Through its sensational interpretations of modern classics, innovative multi-genre original productions, and “exhilarating blend of precision and anarchy, rigor and bedlam” (The New Yorker), Sō Percussion has redefined the scope and role of the modern percussion ensemble, placing it at the leading edge of 21st-century music. The innovative ensemble throws everything that you’ve come to expect at a ‘classical music’ concert right out the window.
Special Guest: Dominic Shodekeh Talifero, beatboxer
Angélica Negrón: Gone
Kendall K. Williams: Melodic Concept
Dominic Shodekeh Talifero: Vodalities: Paradigms of Consciousness for the Human Voice (World Premiere, commissioned by Caramoor)
Mvmt 1: “The Universality of Breath Art” (Dedicated to Bobby McFerrin)
Mvmt 2: “The Genealogy of Vocal Percussion” (Dedicated to Ella Fitzgerald)
Jason Treuting: September/Extremes
Julia Wolfe: Forbidden Love
With innovative multi-genre original productions, sensational interpretations of modern classics, and an “exhilarating blend of precision and anarchy, rigor and bedlam,” (The New Yorker), Sō Percussion has redefined the scope and role of the percussion ensemble, placing it at the leading edge of 21st-century music.
Sō’s repertoire ranges from contemporary “classics” by John Cage, Steve Reich, and Iannis Xenakis, et al, to commissioning and advocating works by living composers such as David Lang, Julia Wolfe, Steven Mackey, and Vijay Iyer, to distinctively modern collaborations with artists who work outside the classical concert hall, including Shara Nova, the choreographer Susan Marshall, Wilco’s Glenn Kotche, The National, Bryce Dessner, and many others.
Sō has recorded more than 20 albums, including 2021’s Narrow Sea (by Caroline Shaw) with Dawn Upshaw and Gilbert Kalish, released by Nonesuch Records; and A Record Of… with Buke & Gase, on Brassland; appeared at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Walt Disney Hall, the Barbican, the Eaux Claires Festival, MassMoCA, and TED 2016; and performed with Dan Trueman, Dan Deacon, Jad Abumrad, JACK Quartet, the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, and the LA Phil and Gustavo Dudamel, among others.
Rooted in the belief that music is an essential facet of human life, a social bond, and an effective tool in creating agency and citizenship, Sō Percussion enthusiastically pursues a growing range of social and community outreach. Examples include their Brooklyn Bound presentations of emerging artists and composers; commitments to purchasing offsets to compensate for carbon-heavy activities such as touring travel; educational programs including the new Collaborative Workshop, and the Sō Percussion Summer Institute (SōSI), an intensive two-week chamber music seminar for percussionists and composers.
Now in its second decade, SōSI features community performances, new work development, guest artist workshops, and an annual food-packing drive, yielding up to 25,000 meals, for the Crisis Center of Mercer County through the organization EndHungerNE.
Sō Percussion – the Edward T. Cone ensemble-in-residence at Princeton University – is Eric Cha-Beach, Josh Quillen, Adam Sliwinski, and Jason Treuting.
Dominic Shodekeh Talifero, beatboxer
With 34 years of personal, professional and community-based experience, Dominic “Shodekeh” Talifero continues to make musical strides as a groundbreaking and highly adept Beatboxer, Vocal Percussionist, and Breath Artist who pushes the boundaries of the human voice within and outside the context of Hip Hop music and culture. As the first vocal percussionist to do so, he formally served as a dance technique musician and composer-in-residence for Towson University’s Department of Dance for 12 years. He is also the founding director of Embody, A Festival Series of the Vocal Arts, which strives for artistic and cultural convergence through a variety of vocal art traditions from a multitude of the worlds, such as opera and throat singing to the many forms of vocal percussion which has featured such vocal luminaries as Madison McFerrin, Alash Ensemble, Dan Deacon, Raul Midon, Navasha Daya, and Joyce J. Scott.
Beatboxing is a form of vocal percussion born within the world of Hip Hop, and easily exists as one the most highly advanced vocal art forms to known within the diversity of the human voice. Imitating and often replacing a drum set, drum machine, or drum loop through a series of vocal effects or percussive sounds primarily produced by the larynx, nasal, and oral cavities, Beatboxing exemplifies the Hip Hop philosophy of creating meaningful artistic expressions with limited resources at its most extreme. It replaces the source of the timeless Break Beat with the human voice, becoming a ubiquitous feature of the American city experience and soundscape.
Shodekeh now serves as Towson University’s very first Innovator-in-Residence anchored by the College of Fine Arts and Communication, allowing him to lecture, collaborate, experiment, and perform within many of the university’s arts and culture related departments.
In previous years, Talifero served as music faculty of the American Dance Festival at Duke University and has served as the chosen musician for a variety of master class experiences led by such luminaries as Ailey II of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the Paul Taylor American Modern Dance Ensemble, and the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. In his close relationship with the world of dance, he has acquired a wealth of experiences of applying his vocal and rhythmic skills in the movement context of ballet, capoeira, fire movement, belly dancing and a wide range of modern dance techniques pioneered by such legends as Merce Cunningham, Martha Graham, and Lester Horton.
He currently serves as one of the first dance technique musicians of the brand-new Peabody BFA Program of Johns Hopkins University, alongside such master dance technique musicians as pianist Ayal Yariv & dance choreographer & drummer Jabari Exum of Marvel’s Black Panther.
Over the years, Talifero has moved from Beatboxing’s Hip Hop roots to explore innovative and convergent collaborations with a wide range of traditional and classical artists. He serves as the Beatboxer and vocal percussionist for the globally renown Alash, one of the world’s leading Tuvan Throat Singing ensembles, and features on their recent Smithsonian Folkways album release of Achai; has become a recent collaborator with the exquisite Silkroad Ensemble based at Harvard University and founded by legendary cellist Yo Yo Ma; and is
serving as the resident Beatboxer and cultural ambassador of the local Baltimore chapter of Classical Revolution, following his U.S. premier performance of Jennah Vanio’s Fujiko’s Fairy Tale with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
Shodekeh has also become more immersed in recent years within the realm of Hip Hop-inspired research and Science Communication, which includes creating the math + music notation course Beatbox Algebra, which was designed to counter internalized math anxiety among young students as well as adults. He premiered the course in collaboration with the Homewood Arts Center of Johns Hopkins University. He has also served as the host and musical collaborator for World Voice Day, presented by the Johns Hopkins Voice Center, and has served as a panelist and musician for The Neuroscience of Art, a week-long conference presented by the Salzburg Global Seminar in Salzburg, Austria.
Other collaborations include his compositional and curatorial participation in the One Beat / U.S. State Department Bureau of Education / Bang on a Can’s Found Sound Nation remixes of NASA’s Voyager Golden Record, For Whom It Stands: The Flag & the American People exhibition hosted by the Reginald F. Lewis Museum & the USA Science & Engineering Festival in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health.
Beyond the stage and lights of his work as a performing artist, Talifero also currently serves as an active board member of the Asian Arts and Culture Center, the Baltimore Sister Cities Program of the City of Baltimore’s Office of the Mayor, and the Arthur Friedham Library of the Peabody Conservatory.
Sō Percussion’s second appearance at Caramoor takes place in a changed world. We could never have imagined an entire year without live concerts. But the pause gave us all space to rethink everything: Why do we do this? Who are we highlighting with our work? What have we been missing? Through the necessities of remote collaboration, we also discovered new relationships and different ways of working.
In today’s concert at Caramoor, we connect some of our longest collaborative relationships with some of our newest, all with works written for us. Julia Wolfe, the Pulitzer Prize-winning co-founder of Bang on a Can, is a composer we have known since the beginning of our careers. Our first collaboration with her is the “string quartet” Forbidden Love. Julia’s bold and restless spirit yields a non-percussion quartet which refreshes and ponders what the traditional instruments of the string quartet can become in the hands of percussionists.
Ever since Jason Treuting wrote Amid the Noise in 2006, Sō Percussion has been playing our own music. The two pieces we perform here, September and Extremes, are now staples of our touring repertoire.
Angélica Negrón’s piece Gone, which is part of a larger forthcoming piece, embroils us in rhythm-making with robots, lights, and water. The buckets which you see elegantly places atop stands have mechanical drumsticks underneath them, programmed by Angélica, which we play along with. She is known as a composer for her work with technology, especially live performances with plants and vegetables.
Kendall Williams is a steel pan performer, arranger, and composer. As a former student of Julia Wolfe, he embraces patient yet rhythmically energized spaces. Melodic Concept iii is written for four sets of double-second steel pans. In the steel band orchestra, these would be something like the alto voice or the viola section. The mellow sonority of these instruments creates a languid environment for this hypnotic piece.
Today’s world premiere is with one of our newest collaborators, Shodekeh Talifero. Shodekeh is a stunningly talented and original beatboxer, breath artist, and vocal percussionist. He possesses an arsenal of sounds, effects, and timbres that seem perfectly suited to reinterpretation by percussionists. Shodekeh composed this piece by recording his voice in separate layers, which we then transcribed and interpreted. The greatest challenge in realizing this piece was in the process of parsing out all of the nuances of his fascinating voice.
Most of all, thank you for coming out to spend this summer afternoon with us at Caramoor after the longest, darkest winter. We are honored and so excited to share sound, community, and creativity with you.
– Sō Percussion
gone is a short piece for Sō Percussion inspired by things and people that have left us. It explores the visceral physical feeling of emptiness and absence, while at the same time searching for connections and meaning in those things and people that are left. It is written for the quartet accompanied by four solenoid-powered noise makers built by Nick Yulman in which different inanimate objects are placed on top of surface poppers to create fast, erratic and incisive rhythms.
These four modular music devices operate as a ghost-like presence sometimes interacting with the members of Sō and sometimes having a mind of their own. gone is a part of a larger scale work that I’m composing for Sō Percussion inspired by things I deeply care about but which I’m sometimes afraid to confront.
(Commissioned for Sō Percussion)
Melodic Concept III – (Commissioned for Sō Percussion)
This piece is the third installment of my Melodic Concept series and the first that features Steel Pan. The Melodic concept series includes pieces that explore the melodic minor scale possibilities on various instruments. The intended experience of this particular piece is to be able to close your eyes and listen as the almost identical qualities of the four Double Seconds (Steel pans) share responsibilities over the duration of the piece. You should be able to get lost in who is playing what and find the overall movement of the piece. Slow and steady, one note at a time.
— Kendall K. Williams
DOMINIC SHODEKEH TALIFERO
Vodalities: Paradigms of Consciousness for the Human Voice
Modality I: Breath Consciousness
Modality II: Percussion Concsciousness
Modality III: Multivocal Consciousness
Vodalities: Paradigms of Consciousness for the Human Voice seeks to illuminate the different modalities of the vocal arts utilized by not only composer & performing artist Shodekeh Talifero, but vocalists the world over.
Through three movements composed specifically for Sō Percussion, with eachfocused on the vocal modalities, or “vodalities” of Breath Art, Vocal Percussion & Beatboxing, Sō’s challenge was to listen to, learn (& of course enjoy) each vocal movement, transcribe the pieces from a Hip Hop-based oral tradition construct to a system of western notation & finally through “technique transcription”, figure out which physical, percussion-based instruments & which members of the ensemble using those tools would be best suited to play each element of the overall compositional structure. In other words, welcome to the 21st century, where compositional paradigms & a synthesis of learning styles can take on a whole new reversal of impact, influence & imagination.
(Commissioned for Sō Percussion)
September from Amid the Noise
Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. —Max Ehrmann’s “Desiderata”
Jason Treuting’s Amid the Noise began as a soundtrack, which morphed into our third album and then into a flexible set of live music. Now it is a communal music-making project that can occur with a flexible number of musicians in almost any combination.
The musical ideas in Amid the Noise are abstract: drones, melodies, rhythms, textures, patterns. Originally, So Percussion orchestrated them on the instruments we had in our studio, but we’ve since discovered that accordion, organ, or tuba might play a satisfying drone as well as bowed vibraphone! Like Terry Riley’s In C, this work maintains its identity and integrity even through wildly different realizations.
This modular concept allows us to conduct residencies that reach beyond percussion departments. Many kinds of students at a music school or conservatory can participate in Amid the Noise: vocalists, string quartets, wind and brass players, guitarists, and of course percussionists.
Extremes was written in 2009 as a part of Sō Percussion’s evening length work, Imaginary City. Imaginary City was commissioned by six performing art centers in six different cities and the rhythms in extremes come from those cities: Brooklyn, Burlington, Denver, Helena, Houston, and Cleveland.
Though it is most commonly played around a concert bass drum with cymbals and pitched metal placed on the drum and a few more pitched instruments added alongside the drum, the instrumentation is flexible and can be played in many ways.
Forbidden Love – all the things you aren’t supposed to do to string instruments. My first year of college I wandered into a class called Creative Musicianship.
One of the first assignments was to write a short piece using a musical instrument in an unusual nontraditional way. I thought “what?”
So, when Sō asked me to write them a piece using the four instruments of the string quartet, it was the second time this challenge was posed. The beautiful thing about Sō is that they are so open, so collaborative, full of adventure and can-do attitude. Together we discovered and drew out beautiful ethereal and crunchy sounds from this iconic quartet of instruments. In the process I developed a very personal new language (boings, szhings, hammering, and more).
Forbidden Love is dedicated to Jane Heirich – that wonderful teacher who in that life-changing class first asked me to step outside the box.
(Forbidden Love was co-commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and Carnegie Hall. The World Premiere was given by Sō Percussion at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles on June 1, 2019.)
All artists and dates are subject to change and cancellation without notice as we work closely with local health experts and officials. Please note that all performances at Caramoor are in compliance with current New York State Regulations. Read our latest Health & Safety updates.