will be held Sunday, Jan. 26 in Los Angeles.

Click here to see the original article.

From Third Coast, Percussion Aplenty With Glass In Mix

October 25, 2019
by Richard S. Ginell

Percussion fans and audiophiles will have an especially good time with this package.”

“…a potent, ear-seducing collection…”

From out of Chicago, Third Coast Percussion weighs in with a potent, ear-seducing collection of contemporary percussion music. This might be the four-man troupe’s highest-profile release yet in that they managed to get the octogenarian Philip Glass to write his first work for percussion group for them with the help of a long, long list of co-commissioning organizations and individuals. Also, it’s on Glass’ own Orange Mountain Music label, even though the designated Glasswork only occupies less than a fourth of the two-disc set’s playing time.

The Glass piece is called Perpetulum, and it operates unlike any other Glass piece that I can think of. Cast in four continuous sections, it opens not with typical Glass patterns and arpeggios, but with a series of percussion grooves closer in feel to Varèse’s Ionisation than anything by this composer. Two of the succeeding sections are signaled by slow majestic rolls of the tam-tam, another is labeled as a “cadenza” that contain fresh arpeggios that don’t seem to be reprocessed from Glass’ database. The last part starts as a Latinized workout that eventually settles into the most conventional (relatively speaking) Glass progression of the piece. While Glass has been so prolific that it’s hard to keep up to date with everything he has done lately, this is easily one of the most enjoyable, inventive, and least recycled things he’s done in the last decade at least.

Another major new work in the set is Gavin Bryars’ The Other Side of the River, which has a wholly different personality. Bryars launches a typically quiet opening with marimba tremolos and minimal invention on top, eventually developing a more animated central ostinato that runs out of steam four minutes before the end. There is peace on the other side of this river, and maybe that’s the point of the exercise, a longing for an alternative to the noise and chaos on our side of the water.

The rest of the album is devoted to percussion pieces by three of TCP’s four members with no liner notes to guide us, just our ears. The most imposing of them is David Skidmore’s Aliens with Extraordinary Abilities, a big colorful suite that takes up the entire first disc. These seven minimalist workouts are heavily influenced by Steve Reich in rhythm and, to some extent, Glass, in the minor-key motifs. Just exactly what this invigorating music has to do with aliens is completely left up to our imaginations (maybe someone who binge-watches the History Channel’s obsession with extraterrestrials would have an answer). Peter Martin’s brief BEND for mostly marimbas just staggers along for awhile with delicate pinpoint sounds, unsure of its direction, while Robert Dillon’s Ordering-instincts is a pleasing, concise toccata for pieces of wood and metal obbligato.

Percussion fans and audiophiles will have an especially good time with this package.

Click here to read the original review.

Another compelling version of Dev Hynes

October 17, 2019
by Diana Yassin

“a stunning mashup between forces”

“The album effortlessly embraces the magic of both artists in its captivating portrayal of emotions and diligent instrumentals.”

“…this burgeoning branching-off from convention is rich, exciting and addictive.”

The alias Blood Orange is etched in Dev Hynes’s discography. He does embrace other noms de plume, though, and assigns each to a signature style. But “Lightspeed Champion,” the spacy, genre-defying brand that carved a delicate niche in the R&B and soul game, never gained the traction that Blood Orange has. The latter’s dreamy, sometimes melancholic synth-pop has given Hynes the recognition he deserves from artists Empress Of, Carly Rae Jepsen and A$AP Rocky. And since the release of Negro Swan last fall, Hynes has been on a creative streak, releasing EP Angel’s Pulse this summer and Fields last Friday.

Fields is a significant departure from any work previously released. A classical music album, it’s published under Hynes’s official name alongside Third Coast Percussion. Hynes composed all the music in a digital audio workstation and sent the recordings and sheet music to the members of Third Coast Percussion to arrange and orchestrate for their own instruments. “This was the first time I’ve written music that I’ve never played, and I love that,” Hynes said in a press release. “It’s something I’ve always been striving to get to. Seeing what Third Coast Percussion had done with these pieces was magical.” This relationship is symbiotic, with Third Coast Percussion partaking in the collaborative energy and increasing the potential to reach new groups of people.

Despite the new packaging, the album doesn’t stray too far from the conventions of a Blood Orange album. Within its dreamy membrane are songs that reach for particular emotions within us, striking the good and the bad in equal measure. A contemplative aura radiates throughout the project as one song leads to another, especially within the “For All the Fury” suite. The songs are characteristically sparse and embody a minimalistic appeal, keys and flutes beckoning in a new emotion the way synths generally would in a Hynes album. At its core, this album, especially within the suite, strives to tell a story. 

Intro track “Reach” is sheer. It wades in a pattern of sparse glockenspiel and sharp xylophones that loop over a subdued, humming percussion that slowly gives way to plinking bells. There’s a wistful, nostalgic energy as the song gently invites listeners to follow along in the eleven track journey. Conversely, its follow-up “Blur” conveys a somber side. The title is fitting, as a hazy buzz that revs with only a few chimes to offset the tension dominates the track. This general pattern of zigzagging from serenity to anxiety develops the album track by track. It triggers and blends both emotions well, most notably in “Curl,” a brief track with a background sound akin to a car trudging through the snow. All of this culminates at the end of the suite with eponymous “Fields.” It traverses effortlessly through xylophone and glockenspiel based choruses that build over one another. In its last stretch, a chaotic rhythm with too many beats at once — a fascinating conundrum, given the minimalist appeal of the entire album.

Concluding with “Perfectly Voiceless” and “There was Nothing” is questionable. The tracks are undeniable standouts, especially the former, but they operate on a different plane than the very cohesive “For All Its Fury” and keenly differentiate themselves with their combined 23-minute length. Though they borrow similar elements from the suite, they’re more lavish and stretch themselves over longer schemes like a slow burn.

As an introductory project between Dev Hynes and Third Coast Percussion, Fields functions as a stunning mashup between forces. The album effortlessly embraces the magic of both artists in its captivating portrayal of emotions and diligent instrumentals. Despite its sparse appeal, this burgeoning branching-off from convention is rich, exciting and addictive.

Click here to read the original review.

Grammy-winning Third Coast Percussion new ensemble-in-residence

October 16, 2019

Denison University announces a new collaboration with Third Coast Percussion, a Grammy-winning, artist-run quartet of classically-trained percussionists. Denison’s artists-in-residence programs offers students enriching experiences, knowledge, and opportunities beyond the curriculum. Third Coast Percussion will join contemporary string quartet ETHEL as a Denison ensemble-in-residence.

Third Coast Percussion will be in residence for several days in December and February. The group already is scheduled to take part in music, psychology, and studio art classes. They also will perform at Denison during Granville’s annual candlelight walking tour.

“We are excited to have Third Coast Percussion join us on stages and in classrooms across the campus,” says Michael Morris, director of the Michael D. Eisner Center for the Performing Arts, and the Vail Series. “Our students and faculty have a history of really connecting with our ensembles-in-residence. We’ve seen great exchanges through these relationships and we’re thrilled to be able to expand the program to include this talented group of people in the Denison circle.”

David Skidmore of Third Coast Percussion says, “We are so excited to have the opportunity to work closely with the bright and gifted students at Denison University. We were able to visit the university last spring, and immediately fell in love with the warmth and curiosity that permeate the campus. We have a ton of fun and enriching activities planned already for December, and more in the works for February.”

Ching-chu Hu, professor and chair of Denison’s music department, notes, “We are beyond thrilled that Third Coast Percussion is Denison’s newest ensemble-in-residence. From the moment they stepped onto Denison’s campus to the resonance of the last note they played during their concert, Third Coast Percussion embraced Denison’s liberal arts mission, with outreach across disciplines and into the community.”

Hu adds, “Their programming is exciting, their artistry is thrilling, and their enthusiasm is contagious. We are honored to have the opportunity to work with such amazing artists, and look forward to the new ideas to be shared with our students and faculty.”

Third Coast Percussion is an exciting and energetic group that celebrates the extraordinary depth and breadth of musical possibilities in the world of percussion. The ensemble has been praised for “commandingly elegant” (New York Times) performances, the “rare power” (Washington Post) of their recordings, and “an inspirational sense of fun and curiosity” (Minnesota Star-Tribune).

See the original press release here.

Haas premiere highlights Third Coast Percussion’s UC concert

October 13, 2019
by Tim Sawyier

“The ensemble offered the type of consistently thoughtful, dynamic performances that have earned them their reputation.”

“We made it to season two!” Thus University of Chicago music and humanities professor Seth Brodsky began his introductory remarks before Saturday night’s concert at the Logan Center.

The concert was the second in UChicago Presents’ opening weekend, and a production of the Chicago Center for Contemporary Composition (CCCC), a “dynamic, collaborative, interdisciplinary environment” founded at U of C last year by composer and teacher Augusta Read Thomas, with an advisory board that includes Brodsky. In his prefatory comments, Brodsky drew attention to the reality that new music is a perennially hard sell, and not necessarily just at the box office. He went on to comment appreciatively on the ample audience assembled at Logan for that night’s performance: “All future concerts will be Third Coast,” he joked.

Having a Grammy-winning local headliner like Third Coast Percussion (TCP) can certainly help fill the seats for new music. The quartet of young men has become one of the most prominent such ensembles and has an international stature, though member Robert Dillon commented that it is nice for them to return to their hometown audience and namesake “Third Coast.” The ensemble offered the type of consistently thoughtful, dynamic performances that have earned them their reputation.

The concert began with BEND from 2016 by TCP member Peter Martin. The work is scored for four players at two marimbas, who throughout utilize both the heads and sticks of mallets, along with bows, to produce a variety of timbres. Bruce Goff’s player piano compositions were the inspiration for the piece, which aimed to render the piano rolls’ patterns in musical gestures. BEND felt remarkably dancelike in the four players’ hands, with a buoyant, circling quality, evocative of its inspiration. An interlude for bowed marimbas produced all variety of avian chirps and whistles, before the work wound to its conclusion.

Alexandre Lunsqui’s Shi (2008) followed, and was the one work on the program not written for TCP. “Shi” is a Chinese word meaning “food” or “to eat,” and the work calls for three players set up at tables to play with chopsticks throughout, striking woodblocks and cowbells, along with culinary items like Chinese grills, glass bottles, and bamboo mats. The work is both whimsical and virtuosic—an overhead view of the three players was projected on the screen, which highlighted their quicksilver transitions among the assembled items. Most compelling here was how the TCP players created musical lines out of the pitchless instruments, conveying contour and texture from unexpected sonic material.

Next was Ayanna Woods’ 2018 work Triple Point, the result of TCP’s Emerging Composers Partnership program, in which the quartet works closely with two burgeoning composers each year to craft a piece collaboratively. A triple point is the temperature and pressure at which a substance can exist as a solid, liquid, or gas, which while in a sense balanced, actually results in rapid changes among states. Woods conveyed these with a plurality of instruments, including David Skidmore on drum set. The compact work had a darkly jazzy feel throughout, ably conveying a sense of edgy stasis. Woods was on hand to receive her deserved applause.

The first half closed with the first of two world premieres on the program: Kodama by Chicago Ph.D. candidate Rodrigo Bussad. Kodama are Japanese nature spirits but also sounds that reverberate in nature. Bussad worked with TCP on the piece, and was drawn to their personal assortment of metallic instruments; these were assembled on a single table for the four players to create a kind of new instrument for Bussad to explore. The work begins with a limpid melody before giving itself over to shimmering textures, creating a sense of supernatural tintinnabulation. A quirky balletic section ensues before the opening melody returns at the end, ultimately concluding with a punctuation mark. Bussad joined his colleagues on stage to be recognized for this inventive work.

The second half of the concert was devoted to a single item: the world premiere of Austrian composer Georg Haas’ Iguazú superior, antes de descender por la Garganta del Diablo (“Upper Iguazú, before descending through the devil’s throat”), a commission of the Serge Koussevitzky Music Foundation and the Library of Congress. The work is inspired by Iguazú Falls, which lies on the Brazil-Argentina border, and is one of the world’s largest waterfall systems. The rivers that feed into it actually gain speed until ultimately shooting through “The Devil’s Throat,” a narrow passage that is higher than Niagara Falls.

Haas channels this inspiration in his 30-minute work by structuring it as essentially one long accelerando. While this is not immediately apparent, the underlying base tempo does indeed increase for the work’s duration. There is an omnipresent driving pulse among the four percussionists, who are arranged in a semicircle around the stage, each with his own station of instruments.

While it is difficult to do justice to such a complex work on a single hearing, the overall impression was hypnotic, of getting swept along in a current. The general absence of harmony and pitches for such a long duration immerses listeners in a new language of pure timbre and gesture, which one comes to understand over the course of the work. It comes to an ear-splitting climax, presumably the rush into “The Devil’s Throat,” before subsiding into the nervy woodblock tremolos with which it begins. Haas was present to receive a standing ovation along with the gentlemen of TCP.

Click here to read the original review.

Third Coast Percussion premiers Danny Elfman piece at Days and Night Festival

October 10, 2019
by Jesse Herwitz

These days, stage fright is not a problem for Chicago-based ensemble Third Coast Percussion.

With a busy touring schedule and rapid album releases – four in the last two years – one might wonder how the quartet keeps their nerves calm. They premiered Philip Glass’ “Perpetulum” in front of Philip Glass at 2018’s Chicago Humanities Festival. Now they are performing the world premiere of Danny Elfman’s “Percussion Quartet” in front of Danny Elfman at this year’s Days and Nights Festival.

That could wear on anyone.

“We perform a lot,” says ensemble member Robert Dillon. “Concert nerves translate themselves primarily as a level of excitement and energy on stage.”

That stage comfort might also have something to do with winning a Grammy Award – the first ever given to a percussion ensemble – for their 2016 album featuring music written by pioneering minimalist composer Steve Reich.

“Winning that award felt like a big step for us, and also for the idea of a percussion ensemble in the classic music tradition,” Dillon says.

It also could be the praise bestowed on them by Glass – the creative engine behind the Days and Nights Festival – and who Dillon says has been a huge influence on the ensemble. In fact, it was Glass who suggested Elfman compose a percussion piece – his first – for TCP at this year’s festival.

“We were ecstatic. Danny has found incredible combinations of instrumental colors that give his quartet a distinctive sound,” Dillon says.

And while continuing to work with iconic musicians – TCP’s newest album, Fields, is with singer-songwriter and producer Devonté Hynes – perhaps some of the most generous work the ensemble does is for the youngest generations.

For more than a decade, the quartet has pioneered an array of educational performances for students at Chicago’s The People’s Music School and a six-year residency at the University of Notre Dame. “We had an amazing teacher, Michael Burritt, who implanted a love of this type of music,” Dillon says.

And like that teacher who found a way to connect with them, TCP has found their way to connect with audiences through percussion, raising and lowering their arms over an array of metal pipes and wooden slats.

Click here to read the original article.

Out of the comfort zone: Danny Elfman has world premiere at Philip Glass Festival

October 9, 2019
by John Malkin

We were thrilled to premiere Danny Elfman’s Percussion Quartet at Philip Glass’s Days and Nights Festival this fall! We have really enjoyed bringing this fantastic new work to life. Read more of Elfman’s thoughts about composing, and his new and “uncomfortable” foray into classical composing, below.

Danny Elfman says his success as a musician and composer is due to continually stepping out of his comfort zone. After success with the ’80s new-wave band Oingo Boingo, Elfman broke into composing film soundtracks with “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” in 1985. His credits now include more than 100 Hollywood movie scores including “Edward Scissorhands” and “The Circle.” He also wrote the theme music for TV’s “The Simpsons.”

Now Elfman is taking another musical leap into composing symphonic concert music.

The Elfman Percussion Quartet will have its world premiere at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur, as part of the Days and Nights Festival. Philip Glass founded the festival in 2011 and his own composition Perpetulum will also be performed by Grammy-award winning Third Coast Percussion Ensemble. The evening will begin with a Q&A session with Elfman and Glass.

The Days and Nights Festival runs through Sunday, including a performance by the Suso/Glass Quartet and Aaron Diehl Trio at Carmel’s Golden Bough Playhouse on Saturday. Tickets and information are available at

When Elfman was invited to compose a percussion piece for the Days and Nights Festival he immediately agreed. “It was one of those instantaneous, ‘Oh my god, yes! I love Philip Glass’ work so much and have such an awesome respect for him,’ ” Elfman told the Sentinel. “Just to be sharing the bill is a huge honor for me.”

When he was only a lad, Elfman was inspired by the inventive rhythms of composers like Harry Partch, Steve Reich, Terry Riley and Philip Glass, “Percussion is where I started,” Elfman recalls. “To this day, the only musical training I’ve ever had in my life was sneaking into CalArts and playing in the gamelan for two or three years!” Elfman’s East Los Angeles studio is now filled with percussion instruments including balafons he brought back from a year in West Africa.

In recent years Elfman has been composing symphonic pieces. “It started two years ago with the violin concerto and this feeling of, “I’m bursting through the door into symphonic classical music.” Last month, a concert in Paris featured music by Elfman including Serenada Schizophrana.

“Now I’m really committed to this music,” he said. “I have three more commissions coming up. It’s very exciting because every one of them is pushing me in this terrifying place of, ‘I don’t know how to do this!’ In a weird way, that’s a place I like being. It’s all about pushing out of the comfort zone.”

Blood Orange & Third Coast Percussion – ‘Fields’ review: luxurious ambient sounds

October 9, 2019
by Carl Anka

“Alt-pop polymath Dev Hynes has teamed up with Third Coast Percussion to create a beguiling record.”

“There’s an element of tidal fury to Fields…”

Be it under the name Lightspeed Champion, Blood Orange, or through his work with Solange Knowles, FKA Twigs, Mariah Carey and others – not to mention his wildly inventive original band Test Icicles – Dev Hynes has proved himself to be one of the most multi-faceted and multi-talented recording artists in the world today.

No genre has proven too obscure for the Ilford-born musician, and if his name is found in an album’s liner notes, there’s sure to be music of category-defying quality inside. Which makes this new release from the Grammy Award-winning, Chicago-based percussion quartet group Third Coast Percussion – for which Dev Hynes composed all the music – so intriguing.

“We’ve always felt that the future of classical music depends on deepening the collaborative process and removing the strict barriers between composers and performers,” Third Coast Percussion have written in the liner notes to the album, and while Hynes’ influences can be felt on ‘Fields’, this is an album best listened to on its own merits

Comprised of 13 compositions, the first 11 of which form a suite called ‘For All Its Fury’, ‘Fields’ is similar to Third Coast Percussion’s 2017 project ‘Steve Reich’, boasting angular synthesiser sounds and strong mallet percussion (the quartet are known for using very particular types of instruments when making music) to create lush soundscapes. The liner notes to ‘Fields’ also mention Dev Hynes’ love of French composer Debussy; we sense a strong enjoyment of French electronic musician and composer Jean-Michel Jarre’s ‘Oxygène’ series, too.

There’s an element of tidal fury to ‘Fields’: for every high-energy moment, there is soon a lower energy pause for the listener to ruminate on things and prepare for more.  As the four-minute ‘Coil’ gives way to the 90-second piece titled ‘Wane’, the goal of ‘Fields’ becomes clear. For every action there is a necessary reaction to the album. This is classical music by way of midi beats.

The album’s final two pieces, the 11-minute ‘Perfectly Voiceless’ and the 13-minute ‘There Was Nothing’ pick up the pace as the album concludes; two percussion-less efforts combine to make a cascading march to nowhere. ‘Fields’ in just a few words? Non-essential, luxury ambient sounds.

Click here to read the original review.

Devonté Hynes and Third Coast Percussion: Fields review – a crystal-clear connection

October 4, 2019
by Siobhán Kane

There is a heady telepathy among the quartet, who approach the compositions with grace, clarity and dexterity…”

Fields is impressive.”

Blood Orange is synonymous with a considered sensibility as an artist and producer, fluidly engaging disparate musical references, from his early years in punk bands, to his time as Test Icicles and Lightspeed Champion. Yet the music Devonté Hynes first knew was classical, learning on piano and cello, and he still considers this music as the foundation to his creativity, with Satie, Puccini, and Debussy in his melodies and timbres.

So a collaboration with Chicago’s Third Coast Percussion seems fitting – the quartet of David Skidmore, Robert Dillon, Peter Martin and Sean Connors are similarly synonymous with a progressive ethos, slipping the shackles of their form. Hynes and the quartet have another connection, in Philip Glass. Third Coast have commissioned and performed works by him, and Hynes has performed with him, and elements of Glass’s work – and, at times, his contemporary Steve Reich – weave around this record.

Fields is impressive. The first 11 tracks are a suite, For All Its Fury, followed by two longer pieces, Perfectly Voiceless and There Was Nothing. All were composed by Hynes; recordings and sheet music were sent to Third Coast, who arranged and orchestrated them for their instruments, and a dialogue between composer and performers emerged, with Hynes performing with the quartet at various points on the record, illustrating a true symbiosis.

There is a heady telepathy among the quartet, who approach the compositions with grace, clarity and dexterity, employing vibraphones, marimbas, crotales, glockenspiel, tuned bowls, tam tams, gongs, melodica, glass wind chimes, kalimba, tuned metal pipes, wood planks, desk bells and drums among other instruments.

For All Its Fury showcases the quartet’s dynamism. Opening track “Reach” unpacks percussion that suggests being trapped under glass, met with a vibrating synth. Dystopian, creeping elements emerge on “Blur”, complementing the doomy “Wane”, where disjointed beats fall like raindrops on corrugated roofs, dovetailing on to the discordant chaos of “Curl”.

Things warm up on “Coil”, filling a harp-shaped hole, where repetition gathers itself to become a sort of mesmerising mantra, an approach that bears fruit on other pieces, such as “Gather” with its rhythmic underpinning, allowing for a myriad of experiments to occur, experiments that convey a deep understanding of the electronic world – so alive and expansive, it almost becomes minimal techno.

“Tremble” and “Cradle: summon the atmosphere of Björk’s Pagan Poetry, delicate and raw, spiritual and profane, and “Press” engages in a lithe, floaty dialogue, driving polyrhythms through deep precision, with “Fields” as a perfect ending to the suite, with hazy vibraphone and epic cymbals.

Perfectly Voiceless references Steve Reich, with its core of arpeggios, deep-sea diving amid deft, nuanced percussion, resurrecting motifs, burying them, and later reanimating, folding in a Philip Glass minimalism that at times is disrupted by Hynes’s ability to conjure a satisfying pop melody.

There Was Nothing opens like a preface to a rave: glowing possibilities for a future not yet written. Synth sounds and bowed mallet percussion instruments force notes to linger, looping in Hynes’s appreciation for Debussy, with its harmony hiding out underneath the rhythm. It is elegant yet derelict in a way, moving smoothly only to fall away, returning towards that reflective impulse, with notes squirming under exquisite structures.

Dance drives part of this record, since choreographer Emma Portner, a long-time collaborator of Hynes, introduced Hynes and Third Coast, and Fields is pure movement. When composing, Hynes had an image of an open field, a place where music and dance could not only coexist, but coagulate. He has achieved that unison.

Click here to read the original review.

Mallets and sticks: Chicago’s Third Coast Percussion

September 27, 2019
by Mark Tiarks

When The New Yorker’s A.J. Liebling anointed Chicago and its environs “The Second City” in 1952, he meant no compliment, downplaying it as “merely a large place” rather than a big city. The region has since restyled itself “The Third Coast,” with Chicago as its hub, powered by higher education, creativity, and the arts, instead of steel mills and slaughterhouses.

Out of this environment came Third Coast Percussion, four young players who were all students at Northwestern University in 2005. Their first gigs had been educational concerts in Chicago’s public schools and city colleges, but they soon branched out with public performances on their own, many in small neighborhood bars and nightclubs.

Now Third Coast is one of the hottest classical music groups in the world, hailed as “commandingly elegant” by The New York Times and “absolute masters of the art,” by BBC Music Magazine.

The quartet of Sean Connors, Robert Dillon, Peter Martin, and David Skidmore makes its Santa Fe debut on Tuesday, Oct. 1, under the auspices of Performance Santa Fe. Their program includes music by Philip Glass (Perpetulum, a co-commission by PSF and Third Coast), Augusta Read Thomas, Mark Applebaum, and Devonté Hynes (better known to you contemporary R&B fans as Blood Orange), along with four of their own compositions.

Third Coast doesn’t travel light when they’re on tour. The instruments they’re bringing to Santa Fe from performances in Italy and England include marimbas, Thai gongs, tuned cowbells, metal pipes, wood slats (all cut from highly sustainable red oak), drums of various shapes and sizes, crotales (small cymbals tuned to specific pitches), vibraphones, Chinese cymbals, and 26 prayer bowls. Plus mallets and sticks. Lots and lots of mallets and sticks.

Collaboration in many different guises is a hallmark of almost every Third Coast project…

Of profound impact is a 2011 commission to Chicago-based composer Augusta Read Thomas for Resounding Earth, one movement of which is planned for the Third Coast performance here. “She was a mentor to us when we were at Northwestern,” recalls Dillon, “and her career has shot ahead so fast. This was her first work for us, and she wanted something that would really be a stretch, so we decided on a big piece just for bells. We spent hours and hours together over the course of a year trying out different kinds of bells and beaters and mallets, then workshopping different sections of music before it was finalized.

“The whole piece requires more than 300 bells and bell-like instruments; in Santa Fe, we’re performing the second movement, which is called ‘Prayer – Star Dust Orbits’ and makes use of 26 chromatically tuned prayer bowls. They can be struck or stirred, and a hummed pitch emerges. It’s very meditative and ethereal and fills the room with this magical sound. It’s not at all what people think a percussion concert will be like.”

“The whole process with Augusta was so transformative that we now insist on a collaborative process with a workshopping experience with all our commissions.” Even with Philip Glass, one of the deans of American music, for Perpetulum? “Yes,” Dillon says, laughing. “We had lots of Skype time with Philip and sent audio files back and forth all the time as we were trying things out.”

Click here to read the full article.