Sō Percussion Explores Gun Violence Through Multigenre Performance

January 23rd, 2017 by 


Sō Percussion during a performance Photo by: Stephanie Berger

On Thursday, Feb. 9, Sō Percussion, a leading American percussion ensemble renowned for its incisive interpretations of modern repertoire and large-scale original works, will perform its latest work “A Gun Show” at the College of the Holy Cross. The performance will explore how humans’ relationship with guns intersects with issues such as race, economic inequality and constitutional rights through music, movement and text. A panel discussion moderated by Denis Kennedy, director of Peace and Conflict Studies at the College, will follow the performance.

The event will be held in Fenwick Theatre at 8 p.m. and is free and open to the public. This event is cosponsored by Arts Transcending Borders (ATB) and the Peace and Conflict Studies program at the College.

“A Gun Show,” which is a collaboration between Sō Percussion, three-time Obie Award-winning director Ain Gordon, and performer/choreographer Emily Johnson, originated as a way for the artists to process their emotions after the 2012 school shootings in Newtown, Conn. The structure of the work references the traditions of Greek tragedy, with the evening divided into a series of episodes with a “(Greek) Choir of Percussionists” responding to each; the percussion choir will be made up of six Holy Cross students. The raw material for the music comes from technical data and statistics the artists have collected about gun use. A catalogue of gun sounds provides basic rhythmic structures used in the music.

“The audience is invited to reflect and commune, as we have already found that guns embody a peculiarly American experience,” the artists’ statement says.

With its innovative multigenre original productions, sensational interpretations of modern classics, and what The New Yorker called an “exhilarating blend of precision and anarchy, rigor and bedlam,” Sō Percussion redefines the scope of the modern percussion ensemble. For over 15 years, this ensemble, formed by Eric Beach, Josh Quillen, Adam Sliwinski, and Jason Treuting, has engaged in creative collaborations and released 18 albums.

“Through a mix of consummate skill and quirky charm, this mercurial quartet has helped to ignite an explosive new enthusiasm for percussion music old and new,” said The New York Times.

After the performance, the artistic team will be joined onstage by Denis Kennedy, Judy Rose, field director, and Shante Leathers, social media director of the Boston-based Operation L.I.P.S.T.I.C.K. for a discussion on issues raised by the work. L.I.P.S.T.I.C.K. is a coalition of faith and civic leaders, elected officials, and social service and law enforcement professionals who work to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and youth without abridging the freedoms of law-abiding Americans.

In residence at the College from Feb. 7-10, the artists will also participate in a variety of educational activities with the Holy Cross community and visit the South High Community School on Feb. 10 to engage with the local school’s band program.

By kicking off the Spring 2017 semester with Sō Percussion, ATB continues its exploration of this year’s theme, “Borders: Tension/Possibility.”

“A common thread that runs through our spring line-up is how artists grapple with broader issues of their time and the role of art in times of crisis,” says Yonca Karakilic, the coordinator of ATB. “We are excited to partner with our colleagues in Peace and Conflict Studies to explore timely issues raised powerfully in ‘A Gun Show’ with its creators and local leaders in our community.”

For more information, visit the ATB webpage.

“A Gun Show” at the College of the Holy Cross is funded in part by the Expeditions program of the New England Foundation for the Arts, made possible with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, with additional support from the six New England state art agencies.

The College’s ATB initiative, funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is designed to enhance the role of the arts in every aspect of the Holy Cross experience by infusing the arts into students’ academic lives and creating new opportunities throughout the curriculum and the community to cross cultural, geographic, and disciplinary boundaries. Previous artists-in-residence include environmental artist Patrick Dougherty, who created one of his signature Stickwork sculptures on campus with the help of over 300 volunteers in Fall 2016; Troika Ranch, an internationally renowned ensemble that fuses dance, theatre and technology, during the Fall of 2015, and Cristina Pato, Galician bagpiper, pianist, and composer, who was in residence on campus during Fall 2014.

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