John Cage spent part of 1934 studying privately with pioneering serialist composer Arnold Schoenberg in Los Angeles, during which time his mentor suggested that Cage would never be able to write music because he lacked a feeling for harmony. Luckily Cage kept at it for the next six decades—and in the years immediately following that discouraging advice, he wrote works for percussion that rank among his greatest, a resounding rejection of harmony’s primary role in composition. His inspirations at the time included the opportunity to write for dance troupes and his job as an assistant to animator Oskar Fischinger, who Cage says told him, “Everything in the world has its own spirit which can be released by setting it into vibration.” Cage’s Quartet (1935) didn’t specify instruments; when he conceived it he had household objects in mind, and the objects he set into vibration included chairs, books, brake drums, and pots and pans. Imaginative Chicago group Third Coast Percussion has contributed to the Cage centennial celebration with a terrific new CD, The Works for Percussion 2 (Mode), which includes vibrant readings of most of Cage’s percussion work from between 1935 and ’41.
“They play as if they’re a single, eight-armed organism”
“Virtuosity and deft, precisely timed wit”
-New York Times
-Alex Ross, The New Yorker
“An inspirational sense of fun and curiosity”
“The group performed with absolute aplomb”
“Mysterious, funny, endlessly inventive”
-Boston Classical Review
“Technical precision, palpable groove and outstanding sound”
-Time Out New York
-New York Times
“Savvy and hyper-talented young percussionists”
“Fluency and zest”
-Andrew Clements, the Guardian (UK)
“Undeniably groovy…masterfully performed”
-Time Out Chicago
“One of the country’s finest new music ensembles”
“The musicality and fierce focus of Third Coast Percussion electrified the room.”
Reviews and Features
August 14, 2012
by Angela Sutton
Third Coast Percussion dodged the raindrops at MoMA on Thursday night, presenting a mostly John Cage concert in honor of the composer’s centenary and his 1943 MoMA percussion program.
July 19, 2012
by Andrew Clements
This is the 45th release in Mode’s John Cage series, and the second to be devoted to his works for percussion.
June 29, 2012
by John Terauds
William Walton, Dmitri Shostakovich and Samuel Barber wrote pieces 70 years ago that are now part of the classical canon. While mainstream audiences still look away in anxiety when anyone mentions the name of John Cage, a new wave of savvy and hyper-talented young percussionists may be able to change fear to love (or at least respect).
August 13, 2012
by Steven Thrasher
Third Coast Percussion
MoMA Sculpture Garden
Thursday, August 9
Better than: Watching almost any contemporary DJ, since Cage was mixing vinyl and live radio with live performance before World War II.
Some 69 years ago in 1943 (more than a decade before the first issue of the Village Voice was published), a 30-year-old composer named John Cage made his debut at the Museum of Modern Art. What he presented, some wrote at the time, was described more as “noise” than as “music,” but that may not have bothered him too much.
June 21, 2012
by Doyle Armbrust
The Works for Percussion 2 reminds us just how undeniably groovy John Cage’s percussion canon can be. In “Third Construction,” 3CP moves beyond precision to nimbly demonstrate the mesmerizing quality of Cage’s rotating rhythmic structure. David Skidmore breaks into an ecstatic, double-fisted kashishi breakdown, as Peter Martin shoots blasts from a conch shell.
July 26, 2012
by Andrew Sigler
Third Coast Percussion’s performance at Bates Concert Hall featured works by Reich and Cage, as well as two pieces written by the performers. Fractalia by TCP member Owen Clayton Condon was a perfect piece to start the show; a short, inviting amuse bouche to whet the appetite. Moto perpetuo figures echoed between marimbas, these figures complimented and set off by occasional accents on toms. The Condon was followed by Reich’s Mallet Quartet, which started off with many of the classic Reich tropes but showed some newer ideas in the second movement. Asymmetrical phrases populated symmetrical sections featuring two marimbas playing four bars figures followed by two vibraphones playing 16 bars, the entire form repeated several times. There was something of a music box texture in the vibes as their chords rang out above large structures in the bass register of the marimba, the latter sounding like strummed guitar chords. On the surface, Third Construction by Cage has a number of features that mark it as a precedent to groups like Stomp and Blue Man Group, whose bread and butter stems largely from creating compelling rhythmic constructions from unorthodox sources. continue reading
July 10, 2012
by Alexandra Gardner
John Cage’s centennial year has resulted in a gaggle of new recordings, multimedia offerings à la 4’33″, as well as festivals and events around the country. Whether or not one embraces wholeheartedly Cage’s later integration of chance procedures and conceptual thought into his works, there is no denying that some of his most compelling music is the early compositions for percussion, which provide a wealth of insight into the composer’s internal musical landscape. At the time these pieces were created, his sonic palette, which consisted of pretty much everything and the kitchen sink, was somewhat revolutionary, though it has now become a common language for percussionists. The Chicago-based ensemble Third Coast Percussion has released a new CD and separate surround sound DVD on Mode (available either individually or together) of six early percussion works that will perk up the ears (and eyes, if you choose to include the DVD) of anyone even remotely interested in percussion music performance and/or John Cage.
It’s boom time for Cage fans – barely a month goes by without another album confirming his status as surely the most underrated composer of the 20th century.
August 23, 2011
by Wynne Delacoma
The occasion may have been a 75th birthday celebration for American composer Steve Reich, but the atmosphere Monday night at the Pritzker Pavilion was remarkably youthful.
With its relentless pulse and short, obsessively repeated melodies, Reich’s music bristles with energy, and two young Chicago-based groups — eighth blackbird and Third Coast Percussion — along with some talented friends, plunged into its flow with high-octane drive.