Right from its founding in 1999, New York new-music group So Percussion
has continuously redefined what a percussion ensemble can be. It has often performed 20th-century avant-garde classics by the likes of Varese, Xenakis, and Reich, but even more frequently it's played pieces written in the past decade—works for which the ensemble sometimes expands its palette beyond pure percussion with the addition of keyboards or the contributions of collaborators, including electronic duo Matmos and jazz drummer Bobby Previte. So Percussion's new album, Where (We) Live
(Cantaloupe), features guitarist and songwriter Grey McMurray of genre-defying new-music group Itsnotyouitsme
, and it sounds like indie rock as much as it does contemporary classical, with guitar-driven vocal melodies riding a phalanx of polyrhythms
. For Saturday's concert, though, the group is celebrating the centennial of John Cage, whose work is a pillar of its repertoire. It will play material from the album Cage 100: The Bootleg Series
(Cantaloupe), which intersperses new work by Matmos, Cenk Ergün, and Tristan Perich with a broad range of Cage compositions. On "Needles
," the Matmos piece, So Percussion plays an amplified cactus—a kind of homage to Cage's "Branches." Also on the program (but not on the album) is 18'12"
, which for this performance will feature overlapping music by Cage and the Beatles. So Percussion will be joined on various pieces by McMurray, Ergün, Perich's group the Loud Objects, and students from Northwestern's Bienen School. The show is the finale of a two-day NU symposium on Cage; members of So Percussion perform a similar program for free on Fri 11/16 at 5:15 PM in the lobby of the university's Deering Library. —Peter Margasak