Sō Percussion with Caroline Shaw and special guest Shodekeh
June 15, 2021
Multi-genre quartet Sō Percussion joins forces with two preeminent collaborators for an evening of music bridging the worlds of classical and pop. The program includes selections from Let the Soil Play Its Simple Part performed with Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline Shaw. Groundbreaking breath artist, beat boxer, and composer Dominic “Shodekeh” Talifero joins Sō for their collaboration, Vodalities: Paradigms of Consciousness for the Human Voice.
For 20 years and counting, Sō Percussion has redefined chamber music for the 21st century through an “exhilarating blend of precision and anarchy, rigor and bedlam” (New Yorker). They are celebrated by audiences and presenters for a dazzling range of work: for live performances in which “telepathic powers of communication” (New York Times) bring to life the vibrant percussion repertoire; for an extravagant array of collaborations in classical music, pop, indie rock, contemporary dance, and theatre; and for their work in education and community, creating opportunities and platforms for music and artists that explore the immense possibility of art in our time.
Let the Soil Play Its Simple Part
Caroline Shaw and Sō Percussion combine forces for a powerful new original set of songs composed together. Shaw’s faultless ear for melody and harmony, combined with Sō’s rhythmic invention and compositional experimentation, make for a world of sonic richness that feels fresh and unique. It is a journey across the landscape of the soul, told through the medium of distinctly contemporary songs that represent Shaw’s debut as a solo vocal artist.
The thrill in this collaboration lies partly in the sense that each entity adds dimensions to the other’s music, which revitalizes them both. Shaw gives voice and melody to the years of experimentation in rhythm, color, and complexity that defines Sō’s work over two decades. Sō opens a world of sonic possibilities and rhythmic virtuosity that dramatically expands Shaw’s palette beyond the vocal and string writing that she is best known for.
Sō Percussion and Dominic “Shodekeh” Talifero bring together distinctive rhythmic practices that converge on the experimental in Vodalities, a piece that combines breath art, vocal percussion, and beatboxing with physical percussion. The collaboration draws on decades of collective experience that pulls together influences like John Cage, Meredith Monk, and a huge range of hip-hop and house music artists. In the process, they demonstrate how compatible vocal and physical percussion can be.
Vodalities is dedicated to three towering vocalists: Bobby McFerrin, Ella Fitzgerald, and Doug E. Fresh, the original “Human Beat Box.” In it, Talifero traces a journey, from the abstract landscapes of deep, overlapping exhalations, to the frenetic and stunningly virtuosic partnership between vocal percussion and Sō’s menagerie of toys, to the undulating deep rhythms of Baltimore Club Music. Along that journey, Sō translates Talifero’s sounds using shakers, sandpaper, electric fans, deconstructed drum kits, sleigh bells, tiny metals, and electric bass.
About Sō Percussion
Sō Percussion’s recent highlights have included performances at the Elbphilharmonie, Big Ears 2022, and a return to Carnegie Hall. The Nonesuch recording, Narrow Sea with Caroline Shaw, Dawn Upshaw, and Gilbert Kalish, won the 2022 Grammy for Best Composition. Other albums include A Record Of... on Brassland Music with Buke and Gase, and an acclaimed version of Julius Eastman’s Stay on It on new imprint Sō Percussion Editions. This adds to a catalogue of more than 25 albums featuring landmark recordings of works by David Lang, Steve Reich, Steve Mackey, and many more.
In the summer of 2022 Sō performed at the Music Academy of the West Festival, Newport Classical, at Time Spans in New York, and offered four concerts at Our Festival in Helsinki — including a performance of Let the Soil Play Its Simple Part with Caroline Shaw. Other 2022-2023 dates included concerts for Cal Performances, at the Palau de la Musica Catalana in Barcelona, at the Barbican in London, the Kennedy Center, and at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
In fall 2022 Sō Percussion began its ninth year as the Edward T. Cone performers-in-residence at Princeton University. Rooted in the belief that music is an elemental form of human communication, and galvanized by forces for social change in recent years, Sō enthusiastically pursues a range of social and community outreach through its nonprofit organization, including partnerships with local ensembles including Pan in Motion and Castle of Our Skins; its Brooklyn Bound concert series; a studio residency program in Brooklyn; and the Sō Percussion Summer Institute, an intensive two-week chamber music seminar for percussionists and composers.
This is the first performance at the Moss Arts Center for Sō Percussion, Caroline Shaw, and Shodekeh.