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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

Album review: Perpetulum

April 4, 2019
by Kyle Land

“…as inventive and beautiful as music comes.”

When you are one of the premiere modern classical percussionist ensembles and the rockstar of modern composition wants to collaborate, you don’t say no. Third Coast Percussion is based out of Chicago, and the quartet of Sean Connors, Robert Dillon, Peter Martin, and David Skidmore have been entertaining music lovers of all types for fifteen years now. They have won Grammys, performed with many legends of modern classical and jazz, and now have had Philip Glass, (arguably the most gifted modern composer), write his first piece for percussion ensemble for them. The three-part composition includes a cadenza and is bookended with a piece by English composer Gavin Bryars, which TCP also commissioned, and an electro-acoustic work by Skidmore, with pieces by Dillon and Martin rounding out the hour and thirty minute opus. Perpetulum is a masterclass of the percussionist ensemble. ”Chamber music fan” does not have to be on your resume to enjoy this adventure for the soul. It is as inventive and beautiful as music comes.

See the original article here.

Album Review: Philip Glass Premiere from Third Coast Percussion

April 5, 2019
by Jason Victor Serinus

“Optimism, excitement, and inventiveness rule.”

Philip Glass (b. 1937) may not quite be a household name in America, but he’s surely as well-known as any living classical composer, and the repetitive minimalism that is the hallmark of his music has influenced everything from rock music to TV commercials. Still, after 5 decades of composing, it took a commission from Chicago-based Third Coast Percussion for Glass to write his first concerto for percussion ensemble, Perpetulum—”What took them so long to ask me?” Glass has said about the commission. TCP has just released the premiere recording of the 21:23 minute concerto on their new 2-CD set, Perpetulum (OM 0132), from Glass’s own label, Orange Mountain Music. The recording, which was engineered in 24/96, is also available as a download with those specifications.

Glass initially studied flute as a young student, but he also played in Baltimore Peabody Preparatory Conservatory’s percussion ensemble. Finally given the opportunity to return to instruments he played as a teenager, he seems to have approached the commission with the enthusiasm of an audiophile given the opportunity to revisit some of his favorite toys.

While a lot of Glass’ later career music is laced with depressive elements—he has often spoken of his despair at humanity’s current direction—”Perpetulum” is an upper, not a downer. As you experience its three parts, separated by a free-form cadenza that the four members of Third Coast Percussion created by invitation, it’s hard to escape the feeling that you’re listening to a composer going, “Wow, look what I can do with this drum, and now this instrument, and—oh boy—this one!” Forget about age; there’s an aura of youthful excitement and optimism here, and a definite penchant to create sweet little tunes, that I find irresistible.

Glass starts his concerto softly, varying percussive elements in a manner that emphasizes color and textural differences. The first of many songs emerges, and then one of many surprise shifts. The beat may remain steady, but dynamics transform from soft and delicate to, at the end of Part 1, a delightful surprise.

On your mark, get set, go! Unusual rhythms and cross-rhythms are the name of the game in Part 2 as repetitive patterns and sounds change frequently. Optimism, excitement, and inventiveness rule. Audiophiles with subwoofers or speakers with low bass extension are in for a treat.

Third Coast Percussion’s short Cadenza is fast-driven and non-stop. Replete with deep bass, it leads to a final Part 3 filled with fun, chimes, joy and beauty. Holy racket one minute, delightfully sweet the next, Glass’ “Perpetulum” ends with a smile.

Equally compelling are two other compositions, Gavin Bryars’ mysterious, otherworldly The Other Side of the River, and ensemble member Peter Martin’s BEND. Martin puts a priority on sweetness, harmony, and movement across a wide sound field. Vibrant and with a spiritual resonance sustained by marimba, BEND’s alternating sounds and surfaces captivate.

TCP member Robert Dillon’s shorter Ordering-instincts explores an adventurous sound world that exploits contrasts of wood, metal, and hide. Where it’s actually going, and what it’s trying to say on a deeper level, escaped me on first listen, but if you love energy for energy’s sake, prefer surfing to deep diving, and don’t mind metaphors that mix sky and sea, Dillon’s composition may be your Boeing to paradise.

All that is on CD 2. The first CD (for those who choose the physical product) is devoted to ensemble member David Skidmore’s seven-movement, 34:46 Aliens with Extraordinary Abilities. One thing is certain about these aliens: they may occasionally broadcast some strange sounds, but they’re doggedly determined not to let go and slow down. It’s an open question whether their ultimate goal is to wear you down with their unceasingly relentless energy.

During one segment, which sounded like the product of a rather ordinary post-adolescent consciousness, a listener well-known to me wrested control of the remote and fast-forwarded through movements titled “Don’t Eat Your Young” and “Things May Be Changing (But Probably Not).” The final movement, “Triptan,” settles into a retro, mournful groove that may delight those who made it this far and still have their wits about them. Or you just may want to stick to Side 2, where Glass, Bryars, and Martin reward you with bountiful color, rhythm, joy, and inter-dimensional energy of a distinctly non-alien(ating) sort.

Read the original article here.


KDFC: The Democratic Playing of Third Coast Percussion…

April 2, 2019
by Jeffrey Freymann 

TCP ensemble member and Executive Director David Skidmore was interviewed by KDFC’s Jeffrey Freymann, leading up to the ensemble’s performance at San Francisco’s Herbst Theater on April 3. Read below for some text from the interview, and click here to listen!

Being a member of this sort of chamber group has different challenges than some of the other, more conventional groupings. “Percussion ensembles are rare because there’s a great deal of infrastructure that needs to exist for a percussion ensemble to perform and rehearse, and tour,” Skidmore says. “We play different instruments on almost every piece, so there’s plenty of variety for everyone… Unlike a string quartet, where at least traditionally, like the first violin maybe has a lead part… In percussion ensemble music, that’s not the case. Each player might be completely equal, but just playing on different instruments.” None of them specializes on a particular instrument, so they all do it all – and Skidmore jokes, because they actually dole out parts alphabetically, so he’s always Part 4. One of the other things that a string quartet doesn’t have to worry about is their geography on a stage filled with instruments. “Percussion ensemble is as much visual as it is aural. We’re playing a bunch of instruments that are spread out across the stage, and just the physicality of the motions of playing percussion music, it does end up looking like choreography.” Because many of the instruments that they have, they’ve either built or found, they frequently make suggestions about possible timbres with composers they work with, and collaborating with Glass, Skidmore says, was wonderful: “Of course we were, you know, a little bit intimidated, just because he’s such a looming figure in the field of classical music. But he couldn’t be a nicer and more open collaborator.”

Review: New Philip Glass commission presents a rhythmic perspective

April 4, 2019
by Joshua Kosman

The members of the dynamic young quartet Third Coast Percussion have, by their own account, a small problem as classically trained performers. None of the old masters — not Mozart, not Brahms, hell not even Stravinsky — left any music for percussion ensemble.

So the group members have taken it upon themselves to replenish the repertoire, both through their own compositions and by commissioning music from living composers they admire. The latest fruit of these efforts — a buoyant, enjoyable and somewhat distracted new opus by Philip Glass — was the centerpiece of the group’s ingratiating recital on Wednesday, April 3, in Herbst Theatre.

Glass’ “Perpetulum” was co-commissioned by San Francisco Performances, the concert’s presenter, and it’s a spirited compilation of various Glassian tropes channeled through this new and unexplored medium. (The piece is also the title track on Third Coast’s expansive new recording.)

The old familiar harmonic progressions show up in new guises, and the rocking rhythmic patterns that suffuse so much of Glass’ music take on a gently thrumming demeanor when transferred to the mallet instruments. What’s striking, too, is the way “Perpetulum” bears a cousinly relationship to the distinctive contours and practices of Glass’ writing for piano, which in turn is something of a stand-alone vein within the vast expanse of his output.

But the feature of “Perpetulum” that is most immediately evident, for better or worse, is Glass’ delight in the range of sonorities and resources a percussion ensemble makes available to him. You can practically hear his serial excitement as he tackles one idea after another, dashing from instrument to instrument like a kid in a toy store.

This gives the 20-minute, three-movement piece an undeniable vivacity, combined with a certain short-attention-span quality that is frustrating and oddly uncharacteristic. Glass has never been one to shy away from exploring every implication of a given musical idea, at whatever length; to hear him skip about like this, leaving things introduced but unresolved, is slightly odd.

Third Coast, which comprises percussionists Sean Connors, Robert Dillon, Peter Martin and David Skidmore, gave the work a richly textured performance at any rate, and surrounded it with music that both flattered and set off its qualities.

Most exciting, perhaps, was “Death Wish,” a piece for marimbas by the New Zealand-born composer Gemma Peacocke, in which repetitive rhythmic figures and minor-key harmonies grow increasingly off-kilter until seemingly anodyne material becomes urgent and a little menacing. Midway through, Peacocke conjures up a fierce but loving parody of Khachaturian’s “Saber Dance” that demonstrates exactly why that music is so irresistible.

A lot of the evening was devoted to mallet instruments (marimba, vibraphone and so forth) creating rippling textures out of interlocking rhythmic figures. Some of it, such as Devonté Hynes’ “Perfectly Voiceless” or the ensemble’s group composition “Niagara,” was attractive and slightly bland; Skidmore’s “Torched and Wrecked,” which concluded the program in a thrilling burst of carefully controlled fury, threw a cherry bomb into the works just when it was most needed.

As an encore, the group offered “Teeth,” a tiny and delightfully pretty bauble by San Francisco composer Danny Clay that uses the plinky, metal-comb-like mechanisms of a toy music box. The piece wafted sweetly and quietly into the hall, leaving patrons to go out humming one last tune.

“Torched and Wrecked” on All Songs Considered from NPR Music

April 2, 2019

We are thrilled to be included on the “All Songs Considered” podcast from NPR Music!” This episode features “Torched and Wrecked”, the first track from our new album, Perpetulum (available now!). The piece, “Torched and Wrecked” by ensemble member David Skidmore closes out the episode which also includes tracks by Julia Shapiro, Cautious ClayJake Xerxes FussellHenryk GoreckiBeth Gibbons, and The Gloaming.

Check out the full episode:

And check out the album!

Philip Glass celebration at Notre Dame includes the composer performing and a new work for percussion ensemble


March 28, 2019
by Jack Walton

Until now, the prolific Philip Glass has never composed a work scored strictly for percussion. It’s probably good that he waited.

His immediate predecessors did not have anything like the resources that exist today from a performance standpoint. When John Cage introduced his pioneering works for percussion ensemble in the 1930s, there were no expert musicians available to play the pieces. Cage had to settle for an ensemble of “percussionists” who were actually just kindly helpers from his circle of friends. In some cases, the performers were not even musicians. The works had to be primitively simple or there was no way for them to be played at all.

Fortunately, groups of the high caliber of Third Coast Percussion exist today. On Saturday at the University of Notre Dame’s DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, Third Coast Percussion performs “Perpetulum,” a commissioned piece that Glass wrote with Third Coast specifically in mind. The concert is the culmination of a three-day Glass celebration at DeBartolo, and “Perpetulum” is only half the concert program. In a rare onstage appearance, Glass, 82, will actually perform as pianist in a series of solos and duets with violinist Tim Fain.

The Chicago-based Third Coast Percussion has been a Notre Dame ensemble-in-residence since 2012, and this marks the end of the tenure with a bang.

“From our perspective, it felt like a pie-in-the-sky thing,” percussionist David Skidmore says of the commission. “Maybe we can get him to know who we are and maybe we could get him interested in writing for us.”

Skidmore and his colleagues — Sean Connors, Peter Martin and Robert Dillon — were sufficiently impressive to the composer that Glass agreed to generate something for them. Skidmore says that the result is hardly the gloomy, valedictory ruminations of an aging composer in his grumpy late period.

“What you can hear clearly in the piece — and this is what struck us when we first read through it — is that it’s so full of joy. He’s trying new things, taking risks,” Skidmore says. “If I’m fortunate to reach the place where he is in life, I hope I can still be so curious.”

The opening movement of “Perpetulum” unleashes the work’s main themes.

“It starts with no pitched instruments. It’s woodblocks, snare drum, bass drum, cymbal. It’s a cool way to subvert expectations,” Skidmore says. “It’s not until a good minute or two before you start to hear harmonies and tropes that I more typically associate with Philip’s music.”

A slower, darker second movement follows, eventually giving way to a cadenza. The aforementioned joy explodes in an exuberant finale.

The percussionists are free to do whatever they want in the cadenza.

“He told us we could use themes from the piece or we could improvise it or through-compose it,” Skidmore says. “He knew that we could all compose and that we all have our own creative interests. He wanted our voices to be part of the piece as well.”

Glass, perhaps the name most synonymous with “minimalism” in classical music, has worked in almost every format, from chamber music to massive orchestral settings. His widest broader cultural ripples came in 1976, with his controversial opera “Einstein on the Beach,” and in 1982, with the mesmerizing score to the film “Koyaanisqatsi.” Glass will be present for a discussion of that soundtrack in part of today’s event: a screening of “Koyaanisqatsi” at the DeBartolo. Friday’s event is a salute to Glass from Notre Dame’s music department.

His output is vast and his influence is as great as any contemporary composer in the field. Skidmore says that it’s profound to think that decades from now, a percussion ensemble might be playing Third Coast Percussion’s own cadenza in a Glass composition.

“I’m so excited for the life of this piece beyond us,” he says. “I want to find out what other people do with it.”


Read the original article here.

Album review: Third Coast Percussion unveils a first from Philip Glass

March 27, 2019
by Joshua Kosman

It took until he was past 80, with many decades’ worth of rhythmic, intricately patterned music under his belt, for Philip Glass to write a piece for percussion ensemble. Now he’s done it, and the result – a spangly, delightful concoction called “Perpetulum” – is the centerpiece of an alluring two-disc release by Third Coast Percussion, for which it was written. (The group will perform this and other works in Herbst Theatre on Wednesday, April 3.)

Naturally, “Perpetulum” bears many of the familiar Glassian harmonic and formal thumbprints, but there’s also a spirit of pop playfulness in the writing that sounds strikingly new.

Along with “Perpetulum” (and an undercooked opus by Gavin Bryars) come sharp-edged and inventive compositions by three of the group’s four members, including Peter Martin’s buoyant “Bend” and Robert Dillon’s wittily authoritarian “Ordering-Instincts.” Perhaps most riveting of all is “Aliens With Extraordinary Abilities,” a manic suite of shape-shifting character sketches by David Skidmore that takes up all of one disc to splendid effect.

See the original article here.

TUTTI Brings A Week Of Performances To Denison

March 13, 2019
by Anusha Shukla

The eighth installment took place from Monday, March 4th to Saturday March 9th hosted by Denison’s Department of Music collaborating with Studio Art, Data Analytics, Creative Writing, Physics, Philosophy and the Denison Museum.

The festival, occurring every other year, was a week long and provided a series of eight concerts plus six more events that included artist talks, workshops and a seminar. For each concert, various composers submitted works to be performed by Denison students, faculty and the visiting ensembles. Those ensembles consisted of the Grammy award winning Third Coast Percussion, Denison’s ensemble-in-residence Ethel, the Columbus Symphony Quartet, the Chamber Music Connection and the Columbus International Children’s Choir.

The festival highlighted many of Denison’s ensembles starting with the Denison Wind Ensemble and the Symphony Orchestra.

The two groups performed on Thursday, March 7th at the Burke Recital Hall. The concert, second in the series, presented world premiere performances of works by various composers including Dr. Ching-chu Hu, Chair of Denison’s Department of Music and Kurt Ebsary, Denison Alumni Class of 2012.

“It’s a truly amazing thing.” said Dr. Chris David Westover, the director of the Denison Wind Ensemble. “I hope you guys know how lucky you are. I didn’t get to do this when I was a student.”

Accompanied by Ethel and members of Third Coast Percussion, the two ensembles performed works by eight different living composers, the importance of which was highlighted by Dr. Phillip Rudd, director of orchestra. He spoke about how amazing it was to “play music that had just been written” and to speak to the composers and get their input.

“We don’t normally get to do this when we have Beethoven, Mozart among the dead,” joked Rudd. He also highlighted the many firsts of the night and announced with pride that his student and assistant concertmaster of the DU Orchestra Clem Pearson ‘20, would be stepping away from his violin for the final piece to conduct the performance instead.

Concert number four, on Friday, March 8th featured the Denison faculty along with the Denison Chamber Singers and the Denison Jazz Ensemble performing five original works including one by Adam Schoenberg, one of the Top 10 most performed living classical composers.

The Denison Chamber Singers had another performance on Tuesday March 12th that included the two songs they performed for the festival.

“I think it was really exciting because I don’t think there have been too many jazz pieces in the festival.” said Maren Clark, a sophomore communication and creative writing double major and a trombonist for the Jazz Ensemble.

“It was slightly different from the music that we normally play; we normally play classic, older songs, standard jazz tunes. It was definitely still jazz though,” Clark said.

About the Tutti festival as a whole, she added, “The amount of really impressive artists that are all on campus at once is amazing. It was so cool to get to be with that many people who are professionally accomplished composers. It was a great way to connect Denison students who are pursuing music to the industry.

Concert five was a unique one, backed by the Denison Beck Lecture series, titled “Words and Music.”

Actor Michael Lockwood Crouch and Ethel performed stories by Denison students, accompanied by music based on those stories by six composers that included students Clem Pearson ’20 and Jaden Richeson ’20.

The festival was closed out by Third Coast Percussion on Saturday, March 9th.

They presented world premiere performances of Nature, Industry Ritual by Timothy Page, written for the Third Coast Percussion’s Emerging Composer Partnership program, The Newness of It All by Ching-chu Hu and  Cache-cache by HyeKyung Lee.

“We are thrilled to have Third Coast Percussion as one of our two featured ensembles. Their amazing artistry is on display throughout the festival, not only with performing on concerts from the submitted works, but also showcasing their Third Coast Percussion Emerging Composers Partnership program to TUTTI on their Saturday evening concert.” said Dr. Hu.

The Tutti festival highlights the exemplary features of Denison’s liberal arts. It has continued to grow, encompassing all art and beyond and shall return again but next time in the new Eisner Centre of Performing Arts.

Read the original article here.


Guest performers have Foellinger ecstatic with ‘Music for 18 Musicians’

March 3, 2019
by John Frayne

On Feb. 16, as part of the Sonic Illinois series, Steve Reich’s “Music for 18 Musicians” was performed by two guest groups, Eighth Blackbird and Third Coast Percussion, (both from Chicago) and nine local performers, making it 19 musicians.

This 1976 composition has a cult reputation for being a landmark in the movement usually called minimalism. As usual, with cult pieces, it is frequently admired, even worshipped, by the cult members, somewhat to the bewilderment of the general run of classical music concertgoers. The claims made for the Reich piece are that it, and other minimalist pieces, upended the expectation of what a piece of music should sound like. Put bluntly, one expects a Beethoven work to start, and then to do something, go somewhere, and, one hopes, arrive somewhere.

That is not what happens in the Reich piece. It begins with xylophone players beating out a simple phrase and something like that will go on for over an hour. To be sure, Reich has a structure of opening and closing “Pulses,” and 11 sections in between, and indeed something in the form of harmonic change does happen. But compared to a traditional piece, it is the difference between watching a running stream, and watching a glacier. True, they do both move.

For me, the secret of a minimalist piece is that, after inducing a near hypnotic trance by constant repetition, any change seems monumental. In this Reich piece, one player, at the vibraphone, signaled a change by beating out a simple phrase, at times sounding to me like the Westminster Chimes, which led to the change in harmony, and at times a change in which another cluster of performers would take the lead in beating out the basic rhythm. Although the fundamental sound of the piece came from mallet instruments (xylophones, marimbas, a vibraphone and maracas) there was a cluster of four pianos, and clarinets, flutes, a violin, a cello, and voices. The sound level of instruments and voices was apparently modified electronically.

As an observer, but not a devotee, of the minimalist movement, I can say that the performance was nothing like I had ever heard before, that the rhythm held me in thrall, and I wondered when it was going to end. All the musicians on stage played with dedicated enthusiasm. Thanks are due to those who organized this event. I now know what an hour with Steve Reich is like.

Let me say that the reaction of the audience in the Foellinger Great Hall, including a large number of students in the balcony, was just this side of ecstatic.


2019 Taiwan International Percussion Convention to kick off May 24

We are thrilled to be included in the 2019 Taiwan International Percussion Convention! This festival brings together some of the biggest names in percussion from around the world to perform an amazing variety of music. Read more below!  We can’t wait!

January 29, 2019
by Huang Tzu-ti

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The 10th edition of the Taiwan International Percussion Convention (TIPC) will take place from May 24 through Jun. 1 and include a total of 15 performances at major art venues across the island.

The shows will be staged at National Concert Hall in Taipei, National Taichung Theater, Tainan Municipal Cultural Center, and Dadong Arts Center in Kaohsiung.

Since it was established in 1993, the event has grown to become a world-class music fiesta, and was hailed by French percussion ensemble Les Percussions de Strasbourg as “the Utopia in the world of music,” according to event sponsor Ju Percussion Group (朱宗慶打擊樂團).

“Pursue your dreams” and “internationalization at home” are the festival’s two major themes. The poster for the event features the red “door god” from Chinese folk religions, which symbolizes the protection of traditions as the TIPC enters its 10th edition.

This year’s lineup includes 70 top-notch percussionists from 12 countries, namely: the Netherlands, Germany, France, Bulgaria, Austria, the U.S., South Africa, Mexico, Malaysia, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.

The convention will kick off with a concert by Ju Percussion Group and National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra on May 24. A cohort of young Taiwanese performers, the youngest of whom is 9-year-old, will treat audiences to a special show.

Some of the performance highlights include Grammy winner Third Coast Percussion, and Marimba Nadaypa, Vassilena Serafimaova, Thomas Enhco, Murat Coskun, Dizu Plaatijies & Ibuyambo Percussion Ensemble, Thomas Lang, as well as Percossa.

Visit the official website of TIPC for more information.