Four classically trained percussionists have gone rogue with a common mission, to explore and expand the sonic possibilities of the percussion repertoire.
“Percussion ensemble is inherently new music, at least within the context of the classical music tradition,” says Robert Dillon, ensemble member and development director of TCP. “The oldest pieces for percussion ensemble are from the 1930s and ’40s … The music of John Cage, Steve Reich and Iannis Xenakis were some of the experiences that made us all want to play in a percussion ensemble, but we still felt like there were still a lot of unexplored possibilities, a lot of great percussion ensemble music yet to be written. So, we started commissioning and composing new works right from the beginning, and mixed those in with the existing repertoire we loved.”
Third Coast Percussion will bring its “mind-tingling rhythmic lucidity,” as MusicWeb International calls it, to the Science Hill High School Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 22, sponsored by ETSU’s Mary B. Martin School of the Arts. TCP’s “Lyrical Geometry” program will feature music from Third Coast’s Grammy-winning album of Steve Reich’s work; pieces by Philip Glass and Thierry De Mey; and original music, composed by Dillon, Peter Martin and David Skidmore.
These four musicians – Dillon, Skidmore, Martin and Sean Connors – share not only a musical bond, but also an educational one. They all attended Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., overlapping at slightly different times and finally intersecting as a group because of their passion for new music and sharing it with others. “We loved playing this type of music and decided we wanted to see how far we could go with it…” Dillon says.
“I think we can win over the audiences that love Beethoven or Bach, because we can offer a musical experience that also has that level of craft, expression and attention to detail. But we think the best way to do it is usually with music that was imagined on our instruments in the first place.”
A universe of instruments come into play in Third Coast performances and recordings. “Resounding Earth,” that TCP premiered in 2012, calls for some 300 metal instruments from around the world, including tiny cymbal-like crotales, giant gongs, Burmese temple bells and metal coils.
“There will be music that is rhythmic and visceral, music which is beautiful and introspective, music which is tuneful and music which is humorous and theatrical,” Dillon says. “There will be sounds people have never heard and musical experiences that they wouldn’t have imagined percussion instruments would be capable of creating.”