Press Materials

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Praise

“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

“Vibrant…superb”
-Alex Ross, The New Yorker

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

“The group performed with absolute aplomb”
-Boston Globe

“Marvelous”
-Chicago Tribune

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

“Brilliant”
-Independent (UK)

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

“Hard-grooving”
-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

Album review: Perpetulum

August 10, 2019
by Graham Rickson

“a beautifully produced and stunningly engineered double album”

Think minimalism and you think tuned percussion, though Philip Glass’s Perpetulum is actually his first work specifically written for percussion ensemble. Beginning with several minutes of unpitched shakes and rattles, it’s hugely enjoyable, confirming my suspicion that Glass is at his best when writing on a small scale. Who’d have thought that percussion music could be so expressive and emotionally involving, Perpetulum upbeat and menacing by turns. There’s a mind-bending cadenza; how can this much noise be generated by just four players? Glass’s chord progressions are naively simple at times, though they’ve an extra sharpness and oomph when delivered on marimba and xylophone. The work’s soft fade is enchanting, and phenomenally played. Gavin Bryars’ The Other Side of the River is a rhapsodic treat, the occasionally cheesy themes deliciously incongruous played on tuned percussion. This is a beautifully produced and stunningly engineered double album, though disappointingly short on actual information about the pieces played.

Three other pieces are composed by members of Third Coast Percussion. Longest is David Skidmore’s seven-movement Aliens with Extraordinary Abilities. Skidmore makes entertaining use of supplementary electronics, and it’s a surprise to hear a drum kit bashing away in the second section. Peter Martin’s Bend features what sounds like bowed percussion, making the instruments breathe. And Robert Dillon’s Ordering-Instincts explores the full gamut of what a percussion ensemble can do, its deep basso rumblings set alongside high taps and scrapes. I’ve no idea what any of these titles mean, but no matter. Each work is impressive, though the same group’s last album Paddle to the Sea makes for a more involving introduction to these players’ abilities.


The origins of Christopher Cerrone’s music

We can’t wait to be back at the Britt Festival in Southern Oregon later this month! We will be performing Chris Cerrone’s new concerto for percussion quartet and orchestra, “Meander, Spiral, Explode”, written for us last season. Check out this fantastic interview with Chris, about the origins of the piece, his compositional influences, and even his “suburban angst” rock band phase.


July 8, 2019
by Evalyn Hansen

Composer Christopher Cerrone’s percussion quartet concerto, “Meander, Spiral, Explode,” will be performed with Third Coast Percussion at the opening concert of the Britt Festival Orchestra season, which runs July 26 to Aug. 11.

I chatted recently with Cerrone about the origins of his music.

CC: I think I’ve had music coursing through my veins as long as I can remember. My mother told me a story of her giving me a 45 rpm record player. And I used to listen to the same Lionel Richie song over and over again. That was in about 1986, when I was 2 years old.
I’ve studied all kinds of music. I initially studied classical piano. Then, as I got older, I learned electric guitar, which was a very suburban angst thing to do — to be in a rock band. Then I learned jazz piano. And then I eventually came back to classical music. I became interested in orchestral music, playing the double bass in my high school orchestra. At the same time, I began dreaming of composing.

EH: Is there a genre or a name for the type of music you compose?

CC: A term that is encapsulating for a lot of composers of my generation is indie-classical. It is a music that has connection to pop music and to classical music. For lack of a better term, I’ll take it.

There are the elements of repetition, and groove, and rhythmic sway, and a lot of syncopation. The syncopation came right out of jazz and found its way into rock music. All of that comes from popular music, much more than classical music.
It’s not so much in the style of the music, but certainly in its production values, the way the music is recorded. When I record my music, I work with rock engineers. That’s part of the notion of immersion, that music surrounds you.

What is amazing about classical music is that it lives on because it absorbs music from all over the world. You think about tympani originally coming from Turkish music. There was a Turkish craze in Vienna, and they loved the tympani; and suddenly you had it in the orchestra.

The power of writing a piece for percussion is you take something so basic and broad: The piece opens with people playing on pieces of wood that were literally bought at Home Depot. And it creates a magical experience to see something so basic grow to something so large and powerful. What is at the emotional core of my piece is: The thing that most anyone could do, on the basic level, is expanded out and extrapolated out to work for orchestra, which most people could not do.

I write a lot of percussion music and vocal music. Those are the most primary forms of music. If you go back to the Stone Age, you had people hitting things, and you had people singing. Even as we have the symphony orchestra now, to connect music to its roots seems very important to me.

I like art that feels like a conversation. I want my music to be a conversation, not a lecture. I try to make my music evolve clearly and structurally, so that the audience can understand it.

Composers are reliant upon performers to be their mediums. One of my favorite things about the new concerto that will be heard at Britt is: There is a moment in the video where one of the performers is smiling: he’s just so happy. That gives me a tremendous amount of joy.

Christopher Cerrone’s percussion quartet concerto will be performed at 8 p.m., Friday, July 26. For tickets and information, see www.brittfest.org or call 541-773-6077.


Track Premiere: Donnacha Dennehy’s Surface Tension Performed by TCP

June 20, 2019

We are stoked to be included on Donnacha Dennehy’s newest album, Surface Tension/Disposable Dissonance! Read about—and listen to!—our track, Surface Tension, which Donnacha wrote for us back in 2016. The album is available on June 28, but you can listen to the track now! Congratulations, Donnacha!


Today, we are premiering Donnacha Dennehy‘s Surface Tension performed by Third Coast Percussion!

Surface Tension is one of two eponymous tracks from Dennehy’s upcoming New Amsterdam Records release: Surface Tension / Disposable DissonanceDisposable Dissonance features the Dublin-based Crash Ensemble, founded in 1997 by Dennehy and now recognized as one of Ireland’s leading contemporary music ensembles.

Surface Tension calls on the nuance and expertise of Third Coast Percussion, the Chicago-based percussion quartet whose portrait album of Steve Reich won the 2017 GRAMMY award for Best Chamber Music/ Small Ensemble Performance.

Here’s what Donnacha had to say about Surface Tension:

Surface Tension is a pretty intense, sweeping one-movement piece that I wrote for the wonderful Third Coast Percussion group. From the word go, I had a sonic image in mind of a large pulsating, shifting pitch world. Working together with Third Coast, I discovered from them that one could change the tension of the drumheads of tom-tom drums by attaching plastic piping into a hole on the side and blowing into the drum to tighten the skin of the head, thus raising the pitch.  In developing the piece, I even wrote breathing exercises for the group–happily they were game. This alternate tightening and slackening of the drumheads became the modus operandi of the piece–by using this method, I was able to gradually build pitch centers and travel between them.

Surface Tension / Disposable Dissonance is out June 28, 2019 on New Amsterdam records, but you can pre-order the album here.

Click here to read the original article and listen to Surface Tension.


Album review: Perpetulum

July 2019 edition
by Geoff Brown

Lovers of vibraphones and marimbas will relish this percussion fiesta from the famous Chicago group Third Coast Percussion. Drum aficionados won’t miss out, either. And Philip Glass fans will surely pounce on the title piece, a Third Coast commission, and the 82-year-old master’s long-delayed percussion debut, written last year. Perpetulum is a fidgety piece, content for a time to test sonorities rather than make obvious music. Then three minutes in, Glass gets up to speed: rhythms hiccup, perky melodies come and go while various drums tap out those rat-tat-tat patterns that seem to herald a brilliant display by high school majorettes. Spread in patches over 21 minutes, with a throbbing ‘cadenza’ devised by the performers, it’s all childlike fun. Gavin Bryars’s The Other Side of the River, another Third Coast commission, equally idiosyncratic, is surely a sturdier achievement: lyrical and mysterious, a victory for complex textures and vibrating tones, cunningly sustained.

Of the other pieces, separately composed by three of the group’s four players, Skidmore’s Aliens with Extraordinary Abilities offers enjoyable hammering, though I don’t know who the aliens are or why it lasts 34 minutes. In contrast, Martin’s BEND and Dillon’s more fragmentary Ordering-instincts state their case pleasantly, then leave. But whatever the length, and whether the music is shallow or deep, one delight never wavers: the thrill of percussion instruments most succulently recorded, enthusiastically hit and lovingly stroked by absolute masters of the art.


Album review: Perpetulum

May 31, 2019
by James Manheim

“…breaks new ground in several respects…”

“…delightful…”

“The entire album is absorbing and often fun”

This release from Third Coast Percussion, on Philip Glass‘ Orange Mountain Music label, breaks new ground in several respects, which is no mean feat for its seemingly indestructible, octogenarian principal. The big news is that Glass himself, after all these years, contributes Perpetulum, a piece for percussion ensemble that is apparently his first one ever. This may seem strange for a composer for whom the rhythmic element has always been prominent, but here the relationship between rhythm and tonality is different, and the ensemble seems to draw forth a new kind of humor from Glass. It’s delightful; sample the first movement, and you may well be entranced. The other new development here, is that Glass has reached what might be termed a second generation of influence; the rest of the music on the album, some of it by members of Third Coast Percussion, reflects the work of composers who have taken Glass’ ideas, and developed them in new directions. The standout is David Skidmore‘s Aliens with Extraordinary Abilities, which takes up the first CD, consisting of seven movements with amusing titles. Each one explores a different texture and rhythmic configuration. Gavin Bryars‘ The Other Side of the River, which closes the program, is a minimalist work with large sectional contrasts. Peter Martin and Robert Dillon each contribute a shorter piece, with titles that indicate their structural procedures. The entire album is absorbing and often fun, and never dull. Highly recommended for those interested in minimalism.

Read the original article here.


Album review: Perpetulum

May 31, 2019
by Rick Anderson

“Third Coast Percussion is responsible for some of the most interesting and exciting recordings of the past few years.”

“…a glorious variety of styles and sounds…”

Third Coast Percussion is responsible for some of the most interesting and exciting recordings of the past few years. Those who hear “percussion” and think “drums and woodblocks and gongs” need to understand that TCP’s primary instruments are mallet keyboards and other tuned instruments, which means that most of what you hear when they’re playing is melody and harmony, not just rhythm. And on their latest album, a two-disc collection of works by TCP’s members as well as by Gavin Bryars and Philip Glass (whose Perpetulum was commissioned for the group) you’ll hear a glorious variety of styles and sounds, perhaps the most consistently enjoyable of them being David Skidmore’s Aliens with Extraordinary Abilities.

Read the original article here.


CD review: Third Coast Percussion’s “Perpetulum” showcases percussionists with extraordinary abilities

May 30, 2019
by Olivia Kieffer

“a powerhouse of a recording”

“…virtuosic performances by the ensemble throughout.”

“they certainly do have extraordinary abilities”

 

On March 29, 2019, Chicago-based quartet Third Coast Percussion released their newest album, Perpetulum. This is a powerhouse of a recording, with virtuosic performances by the ensemble throughout. It is certainly a “percussionist’s percussion album,” though anyone with an open ear for never-ending rhythms and percussive timbres can appreciate it. Those who are well-familiar with the standard Western percussion ensemble repertoire may enjoy the secret musical “throwback” gems peppered throughout the record. The title track comes from their much-anticipated Philip Glass commission, which is Glass’s first composition for percussion ensemble.

This 2-disc set includes two works commissioned by the ensemble (“Perpetulum” by Philip Glass and “The Other Side of the River” by Gavin Bryars), and three compositions by members of the ensemble: David Skidmore’s “Aliens With Extraordinary Abilities,” “Ordering-instincts” by Robert Dillon, and Peter Martin’s “BEND.” For an ensemble that has been together for just over a decade, this is a prolifically recorded group;. “Perpetulum” is their ninth original album, and they are featured as performers on a further seven albums.

The entirety of Disc 1 is David Skidmore’s 35-minute, seven-movement electro-acoustic piece “Aliens With Extraordinary Abilities.” If I could encapsulate Skidmore’s piece with one word, it would be “relentless.” A thread that runs throughout the piece is the feeling of motion within stasis, and stasis within motion. This is helped in part with an often-appearing washy electronic landscape in the backing track, with frenetic mallet virtuosity in the foreground.

A full sit-down listen of Skidmore’s “Aliens” will leave one emotionally and mentally wiped out. Its frenetic athleticism goes hand-in-hand with the one thing that can be said about Third Coast: they certainly do have extraordinary abilities.

The best piece on the album is also one of the shortest. Disc 2 opens with Peter Martin’s “BEND” a quartet for two marimbas. Martin makes effective use of anything but hitting the bars with a mallet (though there is plenty of that, too!). He employs dead strokes, the sides and back ends of the mallets struck and rubbed on various parts of the bars, and an extensive middle section where the players bow the bars, which sounds just like electronics. The music plays with resonance, dynamic, and textural transitions in a way that most keyboard percussion does not. The pop/fusion chords that appear and reappear are reminiscent of Daniel Levitan’s “Marimba Quartet” and “Sculpture in Wood” by Rudiger Pawassar.

Martin drew his inspiration for this piece from the player piano compositions of Bruce Goff, an architect and amateur composer. “BEND” is a masterful composition for marimbas – captivating and joyful, with a fresh musical language throughout that surprises and delights.

Second on Disc 2 is Philip Glass’s “Perpetulum,” a quartet in four continuous movements. When I first heard that Third Coast had commissioned Glass to write a percussion quartet, my anticipation was high. When I finally got to hear the recording, it was in my car, on the long drive from Milwaukee to Cleveland. I listened again many times, in different settings over the past month. What caused me to keep returning to the piece was not the sense of euphoria that normally accompanies hearing new music by one of my favorite composers. Instead I was blindsided with both bewilderment and disappointment, not by the performance (which is outstanding!), but by the music itself.

Part 1 starts with a big throwback to early Western percussion ensemble music: not only the instruments used are of that era (sistrum or tambourine, bongos, tom-toms, woodblocks of various sizes, snare drum), but the use of simple rhythmic motifs, played in unison or in pairs. It reminds me of “Canticle No. 1” by Lou Harrison. A sort of Caribbean mallet theme is presented, that reappears in variation throughout the work. Part 2 features a minor-ish melody followed by an extended march for unpitched percussion, which stretches for too long.

Next is the cadenza, which Third Coast members wrote, and is absolutely marvelous! It’s fun, as if 1980’s Philip Glass and David Skidmore got together for lunch, had too many Red Bulls, and decided to start a band. Part 3 is a creative yet lackluster combination of material from the previous movements. The thing is, overall the piece is kind of fun, and Glass, as always, proves himself a master of form. However, it’s a good 10 minutes too long, and could do without the second Part altogether.

In “Ordering-instincts” by Robert Dillon, the four percussionists share wooden planks, crotales, and tom-toms. The planks are used very melodically, but without specific pitches, and the crotales are used in the same way. …  It’s a well-crafted piece of music, with never a boring moment.

Last on the album is Gavin Bryars’ “The Other Side of the River,” a powerful and mesmerizing piece for marimbas, tuned gongs, and woods. It’s very long, clocking in at 21 minutes. … Bryars is a virtuoso of beauty. His music never fails to move the listener, and “The Other Side of the River” is no exception.

Read the full review here.


Album review: Perpetulum

May 22, 2019 (June issue)
by Guy Rickards

“glisteningly impressive”

“This is a hugely enjoyable set, intelligently programmed, brilliantly performed and closely recorded.”

Philip Glass gets top billing here, unsurprisingly I suppose, for — astonishingly — his first work for percussion ensemble, the four-player Perpetulum (2018). Written for Third Coast Percussion, it is a virtuoso and entertaining showpiece in three parts with a brief cadenza prefacing the finale. Its momentum is not really that of a conventional perpetuum mobile, though there are elements of that at times, particularly in the toccata-like second part. Although there are gentler moments as well, Perpetulum’s busy discourse rarely rises to more elevated heights.

If Perpetulum is not the most exciting work here, there are others that fit the bill, not least the concluding work on disc 2, Gavin Bryars’s The Other Side of the River (2016), also written for Third Coast Percussion. It is a glisteningly impressive single-span fantastia for the four players, serene and mesmeric in equal measure. By contrast, David Skidmore’s Aliens with Extraordinary Abilities (2016) — the sole work on the 35-minute first disc — is a seven-movement suite of enormous diversity, ranging across minimalist euphony, modern-jazz like riffs, some discreet electronic manipulation and, in the brief finale, a not dissimilar quietude to Bryars’s. It is the longest and most invigorating work of the five and the most immediate in impact.

It is curious that the booklet accompanying the two discs only discusses Glass’s piece, and makes a mere passing reference to the Bryars. I would have liked to know more of the inspiration behind the pieces by Skidmore, Peter Martin, and Robert Dillon. As they are all members of Third Coast Percussion, is their reticence attributed to misguided modesty? If so, one can but be thankful it did not translate also into the composition and execution of these exciting and nicely diverse pieces. If BEND by Martin and Dillon’s Ordering-instincts, both composed in 2014, are more modest creations, they fit very nicely between the larger compositions. This is a hugely enjoyable set, intelligently programmed, brilliantly performed and closely recorded. What a shame Sean Connors did not pen a companion piece to close the circle!


Review: Third Coast Percussion and the Civic Orchestra Premiered new Concerto Sunday Night

May 14, 2019
by Louis Harris

The front of the stage at Symphony Center was cluttered with marimbas, vibraphones, wood slabs, cymbals, crotales, and other gear as Chicago’s Third Coast Percussion opened the Civic Orchestra of Chicago’s concert Sunday night with the world premiere of Meander, Spiral, and Explode by Christopher Cerrone. It was the start of an excellent concert by the training orchestra that backs up the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. If one were to judge an orchestra based on the younger players waiting in the wings, the CSO is obviously top notch. Under the baton of Ken-David Masur, the Civic, as it usually does, delivered a delightful program on Sunday night and displayed a level proficiency worthy of the big leagues.

Naturally, given the stage set-up demands, the Grammy-Award winning quartet Third Coast Percussion went first. They were backed up by a smaller, 50-piece Civic ensemble that included a piano and a two-person percussion section, which made regular contributions. Christopher Cerrone based Meander, Spiral, and Explode on a book of the same title by Jane Allison. Over the past few years, TCP has premiered several works by Cerrone, who dedicated this new piece to them.

The work’s three movements correspond to the three words in the title. After TCP’s opening outburst on wood slats, Meander starts very quietly on the lower strings and picks up speed as is wanders through the orchestra. Throughout this and the other movements, the strings and winds sound a drone that shifts in volume and tempo, while TCP’s four members switch between wood slats, marimbas, vibraphones, cymbals, bells, and other objects played with mallets and bows. In Spiral, a rising tune emerges on the vibraphones, marimbas, and piano, while the whole thing speeds up. Explode explodes onto the scene with wood blocks and other sounds. During this movement, the violins expand the drone to two notes, as tempo shifts. The work ends abruptly, just as it began. All in all, Meander, Spiral, and Explode was had a wonderful effect and impact. It created an aural fabric that was both interesting and vivid.

Click here to continue reading.


Concert review: Cerrone’s “Meander, Spiral, Explode” with the Civic Orchestra

May 14, 2019
by Howard Reich

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s recently ended seven-week strike meant that the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, too, fell silent during that time.

Sunday evening’s performance in Orchestra Hall brought the young musicians back into the spotlight, and they seized it, opening with the world premiere of Christopher Cerrone’s “Meander, Spiral, Explode” for percussion quartet and orchestra.
Third Coast Percussion collaborated animatedly with the orchestra in the gripping work, its three movements unfolding without pause. Though subtlety was not this composition’s strong point, there was no resisting Third Coast Percussion’s telegraphic opening statements, which pulsed over a relentless orchestral crescendo. The hypnotic incantations of the second movement eventually gave way to a propulsive finale, Third Coast Percussion’s speed demons giving listeners a great deal to marvel at.

The program, sensitively conducted by Ken-David Masur, also included a solid performance of Debussy’s technically challenging “La Mer” and an emotionally open, youthful account of Schumann’s Symphony No. 1 (“Spring”).

Read the full review (including two other concerts) here.