Percussion Ensemble Pushes Musical Boundaries at Assembly

If you thought that you could only play the piano by just touching the black and white keys, you’d be wrong.Sō Percussion, a four-piece percussion ensemble based in New York City, showcased their inventive stylings, opening students’ eyes and ears to the limitlessness of music and rhythm by performing on the piano’s inner soundboard, lid, and treble and bass strings at a recent assembly.
 
As part of Kingswood Oxford’s Goodman Banks Artist Series, Sō played five genre-bending pieces in the Roberts Theater. The stage was littered with various percussion instruments and non-traditional instruments such as conch shells, tin cans, and flower pots that the band members adroitly performed with astounding, unexpected results. The band opened with a piece by Paul Lansky entitled Springs, that begins delicately with the tinny sounds reminiscent of an old-fashioned music box, interspersed with a knocking of a woodpecker. The band’s alternating inner language is complex, at times joyous or brooding, focused yet anarchic.  Their second piece, a ballad entitled Taxidermy, written by Caroline Shaw (the youngest person to win a Pulitzer Prize) was played on clay flower pots and piano. Intermingled throughout the song was the band’s chanting of human voices: “The pattern of the detail.” “The detail of the pattern." “The detail of the pattern is movement.” Shaw explains in an article that the chant “comes from T.S. Eliot’s beautiful and perplexing Burnt Norton (from the Four Quartets), and I’ve used it before in other work — as a kind of whimsical existentialist mantra.” Sō also performed a work by the avant-garde musician, John Cage’s 3rd Construction, which was composed in 1941. The band cites Cage as a key influence on their music. Their final piece, written by indie darling The National’s Bryce Dessner, entitled Music for Wooden Strings, ended on a huge, momentous build.
 
Sō’s music challenges the audience to reconsider what makes music. Their name originates from the second character in the Japanese word ensou. Sou alternately means "to play an instrument," "to be successful," and "to present to the gods." The band believes in the flexibility of music and composes more for an “idea” than a particular instrument. Their website states that the band’s mission is to show the “power of music to unite people and forge deep social bonds.” Throughout the morning, Sō workshopped with student musicians. 
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Located in West Hartford, CT just steps from Blue Back Square, Kingswood Oxford is a private school inspiring co-ed day students in grades 6-12 with a college preparatory curriculum. Empowered students become clear confident communicators, resourceful problem-solvers, and ethical leaders. KO: where unlimited potential meets endless opportunities.
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