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

Performance review: The Bell Ringers

September 20, 2019
by Jillian DeGroot

“The Bell Ringers allowed audience members to comfortably interact and talk,provided room for participation without pressure, and…made space for curiosity and discovery in a welcoming, community-building environment.”

On September 9, 2019, composer and arts educator Danny Clay teamed up with Third Coast Percussion for the premiere of The Bell Ringers, an evening-length participatory work on the great lawn of Chicago’s Millennium Park–transforming the soundscape of the city through Clay’s use of “play” alongside performers from a wide range of experiences and backgrounds.

Green flags and snare drums encircled the lawn. A giant golden bell sat in the center. Early arrivals were already camped out in lawn chairs. Park security bustled across the grass with chattering radios. A toddler voraciously ran up to a snare and gave it a good bum-bum-bum-bum before a security guard shooed him away. Those nimble enough couldn’t help letting a cartwheel or two loose on a rare pleasant, humidity-free evening in Chicago. In the distance, Third Coast Percussion organized a crowd of performers with a bullhorn.

It wasn’t long before Robert Dillon welcomed spectators to a “unique musical universe.” Then, a slew of instrumentalists entered the lawn in one giant follow-the-leader line. One-by-one they followed David Skidmore, in step and pace, at the sound of a beating woodblock and long swelling sustains. When they finally reached the giant, golden bell, the leader gave the bell three majestic tolls with a large rubber mallet.

The lawn was then filled with a quiet peppering of single notes and tinkerings of small call bells. Some audience members smiled, others laughed. Toddlers chased, leaped, and squealed. A melodica player, Sean Connors, crouched down to play a few notes to an enthralled tot who was enjoying a snack on a picnic blanket.

Clay’s playfulness was contagious, and audience members began to catch on to games happening across the lawn. Follow the leader! An elderly participant took a turn leading a violinist, taking giant leaping strides. Another person skipped through the grass, melodica player in sue. Another person did bunny hops leading a clarinetist. All sorts of participants, with behinds unwittingly wet from the grass, decided to join in.

The crowd dispersed as members broke off into mini groups–playing games with single notes, tremolos, sustains, claps, little call bell dings, and body gestures. People met, talked, shared, and played. Some brave participants even sang in harmony. A rising melodic line from the instrumentalists grew louder. Participants with colorful call bells gathered around the giant bell. The little bells rang rapidly, crescendoing in a thunder before three loud tolls called out. Finally, in a surprise twist, the participants revealed hand bells, twinkling them together in a gesture of unity amongst members in this miniature musical community.

The willingness of strangers, young and old, to get up and participate with uninhibited enthusiasm and creativity was captivating. The Bell Ringers celebrated music for music’s sake, play for play’s sake. What Clay demonstrated is the ability of total strangers to collaborate without words or expertise, but with eyes, ears, bodies, and intention. The Bell Ringers allowed audience members to comfortably interact and talk without the restrictive confines of concert etiquette, provided room for participation without pressure, and most importantly, made space for curiosity and discovery in a welcoming, community-building environment.

After an entire evening spent making music together, the moon shone above Chicago. The Bell Ringers closed with a bed of shifting, harmonizing “ahs,” long and slow; the summer cicadas sang along, too.

Read the full article here.

 


Album review: Philippe Manoury’s Book of Keyboards, Third Coast Percussion’s Masterful Rendition

September 15, 2019
by Allan J. Cronin

“Third Coast handles this work, as they do with all they approach, with thought and virtuosity.”  

Philippe Manoury (1952- ) is a French composer who worked at IRCAM and is professor emeritus at UCSD.  Knowing just these facts I must admit that I let this one languish a bit before giving it a good listen.  I was just not ready for some obtuse Boulez-oriented complexity.  But Manoury is nothing if not original and even if his music has complexities it does not fail to communicate very well to the listener.  My apologies to Third Coast Percussion and the ever interesting New Focus recordings for the delay now that I’ve put my fears to rest and given the music a chance.

There are two works on this disc, Le livre des claviers, Six pieces for 6 percussionists (1987) and Métal for sixxens sextett (1995).  The first piece, which translates as, “Book of Keyboards” invites connotations of monolithic masterpieces such as Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier, Boulez’ Livre pour Quatuor, or any of a number of pieces with such aspirations that have the word “book/livre” in the title. The second piece is strikingly similar in sound to the first and is a fitting companion on the recording.

Indeed the 6 movement Livres is a monumental work but its aspirations are to produce a lovely and complex set of pieces for percussion sextet.  Third Coast handles this work, as they do with all they approach, with thought and virtuosity.  This is not a grandiose attempt to create a landmark of western music but rather to add to the oeuvre.  The same can be said for the later work which follows it.

While Manoury has worked with electronics and computers, none of that is in evidence here.  This is purely acoustic, just six virtuoso percussionists and the music is well crafted and shows off the composer’s inventiveness as well as giving these fine young musicians something to show off their considerable skills.  It is absolute music (ie music for the sake of music) and if there are metaphorical aspects they are not immediately evident.

Doubtless there are complexities here, most of which lay beyond the ken of the average listener (your humble reviewer included) but the joys of the sounds and the lucidity of the writing make for an enjoyable experience.  It’s not the minimalism of Philip Glass, nor the complexities of Boulez, nor the dissonances of Xenakis.  This is intelligent, approachable chamber music that will speak to the listener who allows it to unfold.

The first piece has six movements which are named simply for the instruments called for in the score:

  1. 6 Thai Gongs and 2 Marimbas
  2. Marimba Duo
  3. Sixxen
  4. Vibraphone solo
  5. 6 Thai Gongs and 2 Marimbas
  6. Sixxen

As you can see, not all six percussionists are kept equally busy throughout.  Each movement seems to have its own character and probably a great deal of  complexity which will entertain and perhaps frustrate musicologists.  All in all a very entertaining work.

The second work coming in at just over 22 minutes is cast in a single movement and has a more pensive quality.  It does require attention and, like all good music, reveals more on repeated listens.

The recording is, as always with New Focus, lucid and complementary.  This recording also serves to demonstrate the incredible range of this rapidly rising star in the percussion players universe.

Be not afraid, this is great stuff.

Read the original review here.


TCP included on Donnacha Dennehy’s “Surface Tension/Disposable Dissonance”

Congratulations to our good friend and long-time collaborator Donnacha Dennehy on the release of this fantastic album from New Amsterdam Records: Surface Tension/Disposable Dissonance. We were honored to record Donnacha’s Surface Tension, written for us back in 2015, and to share an album with the amazing Crash Ensemble.


September 2019
by Liam Cagney

“Third Coast Percussion produce a winning display full of dynamism and sensitivity.”

Donnacha Dennehy’s arrival as a composer in the late 1990s heralded what was dubbed the new Irish classical. Often performed by the amplified Crash Ensemble (which he co-founded), Dennehy’s music injected welcome verve, grit and streetwiseness into the Irish classical scene. As a teacher at Trinity College Dublin, Dennehy had a lasting influence in the early years of the new millennium on the youngest generation of Irish composers. Now based in the US, Dennehy in some of his recent music has shifted more towards the centre ground, but these two works hearken back more to that early edginess.

In Surface Tension (2015), inspired by the Irish bodhrán drum, Dennehy explores glissandos on the drumskin’s surface. A pulsating texture of continuous semiquavers on tom-tom gradually rises and falls in pitch, with strikes on other drums cutting through the texture. After a while, a marimba joins in; later, a bowed vibraphone carves out a shimmering tonal centre. Dennehy’s characteristic mélange of post-minimalist rhythm with light spectralist harmony evokes a ‘journey’ experience. Works for percussion can sometimes suffer on disc, the music’s dramatic charge when witnessed live being hard to replicate on a recording. Here, though, Third Coast Percussion produce a winning display full of dynamism and sensitivity.

The three sections of Disposable Dissonance (2012), linked in a continuous texture, explore different types of dissonance. The opening section is a waterfall of polyphony cascading around a minor-key centre. Its harmonic character reminds me of Philip Glass, albeit with individual melodic lines subsumed within the overall ensemble polyphony. Accordion and glockenspiel occasionally come through with splashes of colour. The second and third sections are more interesting. Polyrhythms, stratifications and syncopations are employed alongside harmonic dissonance and modulation to create ambiguity and tension; electric guitar and clarinet have brief moments in the spotlight; before eventually we end back in the relative stability of the opening material. As always, the Crash Ensemble shine in this material.

Read the original article here.


Chicago’s Third Coast Percussion to release new album ‘Fields’ in collaboration with Blood Orange’s Dev Hynes

August 23, 2019
by Jessi Roti

“Seeing what Third Coast Percussion had done with these pieces was magical.” – Devonté Hynes

Singer-songwriter Dev Hynes has become one of the millennial generation’s most influential, artistic Renaissance men. From his own efforts as Lightspeed Champion and later Blood Orange, his hipster-approved, synth-pop/R&B outfit known for songs such as “Champagne Coast” and “Augustine,” to writing and producing for artists like Solange, Sky Ferreira, Carly Rae Jepsen and numerous others, forays into ballet, film and modernist art — Hynes has shown time and again that his creative interests and musical acumen cannot be contained.

But would you think the performer was going to follow-up 2018′s massively compelling “Negro Swan” and this year’s “Angel’s Pulse” mixtape with an album of classical music?

Hynes is doing it in collaboration with Chicago-based Third Coast Percussion. The ensemble, best known as the ensemble-in-residence at the University of Notre Dame and for its educational initiatives, won the Grammy Award for “Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance” in 2017.

From start to finish, [TCP member Robert] Dillon says the recording process took about three months — early spring through late summer/early fall of last year. Hynes composed the pieces in a Digital Audio Workshop and sequenced the music using whatever sounds “were in his ears,” Dillon says. He’d send the recordings to TCP, and they make choices on which sounds could translate to their instruments and what sounds they can recreate in others ways.

Of each work’s evolution through the back-and-forth, Hynes is quoted in the album’s press release as saying, “This was the first time I’ve written music that I’ve never played, and I love that. It’s something I’ve always been striving to get to. Seeing what Third Coast Percussion had done with these pieces was magical.”

“He was open and into the collaboration process from the very beginning,” Dillon continues. “The first time we started sending him real recordings of stuff, it was like ‘Ok this is gonna work out really well.’ He sent really nice, supportive feedback. I think, before, he was sort of unsure of what to expect exactly. But I think at that moment, he was even more trusting and really excited about where it was going.”

Now that “Fields” will see a proper audio release, Third Coast Percussion is hoping the collaboration will introduce a “new mold” to the classical music genre. In a world where composers write and musicians simply play what’s put in front of them, the outfit hopes to inspire a more collaborative approach within the genre and break what Dillon calls “misconceptions” around composition and creativity.

“We’re very optimistic that this will open-up new interest — especially younger people, but a wide-range of people — in concert music more generally. We’re really excited to sort of open up a different model within this project that provides new possibilities.

There’s the idea that ‘only specific people can be composers.’ I think a lot of performers find that intimidating — to compose or be involved the creative process. We feel that’s not the way it should be,” he explains.

“Music education doesn’t always encourage people to pursue composition as part of their musical training and understanding, and that’s something we emphasize in all of our education work. Just trying to find opportunities for students at any level to be creative, start trying something. There’s no reason any person can’t just do it.”

Though there are no live performances of “Fields” scheduled specifically, the ensemble has regularly performed songs featured in “For All Its Fury” (also touring with the Hubbard Street production through February/March of 2019) as well as “Perfectly Voiceless” — which was originally a musical interlude.

“We’re very excited by how this all came out,” Dillon adds, “and it’s only possible because of a broader view of composition and creativity that, we think, the classical music world should just embrace more.”

Click here to read the full feature article.


The Fader: “Fields” Album Announcement

August 20, 2019
by Alex Robert Ross

Blood Orange announces classical LP Fields

The album is due out on October 11 via the Chicago-based classical label, Cedille.

Dev Hynes, the London-born musician better known as Blood Orange, has announced his first classical music album. Fields— written by Hynes, arranged and performed by the Chicago ensemble Third Coast Percussion — is due out October 11 on Cedille.

“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.”


Pitchfork: Devonté Hynes Album Announcement

August 20, 2019
by Matthew Strauss

Blood Orange Announces New Classical Music Album Fields

Chicago’s Third Coast Percussion perform Devonté Hynes’ classical compositions

Devonté Hynes (aka Blood Orange) is releasing his first album of classical music compositions. The collection is called Fields and it’s performed by the Chicago-based ensemble Third Coast Percussion. It’s out October 11 via Cedille. Check out the tracklist and album cover below.

Fields consists of a suite called “For All Its Fury” (the first 11 tracks of the album), followed by compositions titled “Perfectly Voiceless” and “There Was Nothing.” Hynes composed all the music in a Digital Audio Workstation and then sent the recordings and sheet music to the members of Third Coast Percussion who arranged and orchestrated them for their own instruments.

“This was the first time I’ve written music that I’ve never played, and I love that,” Dev 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.”

Earlier this year, Hynes released the Blood Orange mixtape Angel’s Pulse.

Fields:

01 Reach
02 Blur
03 Coil
04 Wane
05 Curl
06 Hush
07 Gather
08 Tremble
09 Cradle
10 Press
11 Fields
12 Perfectly Voiceless
13 There Was Nothing


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.