In its newest performance, Where (We) Live, Brooklyn-based Sō Percussion gets personal, looking at the physcial, emotional, and symbolic manifestations of “home.” As the chamber quartet (Eric Beach, Josh Quillen, Adam Sliwinski, and Jason Treuting) writes on its website, “Using our studio in Brooklyn as a laboratory, we often create music that is about ‘place:’ a city, our immediate sonic environment, even how the past resonates where we are today.” In advance of Friday and Saturday’s world-premiere performances of the Walker-commissioned piece (and Thursday night’s artist’s talk with the group), Sō’s Adam Sliwinski invites us into the intimacy of the Sō Percussion studio and shares snapshots of the objects there and the stories they tell.
I bought these shelves a few years ago. Every once in a while, we become completely overloaded with gear. The place is a gigantic mess most of the time, no matter how much we organize it. So like all New Yorkers, vertical storage is the name of the game. Top shelf is a lovely assortment of tin cans; next down are old planks from Reich’s Music for Pieces of Wood and [David] Lang’s The So-Called Laws of Nature. They really come in handy. After that are almglocken and glass bottles, and finally a cymbal rack.
Eric’s table setup. When So creates music together from scratch, each of us fills our tables with stuff that interests us. Then, as the occasion arises, we fit it in to the music that’s congealing. Inevitably, each of us needs to have a little spread of toys handy. The keyboard here is from an insane piece that Dan Trueman wrote for us. He started the laptop orchestra at Princeton. Eric has been delving into Ableton Live within our pieces.
Toy piano from my setup. I have a little woodblock there for one of the songs in particular. I found myself coming back to the sound of the toy piano over and over again during this project. There’s something naïve about the instrument, but it also creates this perfectly percussive color.
Josh’s table setup. I wouldn’t say that Josh is a “hoarder,” but let’s just say that he has a certain obsession with collecting and placing bits of gear in his setup. As I understand it, these pedals chain to each other in a gnarly flow of causality. On the left is a little notebook that he’s been keeping since the beginning of the project: every sketch, every little experiment is in there. I, on the other hand, am lucky to have the same music in my hand from last week.
Jason’s table setup. Jason is the Paganini of the deskbells. Some days, equal parts Brooklyn coffee and Sweet Action beer are required to get through.
A door. Jason makes really beautiful Rauschenberg-esque collages and objects. We’ve been using this door as a projection surface for the videos in Where (we) Live. Jason once made a collage for Merce Cunningham as a gift that Merce placed in John Cage’s rock garden in their apartment. Also, we visited Robert Rauschenberg’s younger sister in Louisiana. Her husband is a big game hunter, so their walls are decorated equally with priceless works of art and giant bear heads.
A view out of our window in the studio. That’s the Empire State Building. When we first moved into this space, I set my desk up with this view and stared out the window, especially at nighttime. I grew up in the South and the Midwest, and the idea that the Empire State Building might be outside the window of my own percussion studio where I made this amazing music was beyond my capacity to imagine. It still strains it.